When you order a cup of coffee, the transaction is usually a straightforward one. You order, pay, and wait until your order is ready. Simple! However, a business owner like yourself sees the end result of a process that’s well beyond what the consumer experiences. Lifting the veil behind that simple transaction will reveal the coffee beans, the employee, the cup, and so much more – all of which came from different places and wound up together as a result of a premeditated plan. And this is still only a fraction of the bigger picture.
Before you sell your first coffee (so to speak), there’s a world of pre-planning that a business owner must accomplish first. Whether you’re just starting to create your website or are in the midst of making your fledgling idea a reality, we’ve compiled this guide to make sure you have your boxes checked, t’s crossed and i’s dotted.
Let’s discover the steps of how to successfully start your own business:
01. Define your goals and objectives
Before you run with the big dogs, swim with the big fish (or any other positive affirmation that is usually associated with success), you need to start at the ground floor. Your business begins with an idea and that idea needs to evolve before any other actions are taken. The first thing you want to ask yourself is: “what do I want to achieve?” At the end of the day, what is it that will make you feel like you’ve accomplished the small idea you started out with? It’s imperative to define these goals early on and return to them often, as they can help steady your balance if you begin to veer off track. It’s also important to be creative and ambitious, while retaining an overall practical and realistic view. Sound hard? Well, it is. Far too often do small business set lofty, unrealistic goals that result in either a missed projected goal, disappointed investors, or a combination of the two. It’s imperative to look at the bigger picture and realize that some of those unrealistic goals you have, while great, may be better suited to be pushed further down on your timeline. Find reasonable, attainable goals that will solidify a successful launching point.
02. Do your market research
Researching the market you’ll soon find yourself in the middle of is crucial. As serious as it may be, the good thing is you probably have some genuine interest in the market so your process may be more fun and educational. Learn everything you possibly can about the industry without having to physically do it (yet). Take courses, read books, watch or listen to interviews with influencers. Make this a daily priority for yourself. The more you know about your market, the more confident you will become, the more you will be a force to be reckoned with.
Once you know your market, the next major step is to familiarize yourself with something that is almost more important: your customer. At this point, you should already have some idea of what your target market is like, but it’s time to take a deep dive into their world and learn their behaviors in any way you possibly can. From general customer behavior analytics to more specific research of your market, there’s plenty you can learn about the people who will be interacting with your business before you officially launch.
Not to rain on your parade, but unless your business idea is uber-unique, someone, somewhere is probably already doing what you’re doing – or something very similar. The trick is to know your competition and see how they operate. If you’re offering a seemingly identical service in the eyes of your customers, there’s still a good chance that they’ll do business with the older company that already has its footing than your newer one. However, this won’t always be the case and if you’re the new kid on the block, you have a distinct advantage. What’s that you ask? Well, your business can adapt to the existing market landscape out of the gate, offering features and services that may have taken your competition a long time to offer. This may leave you at a neck and neck race, but it will also give you the opportunity to adapt your services into something better, up-to-date, and wholly your business to stand out to your customers.
03. Talk, talk, talk about it
You’re going to be doing a lot of talking when starting your business, and that’s a good thing. From its inception, you should begin to talk up what you’ve been cooking. Voicing what you’ve planned not only makes it more concrete to yourself and others, but it can also motivate you to not procrastinate on pressing tasks. This is also a great learning experience for you. By telling others, you can get invaluable feedback that you may have completely overlooked. After your business is launched, expect to be the only cheerleader on the sidelines – and own it. You may be surprised about the potential hidden business opportunities that will only be revealed if you just speak up about it at a party, with friends or neighbors.
Talking implies that you come prepared. Two crucial items are necessary at this stage. The first one is your business plan. After you’ve set your goals and visualized what you want to accomplish with your fledgling business, you’ll want to construct a business plan to sum it all up. The mind of a business owner can run a mile a minute, so your business plan can be used not only to attract potential partners, investors and banks, but also to help you realize that it is the beginning of something very real to keep you grounded and focused. The second one is perfecting your elevator pitch. You have to know how to sell your brand in a short, clever and enticing speech. Think of it as a quick answer to the question, “What do you do?” phrased in a way that will make any listener excited to learn more about you.
04. Give your idea a test run
Don’t even think you can take your business into the market without putting the proper testing behind it. A silly bug or simple mistake can be the difference between a stellar and disastrous launch. Your job is to to make the latter possibility almost impossible. Regardless if you’re providing a service or a product, test it with your friends and others you know in order to get a feel for how the experience will be for your customer. Be sure to either record or take extensive notes so you can return to them. Ask for feedback and hear what your friends have to say about what could have made the experience a more pleasant one. Take this data and try to improve what you have to offer.
05. Take care of the administrative formalities
Here’s the not so fun stuff.
Nothing is going to tear your dreams away faster than a “Do not pass go” notification by a legal entity. When creating your business, you most certainly want to know if it’s legal to pursue. Patents and other legal restrictions can hold back even the most ambitiously beautiful ideas, so do your homework. Many small businesses become LLCs (limited liability company) due to the protections in place for them, but you and any legal counsel should choose what will be the right fit for you. In addition to this, you will also need to apply for any required licenses for your business to legally operate. The number and types of licenses will depend on where you live and what type of business you are trying to start.
06. Make sure you have enough money in your pocket
Unless you can spin your dreams into gold, you’re going to need money to fund it. This can, of course, come from other parties interested in your business. You’d be surprised at the wealth of options available to you. For the young entrepreneur, funding for your business can come in the form of a bank, fund, state or national institutions, and more. However, before you waltz into a bank, expecting to walk out with a business credit line, be sure to arrive prepared. Do your research and see what materials are needed in order to apply. Another avenue you might want to consider is an investor, which will front a certain amount of funds to you for something in return from your company. Usually, this comes in the form of taking a percentage of your business’ profit.
07. Choose the right partner or fly solo
This (ad)venture can go two ways. Are you like Indiana Jones, who only needs a lasso and a machete or are you more like the Goonies, exploring the world with your best partners in crime? The choice is yours. There are benefits (and disadvantages) regardless of which way you choose. If you choose to go solo, you answer to no one and hold the gavel for your business. You bend only to your customers and it’s a more powerful yet lonely path. Don’t be afraid to invest some money in outsourcing tasks that would cost you too much time to learn or do yourself. You want to be efficient, so know where your worth lies.
With a business partner you have another person to bounce ideas off of and help you along the way. Look for a partner with strengths that you don’t specialize in. You certainly don’t need two lawyers in the first stages of your adventure – unless you’re called Ally McBeal, obviously. Much like a romantic relationship, partnerships can go wrong but you can’t just “break up” in a business. You’re signed into an agreement and if tensions rise, you’ll need to work them out together… or legally. When choosing a partner, you should also make sure that you both have the same mindset going in. Mainly it’s understood how much dedication it will require on each of your parts. The last type of partner you want is one that ends up being like a lazy roommate, leaving you to do the grunt work.
08. Create your logo and other branding assets
Your logo will be one of the most memorable parts of your business, so make sure you get it right. Luckily for you, you don’t need to be a graphic designer to create a logo that fits. The Wix Logo Maker will let you create one in a snap! Make sure all your other assets are aligned. Your slogan, website color palette, business cards and more should match your brand’s style. Elements like colors and fonts can literally speak more than just words, so make sure that the font you choose stays consistent across your brand’s social channels, website, and other marketing materials.
09. Keep interested parties informed with your website
Until you’ve officially launched your business, you will need interested parties to be kept up to date somewhere and that should most definitely be on your website. This will be the foundation of your online presence, the base from where you’ll spread your message. You need a website that is as professional and appealing as you are (don’t blush, you deserve it!) Start by signing in to the most complete and renowned website builder. It will only take you seconds with your email or Facebook account. Then, pick one of the stunning free templates designed for all kinds of businesses – from a yoga studio to a pop-up fashion store. This guide will tell you everything you need in order to create a stunning professional website for your business.
In the early stages, as you want to build your first database of potential customers, a must-have for your website is a sign-up form. This will allow interested parties to add their email address so that they can receive your newsletters when you’d like to share an update. You’ll also want to add a direct contact form, as there may be some queries or potential business partners who want to talk business with you. The cherry on top: make sure your website is SEO ready-to-go! With the Wix SEO Wiz, you’ll be geared up and ready to be found on search engines. This is essential for organic growth and visibility which will happen over time. Still, it’s better to be prepared.
10. Spread the word online
You want your business to make an impact on your target market ASAP, and sometimes that can be done in ways outside of commercial success. Show your know-how by starting a blog on your website. Talk about your industry and establish yourself as an expert in your field. Blogging regularly can help drive traffic to your website and improve your SEO. Keep your subscribers up to date with newsletters about your business. Whether it’s a launch party, a product availability update or even a new blog post, email marketing is an incredibly powerful tool to get and retain attention. You guessed it, Wix also has you covered on this front. Wix Email Marketing is an incredibly easy to use tool in order to create gorgeous newsletters that are ready to send to your subscribers in no time.
11. Get social to build buzz around your biz
Ready to kick up the attention of your business a notch? It’s time to take advantage of social media and its powerful tools. You’ll want to create dedicated social media accounts for your business so that they don’t interfere with your personal accounts. Harness any social media contacts you may already have and begin engaging with them. It’s also a good idea to find anyone you’ve met during any networking events you may have attended and begin ‘following’ them. Slowly but surely build up a community with people in the industry or who are interested in your business. Although posting GIFs of cats dancing the Macarena looks like a no-brainer, being active on social media is slightly more complicated than that. Here are a couple of tips for some of the major social networks:
Facebook: The world’s largest social network, full stop. Host Facebook Live streaming events to get attention and take the viewers into the inner-workings of your business. With so many features to boost your brand, Facebook should be your first place to set up (social) shop.
Twitter: A stream of consciousness rather than a social network, Twitter is a great place to connect with people in real-time. Create your own unique hashtag so that your following can keep up with your every move and update.
Instagram: With more than 25 million active businesses, Instagram is a must-have for any biz. It’s the social network for your eyes as Instagram allows you to visually tell your story and literally “show” rather than tell. With an influx of new features to help your business grow there’s no reason not to take advantage of this nifty tool.
12. List your business
While it may seem terribly “analog” listing your business in local directories can be very helpful. Adding your business to business directories is not only crucial for local SEO, but it also helps get more links to your website out on the internet, allowing you to be found more easily. Don’t overthink this step and go for the most general online directories you can find, as it’s where most people will look first. Of course, if you happen to come across a specific directory for your industry, put it at the front of the line.
13. Think long-term
It’s easy to get caught up in the creation of your business (empire). Still, it’s important to think long-term. There’s a famous quote by a musician saying that it’s better to burn out than fade away. When it comes to your business, naturally you want it to thrive, but you should intend on going at it for the long haul and becoming a red dwarf rather than a star who blew up before it’s time. Food for thought: Focus on progressively growing your business without overstretching it (or yourself) instead of trying to get rich quick. In that way, you won’t need to worry about burning out.
14. Grow with your business
Falling in line with the previous section, it’s imperative that you and your business remain flexible in your environment. (What happens to things that don’t bend?) At some point, you may look back at the business plan you created and decide that it’s time to redefine your goals, and this is a great idea. What was once just an idea that has materialized needs reassessment. Once you define a new set of goals, make sure that everything else aligns with them. If your changes are drastic, it could be time for a facelift of your website, logo and other visual branding designs as well as to signify the change throughout.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. If you played it safe this entire time, you were probably dull long before you thought to change. Failing in a well-executed effort isn’t a bad thing if you learned a lesson from it. Several successful entrepreneurs had to fail before they got where they are today. Consider it a part of the ride.