How to Start a Business

How to Start a Business Process

Starting a business isn’t easy, but sometimes new entrepreneurs overthink the process. 

If you follow this ten-step process, most businesses can be up and running in just a couple of months. You’ll need to dedicate a few hours per week, but you can get there.

The key is to stop thinking and analyzing and start doing. Chances are you’ve been contemplating this business for a while but just aren’t taking actions to make it a reality.

Find the Right Idea

Many of you already have a business idea, or maybe you just know you want out of the daily grind at their job.

Both are excellent reasons to consider starting your own business.

Step number one is to brainstorm ideas. Even if you think your idea is set in stone, make sure you go through this process before making a final commitment.

Business Idea Venn Diagram

Ask the people you trust to brainstorm ideas with you. Make sure to get external input because as much as you think you’re 100%, an outsider might have a valuable perspective.

Maybe they will have a variation on your original idea, or maybe it will lead to something different altogether.

Next, consider if you are getting into this business for passion or the money.

Make sure you understand why you’re starting the business. Most entrepreneurs are either following a passion or trying to make good money while gaining independence.

I’m here to tell you that both are completely legitimate reasons to start a business and can be successful. But you need to understand they are different goals that don’t always align.

You can get trapped following a business for the money, only to find out you hate going to work every day.

Alternatively, you might love the business, but it can’t go anywhere if the business model stinks.

Use the diagram above to help think through some critical aspects of your idea.

Make a Business Plan

Business Plan

Another topic of great conversation is whether you need a business plan.

You’ll find staunch supporters of 20-page business plans and stories of billionaires who never even considered writing one.

My answer is that you’re better off having one because it helps you think through the business. But I’m not too fond of long-drawn-out plans that think through every tiny detail.

Why isn’t that useful? Because odds are you just aren’t going to know everything until you get the business started.

You’re better off creating a two or three-page business plan covering key components in a summary fashion.

Many business owners actually make their business plan a working document they continue to update as the business progresses. This way, it’s a living document that helps make strategic decisions as you start to operate and grow the business.

Form the Business

Company Types

Once you’re done with the initial planning, it’s time to form the business.

That includes filing the necessary paperwork and applying for any necessary trademarks. 

You will need to fill out the appropriate documentation based on which state you are incorporating the business.  Doing a simple google search should easily land you on the website for the state you intend to form.

Keep in mind that many businesses will incorporate in a state other than where they currently live. 

They may do this because the state’s laws and/or tax rates are friendly or for a host of other reasons. 

For most small businesses, incorporating in your home state is the easiest way to go.  Otherwise, you create some unnecessary headaches.

If you do set up shop in another state, you will most likely also have to register in your home state and potentially pay more fees at the end of the day.

If you aren’t comfortable doing it on your own, companies like incfile or Zenbusiness can help with formation services.

Licenses and Compliance

Business compliance

Licensing and compliance go hand-in-hand with the company formation.

As you are doing the work to identify business names, you should also be looking at the US Patent and Trademark Database for any patents and trademarks you may need. 

In this case, we recommend getting some legal help. Many of the same companies that help with formation will also assist with these services.

If you’d like a company with a broader set of legal capabilities, consider RocketLawyer or LegalZoom.

Get Funding

Business Funding

While it is possible to start a business without a lot of money, you’ll need some level of financing.

To give yourself the best shot at success, having enough to fund the business and living expenses for 6-12 months is a good idea.  If you can do it on the side while earning income through another job, that can ease the pain during the initial startup.

Depending on how much financing you will need, there are multiple ways to get funded.

  • Self-funded – If you have a big bank account or the business has low upfront costs, then consider self-funding. 
  • Friends and Family – If you have people close to you with available cash, consider asking them to be investors.  Ensure they understand the risks of investing in a business and execute a formal contract with them. If the business doesn’t work out, there can be some awkward feelings, but having the agreement in writing makes things easier.
  • Angel Investors – Most people know the term venture capital, but angel investors are an option for smaller businesses at an earlier stage. Many will want to see some revenue or signs of success in a business, so it may not be viable for seed money, but it’s worth a look.
  • Crowdfunding – Crowdfunding became popularized with companies like Kickstarter. It allows business owners to get funding in a relatively low-risk way because you’re not giving up ownership of the company. Typically people are investing in return for a “gift.” Often that’s an early edition of the product or service you are selling.
  • Small Business Loan – Getting a loan from a bank or credit union is always an option for start-up financing. Just remember, you will most likely need some collateral to get these loans.


Company Branding

Branding is complex, and depending on who you talk to, is made up of various components.

At its most basic, we’re talking about the Logo, graphics, colors, fonts, and images you use on your website and other customer-facing materials.

As a startup business, that’s where you should focus your efforts to get up and running fast. But as you get deeper into the business, you will need to establish the brand in other areas.

For instance, what are the companies values? How will it differentiate itself from competitors? What are the core messages you want to deliver?

These are all components of your brand you should consider. They will help shape how potential customers view you.

It’s the things they will associate with your brand and will keep them coming back because they share those same values.

Sales and Marketing

Business Sales and Marketing

Sales and Marketing is the lifeblood of any new company. It should be what you think about from the second you wake up every morning to the second you go to bed.

Unless you are funded through some other source, without sales, a business dies. Who cares about anything else if you aren’t selling.

There are many components of a great sales and marketing strategy, but keep it simple initially.

Figure out your target market. Who are you selling to? How can you reach them? What types of promotions and advertisements do they respond to.

You won’t know the answers to these questions until you try different tactics. That’s why you should start soon and spread your time and money across a few different strategies.

Ensure you track each strategy’s performance and then hone in on the ones with the best ROI.

This is a continual process in every good company, even large fortune 500 companies.

Keep in mind as a small business, you have the benefit of agility. Don’t be married to one strategy or even a product. Be open to change as you see different trends and tactics be successful.

The Bottom Line on Starting Your Own Business

Starting a business is hard work and requires passion and dedication.  If you decide to take this leap of faith, don’t take short cuts in the initial planning phases.  Make sure you understand to the best of your ability everything about the business and the market you are entering.

Do your research on the tools available to help with a business of your type.  While you may be afraid that starting a business is too complicated, you’ll be amazed at how many tools exist to help you in this digital world.

Lastly, every business takes some time to get up and running.  But always remember the saying “fail fast.”  What “fast” means is debatable, but the concept of not wasting too much time on a losing endeavor is important to remember.  Find the things that make money, and stop doing those that are losers as fast as possible.

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