Hi, Steve – My resolution for the new year is to finally start my own business. And, while I have a general idea of what the process entails, I was hoping you could give me a better, more specific, outline. Thank you. — Abigail
A: Let me begin by saying that there is no better time to start a business than right now. This is the golden age for small business. Not only is the economy booming, but you have three other distinct advantages:
• First, there is more help than ever available. Between websites, software, webinars, tools, SCORE.org, the SBA, and technology, becoming an entrepreneur is a more viable career option than ever.
• Speaking of technology, it also happens that we are living in an era where any small business can be small but look and act big. Your Web presence for instance can be every bit as big and profession as that big box store down the street, and that is just for starters. Technology levels the playing field.
• And because of numbers one and two above, people are far more open to the idea of supporting a new small business. They don’t look at it so askance; they may even look at it with envy. And the upshot of that is that finding great employees and willing customers may be easier than you think.
So, just how do you do it? I detail this process more in my book
The Small Business Bible
, but here today, let’s take a look at Steve’s handy-dandy 7- Step Startup Process:
Step 1. Personal assessment: Not everyone is cut out to be in business for his or her self, and so your first step – especially before sinking a lot of time and money into the venture – is to be sure that it is the right move for you. Some people are athletes, others are artists, some folks are great employees, and others are entrepreneurs.
Being an entrepreneur takes a combination of guts, business savvy, the willingness to live with uncertainty, the ability to take the initiative, and a bit of kookiness.
Step 2. Pick a business: There are basically three types of businesses people start:
The first is when you are driven to become an entrepreneur because you have an idea that won’t go away. If you ever watch the ABC show Shark Tank, you will see a lot of these folks.
The second is when you love something so much that you just want to do it all day, every day. You love photos and become a photographer, you like to cook and so you want to open a restaurant.
The final entrepreneur (this is the category I fell into) are those people who wants to be in business for themselves. I was a lousy employee, but I made a darned good entrepreneur.
Whatever category fits you, you want to be sure that there is market for what you want to do. Is it a viable business idea? That is step 3.
Step 3. Research and writing: Is it a viable idea? Have other people made money doing what you want to do? What will it cost to start this business? Who will be your competition? How will you get customers? You really need to answer these sorts of questions before you get started because that will help reduce the inherent risk that is a startup.
Take all of this research and write a business plan. Yes, I know you don’t want to. Too bad. Even a short business plan will help you map your course. A great resource for the is Bplans.com.
Step 4. Legalities: Your new business could be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or some form of corporation. A lawyer can help you decide which based on your situation. You will also need to file a fictitious business name statement, register with your state or county, get any necessary permits, and open a bank account in the name of the business.
Step 5: Show me the money! There are a lot of ways you can fund your new business, and you will probably need to stitch together a few to get your business fully funded: your own money, friends and family, traditional loans, SBA loans, microloans, crowdfunding.
Step 6: Put in your foundation. Find a location. Negotiate the lease. Set up your website and social media. Get your Internet and phone installed. Throw a “Grand Opening Party.”
Step 7. Trial and error. You will make mistakes, that’s for sure. Just try to make sure they are not too costly.
And most of all, have fun. Good luck!
Today’s tip: Taking up from my No. 1 trend this year – cybersecurity – a recent Norton Cybersecurity Survey revealed some interesting tidbits:
• Not even a third of all small businesses say they understand how to thwart cybercooks
• Less than half admit to being well protected against computer viruses and malware, and
• 37% report having been a victim of computer viruses within the past year
Be careful out there!
Steve Strauss, @Steve Strauss on Twitter, is a lawyer specializing in small business and entrepreneurship. E-mail Steve at: email@example.com. His website is TheSelfEmployed.
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