Taking your entrepreneurial passion to the next level is an exciting proposition, but it can also be daunting. Starting a business involves strategic planning, a deep understanding of your market, completing a series of legal activities, and quite frankly, a little moxie. If you’re ready for the next step, here are a few critical factors for you to consider prior to making the leap.
Create a Strategic Plan
This is the fun part. It’s the opportunity to look at your achievements to date and start mapping out the future for the next one to five years. It all starts with a magical business plan that will identify everything from the size of your market to finding the best talent to accelerate your growth. Think of this document as a “How to Guide”. The major components include:
- Executive Summary – This is your elevator pitch. Can you quickly grab someone and get them excited about your business? Whether you are a potential customer or investor, you should be moved by this section.
- Company Description – Be specific. Who are you and what do you do or make?
- Market Analysis – Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. It’s essential for you to research your business industry, market and competitors.
- Organization & Management – Talent, culture and dependencies. Do you have the team in place, or will you be dependent on finding the right sales manager?
- Service or Product Line – Get more specific. How do you make your product? What’s the technological advantage and product life cycle?
- Marketing & Sales – Every business needs a customer. Who is your customer and how will they know about you and ultimately buy from you?
- Financial Projections – Include your current performance and indicate funding needs and financial projections based on a specific scenario. Don’t forget to include both best and worst case alternatives to the situation you present.
Ask for Help
You will have a lot of questions when you first start out on this journey. The first step is to find a mentor and/or an organization that can help you navigate through the legal and financial obstacles. Many experienced individuals will provide mentoring and guidance for free, so you just need to identify them and ask for help. There are many organizations that also offer classes for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. You can begin your search with your local chamber of commerce, research your town/state’s economic development group, or even contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) which has an office in each state. These resources often have lists of organizations and groups that specialize in assisting start-up businesses. You can also reach out to your local community bank, since they know many local resources and are always looking to identify new prospects, especially those they may have a strong financial future.
Strive to create flexible processes that can scale with you. Be sure to look at your current needs and then three and five years out as well. You will need to find the right balance of growth and structure and avoid being overwhelmed by too many processes, legal hoops and financial constraints. In other words, if you’ve found success as a start-up, put the same amount of passion and risk tolerance into creating your small business. Ultimately, you need to get your idea on paper, seek out industry experts, and make the leap. You can always adjust as you move forward, but you can’t if you remain still.