The complete, 10-Step guide to starting your small business
A little about my entrepreneurial story...
I didn't have a grand plan to start a business from day one. I knew I was capable, but I also understood the mountains and valley's that come with being an entrepreneur. My Dad & my brother are collectively the bravest businessmen I know. They have both succeeded in significant ways, and have also lost everything at points.
One day we went to dinner with my parents, they were visiting us in Florida (they lived in Ohio at the time). Josh announced, 'I think it's time we open a salon.' And I remember crying. Not, inspired tears of joy, but oh-so-ugly-large-elephant tears. I knew what this meant and that my life would never be the same. I knew that I am not the type of person to do things half-way.
Fast forward to now. We beat the odds. We have made it past three years. By the way, do you know how many people reminded me that 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months? That is a whopping 80%! You would think that would be discouraging to hear. But it made me lower my head and concentrate on surviving.
There are no precursors on who can become a successful entrepreneur. You don't have to have a college degree, endless cash flow, or even business experience to start something that could become the next major success. But, what you do need is a solid plan and the drive to see it through.
Here's my must-have checklist:
1. Start with little to no cash
I believe it's SO important to not fall into the trap of thinking that if you raise capital, you will be able to start your business. A lack of cash forces you to be conscious and scrappy. It makes you think about the most important things and execute those to the best of your ability.
2. Be Clear On Your Messaging
What is your 'why'? What feeling would you like to invoke in your people? Always choose clarity over confusion in your brand. I've learned that this branding/messaging process is so much more than what the look of your business, or the appearance of your print material. I call this process an 'awakening.'
3. Do Your Market Research
And this doesn't just mean the people you know! And don't stop there, be completely honest with yourself, are you filling a need with your business? Click here for pointers on doing market research.
4. Don't Quit Your Day Job (at least not right away)
To me, this is a necessary first step. It takes a LOT of stamina to own a business. There are lots of tears, big decisions, and late nights and early mornings. If you aren't willing to put in the work after your day job, there's a good chance you won't do what it takes to get through the tough stuff in the early days.
5. Make Your Business Official
Get all of the boring stuff out of the way early. A quick checklist:
Business structure (LLC, corporation, and more!)
Register your business
Federal tax ID
State tax ID
Permits (if applicable)
Trademarks, Patents, or Copyrights.
6. When in Doubt, hire it out
List out what you're strengths will be within the business as well as your weaknesses. Make a second list of the things you enjoy and the things you do not. Spend your time on the things that you enjoy and are good at, and then try to hire out the other stuff (or barter in the beginning!) I do NOT enjoy bookkeeping, it drains my energy and my time. So I hired someone who is GOOD at it!
7. Make a simple and clear business plan
In most cases, a 98-page business plan is a waste of time. Why? Successful businesses pivot about every six months. Markets and people change, and you will have to as well. Write out a business plan (I recommend 10 or fewer pages). Find a guide to a simple business plan here. Also, include you PIVOT plan! List multiple modifications you could make if one aspect doesn't work.
8. Make sure you are Niche'd
The riches are in the niches! Avoid the mistake of trying to be everything to all people. Find a need and fill it. Most of the time, we assume we need to add something to an existing product or service. But the success is actually in taking something away (making it more simple, time-saving, or easy to use)!
Make a weekly plan of what to accomplish, and then simplify that list! Don't be paralyzed by the big picture, and don't jump down rabbit holes. Most of the time, to do lists will be long and ideas will be enormous. Be disciplined enough to accomplish one thing at a time, putting your most important to do at the beginning of the list.
10. Have your tribe assembled
I have pretty strong opinions about business partners. No one (except your spouse) is meant to be by your side until the end. It's much easier to get through the hard days if you have people you love behind you in this venture. I can't tell you how many times I have cried 'I want to quit' to my tribe! But they have always given me a hug or the word that keeps me going.
Want to get some feedback or advice on your business idea? I'd love to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can start a dialogue about your plan!
>< Happy Conquering ><