So, you’ve decided to start a business. What do you do first? What next? What do you have to do right away and what can you delay?
I decided to examine the steps a new entrepreneur takes the first few months in business. I began by looking at what entrepreneurs really do, and then looked at those things they should also do but often delay.
Here’s what most entrepreneurs actually do in their first few months in business:
1. Choose a business name. It’s difficult to start marketing your products or services without a name.
2. Get business cards. You can’t start selling or networking without them.
3. Search the Internet for information and advice. Be cautious, however, unless you know and trust the source of that advice. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it true.
4. Envision how much money you’ll make. Every new entrepreneur does a back-of-the-napkin projection of how much money they can make. This is almost always wrong.
5. Set up a place to work. This may only be a corner of the living room or a table at a local coffee house, but you’ll want to find some relatively consistent place to do business.
6. Set up some basic financial accounts. Even if just using paper and pen, most people start keeping track of expenses and set up some kind of basic financial record keeping.
7. Look for customers. You’re not in business until you start making sales. Many would-be entrepreneurs drag their feet before starting to look for customers because it’s scary. But you’re not in business until you go out there and start trying to make sales.
But what about the things entrepreneurs should do that they often put off? Here are 10 must-dos:
1. Talk to an attorney and/or accountant. Create a simple standard contract or agreement you can use. It’s also a good idea to understand some of the tax implications of setting up your own business.
2. Objectively check out the competition. Most entrepreneurs fail to see what competitors are good at. Learn from them.
3. Get a domain name and/or e-mail address. You’ll look much more professional if you have a company domain name for your e-mail rather than a personal one.
4. Get all necessary business licenses, permits and certifications. Make sure you’re following the law right from the start.
5. Contact an industry trade association. They’re a great source of information and help for your specific type of business.
6. Get a business bank account and set aside one credit card just for business use. Separate your business and personal expenses from the day you start business.
7. Develop at least a simple budget. Be extremely conservative about income. Things take longer and cost more than you expect.
8. Get bookkeeping software. This can be something as simple as Quicken or you can get Quickbooks or Microsoft’s Small Business Accounting. It’s a lot easier to keep track of your accounts if you use bookkeeping software from the start.
9. Develop a business plan. Even a simple business plan dramatically improves your chances of success. A business plan helps you target your customers, improve your products and use your money wisely.
10. Develop a marketing plan and go to it! You’ve got to let customers know about you. Advertise, network, do direct mail. Most importantly, get out there and call on customers. You can’t make money if you don’t make sales.
by Rhonda Abrams