So you want to start a business, but you don’t yet have a game plan. Need some solid tips to get you started? You’ve come to the right place.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that you are working full-time right now and dreaming of having your own business. You know you have something to offer a client or customer (skills or products). You are not afraid of taking a well-calculated risk.
You’ve read, researched, and did some soul-searching and decided exactly what you want to do. You’ve read about successful businesses, and you’ve got a pretty solid handle on the ‘ins and outs’ and the ‘ups and downs’ ahead. You love a challenge and you have enough savings so that you can carry the business for the first six months to one year.
Somehow though, right now, you are not quite sure how and when to leave your job. Added to this you are wondering how it will all come together.
Think of your business as a construction project and as with any building, there must be steps to construction starting with a foundation and framing then building from there. Start your construction six months or more in advance.
Six Months to One Year – Foundation
Start to build your business network. At every networking opportunity, make it a point to connect with at least one person in the room.
Reach out to entrepreneurs. Ask for a few minutes conversation with them about their best ideas for building and managing a successful business.
If you haven’t started saving yet, get serious about it now! Think about ways you can tuck away a few more dollars for your business – yard sales, taking clothes to a consignment store, taking on a bit of temporary or contract work outside of the office, reducing all of your expenses. Think before you spend! You’ll want to have a nest egg built up to fall back on when times are tight.
Four Months – Framing
Spend this time literally framing your business. Develop your vision and mission statements. Think about the values on which you are building your business.
Three Months – Plumbing and Electrical
Start building your website. If you don’t know how, reach out to some of those business owners in your network. There might even be an opportunity for some exchange of services.
Start saving receipts. Do not bother to sort them at this point. Just save everything. Once you start to keep books for your business, you will know which ones are okay to use and which ones are not.
Two Months – Siding and Roofing
Make sure your health is top-notch with appointments to your doctor and dentist. Look into health insurance for after you have ended your current full-time employment.
Make appointments with your attorney and government licensing departments to discuss your business needs and make arrangements to complete all of the applicable documentation.
Do your homework to have sufficient information to decide whether you will be a sole proprietorship or whether you will incorporate.
Ensure all of your personal finances are in order – loans, investments, etc. You may want to rearrange payment schedules or combine two or more to make one payment.
If you will soon be needing space outside of your home, start the search now. If you need office space, see if you can sublease from a business instead of signing a long-term lease.
One Month – Interior Finishing
Give notice at your work and plan a graceful exit with an offer to train your replacement. Never burn a bridge. Ask for references before you leave and contact old employers for references as well. At this point, you are your own brand. Your business will start with your reputation.
Spend the month cementing your relationships with colleagues. Take a mentor for lunch. Talk extensively with people you think might have some ideas or connections.
Discuss possible post-employment benefits with your employer.
Three Weeks – Staging
Research the prices for your industry. Finalize your rates for the work you will do. Complete your website. Launch it. Order business cards and start handing them out.
Now is the time to think about what you will say to those who ask, “What are you doing now?” or “Tell me about this business you’ve started.” Have a clear, concise elevator pitch for anyone who asks. Remember, at this point you are your brand. Write down what you’d like to say, remember it, and use it often.
Business Starts – Opening Day
The day your business truly starts – it is finally a reality! Celebrate!
If you are working from home, you can literally leave your employment, head home, and start your new business, although, some new business owners take a week or two to transition from employee to business owner. Know yourself and do what works for you.
In the meantime, continue networking. Always carry your business cards. Stay in contact with your former coworkers and boss. Email all of your contacts to let them know the big day has come, that you are venturing out on your own and would like to meet with them in the near future. You’ll have time during the day for quick coffee meetings with prospective customers or clients and can meet them at their convenience.
As you begin to establish yourself, it might be beneficial to get involved in your community. If there is a non-profit or charity you believe in, get involved. You are giving back while you grow your network.
In the end, if you want to start a business – a successful one – remember always that your reputation is your company’s most valuable asset. Keep your mind open to new ideas. Be honest and professional, maintain your integrity at all times, and pay attention to the needs of your clients or customers.