What are the right first steps to starting my small business?
Building and growing a successful small business requires considerable time, thought and planning. If you've never traveled the road to entrepreneurship before you might find it overwhelming. With so many details to pay attention to, where should you begin?
Here are some of the more important first steps that are appropriate for nearly every type of small business:
• Determine your value proposition. What customer needs will you fulfill or satisfy, and do you have a large enough base of prospects with those needs?
• Find a good attorney who specializes in small business issues. Legal formation, intellectual property rights, employee regulations and laws are all important to understand.
• Find a small business accountant to ensure you comply with requirements and file taxes accurately.
• Determine what legal form will your business take? Sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), S Corp, or C Corp? Consult with your attorney and accountant.
• Create a business plan. You don't need a full plan with financials unless seeking startup capital. Consider using the very popular lean startup template tool referred to as the "Business Model Canvas."
• Select a bank or financial institution for general use and one that can potentially provide funding if you'll need capital funds to start a new business or expand your existing business.
• Secure business insurance for liability protection. Talk with a trusted agent who can guide you in acquiring the proper types and amount of insurance coverage.
• Create your brand identity. Choose your business name and develop a logo. Verify with the state and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the name and logo design aren't already taken.
• Create a professional looking & modern website. An online presence for your business is essential. Potential customers will look to your website to learn about your company, its products and services.
• Identify the appropriate social media platforms based on where your potential customers spend their online time. Integrate social media with your website such that there is uniformity in your brand message.
• Find a printing company. While much of your marketing and sales may be done online, you'll need a reliable printing source for business cards, sales campaign sheets, and product or service brochures.
• Secure a dedicated location for your business. If you don't operate from your home, your needs may be vastly different if you're a brick and mortar retail store vs. a service provider.
• Identify your technology needs. What hardware, operating system, software apps, website cloud services, and virus protection will you need to serve customers, market your company, and manage your business?
• Execute a cash flow analysis. The No. 1 reason small businesses fail is they run out of cash. Review your monthly "cash flow projections" to actual for the first year. It will help you determine based on seasonality if your sales revenue and customer payment patterns support your business.
• If you have employees and prefer to outsource your payroll find a payroll service. Most are reasonably priced. They provide peace of mind processing payroll taxes and filing paperwork to meet tax filing deadlines.
• To learn more about what's involved in starting and managing your business visit SCORE.org and Small Business Administration websites. Fox Valley SCORE provides free confidential mentoring to clients in 17 locations throughout DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties. If you need help with existing business challenges, or are thinking about starting a new business, visit our website and click the red "Book Now" button. You can also click on "Workshops & Events" to register for one of the many free workshops throughout the year. The website is: http://foxvalley.score.org/