Tips for Starting a Small Business

You can make your entrepreneurial dream a reality when you follow these three steps.

Kallee Feuz Feb 13, 2018

To foster an idea. To solve a problem. To make more money. To seek self-empowerment. To leave a legacy. To pursue a passion.

There are lots of reasons why people dream of becoming entrepreneurs — and even more reasons why, for many people, those dreams never materialize. Instead, they get shelved indefinitely or stuck in the imagination, the stuff of late-night conversations and wistful reveries.

Some would-be entrepreneurs lack the confidence and/or the resources start a small business, according to Karen Appelgren, director of Zions Bank’s  Business Resource Center in Boise, Idaho.

“They may not have a clear vision of the steps or process to follow to start or grow a small business,” Appelgren says. 

Still others may be hesitant to give up steady employment for the unpredictability of a fledgling company. And start-up costs alone — which often require a personal financial investment along with outside funding — can scare away plenty of aspiring business owners.

Many of the perceived obstacles that keep people from chasing their business dream are surmountable, Appelgren points out.  Free resources and support — including counseling, mentoring, referrals, networking, business templates and financing advice — are readily available to help entrepreneurs clear the hurdles that come with launching a business. 

Zions Bank’s Business Resource Center, and the nonprofits SCORE and Small Business Development Centers, for example, all offer complimentary services aimed to help new and existing businesses succeed.

If you have a small business idea brewing, but don’t know where to begin, follow these three practical steps to start making your small business dream a reality:

Small Business Tip 1: Conduct market research.

Before putting down roots for your company, get to know the business landscape and the political, social, economic and technological climates in which you plan to do business. Appelgren recommends starting with secondary research — already published information like industry reports from the public library and U.S. Census data.

Next, proceed to primary research. “Get out of your home, out of your office, and out of your comfort zone to survey and interview people who represent the target market,” she suggests. “Would they really buy your product or service for the price you have set?” The goal of the research should be to make sure you aren’t the only one in love with the business idea. See this Business Startup Checklist for a list of items to investigate.

Small Business Tip 2: Draft a business plan.

Come up with a business model or business plan for your company based on your research findings.  A business plan acts as a roadmap that lays out your company’s mission, values, marketing, and financial projections, to keep you focused and on track with your goals. Seek feedback on your business plan from advisors, mentors and especially family members, whose support will be important to your success.

Remember, too, that a business plan is a living document that should be continually adjusted and updated as circumstances change. For help getting started, refer to the “Business Plan” section of the Business Startup Checklist and Zions Bank’s business plan template. You can also check out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Business Plan Tool.

Small Business Tip 3: Put structure around the business.

To formalize your business, you’ll need to choose a legal structure. Of the many options available, from sole proprietorship to partnership, the organizational structure you choose will impact your taxes, record keeping and personal liability in the company. Seek appropriate legal and financial advice before making a decision.

Additionally, you’ll need to formalize your company with state and local business registrations, applicable licenses and permits, and an employer identification number (EIN) if you have employees. Create a timeline of actions needed to formalize your business before launching.  See the “formalizing” section of the Business Startup Checklist  to get started.

Follow these steps and you’ll improve your chances of making your entrepreneurial dream a reality.

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