Starting Your Business
Picture this – you have a GREAT idea for a new business venture. You are super excited about it, but you have no idea where to even begin. This can be super overwhelming. You want to be a Chief Executive Officer, but you don’t even have an office! That is totally okay and there are thousands of people in the same position as you every single day. This guide will help you feel more comfortable with the steps to get started so you can go from ground zero to business hero in no time.
The first step to being a business owner is actually creating your business. This means filing with the state you will be operating in and getting all the necessary paperwork in order. There are a lot of legal steps involved, so if you want a more detailed guide, you can click here to read our business startup guide. Here is the quick rundown – first you need to decide what type of business entity makes sense for you and your business. There are Limited Liability Companies (LLC), Corporations, Partnerships, and more. Most people will either form an LLC or a Corporation.
LLC vs. Corporation
LLCs are a flexible option that are typically used for small businesses. An LLC created a liability shield for the business owner. That way, if your business were to get sued, they cannot go for your personal assets such as your home or car. Another benefit of an LLC is it allows you to choose how you will be taxed. We recommend speaking with an accountant to determine what tax structure makes the most sense for your situation. LLCs usually make the most sense if the business will have only a few owners.
Corporations are another popular option. Corporations are not as flexible as LLCs, but they make more sense if you will have a lot of people as shareholders in the company. Corporations have bylaws and shareholders have the right to vote on decisions made by the company. A Corporation may be the right choice if you need to issue stock. Unfortunately, corporation’s do not have as much tax flexibility as LLCs so you may have more tax liability. Although, the benefits of a corporation can sometimes outweigh the extra task.
Taxes and Paperwork
After you have chosen an entity type, you will fill out the necessary documents to register as a business in your state. An attorney can help advise you on this and make the process seamless. You will need either an operating agreement or bylaws to detail how your business with function internally. Next, you will file for a free EIN number with the IRS. This is for business taxes. These few steps will help you get the business legal and ready to move forward.
Create a Business Plan
A business plan is going to be crucial to successfully running your operation. The business plan doesn’t have to be a scary term. You don’t have to have an MBA to make one. Think of it as your guide to help you stay organized and plan for the future. Your business plan should have the following information:
- Name and Logo
- Economics of the Business
- Goals (6 months, 5 years, etc.)
- Market Information
- Marketing Strategy
- Financial Plan
- Exit Strategy
Now, not all these things are absolutely necessary depending on the size and structure of your business, but they will seriously help you in the long run. You want to make sure you know your team and the roles everyone will oversee. You want to have a product of service you are proud of you. You need to have a plan for implementing that product of service. You need to understand the market and your competition. Finally, you need to think about what your plans for growing and maybe even selling the business are. Having this outline and structure will keep you engaged and focused on putting out the best product possible, while also ensuring you are less likely to be blindsided by unknowns.
Keep Track of Your Finances
This is crucial. You wouldn’t believe how many business owners have no idea how much it costs them to produce a product, pay their bills, or how much they profit from a sale. Having this data is going to be so important for your success. There are plenty of online tools, such as Intuit QuickBooks, that will help you keep track of everything and stay on top of your finances. These tools will also help you with payroll, paying taxes, and anything else accounting that you can think of. Whether you are starting a nonprofit or a for profit business, you must be smart with your finances. If you are not strategically making moves to ensure you are making money, your business will struggle and maybe even fail. Take control of your finances from day one.
Learn to Market
Marketing is another area where business owners feel they don’t have the knowledge to be successful. Marketing is how you are going to attract customers. Here are a few steps that will help you gain traction and feel more confident about your marketing strategy:
- Make a Website- You don’t have to know how to code to make a website. You can create a basic website using Wix or WordPress. If you still don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can hire freelancers on Upwork or Fiverr who will help you do this for relatively cheap.
- Be Active on Social Media- Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or anything else, it is important to grow a social media following. Engage with your customers, post specials, and keep people up to date on what is happening with your business.
- Use Google- Think about how you find places to shop at. If you are hungry, you will likely Google “Restaurant’s near me.” It is important that you have up-to-date information, good pictures, and customer reviews on your Google page.
- Use Word of Mouth- There is no better way to gain a customer than a referral from someone the customer trusts. Tell your friends have family about your business. Have them tell their friends and family. Make sure you are always doing a stellar job and give incentives for referring friends.
- Be Creative- Don’t be afraid to have fun with it. Some people have people dressed in gorilla suits waiving a sign in front of their store. Other people will have wonky names or decals to attract attention. This is your business and you should have fun with it. If it is somewhere you would want to go, it is somewhere others will want to go too.
Starting a business can be a fun and life-changing opportunity, but it can also be extremely overwhelming. Do not be afraid to ask for help. There are attorneys who can handle all the filing and structuring of the business. There are accountants to run your finances. There are marketing firms to help you attract customers. These are things you can do on your own, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional. This will give you more time to focus on the actual reason you went into business. It is time to get excited! You are ready to be a CEO!