Now that I have made the decision to start a business, what next? Doing a good job in one’s chosen field usually requires entirely different skill sets and knowledge than running a business. Accounting software? Tracking time? Building a website? Forming a corporation? The list of tasks is lengthy and can be more than a little intimidating. Even more intimidating is the knowledge that chances are very good that you will miss some important task and have to scramble to complete it later on. You can only hope that the tasks you omit are not too damaging to your business.
Of course, if you have the time, you can spend several days, weeks or months preparing a detailed business plan. For many of us, however, the luxury of time may not be available. After all, a wonderful business plan does not immediately put dinner on the table. Nevertheless, you do need to do some basic research to determine the most important elements of starting the business that you want to start. Without at least a basic plan, you will likely move sideways or backwards as much as you move forward and that will likely cost you more money in the long run.
Fortunately, you may have a lot of resources at your disposal and those resources will help you a great deal in identifying what you need to do in order to get your business up and running.
People You Know: Chances are good that whatever business you want to operate, you know other people who are in the same or similar business. If you are a building contractor who has worked for other people in the past, for example, you will know other contractors who have their own businesses and who might be willing to talk to you about how they started out. Even though you might be a future competitor, you might also be able to work together on projects so those people have many good business reasons to sit down and share their insight with you. Make sure you take good notes.
People Who Want Your Business: Whatever business you may start, there will be other business owners who want your business. Lawyers, accountants, and other professionals will be quite willing to give you a free consultation (and be cautious with any who try to charge for the consultation). They will very often give you a great deal of advice without charge and I have known several who have freely shared do-it-yourself tips with businesses that are just starting out. Indeed, yesterday I visited a CPA who mentioned that although she could set up a corporation for me for about $450, she readily showed me the website that she would use and told me that it would be much cheaper if I did it myself. As a result, I saved $380 since the cost of incorporation was only $70. (By comparison, I spoke with one lawyer who quoted over $3000 for the job.)
State Websites: If you live in the United States, or in any of many other countries, chances are good that there are state-run websites that will guide you through the process of setting up a business. You should be able to learn the process for organizing a company and obtaining necessary local licenses.
Professional Organizations: If you belong to any professional organization, your organization probably offers programs that will guide you through the obstacles associated with setting up a business. Spend plenty of time exploring the organization websites and don’t hesitate to call the organization for help. If you are paying dues the organization, you should find that the organization is there to help you.
Potential Clients: If you know potential clients who are likely to want your business, ask them to talk with you about the experience that they want to have and what would make them more likely to use your services. I had several conversations with potential clients to determine what they consider a fair hourly rate to be. I learned that the rate is about two-thirds of the going rate in my industry and area and about twenty percent of the top rate that I have seen quoted. I think I can very quickly find myself working forty-plus hours per week if I charge the rate that my potential clients suggested and I am sure that I will be quite comfortable even at that rate. I’ll also feel good about providing a needed service at a rate that is not excessive.
Perhaps these resources are intuitive to many, but I have found that many people I have known in the past have been afraid to ask questions. As an owner of a new business, you will not have that luxury. You need to explore all of the resources available to you and learn as much as you can from them. While you are doing your research, you also need to realize that every conversation you have can result in the possibility of new clients. That means that you need to be professional and courteous in each of the discussions that you may have. More importantly, no matter how confused you might be, you must present yourself confidently. You may not know what you are doing, but you cannot let anyone know that.
Do you own a business? How did you learn how to get your business ready for operation? With whom did you consult? What resources were available to you? Who was helpful? Who was not? For information on how to improve you business cashflow check out the credit crunch guide by Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance.