If you’ve been considering starting a business for some time, stop letting your fears and worries keep from making it a reality. Sure, it will require plenty of work and quite a lot of stress initially, but the payoff, both financially and spiritually, will be well worth the journey. Not sure where to begin? Here are the first five steps to starting your first business.
Step 1: Develop Your Viable Business Idea
Before you fall in love with an idea for your business that no one will actually buy into, do a little research to first see what the market is interested in, what other companies you’ll be competing against, and how you can come into a crowded market with something unique.
- Conduct surveys and focus groups to understand how people perceive your business idea
- Look at your competitors. What are their strengths? What areas are they leaving wide open for you?
- Determine your unique selling proposition. Will you be the cheapest? Best quality? Unique in some other way?
Step 2: Take Care of Branding
Now that you know what you will sell, get your branding in place. This is an area I don’t recommend trying to DIY unless you happen to be a phenomenal designer. Work with a graphic designer with experience creating professional logos, as well as one who can develop a website that will attract new customers. Realize, too, that branding goes far beyond just your visual representation, and will include every message you put out to the world.
- Look at other logos and take notes on what you like (and don’t)
- Decide what’s critical to include on your website, and what’s extra
- Provide as much input as possible on the branding process so that your expectations are met
Step 3: Get Your Plans in Place
You wouldn’t step into the forest without a map, so why would you start a business without a plan? You’ll need both a business and a marketing plan, though neither have to be gigantic, in-depth documents. Your documents are designed to guide you and to establish the direction you want to take. Your business plan should be an overview of your company, what you want to sell, and your approach to the business. Your marketing plan should encompass who your customers are, the different channels you’ll use to reach them, and strategies for each.
- Use your business plan as a guidance for the future, but don’t be afraid to tweak it every few months
- Determine how much you can afford to spend on marketing before you decide on the channels you’ll use
- Keep these documents handy where you can review them regularly
Step 4: Test It All Out
If you will be operating as an ecommerce site, ask friends or colleagues to play around on your site to ensure everything works well. Pay special attention to the checkout process, as it needs to be as simple and streamlined as possible. If you’ll be running a brick-and-mortar retail, make sure your staff is well-trained on your point of sale system, and that everything is running smoothly.
- Click all links on your site to ensure they go where they should
- Minimize the checkout process to just 1-2 pages
- Hold a soft launch event in your store to test run how everything will go
Step 5: Just Do It
Waiting around for the perfect moment to open the (real or virtual) doors on your business is futile. Just jump in! There will be mistakes, so note them quickly, learn from them, and make changes for the better. Aim to create a big splash around your grand opening.
- Notify local press about your grand opening and invite them for a tour
- Offer special discounts your first days open
- Amp up your social media efforts with your launch
You’ll never be flawless when you open your business (or later, either!) so consider it a learning process that will continue to help you evolve as a business owner.