Whether you’re a creative mind who wants to sell art online, or the brains behind a future fortune 500 company, there are a few preemptive measures that every aspiring entrepreneur should take before starting a business. With so much information, technology, and resources available to utilize, beginning an independent career in the world of commerce has never been easier. However, it is not recommended to delve fully into your vision without taking the time to research, and understand exactly what it takes to establish a financially flourishing business. If you have the next billion dollar idea, or just want to make a little side-income with an online shop, save yourself the stress of wondering what’s next? Follow this guide to ensure that your business has ticked all necessary checkmarks before launch.
1. Brainstorm: If you have an abstract idea as to what you want your business to pertain to, it’s important to thoroughly flesh out your thoughts before making any important decisions. Grab a piece of paper, flip open your notebook, and start by thinking through different aspects of what you want your future company to look like. You may be surprised just how many things you didn’t previously consider when that initial idea conceptualized in your head. Maybe you will come up with an even better idea for your business as you brainstorm. Some questions to ask yourself as you jot down your thoughts should include—
- What are my main goals, and what do I want my end result to be?
- What company or product am I trying to compete with? Is my idea original?
- How practical will this business be on a long-term scale?
- What demographic will my product or service cater to?
- Will this company be able to feasibly turn a profit based on my current vision?
When you feel confident with your business idea, and have ruled out any possible shortcomings during your brainstorming process, it’s time to get a little bit more detailed.
2. Develop a Legitimate Business Plan: If you think your business idea is too small, or not serious enough to spend the time developing a full-fledged plan, you should reconsider. Not only does a business plan allow you to present yourself to potential partners and investors, it also gives you the foundation necessary to truly solidify the beginnings of your business, and ground the concepts of your vision. Don’t settle for the impending chaos of foregoing a business plan—take the time to organize one, and save yourself the headaches during the start-up process. Here is a general idea of what you should always include when developing a business plan—
- A consolidated, easy to understand summary of your product or service
- General overview, including location, business type, structure, and history of your business
- Thorough market analysis which pertains to your field (research is key in regards to developing a successful business plan)
- Financial overview and projection calculations for the first two or three years (essential if presenting to an investor or lender)
3. Secure Proper Licenses, Tax Forms, and Insurance Information: To avoid any legal trouble in the future, it is very important to learn what licenses your business needs based on the products or services you are providing. The same can be said for your taxes and insurance. Even if you aren’t quite ready to open the doors to your business, it’s always a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of the legal side of things. A business can become costly when an injured or sick customer brings lawyers into the picture, or if you’re filing your taxes improperly.
4. Register Your Company: If you want to be legally recognized as a legitimate business, it is required that you register with the government, even if you are independent and file a “Doing Business As” (DBA). If you plan on establishing a corporation, you will have to fill out and file an “articles of incorporation” document. This will be easy if you’ve already written a business plan, seeing as most of the information required for this document is the same. You may also need to file for an employer identification number (EIN), especially if you plan on hiring employees in the future.
5. Create an Identity for Your Business: Have you ever noticed that most businesses do their best to maintain a specific, consistent aesthetic? Take Facebook, for example. Ever since its conception, Facebook has never drastically deviated from their iconic blue color, simplified logo, and minimalistic layout. Anything associated with this social media giant is immediately recognizable as “Facebook,” and this is all to do with brand identity. Could you imagine how dissociative Facebook would become if they stylized their logo, and changed their color from blue to red? It would feel like an entirely different company. This is why it’s important to establish a specific brand identity, so when someone comes in contact with an ad, or a product, they can immediately say, “Yep, that’s x brand. No doubt about it.” With a little creative planning (and maybe the help of a skilled graphic designer), developing a brand aesthetic can be a very simple task. Here are some points to consider while doing so—
- When deciding on a business name, you should always ensure it isn’t being shared by another company. Your name should be unique, and somewhat pertinent to the type of service or product you are offering.
- When designing a logo, it should be appealing to your buyer’s demographic. For example, Toys “R” Us utilizes multiple colors, and a bold, whimsical font in their logo to imply that their target demographic is younger children. On the other hand, fashion labels such as Gucci use thin, simple fonts to connote sophistication.
- Everything associated with your business, whether it’s your website, business cards, or television ads, should follow a similar aesthetic to maintain brand identity.
6. Establish an Internet Presence: Although this step isn’t absolutely necessary, it should be noted that any business not utilizing the internet is missing out big time on potential sales. If you’re starting an e-commerce store, you’re exempt from this lecture, but for everyone else, listen up. Having an internet presence lends your business three things: advertisement, seamless customer interaction, and infinite opportunity for growth. If you’re a brick & mortar business, you’re limited only to customers who walk through your door, but if you extend your company to the internet, anyone in the world can find and purchase your services or products. A website is important for any kind of business, but Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and other social media platforms are also beneficial for broadening your customer base.
7. Choose Proper Business Partners: This is possibly one of the most important decisions you may have to face in regards to owning and operating a business. Whether you’re a sole proprietorship, or planning to run a larger company, chances are you will eventually require the assistance of a business partner. The benefits of having another helping hand to carry part of the workload are obvious, but if you choose the wrong partner, it can be severely detrimental to your business. Ask yourself these questions before settling on a prospective business-to-business relationship—
- What are their credentials?
- Do they understand my company’s needs/vision?
- How many other clients are they working with, and will they have the time necessary to help my business succeed?
- Is this potential partner operating under ethical standards? Are they trustworthy?
8. Build a Team and Find Employees: Operating an entire business on your own can eventually lead to burnout. It’s important to hire employees with different skill sets to take on different aspects of your company. Your team isn’t limited only to those who work inside the doors of your business. Accountants, graphic designers, and marketing analysts may only be utilized intermittently throughout the year, but they are still an integral part of how smoothly your business runs. Creating a team can be a daunting, time consuming task, but it’s important to take this step slow, and avoid settling for subpar, under-qualified team members.
9. Once Established, Keep Going and Continue Growing: An entrepreneur’s work is never finished. Once your business has launched, and you start to see results (whether good or bad), it’s imperative that you continue researching, developing, innovating, and growing. There isn’t a “one size fits all” method for building a successful company, so it’s important to constantly try new things, network with others, and market yourself as much as possible. Make notes as to what works, and what doesn’t. If you get stuck or have a question, don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues (or even the internet) for advice and suggestions.
10. Improve through Failure: “Failure” is one of those words that most new entrepreneurs would rather not hear or think about in regards to their vision. When starting a business, the only thing you can hope for is success through hard work and determination. But it should be noted that most companies don’t hit a home-run the first time around. Products will require re-formulating, services will need fine-tuning, and the general operation of your business probably won’t work out exactly as you initially planned. However, these things shouldn’t be a reason to give up. Instead, they should be seen as opportunities to learn and improve.
Prior to co-founding Twitter, Evan Williams put his efforts into a podcast platform called Odeo, which was rendered obsolete almost immediately after launch. Sony, one of the biggest names in consumer electronics today, got their start by developing an electric rice cooker which could barely perform the task it was designed for. Stories like these aren’t uncommon. In fact, most companies you are familiar with were birthed from the ashes of previous failures. If you begin a business, and it doesn’t immediately go the way you envisioned, don’t call it quits. Take that failure, learn from it, and transform it into something new.
Conclusion: Don’t start a company without thoroughly understanding what is involved. If you try to launch a product or service without first checking off the requirements necessary for success, you are destined to find yourself drowning under the stress of disorganization, and unpreparedness. Do your research, make a plan, and follow through with your idea. Build a team, establish an identity, and grow from your failures. You never know how far your business idea will take you.
If you’re a new business owner who is still having trouble developing a brand aesthetic, or doesn’t know where to turn to for web design assistance, it’s important to remember to utilize the resources available to you. Boonle is a design-centered service, whose goal is to instantly connect you with a marketplace of student-based freelancers. Post any desired project on a name-your-price basis, and connect with hundreds of talented, qualified designers to join your company’s team.