A Small Business Journey

The beginning of a small business often comes at the most random times. It can happen in line at Starbucks, on a run, or in the middle of the night. Many people have these moments where they have a great business idea, but it never becomes anything more. It remains an idea in the back of their heads until the flame flickers out and goes away.

For the few who pursue their idea it can be overwhelming. Starting a business isn’t as simple as a good idea and a prayer. It takes extensive planning, education, and teamwork. Sometimes these steps feel like too much and people walk away, but others keep going. They push on even when it seems like nothing is coming together as it did in that moment when the idea was born. These steps below exist to help you put order to the chaos and serve as a checklist for the doers. Businesses are so much more than an idea, they are the result of putting together a plan to make that idea a reality.

Going Beyond a Concept

“People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.” – Elon Musk

Like Musk suggests a plan is absolutely necessary to run a business. Chaos cannot be the ruler. It must be goal-oriented with a clear path to success. This is especially important for entrepreneurs. You must define your product or service, customer base, plans for funding, technology, and more. Do this under the guidance of a mentor, someone who has had success as an entrepreneur and knows the unique challenges that come with striking off on your own. Give this person full access to your plan, ideas, weaknesses, and strengths. Ask questions and bounce ideas off him or her.

A part of planning that is far too often overlooked is determining your business’ structure. Will you operate as a sole proprietor? Maybe in a partnership? LLC? This is an important part of the process, and each choice has a wide variety of pros and cons. Once you have done this register with the state and the IRS. This is the foundation of creating a legal business entity.

Picking Your Technology

While writing your business plan think hard about what technology your company will be using. No matter the business everyone uses some form of technology. Whether it is a simple calculator and landline or something that requires servers and cloud storage, the decision is very important.

You must decide what types of both hardware and software to use. As you ponder this important decision ask if they match your business’ values. It seems like a heavy question for technology, but it matters. Do you plan to be mobile? Or do you prefer to have your company run from a more traditional office setting? Do you want to offer employees flexibility or have set business hours? All of this matters when deciding what technology your business will use.

Think about ways you can simplify and streamline technology. This may include things like buying a 1-800 number and having it forwarded to your cell phone or implementing apps that centralize information. One thing so many businesses forget is that there is the opportunity to outsource some of this decision making. With programs that organize and manager customer support, customer ordering, and phone calls, there are more options than ever to let professionals take care of certain tech to dos. Interview different technology firms to see if they are a good fit for your company and its values.

Create Your Team

Even if from the start you think this will be a solo operation, take the time to create job descriptions for positions that will need to be created in the future. Think of the positions that will make your company more successful. As an example not every business needs a receptionist but most businesses need a tax professional.

As you grow, pick partners and employees who share your vision for the company and understand your goals. While experience is important so is chemistry. Make sure as people are added to the team they work well with others already there and add something to the group. Learn how to acknowledge and recognize the gaps in talent or skills and figure out how to close them. Whether it is through re-aligning job responsibilities or adding training for employees, you don’t want essential tasks to go undone or be done poorly.

Brand Yourself

Apart from the aforementioned business plan, it is smart to create a separate and extensive marketing plan. Outline your marketing goals and ensure you are focused on your target audience. Do not try to implement the marketing plan yourself unless you have marketing experience. Instead hire a marketing professional or a company that has marketing professionals on staff to make the day-to-day marketing decisions and report to you on a regular, agreed upon basis.

Let the marketing professional or professionals you hire to create and manage social media accounts that will promote and be the face of your business. While it will be tempting to take it over and micromanage with a solid marketing plan they will be able to run this independently. Check in with them regularly and check the content, but delegate this task out to those who know what they are doing.

Grow the Business

Return to the importance of a mentor relationship and find entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses. Ask them for their input and advice as you work through the inevitable growing pains and certain missteps. Use the opportunities that are presented to you to spread the word at no to little charge: chat with local podcasts, offer to write blog posts for the Chamber of Commerce, give talks at colleges or community meetings, and more. Most importantly brace yourself for a bumpy ride and step out of your comfort zone. Use this time to take risks, learn new things, enjoy the thrill of trying new things, and have fun!

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