The Top 5 Small Biz Startup Essentials for Newbies and Skeptics
I read a good article on Brazen Careerist this morning addressing some of the antiquated business mantras of yesterday that many young entrepreneurs feel drawn to subscribe to (for example, “All you need is a great idea…”). In my opinion, what keeps many talented folks from actually taking the steps to start their small business, startup or freelance venture is the feeling of overwhelm, both by the onslaught of information and advice out there, and the lack of necessary business knowledge which they feel they possess. This common roadblock is also known as “analysis paralysis”.
While the road to building a sustainable business can be challenging and complicated, the reality is that it’s far simpler to actually get the business physically started. And you do have to start somewhere. Depending upon your niche, industry and service/product offerings, your upfront needs and investments will differ. But for any small business just starting out, you can tackle a few key steps to get up and running, sans the need to invest tons of money or commit loads of time and effort. Your essential small biz grocery list includes:
An Idea, Backed Up With a Good Action Plan
Starting a business with simply a creative idea and a very vague vision of how you plan to execute it is like subscribing to an indemnity health insurance plan where nothing is covered, except for major disasters and traumas. The “I’ll figure it out later as I come to that bridge” approach doesn’t work here, similar to banking on going 12 months with nary an illness or medical complication. Having a good idea is key, but what happens next in terms of turning the idea into something tangible? I hear a lot of people talking about their ideas for businesses, but never really taking next step in the planning process to actually make something happen. And what happens to great ideas that lack execution and never get off the ground? Someone else starts them and makes a million bucks.
A Registered Business Name
Again, one of the simplest things to do in the startup process, but many people fall short of actually legally creating their business because the official nature of it seems overwhelming or intimidating. The truth is that registering your business name with your state government does not automatically tie you into a heap of additional tax responsibilities (not until you start making money, at least), it doesn’t mean you have to quit your job tomorrow because you’re now a sole proprietor, nor does it cost a lot of time, effort or money (typically less than $150 in most states). But registering your business DOES guarantee that the name or DBA under which you want to operate is available and exclusively yours, before you go out and invest your money in business cards, marketing materials and web domains.
Your Version of a Business Plan
Unless you’re seeking outside funding immediately, don’t get caught up in the formality of creating a templated business plan. It IS a good idea, however, to create something that operates as your roadmap for creating and growing your organization, be it a Word document, a notepad, spreadsheet, infographic, etc.. Your business will continually change and evolve, and the idea is to use your business plan to both facilitate and track your growth. Putting something in writing will help you to better clarify your goals and vision for the business, and better understand what is and is not working as you continue to grow. The basic elements of such a document should include:
- Mission (What is the positive effect that you are trying to create with your business?)
- Vision (What do you want our of your business, i.e. what will be the results of what you do, in the future?)
- Target Audience (Who are you selling to, & why?)
- Products & Services (What are you offering to your target audience that’s of value?)
- Competitive Analysis (Who else is servicing your market segment, or offering similar products or services?)
- Marketing & Sales Plan (How will you get the word about your brand out there? Don’t worry about tackling this just yet.)
- Financial Plan (How do you plan to grow and increase profits?)
A Business-Savvy Mentor
Whether you barter with someone for their services, take advantage of government-funded mentorship programs, or invest in working with someone one-on-one who can help guide you through the startup process, a knowledgeable mentor can help keep you accountable, motivated and on track, so that your entrepreneurial dreams don’t get lost in the day-to-day shuffle of responsibilities and To-Do’s. Even if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want your business to look like, they will work with you to clarify your goals and vision for growth. But most importantly, mentors or coaches who work with folks on starting up businesses are experienced and knowledgeable in doing so… so that you don’t have to be. If your goal is to build a business focused around your talents and interests, find someone who can walk you through the startup process so that your time can be better spent fine-tuning your craft.
How you run and operate your business today may very well not be how you operate it 6 months from now. Through experience, you will learn what does and does not work for you and your business, based on the unique needs, challenges and interests of your market. It’s important to be flexible and willing to adapt to the changing marketplace and business landscape. There is nothing wrong with finding a system that works for you and sticking with it, but do be open-minded to new technology, marketing techniques, service offerings and even market segments. This is how businesses grow and expand.
Perhaps your Etsy shop has been around for awhile and you’re looking to take it to the next level, or maybe your creative consulting idea is still in the beginning stages. The great thing about being in this earlier phase of business is that you can start to build real traction in your business, with minimal risk and investment. So go for it! Just. Start. Somewhere.
Let’s Get It Goin’! StartUp Program – Launch Your Business Full Time in 12-18 Months
From Employee to Entrepreneur E-BOOK – Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Business
Small Biz Budget Planning Worksheet – Create a 12-Month Financial Exit Strategy