There are 23 million small businesses in the U.S., which contribute more and more jobs to the market each day, serving as a—if not the—crux of our economy and backbone of our society. It’s no surprise that many Americans feel the itch to start a business, but for most of us, the everyday just gets in the way. Daily pressures can outweigh long-term dreams, especially when those pressures come in the form of a clogged toilet, a stolen credit card, or any of the other endless, occasionally amusing ways life can interfere with life.
But as a small business owner, work becomes incredibly rewarding, particularly when you can see the imprint of your efforts on every subsequent success. As the U.S. Small Business Administration reports, while corporations have cut out 4 million jobs since 1990, small businesses have countered by creating an upward of 8 million new ones. These businesses have fostered growth despite trying times—if you’re ready to join in that effort, and have the motivation and perseverance to do it, here are some tips on how to go about it best.
1. Brainstorm Once you’ve developed a core idea for your business, begin focusing on the “potentials.” Potential problems, potential needs, potential add-ons for service & product. This helps you map out success beyond the immediate future by predicting where things could go next. It’s always best to look beyond when you’re planning for now.
2. Write It Down Putting together a business plan is key. It means you’re serious and have a documented path. According to the U.S. SBA, it should include the executive summary, an in-depth company description (including structural info), market analysis, financial projections, and marketing & sales strategies. Templates are a great option for this—Entrepreneur has a free selection, and you can find many online.
3. Find Resources Start-up funds, tools, space, and manpower: every new company has or needs them. Identify all the resources required before diving in. Find a location, when necessary, hire a small crew, and make sure crucial supplies are accounted for. Keep track of every expense, and get a good grasp on what’s tax deductible and what’s not.
4. Market It Set up social media accounts early—it’s the quickest and most inexpensive form of marketing, and you can easily hassle friends & family for likes before you have an established following. But be mindful of your presence. Carve out a marketing plan from the start, and follow through with a front-end website, business cards, launch events, and branding (logos, letterhead, etc.).
5. Figure Out Finances It’s crucial to cover your bases here. Set up your accounts payable, bookkeeping, and taxes as soon as possible. You can run into trouble with your finances—and worse, the IRS—if you don’t have everything straight. Set up your business as a limited liability or an S Corp (depending on the type; research this and get advice if needed), and use bookkeeping software like GoDaddy, Mint or Quickbooks. It may be beneficial to hire someone with payroll and accounting experience to handle your books, and ensure you’re following every tax regulation.
6. Mind the Mundane As the head of a business, you have a lot on your plate, but as mom always said at dinner, “Clear it.” Keeping up on the many moving parts is essential to staying above water. This means regular check-ups on payroll, inventory, social media, human resources, etc. Make a list and stick to it.
7. Keep Reaching Having constant goals encourages continued success and ups motivation. Always keep tabs on competition and request feedback from clients and staff alike. Present actionable challenges for employees to aim for, and reinforce that by setting your own broader goals.