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Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. They might dream of having a small business where they can work as they want and step away when they want to spend more time with their family. They might also dream of having a huge company with global reach. Whatever your entrepreneurial dreams may be, you need to take action to turn those dreams into a reality.
You likely realize that being a successful entrepreneur takes work, but you might have no idea where to start. It is easy to put one foot in front of the other, but you need an overall goal and direction to ensure you see progress. The steps below provide the guidance you need to move forward with your entrepreneurial dreams.
1. Perform Extensive Research
If you have an idea or a concept, you may be so excited that you want to just jump into planning out how it will work. However, you need to take a step back and be sure that your idea is not something that is already in the market or already available to your potential customers. After all, clients will not use your product or service if they already have a good option they like.
Do some analysis on potential competition. Is there anyone doing what you want to do? Who are they targeting? What will make your product or service different? How can you stand out? You will not be able to answer any of these questions if you do not understand what your competition is doing and how they are doing it, but these questions are vital to your success as an entrepreneur.
Be sure to review your target market—that could be your local customers, or it could be customers that can be found online around the world. Knowing who you are targeting as a customer will help you decide whether that person or business already has options for the product or service you want to provide.
2. Create a Detailed Business Plan
Your business plan sets out exactly what you will do and how you will do it. It provides guidelines or a road map for your company. It forces you to take a hard look at some of the most challenging questions you have to tackle as a business owner.
At its core, a business plan answers the following questions:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- How will your product or service solve that problem?
- How will your company be organized and managed?
- What competitors are you facing?
- How will you market and sell your product or service?
- How do you intend to fund your business?
- How will your business grow over time?
A business plan is rarely easy to develop. It incorporates your research and forces you to look forward to the future. It is the first step in putting your idea into something tangible.
For many, creating a business plan turns their idea into something that might really be possible.
3. Create a Financial Plan
Virtually every entrepreneurial dream costs money to start. While there may be some limited situations where you can jump in without much investment, those circumstances are few and far between. In most cases, you need to develop a plan to fund your endeavor, whether that means getting equipment or being able to quit your full-time job to pursue your entrepreneurial dream full-time.
Your financial game plan will help you determine how much you need to get started. It will also set out how much you need to keep going—whether that means you stockpile an initial investment or you need ongoing revenue to support your venture.
In general, entrepreneurs have a few financial plan options.
- Use personal savings and investments
- Take out a business loan from a bank or another investor
- Bring investors on board who will hold an ownership stake in the company in exchange for their financial contribution
How you decide to fund your venture is entirely up to you. It will depend on personal preference, how much you need to get started, and how much business you anticipate right off the bat.
Your financial plan is essential, so do not skip this step and assume you can wing it. Running out of cash or failing to raise new capital is the top reason that small businesses fail.
4. Register Your Business
Registering your business looks a little different for each type of company. Depending on your industry, you might need to register with local governments or your Secretary of State to be able to operate legally in your area. Check with an experienced attorney in your area to address these specific requirements.
You might also want to create a formal business structure for your company. While you can operate on your own, it is often not a good idea because it exposes your personal assets to any debt or other legal obligation your company might incur. Developing a separate legal entity, like a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), can legitimize your company and cut down on these potential risks.
LLCs are often the entity of choice for new small businesses because they are easy to form and maintain. In addition, creating an LLC protects entrepreneurs from personal liability just as well as a corporation.
5. Build Your Online Presence
While some businesses still do not have a website or online presence, it is much harder to build your company and be successful without using these tools. You may not need a full website (depending on the type of business you have), but you may want to at least create a strong presence on social media.
Websites, social media, and other forms of communicating online give customers a stronger sense of your brand and what you have to offer. They legitimize your company. In addition, they provide a helpful way for clients to communicate with you, learn about your products and services, and do some research long before they ever consider setting foot inside a brick-and-mortar shop. Because over half of shoppers say they research before they buy, having an online presence can make or break the success of your company.
6. Hire Employees (or Outsource)
Many startups begin with just one person who does everything. Over time, however, wearing that many hats can become a nightmare. You end up doing far more administrative tasks instead of actually performing work in your new venture. Working like this can cause a lot of stress and may lead to burnout. As you start to build your company, creating a resource team will be vital to your success.
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You can either hire individual employees or outsource some of your “back end” tasks. For example, you can have a full or part-time employee come in to help you do your monthly books and send out bills to customers. Alternatively, you could have a third-party accounting or bookkeeping firm help you with this task on an as-needed basis.
Whether you outsource or hire internally will depend on personal preference and the amount of work that needs to be done. If you are considering outsourcing, be sure to get several quotes or estimates from potential options before you commit, especially if they are requesting a long-term contract.
7. Create a Marketing Plan
You likely touched on how you want to market your business as you built your business plan and your financial plan. You also considered marketing as part of creating your online presence. However, there is a lot of value in sitting down and creating a deliberate strategy for marketing your business beyond simply making a website or Facebook page.
Your marketing plan should be an extension of who you are as a business. It should incorporate methods to reach your target audience. It should communicate to that audience who you are and how you can help them. Ultimately, your marketing plan is a decision about how you want the world to see your company.
Putting It All Together
Getting started as an entrepreneur may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with these small steps in the right direction. Working through the above to-do list will create a solid foundation for your company. Doing the work now will set your business up for years to come—and help you turn your entrepreneurial dream into a reality.
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