Starting a business is no easy feat. Maybe you dream of turning your handyman skills into a new home repair company. Maybe your passion for graphic design has you itching to sell your creations online. Maybe your goal is to be the founder of the most popular chain of pizzerias. Whether you want to open a small, local business or you intend to serve the whole country, you can turn your dream of owning a company into reality. Before you schedule a ribbon cutting ceremony, below are five areas you need to develop to get your business up-and-running.
You will need to complete lots of research before anything else. Doing so will ensure your idea is viable and provide a strong foundation when setting up your business model. While you may have a vision of your company in your head, it might not be realistic or there could be some major risks with your current ideas, so it is vital that you complete proper research before initiating anything.
See if there are any educational articles or books that expand upon your idea. Business professionals that have started similar companies will have insight and tips for your company model. You will also want to research your market. For example, if you love skateboarding and want to open a shop selling custom skateboard clothes and accessories, but you live in a town of people primarily 50 and older, you probably do not have the best local market for your concept.
Perhaps you are passionate about people living a healthier lifestyle. You love learning about products from organic flax seeds benefits to the healing properties of elderberry syrup and want to sell your own healthy alternative products. Do you live in a town composed of mostly college students? This might be a tough market to break into as most college students have a tight budget. However, maybe there are opportunities a couple towns over or a local gym you can partner with to sell your products. Doing market research beforehand will help establish the best setup for your company.
2. Team and Location
Determining your business location and executive team members will set the foundation for the company. Take time to evaluate the workload, finances and structure to determine if business partners would be beneficial. If you are the sole owner and employee, then you get to make all the decisions!
If your market research determined that your town is not a primary target for your services, that does not mean this is the end of your dream. Neighboring towns may have a completely different market and make a great home for your storefront. Perhaps you do not need a storefront and can simply sell your products online. Maybe you are selling services instead, such as a landscaping or painting company, and you just need to rent an office space or storage space. There are numerous routes you can take, so determine which one works best for your model.
Creating a budget is a crucial step in developing your business. Unless you won a remarkably high lottery, chances are you do not have unlimited funds to spend. You need to know exactly how much you are allocating to each piece of the business. Otherwise, you will likely overspend in many areas.
Depending on the size of your company and your finances, you may need to meet with a bank or investor to get start-up money. Have a high-level budget prepared in advance of this meeting. As your company develops and you get closer to opening your doors, you will need a more thorough budget. This will need to include salaries, products, insurance, rent and utilities. If math is not your strong point, or even if you just want help, hire an accountant to take the lead on your budgeting.
4. Business Plan
After you have completed thorough research regarding your ideas and markets, start forming your business plan. This can be high-level to start but it will have to be more detailed down the road. If you need investors, they will want a thorough analysis of your business setup. Additionally, once you get your business off the ground, you do not want to run into instances where you are unsure of how to proceed or realize you cannot move forward due to a missed license or something similar. Your business plan should include the following: business overview, services and products, financial strategy, executive team and market evaluation.
Once you are close to opening your doors (or going live if your company is online), you need to proactively advertise. The last thing you want is to put hours and hours of hard work into developing your company, only to be met with no sales for weeks on end. If no one knows about you, no one is going to buy from you! Therefore, you need to advertise your business before it opens.
If you have the money in your budget, hire a marketing director to create an advertising plan. These people are professionals and can help strategize which routes will give you the biggest return on your investment. Additionally, see what kind of advertising programs are available to you. If you have the funds, it is worth putting some extra money into marketing when you are starting off, to really ensure your name is in front of consumers.
If you do not have the finances for a marketing director or programs, fear not. There are numerous avenues to market your business for free. Utilize friends, family and local businesses; have your friends and family share your website on their social media pages. Partner with local companies to see if they will share your business cards or fliers. For example, if you are opening a floral shop, ask local event planners or wedding dress shop owners if they will offer your business card to their clientele. This is an excellent way to get in front of people that will likely need your services in the near future.
Gone are the days when people would turn to the Yellow Pages to find a business. Nowadays, you need to make the most of free online platforms. Social media sites, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or business listing sites, such as HomeAdvisor, Yelp and Angie’s List, all allow business owners to promote their company for free. Create a business page on each of these sites. It needs to be professional, detailed but concise and attractive. If you have a page with two photos, your web site and no business information, chances are consumers will move to the next listing. You need to give people a reason to choose you! Include lots of interactive photos, your web site and all pertinent business information, such as history, qualifications, what you sell, hours and any specials. Share your business listing on the social media sites and encourage your friends to do the same.
While it may seem overwhelming at times, starting a company does not have to remain a dream. With time and lots of hard work, you can bring your vision to life. Developing these five areas will bring you that much closer to opening the doors of your very own business.