Staring a new business can be a daunting task. The following list, while not comprehensive, aims to hit many of the high points in the startup process.
• DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS IDEA? You may already have a specific business idea that you feel strongly about. If not, reviewing your work history, hobbies and interests could help in identifying your ideal business. Look for something you feel passionately about and that has the potential to generate profits. The next link, although written with college students in mind, offers a useful template for anyone interested in coming up with business concepts. http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/moyes/ html/resources/Idea%20Exercise.pdf.
• LOOK OBJECTIVELY AT YOUR SKILL SET. Operating a business requires a range of talents. Some of the major talents needed include:
a. Technical to produce your product or service. If you are planning to open a restaurant, are you well qualified as a chef? Similarly, for a consulting business, expertise in the targeted field is necessary.
b. Managerial to plan, prioritize tasks, set timelines, measure progress and motivate employees.
c. Financial to stay on top of your firm’s books, monitor cash flow and budget prudently.
d. Marketing to develop a strategy, generate customer leads, maximize customer service and close sales.
Rarely is an entrepreneur strong in all these areas. Carefully evaluate your current skills to determine training needs. You will need experts, either employees or outside professionals, to fill-in any remaining skills gaps.
• EXPAND YOUR SKILL SET. Frequently, the best way to develop the technical abilities required in your chosen business is to work as an employee for a company in the same field. Taking classes, which are available from a range of training providers, can enhance management and marketing skills. Start by checking out the upcoming workshops hosted by your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). In Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties, the SBDC website is: http://www.alliancesbdc.com.
• CONFER WITH A BUSINESS CONSULTANT. In addition to workshops on a range of topics (including starting with business), the Alliance SBDC offers one-on-one business counseling. Visit the website for more information, or call (209) 567-4910. http://www.alliancesbdc.com.
• DEVELOP A BUSINESS PLAN. If your business idea seems promising and you plan to proceed, it is important to develop a business plan. The plan should spell out your goals for the business and how you will reach them. Many items can be included in a plan, starting with an executive summary. Some other elements include:
a. Product or Service describes what you will bring to the marketplace.
b. Structure identifies the business’ form: corporation, partnership, limited partnership.
c. Operations is a review of the daily functions of the business, supply sources, hours of business, etc.
d. Accounting describes your bookkeeping and financial tracking system.
e. Insurance categorizes the policies you will need for the business.
f. Management covers the talents of the business owner(s) and team.
g. Location identifies where you plan to locate the business.
h. Market Analysis reviews the opportunity you see, competition and more.
i. Marketing Strategy deals with your approach to attracting customers.
j. Financial shows how much money the business needs to startup, what the sources of funds are, and goes on to project what the fiscal future of the enterprise is expected to look like.
The business plan is an essential tool that will save you both time and money down the road. It is instrumental in helping you determining your state of readiness for launching your business and the viability of your concept. The Alliance SBDC has assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs with their planning process, at no cost. Visit the SBDC website to view a variety of the documents related to business planning. http://www.alliancesbdc.com/docs/ business-planning.
Another Alliance department, the Business Resource Center (BRC), can assist you with industry reports and other research in support of your business planning efforts. http://www.stanalliance.com/indexes/ index-brc.php.
• REGISTER THE BUSINESS AND OBTAIN NEEDED PERMITS. If you have done your homework and established the viability of the concept, it may be time to launch your business. If so, you will need to register with a variety of governmental agencies. Some of the steps in this process include registering your business name, getting a business license, obtaining any special permitting (if needed) and much more. The Alliance BRC can help guide you through this process. Other resources include:
Business Registration Process flowchart http://www.stanalliance.com/documents/publications/
CalGold is a state of California site that lists licensing agencies by business type. http://www.calgold.ca.gov.
*Source: Alliance, www.stanalliance.com.