You have a great idea and the enthusiasm to start building a business. But do you know how to get it off the ground? Here are the important first steps you’ll need to take to start your venture off on the right foot.
1. Develop a Plan
Before you begin working with your first client, you’ll want to draw up your blueprint for success – a business plan. A well-thought-out plan of action will guide you on your course and serve as a point of reference as you begin to grow. There are many online resources for business plans, as well as templates that can help guide you. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a great resource, with lots of free information on how to write this critical document that will outline the foundation for your business.
2. Set Up Your Business
Once you’ve established that your business idea is viable and have a well-thought-out plan in place, you’ll be ready to set up your company’s legal structure. Whether you’ll be starting a nonprofit, launching a high-growth startup or going it alone as an independent contractor, you’ll need to complete the necessary forms to make your business a legal entity. Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you may also need to be licensed at the local, state and federal levels. Regulations vary by industry, state and locality, so take the time to find out what is required for your specific business. To distinguish your company or product in the marketplace, you will also want to register a trademark that protects your business’ identity.
3. Secure Your Online Identity
An online presence is now a necessity for almost every business. However, before you begin building a website, blog or landing page to promote your business online, you’ll need to secure a domain name. You’ll want to search for viable options, and it’s typically a good idea to secure all extensions (.com, .net, .org and .us) for the name you select. To simplify things, it’s also smart to choose a provider that registers domains and also has the capability to host your site. A provider can also give you a variety of tools to build a site.
4. Set Up Your Phone System
Next, you’ll need a phone system for communicating with customers and vendors. When just starting out, flexibility and affordability are extremely important. Yet you’ll want a system that will help you project a professional image – one with features like a toll-free number, an auto-receptionist, customized greetings and extensions. Additional options, such as call forwarding, voicemail and fax notifications sent via email and a mobile app can give you the ability to provide the high degree of customer service you’ll need for growing a business.
5. Spread the Word
Even if you’ve diligently taken care of the previous four steps, you won’t start generating sales until others know your business exists. Business cards and stationery are obvious necessities, but it might be worthwhile invest in brochures, direct mail pieces, signage or giveaway items, as well. Consider your budget and your specific market and determine what items will be required to help generate the necessary buzz to start bringing in business.
Originally published Feb 03, 2011, updated Aug 07, 2020