- Have just come up with a brilliant business idea, or have had one blossoming up in your noggin for months or years!
- Are at a place where you’re ready to put the pedal to the metal and make your business a reality!
- Don’t have the first idea of where to begin, aside from having your winning idea.
This article is all about helping you understand what a business is and taking the first steps toward starting your business.
If you feel lost in a sea of checklists, legal terms, and best practices, let me calm the waters and set you up for smooth sailing with these Six Steps To Starting Your Business.
Ready? Here we go.
1. Find Your Focus & Business Plan
The first rule in starting a business is don’t talk about business. Just DO it.
Okay, that analogy may not be perfect, but the message I’m getting at is this: First-timers with great ideas often do a lot of sharing and talking about their ideas. They get a lot of enthusiastic support from friends and family, which further drives their motivation to turn it into the NEXT BIG THING.
Dreaming and mental planning are great; it fuels passion, which you’ll need to hang in there when the going gets tough. But taking your business ideas and turning them into something actionable requires focus and definition around your brand attributes.
I’m not talking about determining the perfect logo, typography, or color palette. That visual branding is essential, don’t get me wrong. But you’re not there yet, sailor.
First, you need a written, documented business plan. A business plan should lay the groundwork for executing your excellent business idea.
Here are the primary business attributes you should establish in detail before you launch your product:
- Purpose | What is your “why,” your mission, and your vision for the business.
- Market Research and Competitor Analysis | Who are your competitors? Where do you fit in the market of like-businesses? What differentiates your business from those?
- Heroes and Antagonists | Who are your heroes (your audience), and what are their antagonists (what pain points of theirs do you solve?)
- Philosophy | What guides your vision, goals, and product choices?
- Cost | What will your business cost? This can be determined through a break-even analysis.
- Funding | How will you finance your business? Your options here range from the DIY variety (bootstrapping, crowdfunding, angel investments) to the more formal (business loans, business grants, investors/venture capitalists).
Your business’s answers to these questions together form your “pitch” (often called an “elevator pitch”). You’ll need to spend some time whittling it down to the most significant bits to make your business pitch clear, concise, and compelling.
2. Hire a Business Consultant & Coach
Ever heard the phrase “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”? Be proud that you’re taking your shots at your business idea, no matter how many you miss along the way!
The flip side of that is to be real with yourself about where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Running a business requires a business mind, so if you tend to be the “idea guy/gal,” you’ll need a way to find a balance between what your business will require on the creative, energetic side and the data-driven, practical one.
This is where you should find outside help. You’ve probably heard you should utilize the support of friends and family because they will be your best cheerleaders. Indeed, they may cheer you on … but to a fault.
New business owners need to hear the truth about their business ideas from an unbiased source with deep experience in starting a business or becoming an entrepreneur. A business consultant or business coach is someone you can bounce your ideas off of, but who will also help you:
- establish your goals;
- develop your business model;
- offer advice around how to plan, launch, and market your business; and
- be a confidant around whom you can speak freely about your fears and uncertainties.
Entrepreneurs typically engage with a business coach late in the process of starting their business, and to their detriment. The thought usually doesn’t occur until they are far down the road of unfocus, financial disarray, and common first-time business owner mistakes.
Luckily, you’re reading this. You’ll want a pro by your side to navigate one of the most critical points in your business’s life: The beginning.
To get a feel for business coaching options and pricing, let me share the various engagement models I use with my entrepreneurs and business owners:
Private Business Coaching Sessions | À la carte or as a package, these sessions help you set and achieve your goals as you start your business.
Branding Development | Setting up a strong foundation to properly scale and develop your business
Social Media Strategy | Establishing and increasing brand awareness so you can engage and convert clients directly and personably
If you’re stuck in the process of launching, I would love to help you get your business off the ground!
3. Legally Establish Your Business
This is the most basic and requisite “how” in “how to start a business.” For it to be the real deal, it has to be official. Here are the main types of business entity you’ll choose from:
Limited Liability Company (LLC) | Very common as an initial business filing, an LLC protects your personal assets (house, etc.) and is often perfect for small businesses just starting out.
Corporation | There are several types of Corporation filing types, including S-corporations, C-corporations, and B-corporations. The important distinction of all Corporate filings is that your business’s liability becomes distinct from your personal liability.
Partnership | When you’re starting a business with a co-founder, at the very least, you’ll want to split the liability, so there is less personal risk to each of you.
Sole Proprietorship | Consider this only if the business is low-risk and you’re comfortable assuming all liabilities (debts, obligations) against your personal assets and credit.
Once you’ve chosen your business type, you’ll need to register it with the local, state, and federal government (the IRS). You’ll need to provide documentation or information dependent upon the kind of business you’re registering (an article of incorporation for Corporations; possibly an operating agreement for an LLC).
This is all easier than it sounds, I promise! Registering an LLC can take less than 10 minutes, in many cases.
You should also consider purchasing a small business insurance policy, so you are protected in the event of damage, theft, or lawsuit.
4. Branding Your Business
Are you finding it hard to believe that the name of your business isn’t even necessary until this point? Don’t be! It isn’t. While many business owners and entrepreneurs find a brand name in the early imaginations of their start-up, many don’t, and that is absolutely okay.
It is only once it’s time to create your website and launch your business that having a name for it becomes, well, pretty important. Although it might be an interesting study to see if success can come from a great product alone …
Alright, so it’s time to develop and design the visual and other sensory elements of your business: name, logo, color palette, typography, look and feel, and tone. The brand story attributes defined in your earliest development phase give the “why” and the “how” of your product. This is where all of that is brought to life through elements designed to make your audience feel something.
You can hire this step out, or you can DIY with the help of self-education, design software, or an app with easy-to-use templates for everything you’ll need.
5. Buckle Up—It’s Time To Business
You’re well on your way, entrepreneur! You’ve taken the necessary steps to set your startup or small business up for success. Let’s review:
- You’ve established and evolved your business plan to keep you focused.
- You’ve hired a business consultant and coach to guide you through the complexities of launching and running your business.
- You’ve legally kicked things off.
- You’ve got a name, a look, and a vibe ready to be seen.
What’s next? Build it, baby.
If your business is more than a one-person show, you’ll need to build your team.
You’ll need an online presence, so purchase your domain name and handles and build your website and set up your social media accounts.
And of course, if you haven’t yet: build your product.
6. 3 … 2 … 1 … LAUNCH!
You’ll be busy beyond belief refining your business idea, tweaking your model, testing out your user experience, resolving issues; It’s not only possible you’ll feel overwhelmed by it all at some point—it will happen.
You are prepared. You expected this, and you have the tools and helpers in place to keep your hand steady and your heart in it. This is the part where you hold on tight for one of the most rewarding rides you can take in life.
Whether your business launches to billions of dollars in revenue or one year from launch, proves itself to be too niche, there is incredible value in starting a business for the first time.
Once you’ve taken the steps outlined here, it’s official. You’re an entrepreneur. Welcome to the fold, and don’t forget to have fun.