Do you ever get the feeling that a decision you're about to make can possibly change your life forever? Well, launching a new business definitely falls into that category.
Small businesses account for 99.7% of all business in the US. You read that number correctly. So if you're contemplating whether to start a biz, you're definitely not alone. In addition, thanks to the digital era we live in, it's much easier to launch your own business – useful knowledge and a vast amount of free (or reasonably priced) online tools have never been more accessible.
Saying that, when there are fewer barriers to start a business, the competition can be tough. Entrepreneurs should ask themselves how they can differentiate their biz. The answer is simple: Plan and think ahead. That way, when the time comes, you'll know exactly what to do, when to do it and how.
To help you out, here are the best practices to launch your new adventure safely and successfully:
1. Ask yourself the right questions
Starting your own business is a wonderful decision, but you should make sure that it's worth investing your time and most likely some of your money too. Here is a small list of questions to help you evaluate if this in fact is the right move for you:
- Are you passionate enough? You are going to spend many hours working on that special something, so you better enjoy it.
- Have you nailed the technical aspect of it? Depending on what type of industry you choose, make sure that you have more than just the basics down.
- Do you have the characteristics of an entrepreneur? Such as perseverance, a strong desire to take initiative, self-reliance, a strong urge to achieve, self-confidence and the ability to lead (The goal is that your business will grow one day).
- Do you have great communication skills? Running a business means a lot of networking, negotiating and managing.
- Are you prepared for failure? As much as we're crossing our fingers here for you, it's important that you brace yourself for it.
2. Write a business plan
Even if you're planning on starting a small doggy daycare in your backyard, you should write a business plan. This will help you organize all of the ideas you have in your head and set up a roadmap for the future of your biz.
Don't ponder about if you should write one, think about how you'll do it. There are plenty of examples and templates online you can get inspired from, but try to keep these few essential elements in mind:
- Industry analysis: How large is the market you're interested in and how is it expected to change? Who are your competitors and what are each of their key strengths and weaknesses?
- Customer analysis: Who is your target audience?
- Operational plan: What is your plan of action? Do you have a clear timeline? What are the milestones you wish to accomplish? Think in terms of years and quarters.
- Financial projections: How much will you need to invest at first? How long till you'll start earning a profit? Do you need investors?
3. Create a strong identity
‘Don't judge a book by its cover' doesn't really apply here. As mentioned before, the market is full of different companies and services, so you need to make sure that you stand out at first glance. Before you go and whip out your box of crayons, you should go back to your business plan and look at your target audience. Get familiar with their age, location and economic status as these factors will help you identify what's the best way to approach them, both in terms of content and visual language.
When creating your identity, you should plan the following:
- Logo – make sure it's strong and clear. First, try designing your own logo to save some initial costs!
- Color – Pick colors that resemble your market and can be identified and easy to relate to.
- Typography – Pick a clear font, as you want people to be able to clearly read all of your content. A simple yet stylish font will ensure you have a memorable brand.
- Voice – All of your messaging should follow a coherent voice – tailored to the audience you have targeted.
- Slogan – Now is a good time to think of a killer one-liner that best represents what you do or want to sell, so “Just Do It”.
4. Get the paperwork done
It's important to get all the legal and formal paperwork done before you take your business out into the world. It can be a bit daunting, and you might think that you need a professional to help you register your business. But surprise! (well not really, as we mentioned it in the beginning of this blog), we are living in a digital world, which means that you have countless tutorials for any kind of paperwork (permits, licenses or other bureaucratic processes) you might need to clear. If you're starting your business in the U.S., The US Small Business Administration website has a portal that leads you to all of the Federal and State websites for license requirements. Last but not least, snatch a domain that can easily be remembered and typed. Not sure how to choose your URL? Check out this great domain name guide.
5. Check your expenses
Launching a biz can be quite an expensive journey, so in order to avoid going bankrupt after a few months, you should make sure to pay attention to these financial steps:
- Use a spreadsheet: Construct a spreadsheet to estimate the total dollar amount and percentage of your revenue that will need to be allocated towards raw materials and other costs.
- Review your business periodically: While many firms draft a yearly budget, small business owners should do so more often. In fact, try to do it even on a monthly basis, so you really know if there's any need to cut expenses.
- Renegotiate prices: Don't feel embarrassed to check out where you can get the best deal. Check your bills, compare prices and renegotiate with your service providers and try to get a better offer. Make sure you get the best for less!
6. Master delegation
They call it ‘small business, but there is a lot to do in order to get your biz on the road. It's obvious that you can't be everywhere at the same time, right? As much as it can be difficult to share your dream with others, it might be necessary for your success. For instance, delegating legal or accounting tasks can save you a great deal of time, energy, and money. If it's something that you're able to do in twelve hours, but a professional would accomplish for a cost that's no more than what you usually profit in two hours – pay them. Time is money.
7. Build a network
In order to succeed, you must know and work with other companies and professionals in your field. One for all and all for one! Collaborating with others will help you expand your business, reach new customers, and learn how to improve your working process. You can find a full guide on how to build a strong network here, but just in case, here are some main points you should address:
- Let your users speak for you: It's okay to politely hint to your customers for a positive review. The phrase, “If you like it, tell your friends. If you didn't, tell us” isn't used by so many businesses around the world for no reason. Pleased customers serve as the best critics, as potential clients value real feedback from their fellow buyers, rather than flashy slogans.
- Meet potential business partners: Spotted an event that's relevant to your business? Time to put on your shiny shoes, clink some glasses and meet new people. Organizing your own event is also an option and will probably be a good idea if you're trying to position your specialty as an active, leading force in your market.
- Create an online network: You should create an online space, where you can connect with others from the same field as you and exchange ideas. Examples include: creating a blog or a group on LinkedIn.
8. Organize your time & space
It's highly likely that you will use your home as your headquarters in the beginning, so you should try make it as professional as possible. Working in your pajamas sounds like a dream come true, right? But in order to be efficient even in a home environment, you should consider the following:
- Structure your day: Don't let your warm blanket fool you into laying in bed till noon. Create a strict schedule for yourself where you can imitate an office lifestyle. You should shower, eat, put some respectful clothing, and “head” to your office aka “the random desk in your living room”. Make sure to plan meetings outside of your home, so you can get some fresh air.
- Create a work area: Your sofa is the most comfortable space you have in your apartment, no doubt. But in order to be efficient, you should create a more office-like space. If you don't have space for a desk, get a fold-out table that you can use only when needed. Get some office supplies, a comfy chair, and a landline (so old school, right?).
Tip: The new “it” thing is shared rented office space, such as WeWork. These places are a great solution if you don't have the space to run your biz from home or if you wish to conduct formal meetings within a hip and cool space.
9. Go online!
Nowadays, your business only really exists if it has an online presence! So once you get all of the above done and settled, you should go ahead and put it on the map. There are a couple of online essentials you should take care of:
- Create a website: We've heard of this really awesome company that provides you with free website templates, yes it's us! You can easily choose a template that best suits your kind of biz and have a stunning website live in (almost) no time.
- Take advantage of social media: Create pages for your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social channel that's in line with your service.
10. Learn and adapt
In life, you should learn from your mistakes and use them as opportunities. When launching a new business, you might take some wrong turns along the way – don't worry, we've all been there. There's a major learning curve in understanding when something isn't working, admitting your mistake and thinking about how to improve it for the future. Try to be as objective as possible, open for criticism and lastly, don't be ashamed to ask for help. A fresh perspective might be the one thing that is missing from your biz to become a leading brand.
This article was provided contributed by Yoav Schlezinger Community and Social Media Manager, Wix, a contributing author, and is brought to you by the Ronald J. Fichera Law Firm, where our mission is to provide trusted, professional legal services and strategic advice to assist our clients in their personal and business matters. Our firm is committed to delivering efficient and cost-effective legal services focusing on communication, responsiveness, and attention to detail.
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