*Visit this site often for updates. I will be adding more helpful links soon for each step!
According to a recent survey, 53% of American adults have considered starting their own business (Click here for 55 business ideas that are less than $5,000). Not surprisingly however, only 7.8% of Americans are business owners! Why the big difference? There are a variety of reasons such as, money, time, lack of ideas, and it seems difficult to start a business. So what is the best way to start a SMART Business?
Starting one is actually very easy, anyone can do it! Maintaining and growing that business is much harder. With the job market still volatile, many people want to (or are forced to) take the plunge to follow their entrepreneurial spirit and start a business. Click here for my podcast with Steve Forbes on becoming a successful businessperson.
Here are some tips regardless of where you are in life: getting out of school, in the corporate world, unemployed, or between jobs. Check back frequently as I continue to update this resource!
Best Steps to Start A Business
- Select Your Business Idea! You can have everything lined up, money, location, social media, but if you don’t have a good idea that can be monetized to make money, it won’t matter. It is important to provide a product or service that people want and have a demand for. But even more importantly you want it to match what I call your 5 P’s of Your Purpose and Profession. (Click here for 55 business ideas that are less than $5,000)
- Personality – We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Our business idea should try to play to our strengths as much as possible. If you are an introvert and don’t like speaking in large crowds, becoming a motivational speaker may not be for you. But if you like crunching numbers, are good at paying attention to deals, going into accounting or bookkeeping may be right for you. You will be far more effective if you use your strengths. Click here to take a personality test that can help you find them!
- Passion – A mentor of mine described that passion is anything you feel guilty for being paid to do because you love doing it so much. You want to come work excited to do the work. As I mentioned, maintaining and growing a business is the toughest part, and it will take a great deal of time and resources. Most people leave their current job because they disliked what they were doing. Don’t trade one dislike for another. Choose something you are passionate about and love doing.
- Pre-eminent – You want to add value. In order to do that you have to be better than others in your business idea. Whether it be providing a service: cutting hair, consulting, mobile pet grooming/sitting, etc. or providing products: online store, car parts, etc., you need to stand out. Competition is tough and you have to set yourself apart in order to be successful. Others can be good, but you have to be great.
- Profitable – Your idea needs to make money! Unless you are running a charity, you need to be economically viable to survive the ups and downs of the economy. You will need to figure out your fixed costs, variable costs, costs of goods and subtract that from your revenue or sale price (based on market demand) of your product and service. If it is going to be negative, move on unless you think you have a good plan to change it quickly.
- Pleasing – Whether it be your values, laws, or your purpose, you want to be aligned with them. This helps give you boundaries, and what we say in the military your “right and left limits.” This helps you be focused and calibrate towards your true purpose. Oftentimes we can be side-tracked as time passes. You want your profession to also be pleasing to your spiritual life, faith, and other priorities that are more important than money!
- Write a Business Plan. Once you have your idea, you will need to write out a roadmap that will lead to business success. This is a document that you constantly update and come back to. It projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines what you need to do to maintain and grow your business. A good business plan will have:
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- Market Analysis and Opportunity
- Industry and Competition Analysis and Opportunity – Click here to see free web analytic tools that can help you monitor your competition as well as your own site!
- Organization and Management Team
- Operational Plan/Business Model
- Service or Product Line
- Marketing and Sales
- Financing and Funding Resources
- Financial Projections and Performance
- S.W.O.T Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Other Threats
- Any Appendices and Supporting Documents
- Create your Business Name – This is important since this is how people will remember you by. You want it to be simple yet elegant and also “sticky” so people remember it. Make sure someone else doesn’t already have the name either. You can go to copyright.gov to see if anyone else has it. Also check to see if your idea is patented or trademarked.
- Setup Your Legal Entity – You want to decide which form of ownership is right for you. This is extremely important for legal liability protection, tax structure, funding and investments, reporting requirements and other important reasons. I recommend using LegalZoom to setup a business. They have a wizard that you can use to help you decide. The most common are:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)
- General Partnership
- Limited Partnership
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Setup your Tax Identification Numbers – You will need to get a tax ID from the IRS and also your state tax agency. You can get your federal one online and most states offer the same service.
- Get Licenses, Permits, and other Local Registrations – Get the necessary licenses and permits from your state based on your business industry. Also make sure you get the necessary permits if you plan on doing business in other states too. Most of this can be done online! If you have employees, you will also have to get a department of labor number as well. Visit your state’s department of commerce site for more information.
- Financing – How will you fund your business? A popular way is to bootstrap, where you reinvest your profits to be self-sustaining and get minimal money elsewhere. Here are the most common ways to fund your business:
- Your own savings
- Family and Friends
- Loans, Lines of Credit and credit cards
- Venture Capital
- Incubators and Accelerators
- Angel Investors
- Grants and Competition
- Setup an Online Presence – Online branding is crucial for any business, digital or brick and mortar. Here are some things you want to do. Click here to see the top resources I recommend to get started.
- Buy the domain name of your business name and create a website. It is worth investing in a good website. There are many services that can offer this for free or very inexpensive but are good quality. This is your first impression so take the time to do this well. I use wordpress for my sites. I also use leadpages to build my opt-in pages. Having a good opt-in or squeeze page is important to get visitors in your sales funnel.
- Setup your email with your domain name. If you use a gmail, hotmail, aol, etc account as your business address, it doesn’t give you credibility. Using a business email is easy and you can forward to your personal email for convenience. You will also need to get a hosting service for your website. I recommend A2, the company has great customer service and very reliable.
- Use an email service to send out broadcast, follow-up emails (autoresponders), and collect email addresses. This is crucial to growth and getting a captive audience for your product or service. I recommend Aweber, easy to use, and the features are very robust for growing your business.
- If you are looking to setup an ecommerce site, I used shopify to build my ecommerce sites. It was extremely easy and intuitive to use. I was able to upload products and use shopify to complete the transaction within a few minutes.
- Setup your social media accounts
- Google +
- Setup the Right Partners – This is extremely important. You don’t want to skimp out on finding good help to get your business started or you will pay for it in the long run. If money is tight in the beginning, you can outsource to some people, find volunteers/interns, or bring on partners. If you do bring on a partner, make sure it is a good fit. I learned the hard way in not choosing the right partner. The only saving grace was that I had a good operating agreement that outlined what would happen if things didn’t work out. Make sure you pick partners that can add value, not just take away. I have seen a lot of family and friends broken up because of bad business deals. If you can pick the right partners, the right outsourcing help, and have the right system to keep everyone accountable, it will pay off! Here are some partners or outsourcing help you may need to find:
- Marketing and Sales
- Graphic Design
- Get Started! Now that you have the basic steps complete, you will need to make sales to make money. There is no way around that. Even charities that want to stay alive need to get some sort of revenue. The question because when you will officially launch full-time if you are currently with your job. Here are different types of work you can do until you feel comfortable quitting a full-time job if you have one:
- Intrapreneur: Be an entrepreneur within your current company
- Sidepreneur: Work on the side after work until you get it built up enough. Be careful to not get caught if your boss doesn’t know about it! Also make sure it doesn’t compromise your work quality in your current job.
- Entrepreneur: Start out now and take the risk! Remember to create value, make life better, solve problems, and be ambitious. You will succeed as long as you never give up! Also remember that sometimes failure is a stepping stone to success. Pick yourself back up and continue to be resilient!
Here are some more valuable links below to help you start or grow your SMART Business. Many of these resources are mine, come from government programs, non-profits, educational institutions, and reference organizations online. It is a lot to handle at once, and it can be overwhelming. I chose each for its quality and usefulness in helping you start and grow a business.
The best way to approach the training below, is to prioritize your needs on what you need to move forward or brush up on. Just take it one step at a time. Set aside the time to do them! I know many who know what they need to do but never get around to it because they don’t have the time.
You will have the time if you schedule it and stick to it. After you go through it, implement it! There is nothing worse than gaining all the knowledge you need but never using it! Don’t be afraid to do it! Make sure you evaluate what you learned and it fits what you need. Don’t force anything.
If you have other training materials that you think should be on here, please let me know! Also if you have any requests for a subject, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Starting a business isn’t easy, and clearly for many people it can be a risky path to take. Concerns range from worrying about being able to get financing and money; not having the skills, expertise, or knowledge to start; and not knowing how to run a business. But for those with great ideas and a passion to be their own boss (and employment generator), there is plenty of help as part of your membership.
In addition, there are online and small business assistance centers throughout the country, such as the SBA and its partners who offer a variety of tools, programs and resources to help entrepreneurs plan, start and grow their businesses.
Check back frequently as I update this information!
- My Own Business – A Free extensive 16-part online course on starting and growing a business
- Free Online Course – Young Entrepreneurs: An Essential Guide to Starting your Own Business – The SBA has created a self-paced training course to walk you through the steps of starting a business. It includes tips on doing your research, deciding on a business model, understanding financing options for young entrepreneurs and six “must-do’s” for getting started.
- 10 Steps to Starting a Business
- 10 Steps to Hiring your First Employee
- Licenses and Permits Search Tool
- SizeUp – How does your business stack up against the competition? Where are your competitors located? What are the best places to market your business? Use SBA’stool to crunch millions of data points and get customizable reports and statistics about your business and its competition. Just enter your industry, city, state and other details. SizeUp then runs various reports and provides maps and data related to your competition, suppliers and customers. It also highlights potential advertising opportunities.
- Build a Business Plan
- The Student Startup Plan – Defer your Student Loan if it is holding you have from starting your own business (through the White House-led Startup America initiative) enables college graduates, including those looking to start a business, to lower student loan repayments.
Get Help and Mentorship
- SCORE – The Service Corp of Retired Executives can pair you with a mentor for general business guidance or help in specific areas such as finance and marketing.
- Small Business Local Assistance Resource Directory – Local Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and other organizations also offer counseling, training and assistance.
- Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Locater
- Events Calendar – Find and sign up for SBA training in your area
- Size Standards Tool – Want to sell to the government? Uncle Sam is one of the largest buyers in the world! Use this tool to see if you qualify for special set-aside contracts for small businesses
- 8 Things you Can Do to Be Taken Seriously as a Young Entrepreneur
- Young Entrepreneur Guide – SBA has a one-stop portal that brings together business resources and much more.
General Business Management
- SBA Free Online Courses
- Aboutcom Small Business – Numerous articles providing helpful tips, resources, and information on starting, running, growing, buying and selling a small business.
- AboutU – Several free online business courses.
- SmallBizU – This site offers several great classes on money, management, and marketing.
- Kutztown University Online Learning Programs – Choose from a variety of free online courses in several topics ranging from accounting, business management, legal issues, and international business. There are also courses offered in Spanish.
- State of Maine Small Business Development Center – Participate in several free online workshops created specifically for current and new small business owners and entrepreneurs. There are quizzes at the end, and there is even an option to receive a certificate of completion.
- American Management Association – This site offers several hundred articles and white papers on various topics in business management.
- Free Management Library – This site hosts a vast storehouse of online articles and resources 15 years in the making. At the time of writing resources span 650 topics and approximately 10,000 links.
- Businessballs – A compilation of learning materials covering various topics from business management to self-development.
- Business Change Management Library – This site offers free online tutorials, assessment tools, webinars, and interviews on the process of change management.
- The OpenCourseWare Consortium – a global network of higher education institutions and associated organizations that offers a ” broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model.”
Business Finance and Accounting
- Bean Counting 101 – A free accounting course for non-accountants.
- Accounting Coach – Access several lessons on accounting for non-accountants, including quizzes to test your knowledge afterward.
- Simple Studies Online Accounting Lessons – Free online accounting lessons and tutorials for beginners.
- Financial Management Training Center – This site offers a series of short courses, with an accompanying exam as well as several informative articles in various financial management topics.
- IRS Small Business Video and Audio Workshops – Over the past few years the IRS has made an effort to educate the public about the complex and confusing abyss known as the US Tax Code. These video presentations and audio classes are designed to educate small business owners in particular about their tax rights and obligations.
- The Challenge – This is a well put together, module-based training program that will show you step-by-step how to market your business online.
- Principles of Modern Marketing – This site provides a free series of lessons in business marketing based on the book Marketing: The Core, 1/e; authored by Kerin, Hartley, Berkowitz, and Rudelius
- Free Marketing Interviews – An impressive collection of marketing strategy audio interviews from various marketing experts.
- Marketing Resources HubSpot – This site offers a collection of webinars, tools, and other resources on Internet marketing, SEO, blogging, social media and more.
- ShoeMoney Xtreme Internet Marketing – Course A free 12 week guide to Internet marketing delivered via email.
- HP Learning Center – HP’s online learning center provides several business courses mostly focused on using technology in business.
- Managing the Digital Enterprise – Michael Rappa, the founder of the Institute for Advanced Analytics, designed this course to address many of the issues facing companies operating in the digital age. The course is broken down into 15 modules with topics such as, Web Analytics, Digital Markets, Trust in Cyberspace, and Data Privacy.
Free MBA and Business Courses from Elite Universities
- MOOCs: Free Online Education With Elite Universities
- Free Management Library eMBA Courses
- London School of Business and Finance Global MBA – This innovative program offered by the London School of Business has the ambitious goal of providing “…a first-class MBA experience that allows students all over the world to study in their own time and at their own pace.” The entire accredited MBA course is available online for free. Learners can sign in via Facebook. Those who want certification can pay retroactively at the end.
- MIT Sloan School of Management – Take advantage of free online courses in various business-related topics.
- University of California Irvine – There are several business-related courses offered that are broken down into lessons and are open to guests. You can search for available courses (see the bottom of the page) on topics that include an intro to project management and the basics of business analysis.