One of my goals for 2015 is starting a small business. I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and believe I have an idea that’s worth pursuing. It does relate to writing and blogging so I do have some experience in figuring out how this venture can turn out to be profitable.
Needless to say though, when starting a small business there is so much to plan for. One can’t be whipped up in a night. While this won’t be an exhaustive list of everything that must be considered, here are the top five things I’ve been thinking through lately.
Pursuing an idea or passion that fills a need
Ideas are a dime a dozen. The light bulb goes off on a new one every day. But does a small town with five pizza stores really need another one? Probably not, unless there is a unique angle to it that differentiates from the others. You will have a hard time getting started let alone succeeding in a town filled with so much competition.
Furthermore, I’m not passionate about pizza. I enjoy eating it but the thought of making it day in and day out for customers doesn’t excite me at all. If I woke up every morning with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese on my mind then maybe it’s a different story.
Having an idea is easy. Having a passion also isn’t difficult. It’s determining whether the combination of those two things comes together to meet a need. It’s in the need that the real money can be made.
A need however won’t be enough to bring success. It’s in these next two planning steps where I think many would-be small business owners fail.
Getting feedback on the business idea
What questions are you asking from your closest friends, associates or local government officials? Who is being honest with you? Are the people you trust identifying the positives and negatives of this business venture? Have you picked the brain of others who have started a similar business?
As I noted recently, people trend towards not asking for help in situations that often require it. We think our ideas are the best and that we have all angles covered. However, I would say almost always we miss issues that a fresh set of eyes or someone with more experience could identify.
That’s why it’s imperative when starting a small business to get feedback and ask as many questions as possible. This information gathering will go a long way in achieving success.
Defining the goals of the business
Goals give us a target to shoot for and keep us from drifting off the tracks.
However, the tricky thing about defining goals is that we might not know exactly what those are going to ultimately be. We could begin with one agenda and then realize six months in our purpose has evolved. That’s what happened here at Luke1428. My original reason for starting was transformed into something bigger once I started writing.
But I did have a goal at the beginning that helped me launch. And although my site has evolved, that specific goal I started with in July of 2012 still remains a part of what I’m doing today.
So why will your business be in existence? Is your desire in starting a business only to make money? Or are there other altruistic reasons why you are starting this business?
Handling the bookkeeping and getting paid
My wife will appreciate this one. As a CPA, she sees so many small businesses fail because the owners simply do not pay close enough attention to managing their finances and basic bookkeeping.
The sad thing is – in the big picture – bookkeeping is not that difficult. All bookkeeping needs can be taken care of with traditional tools like Quickbooks or online resources like Freshbooks. Where the business owner fails is more related to discipline and organization than anything else. They get sloppy, don’t save receipts, forget to input data and end up with a mess on their hands.
Another issue to consider is how customers will pay for the product. This will vary depending on the venue of the business. For a brick-and-mortar store, the traditional route of accepting cash, checks or credit/debit cards is the way to go.
An online business will most likely not be able to or want to accept cash or checks. The business owner will have to set up an online payment system that accepts credit/debit cards. At the most basic level this could be accomplished by setting up a Paypal account.
The needs of the business may include creating an online store or accepting payments using mobile devices or through apps. This might lead you to use a service like Shopify to help manage inventory and capture payments. Services like theirs can be extremely helpful with basic accounting needs and will help get the business up and running properly.
Whatever you choose for handling bookkeeping and payments, make sure the system is secured, simple to understand/use and that only the necessary people have access to it.
Making connections and advertising
Lastly, comes this issue of getting the word out about the business.
We traditionally think marketing and promoting a business works best through advertising. Advertising can be very effective if done properly. It costs money though and startups traditionally have a very tight budget. There may not be any or very little money available to market heavily through advertising.
The cheaper and perhaps more productive way to get the word out is by making connections…with anyone and everyone who could be an influencer or promoter for your business.
Who can help your business grow?
Perhaps you will find connections at places like your local chamber of commerce, church, newspapers, community social organizations or local businesses that are not direct competitors but might benefit in some way by your venture. Online you could find connections through social media outlets, blogs or sites within your business niche. Think through all possible avenues to make connections with people and then go seek them out.
Take your time and do lots of reading on how to start a small business. A productive launch and long-term success will be a surer thing if you work through these issues in advance.
Questions: What other tips could you give for starting a small business? Any small business owners out there wish you had done something differently at the beginning? What challenges are you facing in running your small business?
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