Starting a business isn’t easy, and it can seem overwhelming. But it’s easier than you think when broken down into small steps. This article will walk you through starting a new business in 10 simple steps.
1. Evaluate your business goals
Begin by asking yourself a few basic questions about your small business idea to refine it:
- Why? Think about the purpose of your business and what needs it fills. (Be clear enough about why you’re starting your business so that you can describe its purpose in one sentence.)
- What? What is the product or service you’ll be offering?
- Who? Who is your target customer base or audience? Be specific in describing demographic characteristics, such as age, gender, income level, location, and other factors.
- How? Describe your plan for developing your product or service and delivering it to your customers or clients.
Feel free to brainstorm business names at this stage, but you probably don’t want to get too attached to anything now. Later, you can consult with a marketing professional to help you decide on a name, website domain, and tagline.
2. Start writing your business plan
When starting a small business, it’s never too early to write your business plan. A business plan serves as a guide for every aspect of your new business — a road map that takes you from a simple inspiring idea to a successful company.
Make sure your business plan answers the why who, what and how questions above. In addition, consider including a business description, market strategies, competitive analysis, design and development, operations and management, and financial data.
3. Conduct market research
Market research is critical to help you determine whether your business idea has legs. It examines customer behaviors and economic trends to help you hone your business strategy. Competitive research looks at product demand, demographic data, market size, economic indicators, location appeal, and pricing.
Through careful market research, you’ll be able to figure out who your target customer base is and how to develop products and services that will sell. Market research can also help you determine the name of your business, logo(s), design color schemes, and other branding elements.
4. Business structure and logistics
At this stage, you’ll need to make some important decisions that define your business:
Business name and domain: During the market research stage, you should have chosen a relevant, unique business name. Purchase website domains if you haven’t already secured them. Domains are often inexpensive, so buy as many as you need to ensure that potential customers find you online.
Business structure: Decide what kind of structure is best for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation. This is an important step as it can impact taxes, personal liability, your ability to get funding, and more.
Business Location: You’ll not only have to decide where your business headquarters is located but its style of operation — whether that’s a retail outlet or a home office. In addition to your online presence, will it also be brick-and-mortar? If so, you’ll need to think about issues like foot traffic, parking, ordinances, utilities, crime, convenience, and nearby competition.
Once you’ve figured out those key components to starting a business, take care of these remaining tasks:
- Register your business
- Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Get federal and state tax IDs
- Apply for a business license and permits, if applicable
- Open a business bank account
- Apply for appropriate trademarks, copyrights, or patents
- Purchase insurance policies
5. Get funding for your small business
One of the most important steps to starting a business is getting funding. Start by figuring out how much money you need. Your business plan should contain a budget for operating for one year. Using a spreadsheet or budget software, include every expense you anticipate, including costs for overhead, production, and marketing.
One way to figure out how much money you need is by performing a break-even analysis. The formula for the break-even point is Fixed costs ÷ (Item price – Variable costs). This analysis can help you determine profitability, how to price products and services, and how much you have to sell to make a profit.
6. Design prototypes and get feedback
Work with freelance designers and engineers to create product prototypes. If your business is service-oriented, this may include designing proprietary products used only by your employees in the field. Then test your designs by setting up focus groups or scenarios where randomly chosen individuals can put your product to the test and complete surveys about their experience. If you’re selling a service, enlist the help of individuals who agree to try it out for free and then give anonymous, unbiased feedback.
7. Put together your leadership team
Put together a team of people who will make your operation flourish. It could include partners, employees, freelancers, contractors, and consultants. Your team should decide on an accounting system and develop a plan for manufacturing, choosing vendors, and hiring workers and independent contractors. You should also establish protocols for communication reporting and responding to harassment and other complaints by employees. Much of this planning will determine what kind of culture your company fosters.
8. Develop Your Product
Here is where you see the fruits of your efforts. Once you’ve finalized the design of your product, make purchases necessary to produce. That could mean setting up a manufacturing process to create a physical product or installing computers to create software. Hire specialists, managers, and workers necessary to make the operation run smoothly. Develop policies for quality control and safety.
9. Get The word Out
How will you get the word out so your target audience gets the message? What social media platforms should you jump on? What kinds of ads will sell your product and where should they appear? How can you appeal to the media so that the public learns about what you’re offering? These are the kinds of questions you’ll need to answer to make sure you’re connecting with potential customers through sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.
10. Plan For Business Growth
We’ve all heard stories about wildly successful companies that lose sales or even go out of business because they took off too fast and weren’t prepared for success. Learn to delegate roles and responsibilities. That may mean deciding to hire your first employee. You’ll need to look ahead and make decisions so that you’re not caught off-guard when your business takes off. Such plans could include:
- Studying market trends
- Testing new ideas
- Acquiring another business
- Growing into new markets
- Expanding product lines and services