There’s a lot of information available to those who want to start a business. So much, in fact, it can feel overwhelming. So, let’s cut to the chase and look at the three key steps to successfully starting a business:
Focus, fact-finding and finances.
1. Focus: Make a commitment
Unswerving focus separates the dreamers from the doers. If you want to start a business, you must commit to making it happen. Set aside time to work on your business every day. Just half an hour a day is all it takes to make steady progress. Can you give up half an hour of watching Netflix, hanging out with your friends or scrolling through Instagram to focus on your business?
If not, you probably don’t have what it takes. (Sorry to be so frank, but starting a business is not for the easily discouraged.) To stay motivated, find a support system—someone who will encourage you and hold your feet to the fire when necessary.
2. Fact-finding: Do your homework
You’ve got a business idea. But is it a viable idea?
To find out, first research your competition, including both online and offline competitors. Learn as much as you can about them. Visit their businesses, dig deep into their websites, look at their marketing and pricing. What can you offer that’s different and better?
Next, research your target market. Who will buy what you’re planning to sell? You can’t target the whole world. In fact, the more you can narrow your target market, the better. Learn so much about your target customers you can picture them in front of you:
- Where do they live?
- What do they do?
- Are they married?
- Do they have children?
- How do they spend their free time?
- What’s their discretionary income and what do they spend it on?
You may discover your market is too small to support your business. It’s better to learn this now than after you open your doors. Adjust your business idea or find a new target market and keep going. Once your target customers are defined, figure out how you will sell to them. Will your product be sold in your store, sold through another retailer, or sold online? If it’s a service, will you deliver it yourself or hire employees? Will you sell direct to customers, hire outside salespeople, or sell to a reseller?
3. Finances: Set a budget and source your startup capital
You know your business idea is viable. But, how much will it cost to launch? There are lots of expenses to consider, including the costs of:
- Buying or making a product
- Renting a location
- Creating and maintaining a website
- Marketing and advertising
- Equipment and business supplies
- Hiring employees or independent contractors
Like much in life, a business startup often costs more than you expect, so build wiggle room into your budget.
Now, figure out how you will get the money. It’s very difficult to get startup financing from outside sources, so most startup entrepreneurs use their own money or borrow from friends and family. Can you tap into savings, sell some assets, start part-time or work a second job? Get creative about finding ways to finance your dream.
Bonus step: Get help
There are many resources available to help you start a business. Find local organizations, such as economic development centers, that assist business owners. Educate yourself by taking classes at your local community college.
Two great resources available nationwide are SCORE and the Small Business Development Center) network. Each provides free or low-cost business consulting and advice from successful business owners and business experts. SCORE’s website has tons of tools such as online webinars, training courses and templates to get you started. (Note: SCORE is a client of my company, but I’d recommend them even if they weren’t.)
Focus, facts and financing are the three essential keys to startup success. Commit to each of them and make 2020 the year you actually launch your business.
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