One of the hardest parts of starting a business is coming up with an innovative, viable idea. After that, careful, savvy planning and execution of this idea are a key to true success. Weve compiled a list of steps to help you start your own thriving business.
Ask for Advice
Before I started my business, I spent a lot of time meeting with established entrepreneurs, said Judd Wishnow, the founder of the media and advertising company The Panel (www.thepanelgroup.com) . Its always helpful to hear the perspective of those who have successfully transitioned an idea into an actual business.
When you start your business, youll be faced with a number of questions and problems that you wont be able to solve on your own. Rely on the wisdom and experience of those who have been there before you. Before taking any formal steps to set up your company, seek the counsel of friends and business associates whom you know will offer unbiased, solid advice. As is the case with many situations in life, youll learn the most from the people who know you the best.
I bounced a tremendous number of ideas off of my friends before I decided to follow through on the Panel, said Wishnow.
Choose a Name
Coming up with a name for your business can be more challenging than you might think. You want to choose a title that is not only catchy, but also accurately defines the service that you are offering. Names can be straightforward, or they cater to a certain demographic. The most effective names help your business to stand apart, especially if you are offering a service that already has a saturated market.
We wanted something that people would remember, said Shankar Desai, the founder of Naked Apartments (http://www.nakedapartments.com), a site that matches apartment renters and brokers. The name reflects what were trying to do - we want to bring more transparency, fun and ease to the renting process in New York.
Once youve come up with an idea and a name, its time to get started building your business. But how do you fund it? Its crucial that you determine the financing options that will suit both your short-term needs and long-term goals.
You will need to write a solid business plan before you set out to raise capital.
After writing a business plan for The Panel, I reached out to the twenty wealthiest people I know, said Wishnow. While only a few of them actually invested, they all knew individuals with whom the concept might resonate. My list of twenty blossomed into three-hundred within a few months.
Most importantly, you have to believe in what youre selling. If you dont think that your idea is viable, other people wont either. Be passionate about your business, or dont even bother developing it.
Choose a Structure
The choice you make when deciding on a structure for your business can affect the taxes you pay, your liability, and your successors, among other things. Options for business ownership include sole proprietorships, Limited Liability Corporations (LLC), General Partnerships, C Corporations, or Sub Chapter S Corporations. Do your research before you make a decision, and make sure that you hire a good lawyer to complete the process.
Protect Your Idea
Most ideas are eventually discarded. It takes a lot of courage and innovation to make a good idea come alive before someone else does. Some of the most successful businesses offer a service or product that has little or no competition.
We chose to specialize in digital marketing and advertising seven years ago, when there were very few individuals and companies investing in the digital space, said Jason Klein, the co-CEO of Special Ops Media (www.specialopsmedia.com). However, my business partner and I believed in the medium, and knew that at some point in the future, a specialized digital marketing offering would be quite valuable. Today, although were still a relatively young company, we have extensive clout in an industry that is becoming increasingly relevant.
Remember that your ideas are your property. Dont sit back and watch while others capitalize on your specialized product or service. Obtaining a patent, copyright, or trademark might not guarantee you success, but it will give you a firmer hold on your corner of the market.
Get Licenses and Permits
Its highly unlikely that your business wont require licenses or permits from both the state and federal government. These include occupational licenses, product licenses, tax registration, and Employer Identification Numbers (EIN).
Hire a lawyer to make sure that the licenses and permits are filed before you open shop. Paying fines is a good way to put your new business in a financial hole before it has a chance to flourish.
Pick a Location
For many small businesses, location is key. If you have a restaurant, shop or studio, you want to find a space that is both convenient for your customers, and near to parking and transportation. Being in a good location can mean the difference between mild popularity and booming success. Its important to use every resource available to find your ideal space.
Landing a great location for our business was one of the most important aspects to launching SoulCycle, said the owners of the indoor cycling studio, Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice (www.soul-cycle.com ). We ended up going onto Craigslist, where we found the perfect space. Our location is phenomenal and has contributed to the wild success of our company. The lesson here is that no resource is too obvious or mainstream. Look everywhere and leave no stone unturnedyou never know where youre going to find the perfect spot.
Today, many small business owners are finding that they can conduct the majority of their business on the Internet, making the physical location of their offices less important.
Our offices are in Brooklyn, but the business itself is online, said Desai. The online component helps us to take advantage of the fact that the general population of renters and brokers are dispersed and disconnected.
Lease & Buy Equipment
Youre almost finished! The last thing to do is furnish your business with the things you need to open your doors. Research whether or not its cheaper to rent or buy equipment, including computers if you have an office, vehicles if you own a transport business, or kitchenware if you have a restaurant. Leasing rather than buying may also give you a tax advantage. Make sure you understand the tax codes before you make any purchases.
And finally, good luck! Youre on your way to owning a successful business.