You’ve got a great business idea. Now what?
Ideas alone won’t make money. Seasoned entrepreneurs already know this, and even though two entrepreneurs can have vastly different ideas ready to execute, they both share something very similar in common: a basic recipe for success.
Here’s a good one to follow:
1. An idea clearly defined
It may be brilliant in theory (and in conversation), but every good idea should be fleshed out with a clear understanding of where this idea fits in the market and what the competition is currently doing.
2. A business plan
Take this seriously, even if you don’t plan to raise capital outside your personal savings and access to funds. You need a business plan to clarify the vision you have for your idea, as well as for yourself.
3. Bookkeeping and accounting basics
Because you’ll likely have to wear a few (me, myself and I) hats in the first days of your business, make peace with math—enough to keep track of your business’s finances. You’ll find lots of resources for free on the Internet to help you learn about things like “breakeven analysis” and other common business accounting terms to get you up to speed.
4. Don’t hire an army at the start
Few businesses start out with a full staff. Add people to your core team as you can afford them and seek highly motivated people who enjoy the dynamics of working for a small start-up business and who can perform their jobs well. Don’t forget about student interns with specific areas of specialization and work experience who can be of great, inexpensive help.
5. Time management
Whether you consider yourself a pro or lost soul at time management, it helps to chart out your tasks and check off your To-Dos on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Keep both a planning and an operation log to plan on having an extra 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day to take care of unfinished business or a task that has taken longer than expected.
6. Legal matters
Choosing the most appropriate legal form of doing business and filing proper tax returns—both personal and business—is not as complicated as it sounds. Getting incorporated, for instance, is as easy as filling out a few forms and filing them with the appropriate government entity and paying a fee. You can do this by visiting the Web site www.legalzoom.com to help you pick the right type of legal entity when the time is right. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you may also find it helpful to visit your city’s main website. You may have to obtain a business license even if you are starting a small operation from home. These are usually inexpensive and you can qualify for exemption in your beginning years.
7. Clients and customers
Of course all your friends and family members will know about your new business. But what about everyone else? That’s when savvy marketing and advertising comes in to play. Plenty of marketing strategies are on the cheap these days through the Internet and old-fashioned methods such as flyers, community events, and the Yellow Pages. Promote your business through a Web site, which you can build yourself using any of the packages that typically come with setting up a domain name.
Integrate content on your site so you can generate online commerce if at all possible.
8. Support system
Along with the excitement of starting a business comes some (okay, maybe a lot of) anxiety, fear, worry, and panic. This is why it’s critical to have a strong support system so you can talk out problems and keep your confidence in check. In addition to family members and friends, work on growing a network of people in your circle who are familiar with your particular industry. Having a few who are experienced in entrepreneurship is a bonus. Some may even become invaluable mentors. It’s unrealistic to think you won’t encounter unfamiliar territory for which you will need to seek some advice. You’ll be surprised by what else you can get out of a solid network of friends and colleagues. The exchange of information will further support your enthusiasm, strengthen new talents, offer innovative insights for resolving problems, and reinforce your determination to succeed.