The First 10 Steps:
Staying employed would be great, so long as there’s job security, a sure way up the ladder and a good retirement package. But that’s not always the case. Not everyone manages to keep a little extra from their small paychecks, most companies don’t last forever, and the bosses aren’t always agreeable. The other path is becoming an entrepreneur. Getting into business for yourself, enjoy doing what you do best, doing what you love most and sometimes, the freedom from ill-conceived deadlines. If successful, the payback could be more than you imagined and financial security for you and your family will no longer be an issue. If you want to go into business, congratulations! If you have a business idea, more points for you. If you have enough funds and are ready to take the plunge, fair warning. The road can be difficult at first and not everyone makes it. But with enough will, enough drive and persistence, you could be like the man on top of the company you currently work for.
Without further ado, here are ten steps you need to follow in going into business for yourself. Follow them carefully. Carefully plan for each step of the way and you just might make it.
Step 1 – Polish and Solidify your Idea – every business begins with an idea. An idea that fills a need, or a small but profitable niche. An idea that rides on another. An idea that improves on another idea, or something entirely new. Take, for example, taking advantage of the returning popularity of mixtapes. You can create a service that helps people create a mixtape of their favorite songs, give the custom tape some graphic spice and sell the tape along with refurbished cassette players. It’s a long shot but not everyone has the time to round up an old cassette player, nor the knowhow and equipment to make mixtapes.
Basically, you now have an idea and a target market. You just need to refine it. Do some research to see if others have already thought of it. If there are already others, think of how you can do it better, or ride on their success by opening a franchise, which is the easiest way to go into business if you already have some money for yourself. The idea, and everything else has been polished for you.
Step 2 – Make a Business Plan – After the idea, comes the business plan. No idea can take off without careful planning. Icarus had a great idea on how he could fly. He made himself a pair of good, aerodynamic wings that easily produced lift, but crashed because he didn’t account for the heat of the sun melting his adhesive. When creating a business plan, you need to ask yourself a few questions.
What is the full nature of the business?
Is there an actual demand?
Who’s your target market?
How to raise capital?
What happens after the foundation and first sale?
The answers to these questions (and more), will result in a business plan that should account for unforeseen or expected difficulties. Again, study the market carefully.
Step 3 – Financing – although you can start a business with little or no money, businesses need to grow and sustain themselves with a steady flow of resources. By resources, we mean money. Businesses by nature, don’t immediately turn up a profit. Only if the business grows to a certain volume will it be profitable but until then, the business will be like an infant to be breastfed before it can walk. Until it does, you need the right amount of capital. If you don’t have the money, you can borrow from friends, from a bank or even from crowdfunding or find a like-minded investor.
Step 4 – Legalities – creating your own company and running the business means you have to deal with the legal stuff, if you’re planning to run something bigger than a lemonade or produce stand. In this phase, you need to decide what your business structure will be. The previous parts could help decide it for you as well. Will you be a sole owner, or will you and your friend/s form a partnership? If you want to keep your personal and business taxes and liabilities separate, then it has to be a corporation, preferably an LLC or Limited Liability Company. Your personal assets will be protected in case some part for the business itself goes south. Once you choose the right business entity, you need to continue with the paperwork that goes along with it.
Step 5 – Government and Tax Registration – continuing with the legalities, you need to register with the government to fully become a legal business entity. You will need to declare the nature of your business, and a business name you will need to trademark. As a corporation, you will need an ‘articles of incorporation’ document. After that, you need to get an employer identification number, if and when you may need to get extra pairs of hands for the business. Don’t forget to file for federal and state income tax obligations. You can always sell stuff on eBay and Etsy but its best to register the business if that’s what you want to do for a long time so as not to have to watch out for the taxman.
Step 6 – Insurance – Unfortunately in life, as well as in business, something will always go wrong and it’s better if we can mitigate its effects. Insuring your business against personal or property damage, theft and lawsuits is a must. For businesses with employees, it’s recommended to at least get GL Insurance. GL stands for General Liability which covers bodily injuries for employees, yourself, and bystanders as well as covering property damages. Service providers will also need to consider personal liability insurance.
Step 7 – Employees – it’s best to prepare and to plan for the eventuality of additional staff, especially if you’re planning something big. Choosing the right people can mean the difference between failure and success. Hire the right people with the respective talent and passion for your business. Check out chapter 6 for online payroll services.
Step 8 – Vendors or Suppliers – whatever type of business you will be running, whether it’s product or service oriented, you will be needing supplies, equipment as well as services yourself. Finding the right vendor with inexpensive but quality offerings will very much help with the bottom line. You need vendors that you can trust and count on to deliver on time and on the cheap.
Step 9 – Branding and Exposure – Most of the time, customers relate to businesses through the business name. It’s doubtful that people will eat at a fast food joint named Kroc’s instead of McDonalds. Proper branding always helps. Apple, as a computer company does not sound intimidating at all compared to Computex. The brand should either be friendly, catchy, firm or powerful, not to mention roll of the tongue. You also need to come up with a simple, meaningful but exciting logo for your brand, so your customers can associate to your brand visually. After coming up with a brand, you need to let your customers know you exist. A good place to advertise at the budding stage of your business way up to your success is through social media, which is often free. You will also need a website for social media to latch on to. And lastly, not everyone is on social media, so you need a separate marketing plan that covers physical mediums like posters, classified ads and even ads to your local TV or radio station.
Step 10 – Growth – so what’s next after starting the business? Going back to the business plan, you need to account on what happens next after starting the business. There’s no other goal but to progress, to increase the business and increase profit, unless of course the business provides for your needs and you have no delusions of grandeur. But sometimes, the business itself will force you to grow as well. The overall goal is to stay afloat, to stay relevant to keep your business alive and the employees that work for you. To ensure growth, you need to look into other companies and possibly partner with them. Continue to market, promote and advertise. Keep the website updated with blog entries and promotions. Correct mistakes immediately and properly as they happen but most importantly, learn from them.
Going into business may seem a lot harder than remaining in employment, but bear in mind, the success and financial security for you and your family and the help you could provide others by giving them jobs and helping the community. The greater the work, the greater the harvest.