So you want to develop a business, huh? Well, you’re just in luck. This article will help you whether you are planning to start up new or have an existing business that you would like to expand. This is a step by step guide on how to start, improve, and expand a business while minimizing loss on your part. If you are starting new, please read this article carefully from the very beginning. For those, who already have an existing business and would like to improve or expand, the latter part of the article will be more useful.
Every business starts with an idea. You will find that throughout the article, I have emphasized the mental aspects of people rather than physical or financial aspects. Call me philosophical, but the mind is where everything happens. I have seen and experienced it time and time. When your mind is fully committed, there is literally nothing that you cannot do. Let’s begin.
Step 01: Find Your Passion
To start a business, you need to find out what it is that you are truly passionate about. “Why is that important”, you say? The answer is simple. You really do not want to get yourself stuck into a kind of work that you hate. There are plenty of planning and executing involved in a brand new business and if you are passionate about it, they would not feel like work at all compared to a kind of business you do not care for. After all, happiness is the end result of anything that we do in life. Why not choose a business that would make you happy while doing it?
“When your vacation becomes your vocation, you have succeeded in life”.
Step 02: How to Sell It
Now that you have found your passion, let us figure out how to use it to bill people who are in need of the kind of service you can provide. Even though yours is the most ridiculous passion ever, believe me, there are millions of people who would be glad to have your services. As a matter of fact the stranger and more unique your passion is, the more likely you are to succeed simply because that type of business doesn’t exist yet. That also doesn’t mean that if your passion is something common or usual, you shouldn’t do it. Even if it is something common, if you really love it, you will always find ways to do things differently than the others and that itself is the winner.
Let’s say that you are passionate about cars. You are more likely to succeed in an auto shop, auto parts shop, or a repair and modification shop. Sure, there are plenty of those out there, but if you love it, it is going to be one of a kind. Maybe your shop has a nice waiting area where your customers can have a seat and a free beverage when they come to drop off or pick up a car, or you may have free stickers complementary to having their breaks fixed. Once you’re in the business, you’ll figure that out.
Step 03: The Planning
Write down your unique ideas and prepare a presentation. Take some time to do it. You should not rush this part. If a new idea comes while you are in the middle of the planning stage, do not hesitate to change. Edit and modify until you are fully satisfied and you can see a clear mental picture of your business. I cannot emphasize how important this is. You have to be absolutely clear and certain. If there are parts that are hazy, leave for a while, do something else, and come back to the planning table again when your mind is clear. You will see later how we will reuse this step over and over again.
A thing to remember here is that I am not talking about the “Hows”. At this point, you’re not thinking how you will start the business. That will come later. Your focus at this stage is the “Whats”. If you start thinking about the “Hows”, you will ruin your plan because you will start to think about things such as “How do I get the capital”, “How am I going to find an ideal place” etc. The “Hows” will show up later when you are clear about the “Whats”.
Step 04: Visualize Your Success
Now that you have had the clear picture of your business, visualize how it would look and feel when it is fully operational and successful. You must be able to taste the success. This again is another important stage. Why-you ask? There will be obstacles on your way to success. This is the picture that will keep you going. It will also help keep your team motivated in the future should you need to inspire them in times of hardship. You, the leader, must have that picture of success handy at all times.
Step 05: The Needs
You are clear about what your business will be and you have a clear picture of success. By now, you are mentally ready, so let’s get physical. The physical needs of the business include 3 things: infrastructure, personnel, and finance.
Infrastructure: If your business is local such as an auto repair shop, you will need a space, an office, a storage area, and some furniture. If your business is virtual, you will need a website or other computer based applications. In any case, you have the clear picture (Step 03), so you can create a list of infrastructural needs.
Personnel: If it is a kind of business that you can do totally on your own, then you are it. If not, you are going to need assistance. Use Step 03, and find out how many people you will need and what their jobs and qualifications should be. You may also look among your friends, relatives and acquaintances that may have those qualifications and would be happy to help you in the beginning. Having a good friend or partner at this stage is very helpful. If you have a friend who shares almost the same vision as you, you have hit the jackpot. Things are a lot easier with a good friend beside.
Finance: This part is slightly uncomfortable for a lot of people. For this reason, a lot of great ideas never see the light of the day. Many would give up at this sector because they believe there is no money. If you feel that, please remember that the financial industry was built on great ideas. It is their purpose to invest. How else do you think the Empire State Building was built? One person didn’t put all his money into it. The idea was great and was simply backed by several financial institutions. The truth is there are numerous banks, lending agencies, and investors who are looking for a great idea to invest in.
However, ideally you, as the owner of the business, should have at least half the initial capital you need. If you are currently in a job, you can start saving up. If you already have the money, begin at once. If you do not have anything, use your Step 03 presentation to attract a wealthy relative, friend or an investor.
I have mentioned in the beginning of the article how important the mental aspects of the people are. I would like to elaborate on this a little bit more since finance is a huge issue. Fear is your only true enemy here. This is the only one thing that you have to overcome, and you have to face it no matter what. I will help you with a few tips on how to do it, but you have to walk this path.
First of all, it is okay to be afraid. It is a part of who we are. Just remember that “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is having fear and still doing the thing you are afraid of”. In other words, FACE IT. After all, “At the end of our lives, we only regret things we haven’t done or chances we haven’t taken”. What is the worst that could happen? We all die, and it is better to die quickly doing something we love than live a long boring life doing things that are safe and comfortable. Use Step 04 and have that taste of success, and get out there. Here are a few types of fear that you may have and how to overcome them:
Fear of Rejection: Yes, you will be rejected. Not a lot of people would understand what it is you are trying to do, so do not take it personally, and move on to the next. When you do your presentation, prepare your best and do it with passion. People invest in sincerity. I know I would. I would invest my own money if I saw a person who was genuinely passionate about a project even though I didn’t understand the business. Why? Because he would not give up on this until successful, so it pays to have your Step 01.
Fear of Loss: There is always a possibility of loss. After all, it is a new business and you do not know all the pits and falls. Trust in yourself that if you make a mistake and have a loss, you will also know how to get out of it. It is your idea, and you know best. Loss will happen when it happens, and you will know what to do then- no need to worry now.
Fear of Embarrassment: Yes, there are those who would always have something to say especially when you are having a hard time. You will be ridiculed and laughed at. However, wouldn’t that be sweeter when you come around triumphant? How could you win if you have never been defeated? Prepare to take the embarrassment and defeat, use Step 04 through these times, and come back a winner. People remember a hero- not an average person.
I hope the tips on fear would help you overcome it. Now that you have found the capital provider/s, there is one thing you should consider. Find an investor who is willing to wait for the business to properly run, which is ideally 6 to 8 months. There are investors, banks or lending agencies that would loan you the money but would want their interests or return of investment (ROI) almost immediately. This is short sighted. A wise investor knows that if the business isn’t fully operational and he starts to claim his money, neither will the business succeed nor will he get his money back. Therefore, choose someone who will wait. That way, the business is safe and the investor gets his full ROI.
Step 06: Start
Find your place, find your personnel, and go for it. Use your partner as a right hand man and divide jobs. One can find a place and buy the furniture and the other can do the hiring. Hire the best quality people you can. Keep in mind that the first set of employees will be your core team, and you must be comfortable working with them. Remember Step 03, so you will know how many people you need and what qualifications they must have.
Step 07: Employees
Make sure everyone knows clearly what they are doing. Create a fair employment policy where good jobs are rewarded. Also, make sure that employees that are not really up to the job are given chances and training before you let them go. It sometimes helps to pair up one good employee with another bad one so that the bad one can learn from the good. You may also create a profit sharing plan. This makes employees take care of your business as if it is their own.
Step 08: Market
Market your business and do it professionally. Once you have established your business, you must reach as many customers as possible. You may ask a professional photographer to take pictures of your facility, and ask a graphic designer to create brochures.
Online presence is also important. Create a good website. It is easy nowadays, but if you have the means, give it to an IT professional. See if you can create an app for smartphones for the services you provide. Offer promotions and discounts on your brochures and website.
Regularly meet your core team to discuss how to improve services or reach more customers. Have an open mind, take all their ideas and pick the ones that best suit you, and execute. These are several ways to market your business: Door to Door Marketing, Telemarketing, SEO, API (Create an app), Advertising.
On my next article, I will solely focus on Marketing Strategies.
Step 09: Expand
Expand your business. You already have one business model now, so all you have to do is copy and paste, so do not refuse a chance to expand. If it is a local business that serves only the local customers, open another branch or start franchising it to other cities. At this point, financing should not be a problem. Plenty of investors and financers will gladly give you the money. If it is an online business, expand your SEO or Customer Support team, and the whole world will be your market.
Step 10: Balance
Last but not least, create balance in everything you do. From the very first step to the last, balance is the key. The lesson on balance is huge, but I will discuss it briefly.
Too much of anything is bad. Do not work so hard that you lose your family, friends or health. After all, money is no good if you cannot share it with people you love, or if you have to spend most of your money in the hospitals. You have to keep the balance between your business and personal life. Also, no good idea can come out of you if you are overworked and tired all the times. When you feel stuck, get away for a while and come back later. You will find a solution.
There are ups and downs in life as well as in business. The lesson on balance also tells us that you should be cautious when you are succeeding and patient when you are failing. When you are succeeding, do not spend money unnecessarily on things you don’t need. Also, when you are failing, do not give up because success is just around the corner. It is the darkest before dawn, so “This too shall pass”.
You must also create a balance between you and your employees. You are their leader. If you are too hard on them, they will quit or even worse sabotage the business. If you are too soft, they will play more than work.
At the end, all businesses are about people. From your employees to your investors to your customers, balance all relationships. Share and enjoy your success.