I want to start my own business. Where do I begin?
“Starting a business is more than a catchy name and flashy business cards. They really need to do their homework to educate themselves on all the other spokes involved,” said Renee Hode of Central Piedmont Community College’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Center.
Here are Hode’s tips for getting started:
Begin by interviewing yourself. Ask yourself tough questions: Do you have the traits of an entrepreneur? Do you have the characteristics to help you succeed? And does the business opportunity meet both your personal and professional goals?
That last question is often overlooked, Hode said, but it’s essential to think about what’s important to you in everyday life. “Some individuals will come in and want to start that auto shop, or start that salon, but they might have a different lifestyle in mind,” she said.
For instance: “ ‘I’m a parent, I have three children, I want to be home on the weekends.’… Do those things align well with the business you want to start?”
Do your research. Generally speaking, most businesses will fail within the first three years, Hode said. So research and planning is critical to the viability of your business long term.
Among the areas to study: Is there a need for your service? Will your business provide a solution to a problem? Or what are you doing differently that will give you a competitive advantage over businesses providing a similar service? Make sure your idea is feasible and unique to the marketplace.
Know what you know – and what you don’t. Say you want to start a restaurant. Do you have experience in the industry? If not, your first step is to educate yourself in the trade in order to be successful. And that might mean taking on a job in the industry, Hode said.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to ... be there day-to-day to see what are all the things that occur” – from back-of-the-house duties, to the kitchen, to busing tables, to working the front of the house.
Also, be aware of the financial, accounting and legal matters involved in running a business – from doing payroll to picking the best business structure. Take classes or seminars, or look for people with these skills to include on your team.
Write a business plan: You need to show investors or banks you have a strategy if you want them to help fund your business. A business plan helps with that, by detailing your costs from startup to opening day for your business to daily operations, Hode said. A business plan is also a road map to keep you on course with the mission of your business.
Finally, pay attention to how you feel throughout the process. Some people keep that passion for what they want to do and have the tenacity to go through all the steps, Hode said.
But “if you’re having a hard time dedicating yourself to putting together the plan, you’re probably going to face a lot more challenges along the way in running and operating the business,” she said.
“We have a lot of great ideas. Everyone does,” Hode said. “It’s being able to live up to that charge, to take that idea, to execute it and turn it into your dream, your passion, your profitability.”