Second Sunday Series – Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of 12 columns on starting a business – one every second Sunday of the month, from September to August. While fatigue was discussed in last week’s column, the previous weeks focused on self-employment as an entrepreneur’s personal assets and weaknesses and career choice.
If you’re someone who loves to make lists, starting a business will be your jam – it’s nothing more than lists, steps, and things to do later. There’s a real process of running a business somewhere, but it’s also on the list, broken down into smaller pieces to be achievable.
Indeed, starting and running a business is a thousand-step journey, then a thousand-step journey, and then a journey.
I hope this doesn’t disappoint! On the one hand, the picture I draw may seem restless or boring. But in reality, knowing that the whole process is divided into one stage at a time can give entrepreneurs the courage to continue, even if the big picture is scary.
Speaking of the big picture – you need it too. If you always look down to count the small steps, you can walk around the circle. Long-sightedness in managing day-to-day details for starting and running a business is a good recipe for success.
But about these lists … what should be on the list to start a business? Naming all tasks takes one-year columns and is still incomplete. Rather than trying to list everything, it makes sense to gather basic concepts so you can follow a general roadmap to stay on track. There are nine such clusters that will help you set up your business. They are not always in order because you can visit each area again and again throughout your business.
Define your goals. Do you want a business that suits your family life, a business that you can build and then sell? Maybe you want to work for yourself for a year or two or forever. You may need to talk to others to answer these questions or a beta test to determine if they are right for you. It is beneficial to try to create a business that you like.
Select a product or service. If you already have an idea, now your task is to improve it. Otherwise, the first steps to deciding what your business will do include research and search.
Learn the rules. If your business breaks the law, ignorance is no excuse. This step-by-step cluster includes checking the local and national codes governing the job you choose, as well as the unspoken rules that govern how the job is done.
Shop. Just one, to make sure you can. If you can’t convince anyone to buy what you want to sell in your business, then the idea or the seller (you) needs to change. It’s good to know this before you get into everything.
Creating systems. This is a natural concept if you are planning a manufacturing business, but it is not very familiar to service owners. You will need systems for everything from marketing to customer management.
Build a team. Law, accounting, banking … these are the big three in terms of consultants that most businesses trust. Your team is tailored to include people who know your business, people who know and support you, and people who can fill in your missing skills.
Pay attention to finances. You will need some way to track sales and monthly income, including traditional financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement). If they seem like foreign concepts, these steps may include meetings with a classmate or an accountant. You will also need to set prices and set up payment processes and open business bank accounts.
Work on your brand. Everything from choosing your business name, designing product packaging, to creating a social media image can fit into this category.
Make more sales. Of course! But how do you do that and how do you do it again? Almost every other step cluster includes this, especially when your business is transitioning from a start-up to a permanent activity.
Are you excited? It is a sensible answer to know that each of these concepts involves dozens of steps. Take a deep breath for now, and then figure out where you are in each category related to your business idea.
As we continue the conversation in the later parts of the Second Sunday series about starting a business, we will delve deeper into each area.
Amy Lindgren has a career consulting company in St. Paul. He can be contacted at email@example.com.