Starting a business is like skydiving. Once you jump off the plane, there's no going back. There's no safety net when things go wrong. You must deploy your parachute at precisely the right moment to land where you want, or else hit the ground at high speed.
It's hard, especially for rookies with no business management experience. The challenges it brings can break even the toughest entrepreneurial spirit. Yet, despite this, if you look around your city, you'll find businesses everywhere. They endure. And here you are, still stuck in the "contemplating" stage.
According to the US Small Business Administration, there are over 33 million small businesses operating in the country. This means at least 33 million people have taken the risk and ACTUALLY STARTED a business. Why can't you do it, too? Maybe the only thing stopping you is yourself.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We shouldn't arrogantly leap from the plane with a faulty parachute. Starting a business is a huge decision that requires careful planning and preparation. In this article, you'll learn how to start a business, recognize risks and mistakes to avoid, and stay ahead of the game.
How to Start a Business
The saying "nobody gets rich from a nine-to-five job" never gets old and applies to most professions. It’s running a successful business that holds the key to true financial freedom. Regardless of the business you plan to put up, you must follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Come up with an idea.
Everything begins with an idea, but not all ideas work. To come up with a unique and viable idea, you need to consider factors such as market demand, feasibility, competition, and unique value proposition. As the renowned American entrepreneur Scott Belsky puts it, it's not just about having ideas; it's about bringing them to life.
Start by jotting down ideas that align with your passion. For instance, if you love cooking, think about food-related concepts. If you're tech-savvy, consider electronics. If fashion is your thing, explore clothing ideas. This approach will keep you motivated and focused, minimizing the chance of feeling discouraged or distracted by occasional setbacks.
You can also choose a niche unrelated to your passion. Many successful entrepreneurs didn't initially fancy the concept or nature of their businesses, yet that didn't dampen their business acumen.
After completing your list, begin narrowing it down. First, eliminate anything that's unfeasible until only three options remain. Next, conduct market research for each remaining idea. Select the one with the greatest potential for growth and minimal funding requirements.
Step 2: Create a business plan.
A business plan outlines essential elements of your business, like objectives, strategies, and financial projections. Being specific is crucial for a strong plan, especially when presenting to potential investors who expect clarity. Clearly explain where their investment will be allocated and the potential profit. Here are some key inclusions for your business plan:
- Specific target niche and market
- Other businesses you'll partner with, including manufacturers, suppliers, marketing agencies, etc.
- Strategies for marketing, selling, and operations
- Communication methods and channels for prospective and existing customers
- Resources you need to stay afloat until your business starts turning a profit, including capital, intellectual property, equipment, facilities, and technology
- Financial strategy outlining how to reduce costs and maximize value
- Clear and compelling value proposition
Step 3: Raise capital.
Here comes the most challenging part: funding your startup. You need money for operational costs like utility bills and employee salaries and buying inventory, supplies, equipment, and furniture. Here are some ways to raise capital for your business:
- SBA microloan – Borrow up to $55,000 from the US Small Business Administration.
- Microlenders – Private and nonprofit lenders offer capital to promising startups.
- Venture Capital – Funding from established lenders, investment banks, and other financial institutions.
- Angel Investors – Wealthy individuals seeking profitable investments.
- Small-business grants – Government programs supporting startups and small businesses in addition to SBA microloans.
- Crowdfunding – Seek donations through social media, email, and other channels.
- Stocks – Sell shares of your business to the public.
Important: Before signing any contract with investors, it is crucial to seek legal guidance, especially if they decide to change or add a rider to your proposed contract. Understand every word, particularly legal jargon, that may have multiple meanings or interpretations.
Step 4: Legitimize your business.
To operate your business without restrictions, it must adhere to federal, state, and local regulations. This entails registering it with the government and obtaining all required licenses.
The requirements for registering a business vary depending on where you are and your business type. Some businesses can become legal entities just by getting a federal tax ID and not registering with the federal government. Each type of registration has its own benefits. For example, registering with the United States Patent and Trademark Office lets you trademark your brand or product.
It provides insights into your required licenses by detailing the nature and coverage of your business. To streamline processes and reduce paperwork, consider seeking legal advice.
Step 5: Hire people.
Many new business owners underestimate the importance of human resources and opt to handle everything themselves to save money. They only begin hiring when their products start to suffer, and customers complain, ultimately spending more to repair their reputation.
You don't need to hire many people immediately. First, assess your operation to understand the workload. Make a list of tasks you can and cannot handle. Then, figure out how many people are needed for the tasks you can't do. Based on the type of tasks, decide whether to create an in-house team or hire a remote contractor.
Where can it go wrong?
Depending on your readiness and response, you'll encounter various challenges that may affect your business. Some, such as product defects and customer complaints, can be avoided, while others are beyond your control. Your business can withstand unforeseen challenges with adequate coverage and a strong mitigation plan. Here are a few you should be ready for.
- Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes.
- Economic changes like shifts in transportation routes or import/export rules.
- Emerging trends offer superior alternatives to your products or services.
- The arrival of new competitors offering similar products or services.
You can't stop these events from happening. Your best option is to prepare for them. Get insurance and build disaster-resistant facilities to safeguard your assets and inventory. Embrace fresh ideas to launch them in the market before your competitors. It's all about readiness and staying ahead of the competition.
More Tips for Startups
Experience is undoubtedly the best teacher, but it's different when running a business. Each mistake will cost you time and money. It's best to learn how to avoid issues to maximize your profit. Here are a few more tips for you.
- Do not overestimate market demand. Conduct thorough market research and trust the results, no matter how unfavorable they may seem.
- Hire people with the appropriate skills. Assess their expertise and character through well-structured tests and interviews.
- Do not undervalue or overvalue your products or services. Determine prices based on comprehensive market research.
- Take your time to grow your business. Do not expand too quickly just because your cash flow looks good. If you're just starting out, you haven't seen it all yet. Never underestimate market volatility.
- Build your business in a manner that allows for continuous scaling. This should encompass your business plan, technology, and resources.
- Adhere to the law. Protect yourself and your business from any run-ins with authorities. Compliance with government regulations is one of your biggest flexes.
Start now or never!
Resources don't last, and opportunities to start a business won't always be available. If you've got the idea and the funds, don't delay—take that initial step. Don't wait for another company to seize a similar concept before acting. In addition to this guide, consider hiring a consultant to help structure your ideas and kick-start your business.