Every successful small business started out as someone’s bright idea. If you have a promising commercial idea of your own, you need to take the right steps to convert that seed into a flourishing business. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the task facing you! Like so many challenges, starting your own business becomes a lot easier when you break it down into its constituent steps. Below you’ll find six simple tasks that will get you well on your way to setting up a business of your own.
1) Write A Simple (1-Page) Business Plan
In order to get your business off to a good start, you want to keep your costs to a minimum and avoid unnecessary complications. Remember that you have plenty of work to do before you start earning money; don’t waste too much of your valuable time agonizing over a complex business plan. You’ll only need a detailed plan when you turn outwards to secure financing or attract investors.
At this early stage, all you really need is an overview of the business you want to launch and how it’s going to work. Small startup companies rarely require anything more detailed than a single-page plan. If you’ve never written a business plan before, you can find useful guides and examples on the Internet. For example, click this link for small business plan templates.
- Set Your Budget
As noted above, keeping your costs under control is vitally important when you’re launching a business. Part of exercising that control is knowing how much money you have to work with, and that means you need a budget. You need to be especially careful with budgeting if you intend to fund your business out of your own pocket. It’s a smart idea to add a healthy overage margin to account for incidental and unplanned expenses. In my experience, a full 20 percent contingency fund is needed for small startups.
Try to plan your business’s launch so that you can bring it up to a positive cash flow within one to three months. This is ambitious but doable. You may also want to prepare a cash reserve (over and above the contingency factor you add into your budget) to tide you over if you can’t reach this goal as quickly as planned.
If you’re looking for places to economize, consider using a virtual office if you don’t need physical square footage to get started. A Virtual office Tampa premium space is quite affordable, and you’ll find no shortage of reliable services that can provide it.
- Consider Sole Proprietorship
To launch your business, you’ll have to file formal paperwork and secure the necessary licenses. Depending on the city and state (i.e. Tampa, Florida or Boca Raton, Florida) you’re working in, this can be a very expensive process. Do your research well in advance of starting your company so that you understand what costs will be involved.
When you’re first starting out, establishing your business as a simple sole proprietorship is a good idea. This involves the minimum amount of paperwork and initial investment, which makes it easier to float your business as a trial process. Remember that being a sole proprietor does expose you to personal financial risks. Consult an attorney or a tax expert (e.g. a CPA) to decide if sole proprietorship meets your current needs. Remember that you can always file to create a new business entity after your initial months of operation have shown you that your business idea is sustainable.
4) Handle your finances responsibly
Regardless of how you first structure your business, you have to establish an absolute separation between your personal funds and your business’s accounts. Failing to build a strong wall between the two will prove to be a tremendous headache when it comes time to sort out your taxes. Fortunately, any decent bank or credit union can help you establish a free business checking account. Besides an initial deposit, all you’ll need is the information on your filing paperwork and the licenses you’re using.
It’s generally not necessary to pay for more advanced accounts or apply for a line of credit in the earliest stages of your business. As long as you have a separate repository for business funds you should be fine.
- Establish An Online Beachhead
Even if your business is going to cater primarily to physical customers, you have to have at least a basic website. A proper company deserves its own URL; you can search for a suitable address and buy it from a registrar like NameSilo. Costs are usually quite reasonable, sometimes under ten dollars.
If your business is going to involve selling online, you’ll need an online storefront. There are several ready-made services that can provide you with a turnkey solution (one example is Shopify). If you’d prefer to build your own site from scratch, a building service like Weebly can help. Basic sites can be created and operated with both these methods for under $100 a month. Make sure to use your virtual office Boca Raton address consistently when creating online directory listings.
- Start Looking For Customers
If you’ve followed the preceding steps, you should be in a position to start testing the commercial waters. Now it’s time to start getting the word out about your new business.
For service-based companies, it’s very helpful to make contact with your chamber of commerce. If your business model centers around products, you can test out the appeal of your wares by selling them at community events like farmers markets or swap meets.
Start advertising your business’s website. Simple marketing solutions like Google AdWords or Facebook Ads can bring in a great deal of traffic without requiring a major investment on your part. Monitor your online marketing expenses carefully, though; you don’t want any unpleasant surprises.
Tackling the six steps listed here will cost you less than you think. You’ll learn a great deal about how your business should operate and get a clear understanding of how sustainable it would be in the long term. It’s always smart to give a business concept a thorough real-world trial before you invest too much time and money into it.
For some additional tips check out this video: