Do your research.
“One of the most important things to do before starting a business is to research the competitive landscape. Just because you have a brilliant idea does not mean other people haven’t also had the same idea. If you can’t offer something better and/or cheaper than your competitors, you might want to re-think starting a business in that area.” – Ian Wright, founder, British Business Energy
“The key to starting a new business is to be organized. So many people are driven and have great ideas, but they fail to follow through with them due to their organization. Small business owners wear many hats. Without a plan to stay organized, you’ll find yourself being pulled in so many directions that you won’t get anything accomplished.” – Eric Brantner, founder, Scribblrs.com
Ask yourself why.
“Every entrepreneur should be able to answer the question, ‘Why are you doing this?’ It seems like a simple question, but there will inevitably be times when things go wrong, hope is dwindling and you need to remind yourself of why you’re in it. As an entrepreneur, building and growth is a process that never fully ends. It is great practice to give yourself a mission statement to maintain focus on the project goals as well as personal ones.”– Noah Krinick, founder and partner, Solo Rugs
Get a mentor.
“The No. 1 thing I would tell a new business owner is that they should have a coach or mentor. I’ve had a coach now for a year and a half and it has easily been the best decision I’ve made. Without his help I wouldn’t have been able to grow my company and keep my best employees.” – Ben Walker, founder and CEO, Transcription Outsourcing
Survey your target market.
“Survey a focus group of the target demographic for the service or product. It is crucial to make sure you are delivering what your customer wants, not what you want. This will give you insight into your customer’s buying decision and save you lots of experimenting down the road.” – Sonia F. Lakhany, attorney, Lackhany Law
Get legal advice.
“If there is one thing I would advise for all entrepreneurs before officially opening a new business, it’s to seek legal counsel. We often make the assumption that legal counsel is for when we get ourselves into trouble, but preventative and proactive legal preparation can be the very best way to set your business on the path to long-term success. When you call on legal counsel after you’ve run into a problem, it’s often too late or could critically impact your business in both the short and long term. Investing in their insight at the start of your business can pay a huge return later on by keeping you out of trouble before you even get into it.” – Katy Blevins, co-founder and corporate publicist, The Modern Femme Movement
Boost your credit score.
“Get your personal credit score as high as possible. No life event under your control will ruin your credit score quite as much as starting a business, with the exception of a divorce. You will probably get into a lot of debt starting out. So you’ll have to be able to finance [your personal life] through your own savings. If your credit score isn’t so great, you’ll [only] be able to borrow less money at higher interest rates. If you want to start a business, increase your credit score so you have a [greater] ability to borrow as much as you need.” – Marc Prosser, small business expert and co-founder, Fit Small Business
Bring an accountant on board.
“I had a full-time job as I considered starting my own business in 2009, but I did a lot of groundwork before I started, and bringing on an accountant was an important step. It helped me understand what I needed to do to make this work from a profit standpoint, [as well as] the ins and outs of state, federal and local taxes.” – Sarah Burningham, president and founder, Little Bird
“The first thing to do when contemplating starting a business is to understand the commitment required. You will need to talk with many entrepreneurs, ideally those who have succeeded and those who have failed. Their experience needs to be recent to be useful, as it will provide valuable context for your endeavor. The most helpful advice to capture is the impact on their lifestyle, such as finances, personal relationships, health, emotional stability, and self-esteem.” – Todd Rhoad, managing director of BT Consulting, and partner with Peachtree Recovery Services Inc.
Know your tax requirements.
“You need to get organized with your taxes and fees. You have to figure out how much your payroll is going to be in order to make your tax payments timely. The timing can vary depending on your payroll. You also have to figure out other business taxes, such as city, county and state. There isn’t one list of all the fees you may have to pay, so you need to get organized and figure this out ahead of time. Forgetting and filing late can make those late charges add up quickly.” – Travis Sickle, certified financial planner, Sickle Hunter Financial Advisors
Prepare for everything and anything.
“The most important thing a small business owner can do is plan for cyclical downswings in their business activity and revenue. There is a lot to be done when you’re not providing your service or selling your goods. Make a list of marketing activities, touch base with contacts, organize your files and office. A lull in business is an opportunity to improve and plan. Likewise, revenue will come in waves. Cash flow is not a constant trickle, but expenses are. The small business owner should plan on either starting with cash reserves or trying to acquire a line of credit from a local bank.” – Joshua E. Stern Esq., Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern
Think about your exit strategy.
“The most important thing I had other than faith and tenacity, was my exit strategy. I knew if all else failed, that no matter what, I would be able to sell the huge inventory that I ordered, and only lose a tiny bit of money, rather than my entire investment. Knowing that I had a way out that would not hurt too much, made it easy for me to go full throttle and go forward.” – Sandy Stein, president, Alexx Inc. (Finders Key Purse)