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How to Start a Small Business

There are many reasons people start a business. Some people want to break free of the 9 to 5 and live life on their terms. Others are looking for geographical freedom, and there are those following a lifelong entrepreneur dream.  

Whatever your reason might be, wanting to start a business and making it happen are two different things. It takes a lot of preparation and hard work. However, if you think you have what it takes, below are some of the steps involved. 

#1 Come-up with an idea

Every business starts with an idea. If you already have one in mind, you can jump to the next step. If not, it’s time to brainstorm – here are some ways to get the ideas flowing. 

  • Think of your passions, hobbies, or interests – would any of them make a good business venture. 
  • Do you have skills that others need and would pay for, such as content writing or programming? 
  • Is there a missing service or amenity in your local area that you can provide – maybe a much-needed daycare center or laundrette? 
  • Do you have expertise and knowledge that others are seeking advice on, such as marketing advice or financial planning? 
  • Think of products and services that you could improve or even re-invent. 
  • Look to emerging markets and industries where you could get in early and make the niche your own. 

#2 Determine if there is a market

Once you have an idea, the next step is to determine if there is an actual market for it – if there is no one willing to pay for your service or product, then your idea is dead in the water. To determine if there is a market, you have to conduct market research.  

Depending on your business idea, you can perform market research by running surveys (online or offline), creating focus groups, or through the use of tools like SEMRUSH or Similar Web. These are just some of the ways to determine if your idea will fly. 

#3 Check out the competition

Market research is a vital part of starting any business, and it goes hand in hand with competitive research. Analysing your competition will help you understand two things: 

1 – If you can actually compete 

2 – How to position your business to beat the competition

To perform competitive research, buy your competitor’s products or services, read their reviews, sign-up for their newsletters, and follow them on social media. The goal is to identify areas where you can improve or differentiate your offering from theirs and set your brand apart. 

#4 Write a business plan

No business should be born with a plan. It acts as your road-map and helps you turn your idea into a reality. A  business plan doesn’t need not to be a thesis, but it should be detailed enough to provide you with clarity and actionable steps to go from zero to launch and beyond. 

Business plans usually include six sections:  

The Executive Summary: The executive summary provides an overview of your business and your business plan. Although this section comes first in a business plan, it’s usually written last.

The opportunity: This opportunity section describes your product or service and the need for it within the market. This section should also include market and competitive analysis.

Execution: The execution section provides details on how you’re going to take your opportunity and turn it into a viable and successful business. It should contain your marketing, sales, and operational plans and an outline of the key milestones and the metrics you will use to measure progress and success.

Company and Management: This section is where you outline your current team (if you have one in place) and the vital staff you will need to hire. In this part, you should also provide an overview of your company’s legal structure and business location.

Financial plan: This is a crucial section if you require funding from investors or financers. Include startup and operational costs, funding requirements, projected sales, and growth forecasts. Also include cash flow statements (profit and loss) and balance sheets.

Appendix: An appendix is usually only needed if you’re seeking funding from financial institutions or investors, or if you want to attract potential partners. You can add information such as resumes of high-level management, legal agreements, org charts, images of your business products.

#5 Get financing (if needed)

Most businesses need an initial injection of cash to pay for such things as equipment, rent, or covering wage bills. If you don’t have the capital to invest, you will need outside financing. 

There are several avenues open to you for financing. You can apply for a small business loan from your bank or a business grant from the government or seek investors. You can also use non-traditional funding methods like crowd-funding. 

If your business requires outside financing, ensure your business plan is tight, especially the financing section. Potential investors and financiers will want to see cold hard numbers that prove that your business idea is a winner. 

#6 Choose a location 

Location is everything, and this applies to all businesses. Be it a coffee shop, a trucking company, or a call center, you need to choose the location wisely. Depending on the type of business, some factors you should consider are: 

Footfall traffic – This is crucial if you have a retail store that will rely on walk-in shoppers. Your business won’t last long in an area that has tumbleweeds.

Parking – If customers have to drive to your location, they will need somewhere to park, and a lack of parking is often a deal-breaker. If you don’t have parking on your premises, there should be ample spaces nearby.

Accessibility – All businesses (by law) need to be accessible. The location you choose should meet regulations. If not, you will need to invest money to make upgrades to adhere to compliance standards.

Space – Don’t underestimate the space required for your business to function and operate. Ensure you have ample space for employee workspaces, amenities, storage.

Ordinances – This is not something you want to overlook. Ordinances can hinder your business or stop it in its track before it even starts. For example, if you lease a premise for a 24hr grocery store in an area where stores must close at 8 pm.

#7 Put your team in place

Will your business need workers? Then before you open, you will need to get your team in place. Hiring the right people is essential for the success of any business, but this is particularly true when you first launch.

Think about the different roles that you will need to fill for your business to function smoothly. Then outline the duties within each role and create job responsibilities for each position. 

Once you have job descriptions, you can post them on job boards or in local recruitment centers, or on LinkedIn. You can also use recruitment platforms like zip recruiter (there are many more) that will help you find the right people. 

#8 Get some sales

Sales, of course, are the lifeblood of any business. And before you open your doors, be they physical or virtual, you should have a marketing strategy in place that will help you drive those sales. 

There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy; what works for one business might not work for you. Quite often, it takes trying different strategies until you find the best one for your business. Depending on your business, you might use one or all of the below marketing strategies: 

SEO (search engine optimisation) – This is where you use Google and other search engines to bring traffic to your website. Even if your business is offline, you should have a website and use SEO.

Social media marketing – Your customers are using social media platforms, and need a business presence on these platforms too. You don’t need to be active on every social channel – pick the ones that the majority of your audience use.

Paid online advertising – Google, Facebook, Youtube, Bing, allow you to pay for ads to appear on their platforms. You can get your business potentially in front of millions of people.

Traditional advertising methods – Everything seems to be online these days. However, radio, print publications, billboards, and even flyers are still very effective advertising channels.

Over to you

Taking an idea and turning into reality is hard. But, hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it. However, it’s by no means impossible. 

If your dream is to be your own boss, then you can make it happen with some hard work and persistence. Of course, a smidgen of luck along the way won’t go astray either in helping you reach your goal of starting and running a successful business. 

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