10 Step Guide to Starting a Business

Starting a Business

10 Step Guide to Starting a Business

There are no limits on who can become a great entrepreneur. You don't necessarily need a college degree, a bunch of money in the bank or even business experience to start something that could become the next major success. However, you do need a strong plan and the drive to see it through.

1. Evaluate yourself.

Let's start with the most basic question: Why do you want to start a business? Use this question to guide what kind of business you want to start. If you want extra money, you should start a side business. If you want more freedom, maybe it's time to leave your 8-to-5 job and start something new.

Once you have the reason, start asking yourself even more questions to help you figure out the type of business you should start, and if you have what it takes.

  • What skills do you have?
  • Where does your passion lie?
  • Where is your area of expertise?
  • How much can you afford to spend, knowing that businesses fail?
  • How much capital do you need?
  • What sort of lifestyle do you want to live?
  • Are you even ready to be an entrepreneur?

Be brutally honest with your answers. This will create a foundation for everything you do moving forward, so it's better to know the truth now than later.

2. Think of a business idea.

Do you already have a business idea? If so, congratulations! You can proceed to the next section. If not, there are a ton of ways to start brainstorming for a good idea. Start Here.

3. Do market research.

Is anyone else already doing what you want to start doing? If not, is there a good reason why?

Start researching your potential rivals or partners within the market. For example, you can conduct interviews by telephone or face to face. You can also offer surveys or questionnaires that ask questions like: What factors do you consider when purchasing this product or service? and What areas would you suggest for improvement?

4. Get feedback.

Let people interact with your product or service and see what their take is on it. A fresh set of eyes can help point out a problem you might have missed. Plus, these people will become your first brand advocates, especially if you listen to their input and they like the product.

Just realize that some of that advice, solicited or not, will be good. Some of it won't be.

One way to help you get through negative feedback is to create a "wall of love," where you can post all of the positive messages you've received. Not only will this wall of love inspire you, but you can use these messages later when you begin selling your product or service.

5. Make it official.

Get all of the legal aspects out of the way early. That way, you don't have to worry about someone taking your big idea, screwing you over in a partnership or suing you for something you never saw coming.

6. Write your business plan.

A business plan is a written description of how your business will evolve from when it starts to the finish product.

Here's what we suggest should be in your business plan:

  1. Title page. Start with name the name of your business, which is harder than it sounds.
  2. Business description. What kind of business do you want to start? What does your industry look like? What will it look like in the future?
  3. Market strategies. What is your target market, and how can you best sell to that market?
  4. Competitive analysis. What are the strengths and weakness of your competitors? How will you beat them?
  5. Finance factors. Where is the money coming from? When? How? What sort of projections should you create and what should you take into consideration?

Keep in mind, the business plan is a living, breathing document and as time goes on and your business matures, you will be updating it.

7. Finance your business.

There are a ton of different ways to get the resources you need to start your business. Take a look and consider your own resources, circumstances and life state to figure out which one works best for you.

  1. Fund your startup yourself. Funding your business might take longer, but the good part is that you control your own destiny (and equity).
  2. Pitch your needs to friends and family. Consider asking for a loan from people you have personal relationships with.
  3. Negotiate an advance from a strategic partner or customer. If someone wants your product or service bad enough to pay for it, there's a chance they'll want it bad enough to fund it, too.
  4. Trade equity or services for startup help. For example, you could support a computer system for office tenants in exchange for free office space. You might not get paid for this, but you won't have to pay for an office, either, and a penny saved is a penny earned.
  5. Seek a bank loan or line of credit. Apply for a bank loan.

8. Develop your product or service.

After all the work you've put into starting your business, it's going to feel awesome to actually see your idea come to life.

A major point the article highlights is that when you're actually crafting the product, you should focus on two things: simplicity and quality. Your best option isn't necessarily to make the cheapest product, even if it lowers manufacturing cost. Also, you need to make sure the product can grab someone's attention quickly.

To help you have peace of mind, start learning as much as you can about the production, so you can improve the process and your hiring decisions as time goes along.

This process will be very different for service-focused entrepreneurs, but no less important. You might consider creating a portfolio of your work -- create a website to show your artwork if you're an artist, writing if you're a writer or design if you're a designer.

9. Start getting some sales.

No matter your product or industry, your business's future is going to depend on revenue and sales. Steve Jobs knew this -- it's why, when he was starting Apple, he spent day after day calling investors from his garage.

There are a ton of different sales strategies and techniques you can employ, but here are three tenets to live by:

  1. Listen. Listen to your clients/customers, you find out what they want and need, and how to make that happen.
  2. Ask for a commitment, but don't be pushy about it. You can't be too shy to ask for a next step or to close a sale, but you also can't make customers feel as though you're forcing them into a sale.
  3. Don't be afraid of hearing "no." Most people are too polite. They let you make your pitch even if they have no interest in buying. And that's a problem of its own. Time is your most important resource."

But how do you actually make those sales? Start by identifying targets who want your product or service. Find early adopters of your business, grow your customer base or put out ads to find people who fit your business. Then, figure out the right sales funnel or strategy that can convert these leads into revenue.

10. Grow your business.

There are a million different ways to grow. Start targeting a new market, expand your offerings and more. But, no growth plan will matter if you don't have the two key attributes that all growing companies have in common.

First, they have a plan to market themselves. They use social media effectively through organic, influencer or paid campaigns. They understand exactly who they need to target -- either online or off -- with their marketing campaigns.

Then, once they have a new customer, they understand how to retain them. You've probably heard many people state that the easiest customer to sell to is the one you already have. Your existing customers have already signed up and tested what you have to offer. In doing so, they're starting a relationship with you and your brand. Help them feel as good about that relationship as much as possible.

You'll constantly be competing for customers in the marketplace, and you can never simply rest. Keep researching the market, hiring good people and making a superior product and you'll be on your way to building the empire you always dreamed about.

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