As we begin the year of 2014, many are considering making the leap into entrepreneurship. The uncertainty of the economy plays a role in minimizing the interest in jumping into small business ownership while the lack of reliable employment for many skilled workers and college graduates adds appeal to the idea of starting your own business. Small business start-ups are less than they were 15-20 years ago (see Bureau of Labor Statistics) , but the tools to assist new start-ups are more readily available today.
These 5 steps can help you get started on the right track in starting your own business.
Know yourself. A good evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses is important whether you stay on with an employer, are applying and interviewing for jobs, and especially when beginning on your own in business. Focus on your strengths, from these you will know what will best aid you in lining up with a business venture, will provide your core service and appeal to your customers, and will be able to gather the right support for your business. As to your weaknesses, shore up your business with employees, sub-contracted work, partnerships, and affiliations. Some good resources for knowing yourself better are: StrengthsFinder and Myers-Briggs Personality Test.
Understand the business you hope to begin. A friend or a former co-worker might be regaling you with how great they are doing selling knives door-to-door or as a clown-for-hire or turning yard-sale items into Ebay/Craigslist gold. However well they may or may not be doing, is not a good indicator of whether you should follow suit. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and personality will aid you greatly in this next step. You need to study the different aspects of your potential business venture. Is it an industry that is best suited for extroverts or introverts? Is it an industry that you can get excited about? Does it line up with your moral, spiritual, and philosophical convictions? How is it profitable? How much initial cost is needed? What is the longevity potential for this niche? There are many questions you can ask and determine. Ask away and seek the answers. Know what you are getting into, its potential for success, its potential for failure, its innerworkings, and other's stories. Make an informed decision, not an impulsive one. The Small Business Administration can be a good resource for many things, go here for some specific industry statistics.
Write a business plan. As Benjamin Franklin said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." Writing out a business plan will help you immensely for the next few steps. It will also be useful for re-evaluating from time to time, to adjust to industry changes, opportunity changes, and goal shortcomings/achievements. A business plan can be useful for ensuring that all legal preparations are complete, steps are taken to grow the business beyond the start-up, and for acquiring the support needed for start-up. You will want to plan out year one and 3-5 year projections. Again, the Small Business Administration can be a good resource for Business Plan Development, as well as many others.
Complete legal forms and ensure financial readiness for the launch. First and foremost, now that you know what and when you will begin, you need to be certain to be in legal compliance. Your state government NH and MA (to those local to Sawyer Web Works) and the IRS have resources to aid you in this. Legal consultation with an attorney may be advised depending on the industry you are planning to enter into. For automation of some of these tasks, you could outsource to companies (like MyCorporation) that provide this service, but recognize that the more you outsource will increase your initial and on-going costs. Be certain to have the desired starting funds either ready or lined up before you launch. You may need to provide your own initial capital investment, secure investors, or secure a bank loan. It is also recommended that you have the proper insurances and contractual agreements either completed or ready as needed.
Get online and get active. Now is the time to LAUNCH. You have determined your business, your plan for success, and readied yourself to enter the market. Before your launch, when you launch, and after you launch, you need to PROMOTE. You will want to brand your business and get that brand seen on everything - business cards, local media, social media, your website, and community connections. Get on the web with an effective website (responsive design, lead capturing, branded, search engine optimized), integrate it with social media (facebook, google+, pinterest, twitter, youtube, etc.), be an expert and communicate to your audience (blog, email campaigns, and forums), and market yourself (business cards, local advertising, press releases, pay per click advertising, and local business networking). My obvious recommended resource would be to start with Sawyer Web Works, we are here specifically to help the small business owner and start-up to actively succeed in business utilizing the web to its potential.