So you want to quit your job and launch the next Google, do you? Good luck. Starting a business can be one of the most personally and professionally rewarding moves you ever make in your career. On the flip side, it’s a gigantic commitment fraught with danger, especially for the ill-prepared. You need a well-developed idea, some capital, a whole lot of courage, and hopefully a good amount of support from your network of friends, family, and professional contacts. But that’s just the beginning.
Building a business from the ground up requires near-maniacal levels of focus, time, and energy no matter what type of company you’re starting. While a small-town bait shop obviously doesn’t need a business plan as complex as a tech startup with international aspirations, all new ventures must absolutely start with solid planning. Beyond getting your business plan written and finalized, here are ten specific tips for anyone thinking of starting their own business.
1) Unless it’s your passion, don’t even start.
Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban said“unless it’s an obsession and something you love,” it’s not even worth trying. Why? Because starting your own business is all-consuming and will require nearly every moment of your free time. You’ll struggle spending that much time and energy getting your business off the ground if it’s not something you love.
2) Check yo self (before you literally wreck yo self).
Just because you want to start your own business doesn’t mean you should. Not everyone is cut out for the often cutthroat reality of entrepreneurialism. Before putting in the time and money it takes to get a new business up and running, evaluate yourself and see if you have the characteristics needed. Are you motivated? Have you shown perseverance? Can you adapt to change and new challenges as they pop up?
3) Identify your target audience.
Let’s assume you’ve already proven your idea’s viability and are working on developing your business plan. One of the most important steps now is to specify who, exactly, is going to buy your product or service. You might have a great idea, but it’s not going to be for everyone. Don’t waste your time and marketing budget going after too big an audience.
4) Establish a support system.
This goes beyond finding the right investors and advisors, whom you should respect enough to take their feedback and criticism and put it into action. Your support system must include your close friends and family members, who will be there for you no matter what. Those closest to you might also be on the hook to pick up the slack you leave behind while you’re putting in fifteen hour days getting everything organized and finalized for launch.
5) Hire a lawyer.
If something happens a few years down the road and your business unfortunately goes belly-up, you want to make sure you are personally protected as possible. According to Entrepreneur.com, you need to figure out “which form of ownership is best for you: a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, an S corporation, a nonprofit or a cooperative. Find out more at SBA.gov.”
6) Accept free help.
Speaking of the Small Business Administration, they have their own helpful top ten listyou might want to check out. One of their suggestions is simple: “Take advantage of free training and counseling services, from preparing a business plan and securing financing, to expanding or relocating a business.”
7) Determine if you will need employees.
A lot of businesses start as a one-man band, but you hope your idea will take off and you will find yourself in the envious position of needing to hire staff to help you keep up. Before you get to that point, however, you should familiarize yourself with the legal requirements you’ll need to follow as an actual employer (versus just a business owner).
8) Set your pricing model.
You’re going into business to sell something, be it a product or service. Before you turn on that “Open” sign, however, you need to figure out how much you’re going to charge for your goods and/or services. This is where your team of trusted investors and advisors can really come in handy. They have likely been in business themselves and might know the marketplace. If they don’t, find someone to help you evaluate your niche market and develop an appropriate pricing plan.
9) Embrace your mistakes.
You’re going to make mistakes—most likely a lot of them. Don’t let these missteps derail your progress. Mistakes are life’s best learning opportunities, and that’s true in business as well. The most important thing is to do all you can not to make the same mistake twice. That will turn off future investors and harm your reputation with consumers.
10) Go find your customer.
If you’ve made it this far, it’s time for the real work to begin. You’ve built some buzz for your business as you were getting everything setup, but once the lights go on your focus needs to shift entirely to bringing customers in the door. “Don’t get overwhelmed about how to dive in,” said Tory Johnson, workplace contributor for ABC’s Good Morning America, “just start where you are. Create a list of 50 potential prospects that you’ll go after and begin making calls one by one.”
Feeling overwhelmed? That’s ok. Starting a new business is intense, but you don’t need to do it all on your own. Get your team together, make a plan, and use these tips to help guide your progress. If you’ve got something worth selling, success is just a matter of determination.