Are you starting a business?
You want to make sure you prepare thoroughly before starting a business, but realize that things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations.
Here are some essential startup tips that will help you make your startup a success.
What do you need to do to start a business? There are dozens of websites, including ours that have checklists that remind you of the many tasks you should perform when starting a business. Although such checklists are handy because they help you remember essential startup steps, they are To-Do lists. They tell you what to do, but don't provide any tips about what makes a business successful.
Talk to any entrepreneur or small business owner and you'll quickly learn that starting a business requires a lot of work. An idea doesn't become a business without effort.
Some budding entrepreneurs understand the effort necessary to create a business, but they might not be familiar with the many steps required to launch a business venture. If you're willing to put in the effort to build a business, you're going to want to know the steps needed to reach your goals.
Conducting in-depth market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves running surveys, holding focus groups, and researching SEO and public data.
Unfortunately, you don't succeed in business just by completing a list of tasks. Nor will your business be a success just because you think it's a good idea.
When you start a business, there are tax and super responsibilities you need to be aware of, including:
- the tax implications of your business structure
- whether you're entitled to an ABNExternal Link
- registering your business
- records you need to keep
- deductions you can claim.
Tasks like naming the business and creating a logo are obvious, but what about the less-heralded, equally important steps? Whether it's determining your business structure or crafting a detailed marketing strategy, the workload can quickly pile up.
Rather than spinning your wheels and guessing at where to start, follow this 10-step checklist to transform your business from a lightbulb above your head to a real entity.
Tips for starting a small business
Opening your own business is often a learn-as-you-go process. But, the more smart decisions you make early on, the better chance your company has for success. If you have an entrepreneurial idea, try these ten tips.
Important small business resource websites:
Countless people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but they never do. They're burdened with excuses and fears of failing. From money to time to responsibilities, you can make a million cases for not starting a business.
Let's face it; being your own boss is scary.
In most cases, new business owners have a lot to lose with little insight into their chances of success. Worrying about the risks of business ownership is normal.
But, excuses only slow you down from reaching your goals. If you really want to start a business, you need to address the reasons you think you can't start a business and get rid of them. Find a solution to the issue rather than let it hold you back.
Refine your idea.
If you're thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don't (or deliver the same thing, only faster and cheaper), you've got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
"In the words of Simon Sinek, 'always start with why,'" Glenn Gutek, CEO of Awake Consulting and Coaching, told Business News Daily. "It is good to know why you are launching your business. In this process, it may be wise to differentiate between [whether] the business serves a personal why or a marketplace why. When your why is focused on meeting a need in the marketplace, the scope of your business will always be larger than a business that is designed to serve a personal need."
Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following and business model are already in place; all you need is a good location and the means to fund your operation.
Regardless of which option you choose, it's vital to understand the reasoning behind your idea.
Stephanie Desaulniers, director of operations and women's business programs at Covation Center, cautions entrepreneurs from writing a business plan or brainstorming a business name before nailing down the idea's value.
"Many people think they have a great idea and jump into launching their business without thinking through who their customers will be, or why these people should want to buy from or hire them," Desaulniers said.
"Second, you need to clarify why you want to work with these customers – do you have a passion for making people's lives easier? Or enjoy creating art to bring color to their world? Identifying these answers helps clarify your mission. Third, you want to define how you will provide this value to your customers and how to communicate that value in a way that they are willing to pay."
During the ideation phase, you need to iron out the major details. If the idea isn't something you're passionate about or if there's not a market for your creation, it might be time to brainstorm other ideas.
Before you get started
As you get your business up and running, there are a few things you may need to consider, including:
- when your tax and other obligations start - this will depend on whether you are in business yet
- the implications of the structure you choose – tax and legal
- the location of your business (such as working from home).
Listen to what others have to say—friends, family, experts, even yourself. When it comes to things that have to do with your entrepreneurial goals, be a sponge.
As you learn, start to work out the idea in your head. Write things down. Keep notes from all the resources you come across to develop a detailed plan.
Write a business plan.
Once you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan.
A lot of mistakes are made by new businesses rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? If you can't find evidence that there's a demand for your idea, then what would be the point?
Conduct market research
Conducting thorough market research on your field and demographics of potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves conducting surveys, holding focus groups, and researching SEO and public data.
Market research helps you understand your target customer – their needs, preferences and behavior – as well as your industry and competitors. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends gathering demographic information to better understand opportunities and limitations within your market.
The best small businesses have products or services that are differentiated from the competition. This has a significant impact on your competitive landscape and allows you to convey unique value to potential customers. A guide to conducting market research can be found on, www.business.gov.au/.
When you tell people about your startup, read their body language. Do they like the idea? Or, are they just being nice and really think you're going in the wrong direction? Encourage your listeners to be honest with you. The collective opinion you get from peers could be a reflection of how consumers will react.
Don't ignore the power of advice from experts and veteran business owners. These folks know first-hand what does and doesn't work. Smart entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes other business owners have made.
Are you in business?
It is important to understand the differences between a hobby and a business for tax and other purposes.
Your tax and other obligations start once you are in business.
The following video will help you work out whether you are in business yet.
Be a solution
Rather than starting your idea with what to sell, think about what it will solve. It's a lot easier to gain a solid customer base when your business is fixing a problem. Your startup should fill a hole in a certain market or niche.
Understanding your motives will help you create a brand and market your company. Know what problems your target customers face and how you can solve them.
Consider an exit strategy.
It's also a good idea to consider an exit strategy as you compile your business plan. Generating some idea of how you'll eventually exit the business forces you to look to the future.
"Too often, new entrepreneurs are so excited about their business and so sure everyone everywhere will be a customer that they give very little, if any, time to show the plan on leaving the business," said Josh Tolley CEO of both Tribal Holdings and Kavana.
"When you board an airplane, what is the first thing they show you? How to get off of it. When you go to a movie, what do they point out before the feature begins to play? Where the exits are. Your first week of kindergarten, they line up all the kids and teach them fire drills to exit the building. Too many times I have witnessed business leaders that don't have three or four pre-determined exit routes. This has led to lower company value and even destroyed family relationships."
A business plan helps you figure out where your company is going, how it will overcome any potential difficulties and what you need to sustain it. Check out our full guide to writing a business plan, and when you're ready to put pen to paper, these free templates can help.
Keep the strategy simple
If you're like many entrepreneurs, you have a business idea and you're ready to run with it. Be careful not to let your concept snowball into something overcomplicated. You could end up with an expensive, elaborate end-product that nobody wants to buy.
As a new business owner, try to start small and narrow your focus. Learn how to test your business idea. Create a simple, quality good or service. A successful business idea should fulfil promises to customers and exceed expectations.
Cut unnecessary features that water down your offerings and cost you money. As a small business, you don't need all the bells and whistles of a giant corporation. It will be easier to add to your business as it grows.
Characteristics of a business
There is no single factor that determines if you are in business, but some of the factors you need to consider include:
- You've made a decision to start a business and have done something about it to operate in a businesslike manner, such as
- registered a business name, or
- obtained an ABN.
- You intend to make a profit – or genuinely believe you will make a profit from the activity – even if you are unlikely to do so in the short term.
- You repeat similar types of activities.
- The size or scale of your activity is consistent with other businesses in your industry.
- Your activity is planned, organised and carried out in a businesslike manner. This may include
- keeping business records and account books
- having a separate business bank account
- operating from business premises
- having licenses or qualifications
- having a registered business name.
If you aren't in business yet, it is important to keep these factors in mind as your activities change or grow, so you'll know when you need to register for tax and other business responsibilities.
Assess your finances.
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you're going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you're planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have money put away to support yourself until you make a profit? It's best to find out how much your startup costs will be.
Many startups fail because they run out of money before turning a profit. It's never a bad idea to overestimate the amount of startup capital you need, as it can be a while before the business begins to bring in sustainable revenue.
Perform a break-even analysis
One way you can determine how much money you need is to perform a break-even analysis. This is an essential element of financial planning that helps business owners determine when their company, product or service will be profitable.
The formula is simple.
- Fixed Costs / (Average Price – Variable Costs) = Break-Even Point
Every entrepreneur should use this formula as a tool because it informs you about the minimum performance your business must achieve to avoid losing money. Furthermore, it helps you understand exactly where your profits come from, so you can set production goals accordingly.
Here are the three most common reasons to conduct a break-even analysis:
This is generally every business owner's highest interest.
Ask yourself: How much revenue do I need to generate to cover all my expenses? Which products or services turn a profit and which ones are sold at a loss?
Price a product or service. When most people think about pricing, they consider how much their product costs to create and how competitors are pricing their products.
Ask yourself: What are the fixed rates, what are the variable costs, and what is the total cost? What is the cost of any physical goods and what is the cost of labor?
Analyze the data. What volumes of goods or services do you have to sell to be profitable? Ask yourself: How can I reduce my overall fixed costs? How can I reduce the variable costs per unit? How can I improve sales?
Count the costs
Once you start to develop your business idea, add up how much it will cost. You will need to factor in every business expense necessary to launch and operate. Some costs to keep in mind include your location, rent, supplies, marketing, and more.
Come up with the most educated number you possibly can. Then, take whatever you think that dollar amount is and quadruple it. Seriously, quadruple it. You'll experience unexpected costs of running a business around every corner. It's better to be over-prepared than short on funds when bills start to roll in.
When you're thinking of the cost to start a business, don't forget about your personal budget. Look at how much money you need to live, including rent, food, gas, healthcare, etc. Lay these expenses out in order of which ones you must pay (e.g., mortgage) to ones that can slide if the money runs out (e.g., entertainment).
Once you have a grasp on all your expenses, start to create a business budget. At first, you might need to get some outside capital to make ends meet, like a small business loan. Go over all of your options before putting your money into the startup.
Watch your expenses.
Don't overspend when starting a business. Understand the types of purchases that make sense for your business and avoid overspending on fancy new equipment that won't help you reach your business goals.
"A lot of startups tend to spend money on unnecessary things," said Jean Paldan, founder and CEO of Rare Form New Media. "We worked with a startup that had two employees but spent a huge amount on office space that would fit 20 people. They also leased a professional high-end printer that was more suited for a team of 100 (it had keycards to track who was printing what and when). Spend as little as possible when you start and only on the things that are essential for the business to grow and be a success. Luxuries can come when you're established."
If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure.
Is it a hobby?
If you determine your activities are a hobby then you do not have any additional tax or reporting obligations.
If your activities are a hobby but you supply goods or services to businesses, they may request your ABN when they pay you.
Because you do not have an ABN and your activity is done as a hobby, you should use the 'Statement by a supplier' form. This will avoid the business you are supplying having to withhold an amount from their payment to you.
Imagine yourself with zero money
I mean zero. There is a high probability that this will happen. I've had several businesses not make it for the long haul. And, I've come close to bankruptcy.
Launching an unsuccessful business idea is a reality for many entrepreneurs. Over half of new businesses fail within the first five years of opening. How would you handle having no incoming money?
It's a good idea to come up with a "just in case the worst outcome happens" plan. You might need to get a job on-the-fly or temporarily live with your parents. You might have to go without comforts that you're used to. Figure out how you would get by if your business plan went south.
Look at your current sources of income. What do you earn from your current job? How long would your savings last if you quit? What unexpected things could mess up your plan (e.g., you wreck your car or your furnace breaks)? Prepare yourself for all the situations that could happen if the business idea doesn't work out.
Choose the right business bank.
When choosing the right business bank, size matters. Marcus Anwar, co-founder of OhMy.Canada recommends smaller community banks because they are in tune with the local market conditions and will work with you based on your overall business profile and character.
"They're unlike big banks that look at your credit score and will be more selective to loan money to small businesses," Anwar said. "Not only that, but small banks want to build a personal relationship with you and ultimately help you if you run into problems and miss a payment. Another good thing about smaller banks is that decisions are made at the branch level, which can be much quicker than big banks where decisions are made at a higher level."
Anwar believes that when choosing a bank for your business, you should ask yourself these questions:
- What is important to me?
- Do I want to build a close relationship with a bank that's willing to help me in any ay possible?
- Do I want to be just another bank account like big banks will view me as?
Ultimately, choosing the right bank for your business comes down to the needs of your business. Writing down your banking needs can help narrow your focus to what you should be looking for. Schedule meetings with various banks and ask questions about how they work with small businesses to find the best bank for your business.
Earn while you build
If you want to start a small business, don't quit your day job—yet. Launching a successful startup is a process. Build your business in stages and gradually transition from employee to entrepreneur.
As a new business owner, it will take some time to earn a steady income. Keep your nine-to-five and work on the business during off-hours so you can earn during those tough, first stages. Once you have a healthy inflow of cash from your company, you can tackle business ownership full time.
Speak up about your business
One challenge many business owners face is that they don't know how to sell. It can be intimidating to share your business with the world, especially when you're new.
If you're worried about what people will think about your business, you need to get over it. If you can't convince consumers to buy from you and support your company, it's challenging to make money. Not outgoing? Fake it 'till you make it. If you really want business success, you can't afford to be shy.
In my early days as an entrepreneur, I had to to do public speaking for the first time. Back then, I didn't have any training or experience in talking to large groups of people, not to mention I wasn't very keen on the idea of facing my worst fear.
But, if I wanted my young company to succeed, I need to to get out of my comfort zone. This came in the form of planning and hosting nearly 70 three-day conventions for my customer base of network recruiters.
I can't begin to tell you how afraid I was. As it turned out, I became a lot more comfortable in front of people after speaking at the conventions. Though I was more introverted than extroverted, I learned to "put myself out there" for the sake of my business.
Be ready to speak confidently about your business, even if it makes you uncomfortable. As a new business owner, you will need to market and network constantly. From networking with clients to negotiating supplier payment terms, you must be able to communicate.
Know the legal requirements for starting a small business
Starting a business is exciting. Laws are not. But, you need to understand the rules that come with opening a business. If you fail to follow government regulations, you could face steep penalties.
From forming a legal structure to setting up an accounting system, you must follow laws. You need to register the business with your state. You must also take care of business-specific tax liabilities. And as you hire workers, you need to follow employer laws.
The rules that apply to you depend on your state, business structure, and industry. Consider talking to a small business accountant as you set up your company.
Balance passion with wisdom
One of the most important ingredients in a successful business idea is passion. Passion will consistently drive you to improve your process so your business grows.
That said, don't let passion take over all your decisions.
Passion will move you forward, but knowledge will point you in the right direction.
Conduct market research on your industry and talk to target customers to find out your business's potential.
Ask experts questions about launching a startup. Reach out to professionals that can help you with certain areas of business, such as financial advisors and lawyers.
As your business starts to come together, think of it like driving a car. Let your passion hit the gas pedal and your mind control the steering wheel. That way, you can be confident about the direction you're headed and sustain the momentum you need to get there.