Launching a business may be your lifelong dream. But before you go all-in, there are things you need to sort out first. Resist the urge to blindly forge ahead and, instead, take a moment to plan for your successful future.
Begin by contemplating your target audience. What are their pain points? What problem(s) do they have that your product or service could solve? Put yourself in the position of your customer to review all considerations. While you can’t know exactly what each of them needs, this is a great place to start.
Once you’ve identified your target customers’ potential needs, do some market research. Identify businesses already in the space you hope to enter and determine how you’ll differentiate your offering from theirs. Then figure out how you’ll price your product or service. You won’t last long if your cost to provide it is more than the market will bear.
While you may be eager to jump right in, careful and intentional planning now will benefit you in the long run. Check out these five tips before you get started on your new business venture.
1. Determine How You Will Register Your Business
Chances are, you’ve got a great idea for your product or service. But have you thought of how you will file your organization when it comes time to do paperwork?
Consider the benefits of filing for an LLC, doing business under your own name, or incorporating. There are advantages to each approach, but the important thing is to make the most informed choice for your situation. Check with a trusted tax advisor to determine which registration type is best for you.
Regardless of how you register your business, do yourself a favor and automate payroll from the get-go. When using payroll software for small businesses, you’ll never have to cut employee paychecks manually. With the self-service portals most payroll solutions offer, your new hires can even do much of their onboarding themselves. Given the ease of paycheck calculation and tax filing submission it enables, payroll software is a no-brainer for any small business employer.
2. Make Sure Your Brand Is On Point
You don’t have to have the most robust graphic design package to be successful. You do need to have a clear, discernible business name that your customers can immediately associate with your offering. Research competitors to ensure your name is not too similar before you commit to a brand package.
Develop a unique logo, color palette, and style in which to present yourself. You can develop your own brand package using affordable graphic design apps like Canva or Visme. Decide whether your offering is more formal or casual in nature. Your tone will imply certain things about your business to your customers and can help differentiate you in the market.
For example, a cyber security firm may want to strike a more formal note, as data protection is serious business. A home organizing service may be more casual and cheerful because the end product is a more serene, organized home. Think about your product or service offering and ensure your brand presentation matches up.
3. Review Your Potential Offering — and Then Trim It Down
When you’re in ideation mode, it can be so easy to get carried away with the potential your business holds. But too many service options can be overwhelming to your customer. When a customer has too many choices, it can cause decision paralysis.
Have you ever noticed how today’s fast-casual menus are relatively limited? While the restaurant is most likely trying to streamline its ingredient list, it is also appealing to the customer. Fewer choices mean less confusion about what to select.
The same principle can apply to your business. If you keep your product or service offerings limited, potential customers can choose what they want from you more easily. Plus, your fledgling business will be better able to deliver on a couple of well-defined product or service lines than dozens of them.
4. Develop a Network to Help You Stay Relevant
Your service or product may be unique to today’s market, but how will it fare five years from now? To avoid falling behind, develop a robust professional network in your field. Your network can help you stay on top of trends and remain nimble as your business grows.
Consider whether joining a professional association is appropriate for your company. Many professional groups put on regular conferences, send useful newsletters, and offer training. They help those in their field thrive together instead of focusing on competition.
The saying “A rising tide lifts all boats” is true here. Some professional association memberships can also boost the reputation of your organization. Your membership can bolster your professional standing and indicate that you’re keyed into emerging issues in your industry.
5. Start Collecting Data Points Now
Research should be a core component of your overall business strategy. While it may be obvious that you need to research your customers’ behaviors, you should also assess the impact of your own decisions. The best time to start building a bank of knowledge is at the very beginning of your company’s growth. This way, you won’t need to backtrack as you are in the thick of building your business.
Keep spreadsheets with data points across your accounting function, web traffic, and customer interactions. Input data regularly so it’s not such a heavy lift at the end of the month. At the close of each month, aggregate your data and analyze what work was done over that period. If there are areas that you would like to improve, a monthly review can prove helpful to getting back on track before things slide too far off course.
Be sure to identify trends in your productivity and review external sources for benchmark data to compare to. Making it a priority to gather data and analyze it regularly can increase your effectiveness. You’ll make data-driven decisions as opposed to always going with your gut.
Time to Get to Work
Dreaming can be fun, but dreams don’t come true unless you put in the work. Now that you have five tasks to tackle, it’s time to go from planning to executing. Too many hopeful entrepreneurs get into a loop where they’re constantly dreaming about their potential future. But when it comes to doing it, they can stall out because implementation is the hard part.
The great news is, you don’t have to fall into that trap. Once you’ve completed these five tasks, you will be ready to take on just about anything in your business.