The last decade has proven to be volatile and filled with uncertainty. Unemployment rates remain high while federal, state and local support services diminish. It’s no wonder people of all ages are seeking to become entrepreneurs and solopreneurs. In some cases, it’s the only option available. Small business owners enjoy a genuine sense of accomplishment and contentment. Operating a business necessitates having entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, persistence, tenacity and business insight.
Here are 21 Wisdom Nuggets for Launching Your Own Successful Small Business. They’re some of the fundamental steps for living the life of your dreams.
1. Identify Your Small Business and Products or Services
Select an emerging market niche where demand exceeds supply, one that exhibits long-term growth and strong profit margins. Offer a new problem solver venture, something innovative; secure your trade secrets. Perform your due diligence, and validate that the products and services you have chosen are what people need, want, and are willing to pay for. Determine what it costs to make your product or service, and then set a price. Be certain the business will contend robustly with your competitors. Maintain a competitive edge. Pick a relevant, definitive business name, and follow local procedures to assure it’s available (not trademarked or already popular).
2. Access Your Clients / Customers
Determine who your customers are, how you will locate them, and what their motivations for purchasing your products and/or services will be. Ascertain how you will reach out to them and scrutinize their business needs. Thoroughly inquire of their problems and perceived solutions. Display a genuine interest in them and their successfulness. Make well thought out offers to service their needs at reasonable prices. More than meet client expectations. Keep abreast of new technologies, techniques and standards. Share them with your staff, your partners and with your clients. If you keep your promises and perform with excellence, they’ll be around for a long time.
3. Determine Your Start-up Resources
Use Small Business Development Centers or Women’s Business Centers for business assistance, free training and counseling services, especially if you don’t have a business coach. Check out local, state and federal programs that assist new business startups. Save money by utilizing government surplus items from the Small Business Association (SBA), such as commercial real estate, vehicles, furniture, computers and office equipment. Utilize as much of your own money as possible. Obtain business licenses, permits and certifications as required for your specific business industry. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) may be needed.
4. Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business
The business structure you select affects your business identity, income tax filing status, tax liability, funding status, and even your client’s receptiveness.
Decide methodically which legal configuration best suits your small business: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, S corporation, nonprofit, etc. However, don’t turn the decision process into a major project. As your business grows, change will occur. As your company evolves, so will your legal structure.
5. Prepare a Business Plan
The recommended business plan is simple, realistic, adjustable, and manageable. It provides focus, direction, clear financial objectives, data for loan requirements and it navigates your business success. It helps you to get well-acquainted with your profit numbers, determine projected start-up costs and marketing strategies.
A formal business plan is needed to incorporate your business or to operate as a partnership. Components for a good business plan include: cash flow projection, break-even analysis, budget, profit & loss forecast; business objectives; marketing plan; description of your target audience (customer-clients).
6. Ascertain Your Business Location
Decide where you want to locate your office, i.e., at home, in a shared office facility, a private office, or a retail area. (Home office space MUST be used solely and frequently for your business activities.)
Establish where you will meet with your client-customers. Be sure your office site complements the type of business you will be conducting. Choose a customer-friendly location, properly equipped, set-up and in compliance with zone restrictions. Retail office space should be in a good area accessible by major streets and public transportation.
7. Register Your Business Name and Domain Name
If you decided to operate as a sole proprietor, register your business name with either your state or county clerk. If you chose an LLC or corporation as your legal business structure, registering your business name when the formation paperwork is filed is generally acceptable.
Pick a domain name reflective of your company name, product and/or service. Register both your business name and your domain name with the state government. Apply for tax identification numbers as required by the Internal Revenue Service and your state revenue organization.
8. Protect Yourself and Your Business
Purchase small business insurance (fire, liability, business interruption, automobile and theft insurance, etc.) to shield yourself as well as your company against adversity and lawsuits. With a sole proprietorship or partnership, your personal assets can be confiscated by creditors, lien holders, and plaintiffs for settlements of claims and remunerations. Consider forming an LLC or corporation for greater personal asset protection; otherwise, creditors could take your vehicle, home, investments, etc. If a client or customer falls or gets hurt otherwise on your property, he can sue and cause you to lose everything.
Another key to self-protection is that you learn from your inevitable mistakes. Your success depends on it.
9. Create an Accounting System
This task is best delegated to a certified public accountant.
Nevertheless, for the health and survival of your business, maintain an excellent understanding of your accounting system. Remain well-informed, constantly aware of how your small business is operating. The accounting system is the structure for financial statements, performance reporting, cash flow transactions, capital expenditure plans, budget variances, the establishment of fees and rates, and income tax preparations. Open up a bank account in your business name. Keep all of your documents well organized.
10. Monitor Your Finances Often
Watch the business funds – your company’s life-blood – frequently and consistently. Control your cash flow expertly and resourcefully. Review company bank statements and invoices. Put checks and balances in place; have audits conducted. Communicate with your vendors and creditors; keep a good rapport with them. As you prepare your initial budget, try to build in enough savings to cover six to twelve months of business operations, as well as an emergency fund. Exercise prudence and double-audit each expenditure. It is wise for you to share in your company’s money management.
11. Preserve Your Good Credit
Make it a point to pay your obligations on time, preferably early. This includes income taxes and especially payroll taxes from employee paycheck withholdings. Preclude being held personally responsible for paying back payroll taxes. The Internal Revenue Service is known for issuing harsh fines and penalties. Timely bill payments stimulate good business relationships and trust. Keeping a positive credit profile supplies a built-in safety net for meeting challenges and attaining financial backing when needed. Good credit is essential for profitable business transactions and sustainable cash flow.
12. Start Small
Endeavor not to over spend or spread yourself too thinly, limiting both your effectiveness and productivity. Try to do one or two tasks flawlessly.
Beth Laurence, J.D. in her article, Ten Tips for New Small Businesses, says, “Think small. Don’t rent premises if you can work somewhere else, and don’t hire employees until you can keep them busy. People who start their small business on the cheap …and create their first goods or services with more sweat than cash, have the luxury of making their inevitable rookie mistakes on a small scale. And precisely because their early screw-ups don’t bury them in debt, they are usually able to learn and recover from them. (Plus, running your business from home can save you tax dollars, too.)”
13. Prepare Your Elevator Pitch
This tactical, 30-second speech is given to your prospective client-customers highlighting their needs. Always be ready to deliver it. Personalized as necessary, the elevator pitch simply vocalizes your identity, product or service and business objectives. In the first 15 seconds tell your client-customers who are you, what do you do, and what problems you can help them solve. Use the next 15 seconds to add details about your unique selling proposition, special skills and specific ways you can support them. This technique helps convince your targeted audience that you have the experience, astuteness and expertise to furnish what they need.
14. Get and Stay Connected
Do not wait for business perfection, begin networking and recruiting suitable clients. Get actively involved with community activities, associations and meet-ups relative to your client base. Attend town meetings, join civic groups and the local Chamber of Commerce. Network with like-minded individuals; persons with whom you share common interests and mutual business goals. This will help you develop into a sought after business expert. Make frequent contacts with everyone who is supporting, purchasing and promoting your product and/or service.
15. Market and Promote Your Small Business
Eric Holtzclaw in his article 10 Simple Marketing Tips for Small Businesses says, “Marketing doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective…Start a podcast …and interview other business owners. People love to tell their story, and by highlighting them on a podcast you make an instant and meaningful connection.”
Place ads in your local newspaper, in trade magazines and publications. Send out brochures, flyers and postcards to prospective clienteles already motivated to purchase your product/service. Accept a leadership role in an organization, host an event, offer discounts, help with a good cause; support other small businesses. Request an interview on a local radio or talk show. Launch an email campaign.
16. Give Away Some Freebies
One of the greatest ways to attract customers, prove a genuine interest in them and add value to your business activities is to give away free stuff.
Your customers must see usefulness in it, however. For instance, offer sample products or free services like a webinar on how to attract and maintain customer loyalty, a free massage, or a free hour of consulting. Another great idea is to write a marketing book that tells your story and why the product or service you offer is the best resolution for their problems.
17. Get Every Commitment in Writing
Well-written and well-documented contracts make good business sense and are enforceable. They protect your health, your sanity and your business.
Although oral contractual agreements may be valid, they can be very difficult to validate and impose. They are indeed hazardous to the long-term survival of your small business. Make it a general business rule to give and receive receipts for all business transactions. Even if not legally required, get every contract, commitment, offer letter, purchase order, lease, agreement and procedure in writing.
18. Hire and Partner With the Right People
Employ like-minded professionals, workers with similar goals, personalities and complementary skill sets. Avoid business sabotage and frivolous lawsuits by interviewing potential employees and independent contractors conscientiously. Evaluate their capabilities, work ethic, employment history, credit (where appropriate) and referrals. Establish ground rules and expectations along with clear consequences for violations. Publish these guidelines and procedures in handbooks, and ensure they are read. Administer the rules fairly at all levels and without partiality.
19. Document the Legal Status of your Workers
When you hire workers as independent contractors, make sure they shouldn’t really be taxed as employees. The IRS can impose substantial penalties against you for not withholding and paying taxes for a worker who is really an employee. Preclude this problem by having the worker sign a written service contract, or independent contractor agreement. When hiring an at-will employee, have the employee sign an offer letter that makes it clear the employment relationship is at will.
20. Get adequate rest and relaxation
Small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for the brave, the patient and the persistent. It’s for the overcomer.
Operating a successful business can be tough and demanding at times. To remain alert, energized and cognizant, you need to exercise, get ample sleep and rest each day. Consume the proper diet and nutrition. It takes a lot to keep pressing ahead while maintaining realistic expectations all along the way. Time-out and tranquility are a must for triumph.
21. Know When to Close the Shop
Sometimes no matter how well qualified you are, or how diligently you work, your plans do not materialize as intended. In those cases, you need to cut your losses and move on without delay. Consider where the flaw occurred and how you might have responded differently. Retrieve the lessons learned, rise above the challenge and move on to your next endeavor much more experienced and astute.
When you have implemented these 21 Wisdom Nuggets for Launching Your Own Successful Small Business, you will have accomplished the essential business liftoff actions. Just remember that operating a thriving small business is an expedition, not a sprint. Efficiently manage your income producing, administrative and operational activities. Take great care of your employees and clients.
They will reciprocate to your delight.
Featured photo credit: Take the Plunge and Start Your Own Business – It’s Definitely Worth It! via google.com