Every business begins with a vision and a lot of entrepreneurial energy. From there, it’s about hard work and staying focused. Roughly 50 percent of startups fail in the first five years, but that also means that 50 percent survive. And if you’re one of those “survivors” you’ve got a good chance of longer term success.
Some of the decisions you make early on can definitely help you to succeed. Here are 10 things you should consider as you launch your business.
1. Develop a Plan
No matter how big or small the idea, a business start-up needs a business plan, if for no other reason than to crystallize the idea and establish goals for the business. Depending on the type of business this may be very detailed or it may be more rudimentary, but you still need one. The discipline of writing the plan will increase your chances of success because you will identify deliberate steps to take, establish milestones, research markets and identify needed resources. The more detailed the plan, the more realistic its implementation. If any financing is needed, a detailed plan is essential for any serious consideration by a lender. Software such as Business Plan Builder will walk you through the process, prompt you about the questions you need answers for and help you to create a credible well thought out plan.
2. Get the Name Right
Naming a business has always been an important element in the start-up phase. Branding is the key to building recognition and it begins with the name. Should the business be identified with you? Is it really about your product name? Does it need to be easily recognizable? Can you get it as a domain name? These are all considerations. So spend some time on this during your business plan phase. This is especially important if the business name will be identified as your brand. And with the internet fast becoming a dominant form of marketing, your brand must be able to translate into a domain name that is search engine friendly.
3. Location, Location…
For brick-and-mortar start-ups, there may be nothing more important than location. Research the demographics of your market and cross check that against the locations you are considering. You’ll need to do an analysis to determine if you have sufficient potential customers to justify the cost of your real estate.
4. Get Linked In
Even before your plan is finished, start networking in your community and among other businesses. Ultimately, networking fills a key marketing need to build brand awareness, cultivate business relationships and develop client referrals. It is also an invaluable source of information and ideas that can be used to develop strategies, so it should be done early and often throughout the start-up process. Spending time on related forums on the internet is a great way to learn, share and network with like-minded entrepreneurs
5. Get on The Web
Once you have your brand and business plan in place, start to build a web presence. The internet can be the quickest means to creating exposure and interest in your business. The business plan should outline the role your website will play in your marketing and sales efforts, along with the budget needed to implement and maintain your web presence. Websites can be built quickly and on a relative shoestring; then refined or upgraded as time and budget allows.
6. Make it Legal
Among the first decisions that you need to make is how the business will be structured. Most businesses can be created pretty quickly as a sole proprietorship by obtaining a business license (if required by your state or municipality) and possibly registering a “DBA” if you’re operating under a business name other than your own. But serious consideration needs to be given to tax and legal liabilities involved with the type of business entity you use before you decide. Depending on the type of business and your personal circumstances, using other forms of ownership such as an LLC or corporation may be a better option.
7. Know Your Limitations
No single individual can do it all. Even if you think you can, the cost of your time for completing a task may be much more expensive than if the same task could be completed by someone charging $10 an hour or for a flat fee. Be realistic about when it is more cost effective to outsource.
8. Find a Mentor
Most successful people, especially entrepreneurs, benefit from having a mentor or a coach that they can turn to for advice, collaboration, moral support, and even business connections. Starting a business can be a lonely venture and even the most motivated individuals need accountability and feedback to help keep them on track.
9. Begin Testing Your Concept
You probably already have started this as a prelude to deciding to start your business. Now you have to begin testing your idea or product more thoroughly so you can refine it if needed before going to market. Be creative about finding ways to expose your business to potential clients, build credibility through garnering testimonials, and get feedback that you can use to tailor your services or products before rolling it out.
10. Work Your Plan
Don’t get distracted – that easy to say and hard to accomplish – especially in the beginning when you are wearing a lot of entrepreneurial hats. Follow your business plan and stay focused on hitting the identified milestones and timelines. The best way to stick with a plan is to share with it a mentor or confidant that will promise to hold you accountable. The best plans are often subject to refinement or adjustment as you go along, but your plan will help to keep you on track toward your goals.