Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Every day around the world millions of people think of new business ideas yet only a small fraction of these ideas will ever become businesses.
What prevents these ideas from becoming businesses? Perhaps the idea is not feasible. After all, not every idea can become a profitable business. There may be life circumstances standing in the way of taking action on the idea. Or maybe it is simply because people have no idea how to turn an idea into a business.
If you are someone who has thought and dreamed of starting a business but you don’t quite know the start-up process, you are not alone. The Ready, Set, Go Business Start-Up Guide will take you through the steps of turning your idea into a business:
- The big idea -If you already have your big idea, that is great! For others who have what it takes to be an entrepreneur but don’t have an idea yet, read 24 Business Ideas to Start Now for a little inspiration. SpringWise.com is also a good place to look through the latest business ideas from around the world.
- Choose a business name -In most cases you will need to obtain a name search report to make sure the name is not already being used. The name should suggest what your business does. For example, a vegetarian restaurant named Green Gardens may confuse potential customers. Green Gardens Vegetarian Cuisine, however, clearly states what the business does. Susan Ward, Canadian small business guide for About.com wrote a great article on this topic called 5 Rules for Choosing a Business Name.
- Check if a domain name is available -When deciding on a business name you have to keep the domain name in mind. I had to change the name of this blog based on the fact that this domain was available and the other name I wanted was not. This name has grown on me though and it is very “me.” To check the availability of domain names go to WhoIs.net, a database of domain names, who owns them, and whether the domain you want is for sale. If the name you want is for sale, buy it right away even if you are still in the planning phase of the business.
- Decide on a legal form for your business -A sole proprietorship or partnership are the simplest structures for a business, however, you have unlimited liability which means you are liable to pay back debts the business incurs or pay a settlement if your business were to be sued. A corporation is a more formal structure but gives you limited liability and the most legal protection because a corporation is a separate entity from any shareholders. Creating a corporation is essentially creating a new person. In some countries there is a limited liability corporation (LLC) structure. LLCs combine some aspects of the simpler sole proprietship or partnership structure with aspects of the corporate structure. This structure allows you the freedom to be taxed like a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. You still have limited liability like a corporation with much less paperwork. For more information, read Inc.com’s very informative business structure guide, Choosing a Form for Your Business.
- Plan, plan, plan -You have likely heard it before: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Depending on your business and whether you need external financing you may or may not need a full business plan. Bplans.com is the best resource I have come across for business plans and I have used the Business Plan Pro software for years. I will be interviewing Sabrina Parsons about business planning next week. She is the CEO of Palo Alto, the software company behind Business Plan Pro. If you don’t need a formal plan I like using the free fill-in-the-blanks plan offered by Business Development Canada. You do not need to live in Canada to use this great resource!
- Protect yourself -I learned this lesson the hard way not once, but twice. Take my advice and make sure your personal protection is a top priority. Protecting yourself is so important and will give you peace of mind. I have used legal forms from FreeLegalForms.net. There is no substitute for a lawyer, however, and you should always hire a lawyer if you are starting a partnership, corporation, or a business in which intellectual property is involved. You should also protect yourself by making sure you have proper insurance for you and your business. When it comes to protecting yourself, you can never be too careful.
- Register online -A lot of countries let you register online now. If you’re in the United States, Canada, Australia or the UK you should be able to register online and I have even found exactly where you can register: Americans click here, Canadians here, Australians here, and British citizens click here to register. I’m sorry I can’t cover all countries but visit your country’s business services website or your local Chamber of Commerce to find out how to register.
- Register trademarks and/or patents -Registering a trademark is only beneficial if you have the legal resources to enforce the trademark registration. Filing for a patent is essential if you have intellectual property. If you think you need a patent the best thing to do is seek professional legal advice. You can file a patent application online in the United States here, in Canada here, in the UK here, and Australia here.
- Set up a tax account -In most cases you can set up a tax account at the same time you register your business. Check with your local business center or online to make sure you set up the proper accounts for collecting and remitting your business taxes.
- Get necessary licenses and permits -Again, check with your local business center. Required licenses and permits will depend on what kind of business you are starting and where you are starting it.
- Set up a bank account -Shop around for a bank to find low fees and a low interest rate if you need a business loan. A corporation must have its own bank account but a sole proprietorship or partnership does not. If you are starting an online business as a sole proprietor, PayPal might suffice as your business account since you can send invoices, receive payments, and print statements. I know many entrepreneurs who do this although I can’t recommend it because I have not done this myself even though I use PayPal for online transactions.
- Find an accountant -A good accountant will save you a lot of money, and perhaps most importantly, a lot of headaches and stress. Interview several accountants before making your final decision because this is the person who is going to deal with your money. I interviewed six accountants before I chose one that I felt comfortable with and who best understood my business.
- Hire a designer -Hire a designer to design your logo, business cards, letterhead, and other marketing materials such as fliers and brochures. Once your branding package is designed you will have a logo and your company colors in place to develop another important thing for your business: a website. For affordable design work try posting a short proposal on elance.com. Several different designers will review your request and post a quote for you.
- Print branding package and marketing materials -If you are happy with your logo and other promotional materials, it is time to have them printed for distribution. There are many printing companies online that offer high quality printing at affordable prices. I have used OvernightPrints.com for the last three years. VistaPrint.com is another popular online printer.
- Market your business -Execute your marketing strategy from the business plan you developed in the “Get ready” section of this guide. Launch your website and distribute marketing materials. Attend as many relevant conferences and events as you can that will get your name out there.
- Leverage social media -Building a strong online presence is essential. You should be using twitter, facebook, linkedin, stumbleupon, and any other social networking websites that your target market uses. To find social networks that are relevant to your industry and business, Mashable’s 350 social networking websites article is a must-read.
- Tap into your personal network -Tell everyone you know about your new business. Chances are they will be able to give you the leads you need to land your first customer.
- Submit a press release -A press release is an important tool for landing your business some media coverage. If you are not quite sure how to write a press release, CanadaOne has an incredible (and free) interactive press release builder that you can use. Distribute the press release to local newspapers, websites, and blogs. For international distribution you can try a service like PRWeb to distribute your press release to millions of potential customers.
- Keep customers happy -Good customer service is key to growing a business. Once you have customers, do whatever you can to keep them happy. Finding new customers costs seven times more than keeping the ones you already have.
- Keep on keeping on -There will be many ups and downs during the start-up process but keep a positive attitude. Constantly fine-tune your business plan and revise your strategy.
- Improve -Follow the Japanese mantra, kaizen, meaning continual improvement. Toyota, one of the world’s most respected companies, has the kaizen philosophy built into every process. I know this because as a student I worked at Toyota and not a day went by that I did not hear the word kaizen!
Be prepared to learn a lot on your entrepreneurial journey. Successful companies are built one day at a time with blood, sweat and tears. Remember these words by Arthur Ashe: “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Now go out there and take on the world.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to She Takes On The World and never miss a post!