The decision to start a business is exciting, but don’t get caught up in the fairytale. If you want your business to succeed for the long-term, have these three essential elements in place.
Step 1: Do Your Research
Most likely you have already identified a business idea, so now it’s time to balance it with a little reality. Does your idea have the potential to succeed? You will need to run your business idea through a validation process before you go any further.
In order for a small business to be successful, it must solve a problem, fulfill a need or offer something the market wants.
There are a number of ways you can identify this need, including research, focus groups, and even trial and error. As you explore the market, some of the questions you should answer include:
- Is there a need for your anticipated products/services?
- Who needs it?
- Are there other companies offering similar products/services now?
- What is the competition like?
- How will your business fit into the market?
Don’t forget to ask yourself some questions, too, about starting a business before you take the plunge.
Step 2: Enough capital for six months.
The time it takes to turn a profit will vary between industries and individual businesses, but the rule of thumb remains the same: have enough cash in the bank to survive for six months or more before you launch. Developing a realistic personal and business budget can help you survive the first few months, and sticking to this budget will be crucial to success.
Develop a list of potential expenses early on so that you have a good idea of what monthly bills plus extraneous expenditures will add up to and how this spending will affect your bottom line. Know that you may not receive a paycheck for months or even years after launch, so a hefty cash reserve will ameliorate the growing pains of starting a business.
Step 3: Make a Plan
You need a plan in order to make your business idea a reality. A business plan is a blueprint that will guide your business from the start-up phase through establishment and eventually business growth, and it is a must-have for all new businesses.
The good news is that there are different types of business plans for different types of businesses.
If you intend to seek financial support from an investor or financial institution, a traditional business plan is a must. This type of business plan is generally long and thorough and has a common set of sections that investors and banks look for when they are validating your idea.
If you don’t anticipate seeking financial support, a simple one-page business plan can give you clarity about what you hope to achieve and how you plan to do it. In fact, you can even create a working business plan on the back of a napkin, and improve it over time. Some kind of plan in writing is always better than nothing.
Step 4: Plan Your Finances
Starting a small business doesn’t have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before you are turning a profit. Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).
Step 5: Endurance.
I tell people this all the time: one of the hardest parts about being an entrepreneur is having the stamina to keep up with the daily demands of running your business. A lot of people mistakenly think that it will be a walk in the park.
Sure, there are major benefits such as working for yourself, having a flexible schedule and enjoying the successes of your hard work. But each benefit comes at the cost of putting your own capital and reputation on the line.
Before starting your own business, make sure you can mentally and physically ensure the journey. Be prepared to work long days, do things that are outside of your comfort zone, make personal sacrifices, work hard for what you believe in and dedicate yourself fully to the businesses success. If you aren’t in it 100 percent, the business won’t achieve its full potential.