Your First Steps to Starting a Business

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starting-business-2You may have been working in an office for years and feel that it is time to go it alone. Perhaps you have an idea for an original product or service that can be a game changer in an industry, or simply want to run your own business with the knowledge and expertise you have gained working for others. Setting up a business is rarely smooth for anyone at the beginning, no matter how well-prepared you are or how irresistible the product. Once you rough it through the first phase, you can continue to develop your business and see some significant returns. Before setting out, think through your vision, what you will be offering, what budget you will need and how to market it. Funding can seem like a major issue, but it needn’t be if you can afford to make a small attempt at first and look for seed money after your initial attempts have met with success.

Create a Brief Business Plan

A business plan is like a roadmap of your business, and it can grow and change as your company evolves. At the beginning, it can contain simply an outline of your vision for the business, what you want to achieve in the long and short term and how you plan to achieve it. Try to keep it brief and let it develop as you continue to build your company. A business plan is useful to refer to often to remind yourself of your goals and strategies, and will come in handy when you searching for investors or funding. A well-organized plan can be influential in persuading individuals and banks to fund your operations. If you want to show your plan to others, ensure it is professionally edited and formatted.

Do a Trial Run

Once you have an idea plotted out, give it a trial run for a limited release. Use a modest amount of money, to begin with, about $1,000, to produce a few items and see how it goes. Advertise your product or service locally, and even consider setting up a stall in a shopping mall or a farmer’s market before making a regular commitment. Make sure you have a website with a shopping cart and selling capabilities. Once you have developed your website and sold a few products, whether online or in a stall, you can figure out who your target customer is and try to cultivate similar customers. In addition, you will have a clearer idea what kind of products are successful after a trial run.

Secure Funding

Once you are confident that the product you are selling will meet with some success, secure funding from a bank or lending agency. You might qualify for a small business loan or a regular bank loan. The drawback of this type of funding is the waiting time. In addition, you will need a strong record of financial health. If you need the money right away, consider private lending agencies or credit card loans. These have shorter repayment periods and may have higher interest rates, but they are useful solutions for people who need the money fast and may have a spotty credit rating. Getting seed money from investors has many benefits, namely, not having to deal with interest rates and premiums, but usually a company has to build its reputation before persuading investors to part with cash. However, if you have professional ties or even family members who believe in your idea and abilities, you may be able to come up with some cash from investors.

Organize and Hire

Scrutinize every phase of production and distribution and figure out exactly what needs to be done. It can be a challenge to decide exactly how much to spend on items and labor. It may be tempting to hire too many or too few people, so it helps to see what others in your industry have done with similar operations. It may take some trial and error before you see what your expenses actually are, so leave some money in your budget to cover unexpected costs.

Marketing

Marketing is the key to business growth, and it may be a challenge bring attention to your company in an era of instant communication. Make sure you have a balance between online and offline marketing strategies. For your website, create search engine optimized articles and blogs to bring visitors to your site. Once they are there, figure out ways to encourage them to make purchases or to subscribe to a newsletter. Sometimes getting an email address is as valuable as a purchase, since it creates opportunities for future sales. Market your service or product offsite as well at public gatherings and through conventional advertising. Create a social media strategy that encourages people to share information about your business. Use paid and content advertising to draw customers.

Build a Relationship

You may feel that building interest in your business is a slow process, but have patience. If you have just a few customers to start out with, keep in mind that most business for small companies is the repeat business. Think of building a relationship with existing customers and offer them incentives for making additional purchases and for sharing information with their friends. Let your customers be spokespeople for your product and services on their social media sites, and encourage positive feedback. It might take a bit of time and effort, but getting your company in the public eye is work that pays off because attention on social media can regenerate itself when something you post goes viral.

The road to building a new business can be a rocky one, but it involves greater autonomy than working for someone else and a chance to pursue your vision. Draw up a thorough business plan outlining your long and short term goals, as well as your mission statement. Run a test launch to see how your products are received and decide on a means of funding your operations. Adopt a two-pronged marketing approach through the internet and offline to build a relationship with customers and encourage repeat business.

 

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