The prospect of starting your own business can be both an exciting and intimidating one. In one respect, the thrill of building something with your own hands, generating your own income and setting your own hours can be both invigorating and energizing.
In another however, figuring out the exact kind of legal entity you need, borrowing thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars, and learning the ins and outs of dealing with taxation can be enough to easily rob you of your steam and stop you dead in your tracks.
Although it does require you to proceed carefully, the idea of starting your own company, selling your own product or running your own business needn’t be a pipedream; it’s simply a matter of doing your homework and following the correct procedure.
Utilize the local SBDC
The very first step you should take if you hope to start your own business is visiting your local Small Business Development Center or SBDC. SBDC offices are set up by the Small Business Administration or SBA and are located all over the country.
These offices target assistance to low or moderate-income people looking to start or grow a business and offer everything from free courses on how to write a business plan to how to market your business.
Beyond that, they also offer counseling and at times even legal advice so you can find out just how feasible your business idea is, what parts of your business plan or market plan are lacking, who your target market is, and how to safely and professionally get to them.
Find a mentor
After visiting the SBDC, your next step in the process should be finding a mentor (or two if possible). One of the biggest mistakes that many start up business owners make is trying to figure out everything for themselves. Although you can find success is starting a business this way, it will be a long, time-consuming, and more than anything else, costly process, so it is much better to just find someone who’s already worked their way through it, and seek out of their regular advice as you proceed.
Knowing how difficult it is to succeed, many business owners are happy to help out an up and coming business person with similar aspirations- as long as you are creating a product that is not going to compete with them or theirs.
Do your homework
The other big mistake that a lot of business owners make is that they don’t read enough. Again, there is no merit in trying to figure out how to do everything on your own when there have been countless others who have worked their way through the process before you. There is virtually no area of business that hasn’t been published on, and if you look for them, you can find books on everything from how to sell yourself such as Sales Dogs or those with great tips on Guerilla Marketing techniques.
Furthermore, strong business people are usually very well read, and if you are not, then they will usually be able to tell just how little you know from their very first conversation with you. If on the other hand, you understand all of the jargon and references they use or have read some of the same books, then that will automatically increase your credibility as a fellow businessperson in their eyes.
Network, Network, Network
Once you have figured out just what your business entails and you have come up with your 30-second Elevator Pitch, the next step is going to be networking as much as you possibly can. The fact of the matter is, you never know where your best business contacts, mentors, or connections can come from, and the more people you meet the more likely you are to find them.
Great mentors or connections can come from absolutely everywhere, and the only way to get to know them is to get yourself out there in any way you can, and keep your eyes open for them.
Start within your Network
Once you have gotten everything in place, (your company, your target market, your product line, your legal status, etc) you should start doing business first and foremost within your network. If you are just starting off, you are likely to make mistakes, so this is not the time to start cold-calling people you don’t know or pushing your product on strangers.
The people within your network will be much more forgiving, will likely offer you constructive criticism, and will make for much easier sales than people you don’t know. After you have worked with them, and ‘worked the bugs out’ of your sales system, pitch or product, then you can move on to trying it on people who you don’t know.
Starting off within your network is also a good idea because having initial sales will you much more credibility then if you approach someone as your very first customer. As a function of this, it may even be to your benefit to start off doing things pro bono.
Regardless of what exactly you do, or what kind of a business you hope to grow, following the aforementioned 5 simple steps will increase your chances of success by leaps and bounds. The most important thing to remember is that is even if it seems like you are alone in this, in actuality you are not.