What an exciting feeling you must be having at this time. You have finally made the choice to "chuck it all" and go into business for yourself. You dream of the freedom from your unreasonable boss and the wonderful feeling of writing your own paycheck. It's a lifelong journey that has to start at the first step - the very beginning.
It is my goal to take everything all those books say and boil it down to a real action plan that is a simple as it can be. Basically making it like a recipe. You really don't need all that filler; you just need to know how to get started. A bunch of fluff isn't going to help; in fact it slows you down. Instead of reading, you should be doing!
This section will be those most difficult first steps of just getting started. Effectively launching your business and then growing it for success are their own unique steps in the future. For now, I'll have to assume you have an idea already and have researched it enough to know that it is a good idea and has a bunch of customers clamoring for your product or service. Please be sure you have a good quality product and/or superior service. You are not trying to make a quick buck; you want to have a business that lasts.
I also have to assume that you already have some sort of support network in place, trusted friends, professional advisors like accountants and/or lawyers, and a maybe a mentor with excellent opinions. If you don't have them, you can pick them up along the way. But you'll need them all at some point.
You probably want to know what qualifies me for writing about this. Academically, I have an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing. Professionally, I have been a consultant for many entrepreneurs, I worked at a home business franchise company for several years, and I have a few successful entrepreneurial ventures of my own. I even helped my own family launch a very successful online business selling premium pashmina and cashmere products. I'm not a super rich entrepreneur, but I'm successful and happy. My key expertise is online ecommerce, but the following ideas are relevant to starting any type of business.
How to Establish Your Business
This first part is really what most people don't know how to do. It's the fundamental process of actually setting up the business. All the good ideas in the world have to start at the beginning. It's not the fun part, but it has to be done.
It may seem elementary to you, but why haven't you done it yet?
So, let's start from the start.
1) Giving Your Business a Name
Your business' name is important. It is your customers' first impression and your public identity. You probably want to choose a name that is professional, but also may hold some meaning to you and your potential customers. My personal and professional opinion is to not get too elaborate with your name. Make it simple and direct so you don't have to waste a lot of time branding or explaining to your customer just what it is you do or sell.
For example, for my family's business selling pashmina products, we decided to go with The Pashmina Store. There is no question what the business is. Simple and direct...and the URL was available (which is very important).
Most people have a desire to name their business after themselves, using something like their family name, their first name, or their initials. This is a perfectly acceptable; as long as you get the idea across about what it is you are selling. For example, if you are selling raincoats and your name is Smith, you may call your business Smith's Raincoats or even Raincoats by Smith.
Take the time you need to select on a business name that you're happy with, says what you do, and has a good URL for a website. You should run your name choices by your friends and family to gauge their reaction and to get their thoughts.
2) Register Your URL
I know, you just decided on a name and have nothing close to a legal business yet. But I suggest snapping up the best available URL (or web addresses) as soon as you can. In this day and age, your website and the URL will be a large part of you business identity. It will also be the source of your email addresses, so getting a good URL matters. We were lucky enough to get http://www.thepashminastore.com for the pashmina and cashmere business, I hope you are as fortunate for your venture.
It is best to investigate available URLs even as you decide on a company name. Try to get the URL of your exact business name, or as close as possible. I suggest getting a ".com" rather than ".net" or other since that is what most people know.
You can research names and register at websites such as Register.com and GoDaddy.com. There is a small fee, but it is worth it if you are serious about your business. These two services even will help you inexpensively set up and host a website and email service.
3) Your Business' Legal Organization
Next, you will have to determine what legal structure is best for your new business. Early in a business' life, a sole proprietorship is most common. However, it is beneficial to know the different types of legal business structures before you decide for certain. You'll need to know all about them as you grow, in any event.
You'll most likely want to discuss the options with your accountant and/or attorney as well. To get you started, here are the three most common forms of business.