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When it comes to starting a business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
There are many things you can get distracted by when you get a business off the ground and a seemingly endless list of tasks runs through your head. There’s a lot of noise too, things that will keep you busy but won’t move the needle in any way, which is often difficult to assess as a first-time entrepreneur.
But it’s essential that you focus on the things that matter, the aspects of your business that are critical to its success. These things are often forgotten or put aside by first-time business owners.
In my 23 years in the business and the time I spent training other entrepreneurs, I have discovered some key steps that are most important when launching a business. With that in mind, here are eight steps you’ll want to focus on to get you off to the best possible start.
1. Understand your time commitment
First things first, you want to be clear about the amount of time you will need to spend on this business. You need to be realistic here and make sure you’re willing to put in the time and res to get it off the ground. Even if this is just a part-time job to supplement your income, the time commitment to starting and growing a business is tremendous and is greatly underestimated. At first, you are excited and running on adrenaline because everything is new, but that excitement will soon start to fade. What’s left will be passion and dedication, so make sure you’re committed before you even get started.
2. Plan your idea
Few ideas are winners from the start. The best ideas require fine tuning to perfect them. Your goal is to polish that rough idea and turn it into a solid plan. So start brainstorming. What problem do you plan to solve? And more importantly, who is it for? I’ve sat through hundreds of presentations and I can’t tell you how many founders don’t know the answers to these very basic questions. If you don’t know the answers, start doing some preliminary market research. Start asking people in your target audience questions to gauge interest. Find out their pain points, what is bothering them about a competitor’s current product or service. What problems would you like to solve? Don’t make the mistake of trying to be everything to everyone, it’s the surest way to fail. Instead, be sure to take the time to narrow down exactly what you are offering and to whom you are offering it.
Related: Need a business idea? Here you are 55.
3. Do your market research
Similarly, you would be surprised at the number of entrepreneurs who dive into launching their business, without doing any research first, to get more information about small business tips see this website. Before investing time and money in a business, you’ll want to assess market demand and get some real-world customer validation. With a restaurant, for example, this would mean surveying the locals and the community. Next, you may want to set up a stall at a local farmers market. If there’s enough interest, you could move on to a food truck to further refine your offering and gauge customer demand. Finally, you would open your restaurant. Assessing demand as it grows allows you to test the waters and turn around when needed, giving you the opportunity to refine your product or service before diving in.
4. Create a memorable business name
Now we come to the fun part, with a good business name. Ideally, this should be something catchy and memorable. It should also make sense, and in most cases, have something to do with your business or industry. Also consider SEO: using a name that incorporates industry keywords will increase your chances of being found by customers searching online.
Here are some great brands:
- Groupon: Think coupon + group
- Slack: Ironically, a program that keeps teams organized and on track
- Unbranded – An e-commerce company trying to communicate that “the best doesn’t have to cost more.”
5. Hire legal and accounting help
I recommend outsourcing legal and accounting services, even when you’re just starting out. These are two areas that most entrepreneurs struggle with. Many want to save money here and skip this step entirely, which is never wise. You must ensure that you operate in a manner that complies with the law.
An attorney can help you structure your business and help you determine whether to incorporate or operate as an LLC. They will also help you register your business name and set it up with a tax ID. They can also create the agreements or contracts you need. Likewise, if you are forming a partnership, they can help you create partnership agreements to help keep everyone on the same page.
Related: The Complete 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business
You will also want to out your accounting tasks. An accountant will help make sure you are filing all your taxes on time and can alert you to the deductions and tax strategies you will want to employ. They will also keep you updated on changes in tax laws that you need to know about. Lastly, a good accountant will work with an accountant to make sure you are saving cash for your taxes. I’ve met too many business owners who miss a deadline or don’t pay their taxes in full thinking they can get away with it. That is never good business practice.
6. Establish an online presence
Don’t be the best kept secret in your industry! Make sure you have an online presence so people can find you online, even if it’s just a free Wix website. Once you’ve validated your idea and started making sales, you can upgrade to a fancy website. Your customers don’t need perfection, they just need a functional site with a clear and concise copy of what you do and how to buy.
When it comes to social media, dabble in it. Don’t go all-in until you’ve confidently validated your idea and your customer base, otherwise you risk wasting time and money. Once you have completed step three, you will have a good idea of where your ideal customer is online. Go there. You don’t have to be on all channels or on everything for everyone. Be specific and intentional otherwise you risk creating mediocre content that won’t convert anyone. See more in step eight.
7. Build your business model
Next, once you’ve established your business a bit more and have some income and demonstrated some traction, it’s time to really roll up your sleeves with business model generation. To begin with, I recommend holding a copy of Generation of business models by Alexander Osterwalder and working through the business model canvas.
The business model canvas helps you divide your business into segments such as key activities, value proposition, customer segments, revenue streams, and more. It’s not about giving you more to do; Instead, it helps you simplify your tasks by allowing you to focus on the important business systems and functions you need to keep your business profitable and consistent.
8. Promote your business
Most people take a look at the other steps to get straight to this one. But promoting your business, without all the other preliminary steps, is a waste of time and money. While marketing is important, what’s even more important is consistency. Pick a cadence and stick with it.
Not sure where to start promoting your business? Here’s a quick summary:
- Create a little plan. Use Google Docs or another free tool to collect your thoughts and ideas. Start with the whole year in mind or the next 12 months ahead. List when big things happen in your business, like launch dates and events. Work backward from those events to connect the dots between when you need to start promoting and how long it will take to create the plan and content for that promotion. As a general rule of thumb, you will need about two months of prep time for a standard PR campaign.
- Decide which channel to use. Choose one or two channels to use. If your target audience is on Pinterest, go there and take the time to master this platform. If they’re on LinkedIn, invest in the most comprehensive LinkedIn strategy you can create. But don’t do it all and certainly don’t do it everywhere. Concentrate your efforts. One channel at a time is sufficient.
- Consistency is your currency. Consumers are said to need to see your message about 14 times before deciding to buy from you, so don’t give up. Establish a plan for consistency, and then make sure you stick to it.
Launching a business can be an exciting time, but you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to get off to the best possible start. As long as you know what to focus on, you can lay the groundwork to get the ball rolling, and you’re well on your way to creating a viable business, built to grow.