A lot of people think starting a business is hard. Too many would-be-entrepreneurs get stuck early in the process because they think only a certain type of person has what it takes to make it as a successful business owner. The reality is, most people have what it takes: a good idea, the right amount of capita and the creativity.
What most people lack, however, is the patience, determination and ability to plan. It’s easy to become overwhelmed in the early stages of starting a business. The key is to have a working plan to stick to. Use something simple to guide you along the way.
Here are seven key first steps to starting your own business:
1. Take time to brainstorm.
An idea is great, but you need to be able to give it legs. Your job as a new entrepreneur and future business owner is to think about every aspect of your business. Come up with answers to every question a stranger or potential investor might ask you. For example try to answer these questions:
Who is the target market for the product?
What could go wrong and how will you solve it?
Are there additional products or services that could tie into your main offering?
What are the main things you want your customers to know about you?
By preparing answers to these questions ahead of time, you'll come across as a more confident and trustworthy business owner when it comes time to try to attract the attention of the right stakeholders.
2. Create a business plan.
After you’ve taken the time to answer questions about your business or product idea, put together a concrete business plan.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the main parts of a business plan include the executive summary, a company description (what makes the company unique), a market analysis (the competition and target demographics), the company's structure, a description of the service or product line, the marketing and sales strategy, financial projections -- plus any additional useful information.
Entrepreneur also has a section of free business plan templates that can help you get started.
3. Gather needed resources.
If you're planning to start a one-person business, you don’t necessarily need to worry about hiring anyone. But it might be helpful to create a plan for the future when you want to scale the business.
No matter what the size of your business is, you'll need a few essentials to start operating. Create a list of everything you’ll need and its approximate cost, Whether it’s an office space with a new desktop and printer or a warehouse to hold the products.
If you are purchasing something that will solely be used for business, then likely it's tax deductible. Be sure to check with the IRS, an accountant or a tax attorney to be sure you are properly deducting expenses.
4. Launch marketing and brand-awareness campaigns.
Before you launch the business off the ground, start planning the ideas for marketing, sales, and branding efforts. Because social media is used by much of the U.S. population in most age groups and continues to grow in popularity globally, having an online presence is key.
Create a Facebook page, Twitter profile, Google+, and LinkedIn page for your business, depending on the appropriate social media channel for your company. For instance, a dry cleaner may not find a LinkedIn page useful but could connect well with a local community on Google+ and Facebook. Be sure all your web pages have a cohesive feel and are updated regularly.
All other communications with your clients should have a cohesive feel. Use the company's brand colors and logo to create business cards, letterhead and email signatures to demonstrate to customers a professional operation.
5. Get the finances in shape.
Not setting up proper accounting, bookkeeping and tax records up front can be dangerous and costly to a business in the long run. Set up the business as an limited liability company, an S Corp or whatever structure fits best to protect personal assets. Use bookkeeping software like GoDaddy Bookkeeping or Quickbooks that make it easy to export records when doing taxes.
Hire an accountant for your business who can ensure that taxes are done correctly. While doing your own business taxes can be relatively easy when running a solo business, laws and regulations vary by state. Consult with an expert to make sure you're in the clear.
6. Create a maintenance list.
When you finally have your business up and running, keep track of regular tasks that keep a business running, namely doing payroll, keeping up with inventory, updating the website and regularly blogging and using social media. Create a list of these regular tasks and schedule them on a project management dashboard or an online to-do list like ToDoist, which lets someone list a task’s due date as “every fourth Wednesday” and then it regularly appears on a daily task list.
This ensures you will continue the regular housekeeping tasks of the business so it runs smoothly.
7. Set future goals.
Whether your business is a day or a year old, continuously set goals in order tomove your business forward.
Examine the competiton, employees, investors and peers to help you decide what new goals need to be set and what needs to happen so as to be successful.
Related: 10 Startup Tips Learned the Hard Way