Stepping off into the unknown realm of beginning a business, building, managing, and advancing its growth is daunting, exciting, and often expensive. Considering that the Small Business Administration says that more than fifty percent of all businesses fail in their first year, careful planning is key to building a sound foundation that solidifies your vision, mission, and ideas into a sustainable business. The path is rocky: most underestimate the amount of time needed to grow a business, how much it can take away from family life, and the day-to-day routine of running it from financing to competition to sales. There’s undeniable risk, but for those tenacious souls who are willing to take it step-by-step and be patient, the benefits just might outweigh the setbacks.
PLANNING YOUR BUSINESS
You have been toying with the idea for a business for a while. Family and friends believe in your vision. But that’s not enough to build a viable business. It is imperative to map out a road from start to finish where you want your company’s growth to be in a year, five years, or ten years. Drafting a business plan will not only provide you with a necessary framework to build your business, but is a useful tool for presenting your mission and vision to potential lenders.
Brainstorming business ideas
- What is brainstorming? Brainstorming is free-thinking; both divergent, and convergent ideas often facilitated by one person in a group to guide creativity.
Writing a business plan
- Business Planning Templates Tools such as business plans and finance templates.
- What is a business plan? How do you prepare a business plan, format it, what does it consist of, with samples?
STARTING YOUR BUSINESS
Most people underestimate how much capital it takes to finance a business. Licenses, permits, leases, inventory, and legal expenses get expensive. Consider a mentor, someone who has been through the same type of business, to guide you through the rough patches of figuring out location, choosing a start-up name, what kind of structure is best for your situation, and that critical first year. It may save you money, headaches, and stress.
Financing start-up costs
- Considering Start-Up Costs: How to avoid being undercapitalized in your new business.
- Estimating Start-Up Costs: How much seed money will you really need in order to realize your business dream?
Buying a business
- Existing Business: Tips on buying a business with a proven track record.
- What You Need to Know: You need to know what kind of business you want to buy, find it, do your research, and close the deal.
Buying a franchise
- Franchise Ownership: Consumer guide to benefits, responsibilities, franchise selection, investing, and signing the agreement.
- Managing Your Franchise: Learn the ins and outs of the franchise experience. How to make decisions, be successful, and know what opportunities are available.
Naming your business
- DBA: DBA means “doing business as…” See the requirements for your state.
- Online Business Names: Consider these tips to maximize your online presence with the right name.
Choosing a business structure
- Legal Structures: How will you legally structure your new business?
- Sole, Partner, or Corporation? An overview about sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporate legal entities.
Protecting your business and ideas
- Protecting Through Trademarks: Protecting your business brand identity and name through the use of trademarks.
- Intellectual Property Rights: Understanding what they are and how to protect them.
Getting business licenses and permits
- County Clerks by State: Most business and permits require a visit to your local county clerk. Find out where you need to go and who you have to see to get your business license or permit.
- Occupations Requiring Licenses: Search by state for occupational licensing requirements.
Picking a business location
- Location Checklist: Considerations from zoning to accessibility are paramount in choosing a location for your business.
- Location, Location, Location: What are your unique business needs and how do they translate into your choice of location?
- Rent or Buy? Government options (GSA) regarding the pros and cons of leasing equipment or buying it.
- Section 179 Equipment Cost Calculator: Use this deduction calculator to determine if leasing or buying equipment is the best decision for your business.
MANAGING YOUR BUSINESS
Decisions, decisions, decisions. Your life has suddenly been flooded with them. Many affecting your business trickle down into your private life, depending on how intimately they are intertwined. Leading your business is not for the faint of heart. Your choices affect others, yourself, your family, and your company. Managing means utilizing all the tools at your disposal to make informed, solid business decisions.
Being a business leader
- Entrepreneurial Traits: Do you have what it takes to lead your own business?
- U.S. Business Leadership Network: Best practices disability leadership for businesses.
Making business decisions
- Process Mapping: Using a process map flowchart can help diagram business processes and facilitate greater understanding of what is involved in the process in order to make better decisions.
- Leadership Decision Making: Extensive resource aiding leaders to make decisions affecting both private and business life.
- Hiring Employees: The first step in managing employees is to hire the best ones.
- Performance Management: Guide to managing employee performance. Includes a performance management toolkit.
Marketing your business
- Marketing the Home-Based Business: Who’s your market? How to make your product or service known to that market.
- Marketing and Business Models on the Web
Paying taxes on your business
- General Tax Information: Learn about tax forms, if you need employer ID numbers, and how to proceed as an entrepreneur no matter if you have a sole proprietorship or a corporation.
- Federal Taxes: What the small business owner needs to know about what constitutes a business and the taxes involved, including a tax schedule.
Getting business insurance
- Insurance Guide: Determining what kind of insurance you need, selecting the type of insurance required by state law as well as pertaining to the particular needs of the business, and buying it.
- Surety Bonds: The Office of Surety Guarantees has applicant forms online and information about how to utilize the Small Business Administration’s bond resources.
Handling legal concerns
- Americans with Disabilities Act: What it is and what you need to know as a small business owner for compliance.
- Securities and Exchange Commission: Information for small companies, FAQ, forms, regulations.
Advancing your business
- Growing Your Small Business: Twenty-point checklist that rates questions from one to five. Email your score for a free interpretation.
Using business technology
- Computer Networks: What are the differences between a local and a wide area network?
- Doing Business on the Net: List of general business resources pertaining to using the Internet for your business.
Improving business finance
- Small Business Loans: SBA application forms, checklists, and a searchable loan/grant tool.
- Grants or Loans? Which one is best for you? Includes reports on microloans and other small business loans.
Once you’ve built your business and accomplished your goals, you may want to get out and do something else. So you have to plan your exit just the way you’ve planned your business. This depends on the reasons for leaving it. Just ready to sell outright? Transfer ownership to another individual or company? Or do you need to liquidate your assets and move on or file bankruptcy? How will you close officially? It is part of your company’s lifecycle: planning, starting, managing, and staying or exiting. The decisions are yours.