This article is about the importance of a business plan and how to create one. It will also discuss what are some things you should do in the early stages of your business and why it’s important, as well as when it’s time to give up on your business. These are 12 things I wish I knew when I started my business.
1 – The importance of a business plan and how to create one
A business plan is the first step for starting your business and the foundation that sets the stage for years to come. This is why it’s the 1st item on the list of things I wish I knew when I started my business. It should contain all the necessary information about your company, including its mission statement, history/marketing strategies, product or service description, sales forecasts, budget breakdowns, etc. It’s important because it will tell potential investors or lenders what your company is about and why they should invest or lend you money. It will let them know how they can benefit from giving you their money.
Here’s how to create a business plan:
Step 1: Write your company’s Mission Statement
A mission statement describes what your company does and why it exists. It tells customers about the values of your business and where you want to take it in the future (hence ‘mission’). It should be no more than one or two sentences long.
For example, I started my blog because I wanted to share knowledge with others that would save them time, money, and mental energy. My mission is not only to help people create their own websites but also to educate them on how they can save time by not having to learn how to code their own website(s).
Step 2: Describe your products or services
This section should be very detailed so investors/lenders know exactly what they are getting if they give you money (i.e. what your product or service is, how it works etc.). It should also include everything that comes with your products or services (i.e. packaging, warranties, etc.).
For example, my blog offers custom website design and development services to small businesses and entrepreneurs looking for their very first website (and even those wanting to redesign their current site). I provide exceptional customer service by answering any questions the client might have about the process throughout the entire process so there are no surprises at the end.
Step 3: How much money do you need to start a business and where can you find it
This section should tell investors/lenders how much you need to get started as well as where you will get that money from. It should also include a cash flow statement explaining how you plan to turn a profit within the first three years of business and how much it will cost to run your company each month. For example, you could say that you need approximately $1,500-2,000 to get started and you are going to use your savings for this initial investment.
2 – How to determine your target market and what makes them tick
One of the most important things I wish I knew when I started my business was knowing who your customers are (your target market). You need to know what they like or dislike, what they want and need. It’s important because your customers are the reason you’re in business. Without them, there is no business.
Be as specific as possible when determining your target market. Don’t just say “Everyone”. Doing this will ultimately drive you nuts and most likely result in a terrible marketing strategy that is trying to please everyone, resulting in no one being pleased.
3 – How much money do you need to start a business and where can you find it
This is often one of the first questions asked when starting a business but is often overlooked or not given enough thought to. It’s an important item on the list of things I wish I knew when I started my business because it tells potential investors/lenders how much risk they’re taking by investing or lending your business money. It also lets them know that you have a clear understanding of what’s required financially to start a company and that you have a plan going forward. You’ll probably need several thousand dollars.
How much you need will depend on how much money you have available to invest/lend yourself and the amount of money needed to successfully start your business.
4 – What are some things you should do in the early stages of your business
There are several things that need to be done as soon as possible after starting a business. Depending on what you’re selling or offering, it’s not necessary to do every single one of them, but they all need to be considered very seriously before a company moves forward. This is a list of things I wish I knew when I started my business that I feel are extremely important to knock out right away:
-Do market research.
Ask people what they want and give it to them, even if you don’t think it’s going to make money. Even if only one person out of 100,000 says they want it, you’ve still got a customer! Target your marketing efforts on specific people with similar interests.
-Get your product or service ready to start selling.
If you plan to offer several products/services, make sure all those products/services are ready to go as soon as the business is formed and gets its first customers. You’ll need time before those first customers come in to work out any major problems that show up.
-Create a solid brand image for your business now rather than trying to fix it later.
How you look and present yourself (and your company) is important and will affect how much money you make and how people treat you. A professional appearance goes a long way toward solving problems that might come up later on. Make sure your business name is trademarked so it can’t be hijacked by someone else.
-Create a solid foundation for the future of your company.
What you do now will affect how much money you make in the future, so plan ahead. How are you going to raise prices? How are you going to maintain good quality if demand goes down (for example, if customers stop buying)? How are you going to spend more time with each customer and still meet their needs? Is there any way to automate your workflow without losing your best people?
-Build relationships with suppliers and potential affiliates.
Networking is about more than just getting leads for your business. Don’t be afraid to ask your suppliers how you can make their lives easier, and don’t forget that the best marketing is satisfied customers. By networking, you’re able to connect with affiliates that can promote and market your company for you. This creates an amazing cycle where your affiliates do the selling and the suppliers do the fulfillment. Automation is a huge item on the list of things I wish I knew when I started my business.
-Hire qualified people as soon as possible to deal with problems you aren’t prepared to fix.
Sometimes it’s better to turn away potential business than try to do something at half speed or less than your best because eventually, this will cause problems later on when business is good and money is tight.
5 – How to get customers and keep them coming back for more
This is one of the hardest parts of running a business and one of the things I wish I knew when I started my business. Remember, your competition isn’t just other companies trying to get the same kind of customers you are, it’s often not even another company at all! It might be that customer’s friend or their parents or anyone else that they listen to when making decisions about what to buy.
-Ask for feedback from satisfied customers and try to turn negative feedback into positive results by offering great products/services at fair prices.
-Give excellent service before asking for anything in return. Make doing business with you so enjoyable that people will feel like they owe you something if they know someone who could use your services.
-Spend time getting better every single day so you can offer something your competitor can’t.
-Never stop learning. Just because you’ve been doing one thing for years doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there trying to perfect it or find new ways to do it or improve on it. Be aware of that and be willing to change with the times (and technology).
-Be reliable, honest, helpful, and hardworking–things like that will get you repeat business more than anything else you do! Faking those things won’t work in the long run; people are tired of seeing everyone act like they’re somehow better than them (even if they aren’t), so don’t even try it.
6. How to create a company culture and why it’s important
Company culture is something I often heard about as an employee but never understood how to implement it in my business as an entrepreneur. The company culture is one of the things I wish I knew when I started my business because it’s the way people in your business act toward each other and the way they treat customers. Positive company culture doesn’t just happen on its own–it’s created by how you structure things, how you treat employees, etc.
-Be loyal to your employees.
Treat them better than you expect them to treat your customers (for one thing, give them more of a say in company decisions that affect their lives).
-Don’t keep changing everything about what you do or how you do it!
People don’t like feeling like they can never get comfortable with something because it keeps changing on them even if the changes are usually for the best. Keep making small changes at first rather than trying to adjust things all at once.
-If you have an open-door policy, make sure that’s more than just a saying.
Have really weak policies for how often your employees can come to you with problems or suggestions, and mean it.
7 – What are the different ways to structure your business and which is right for you
There are several ways to structure a business as a legal entity. Some are more common than others, but what’s right for you will depend on things such as your personal situation, how many people are involved, the amount of money available to you, whether or not you’ve hired employees, and so forth.
By understanding the general structure of your business, you’ll be able to see the business from a bird’s-eye view. That’s why the business structure is one of the things I wish I knew when I started my business.
8 – What are the different types of business entities and which is right for you
Doing business as a sole proprietor means that there is no legal distinction between who owns the company (the “sole proprietor“) and the company itself. That person would be personally responsible for anything his/her business does wrong–if not financially, if not morally/ethically. Every decision they made would affect both their name and their personal finances.
This is perhaps the most dangerous form of doing business because it leaves you with the least protection if something goes wrong. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re willing to put your life and family on the line for this company (and that’s not a good idea!). That’s why it’s crucial to understand your business entity out of all of the things I wish I knew when I started my business.
– A partnership, on the other hand, is when at least two people own a business together and everything that business does reflects on all of them equally. They share responsibility and receive any monetary gains/losses equally–but they also share liability in case anything goes wrong, which makes this form of doing business somewhat dangerous as well!
-If there are two or more owners involved in running a company but only one person has invested money into starting it while others have just contributed their time/talents, then that person must be paid back before anyone else gets anything. If the business succeeds, they may be paid more but it’s not required by law–unless you have a written agreement to that effect.
This is the safest option for most businesses because only the owner has everything to lose if something goes wrong, even if others are just as responsible.
-A corporation is treated legally as a separate entity from its owners/employees/customers. Making decisions that hurt the company hurts them emotionally but will not affect their personal assets or credit rating or anything else, which makes this form of doing business safe and appealing to people who want to protect themselves against future lawsuits! Creating this legal separation requires registering with your state government, so there are fees involved with setting up a corporation.
9 – How to trademark your business name and protect your brand
A trademark is something that immediately identifies a product or service as being from a particular company, which means that if another company tries to impersonate yours they are taking money out of YOUR pocket! You should register any major/original names or phrases you use, even if they’re just words–and not only the spelling but also the way the words are pronounced.
Trademarks can be taken away by people who have used them longer or more successfully than you have, so it’s important to maintain all trademarks properly while protecting them! You must file for renewal every ten years in order to keep them under your ownership. Your attorney should be able to file the paperwork for you, but it’s your responsibility to maintain them with notifications of any major changes so they don’t become invalid/of public domain!
10 – How to market your business on a tight budget
Marketing is the most important of the things I wish I knew when I started my business. I’m referring to getting a steady stream of customers and keeping them! There are many different ways we can market our businesses: Traditional advertising includes TV ads, billboards, and newspaper/magazine ads–but be aware that these days people switch between screens every minute during commercial breaks and only about 1% of readers ever finish reading magazines or newsletters.
Traditional marketing is better than nothing but it can get pricey if not done right because usually, large companies have the biggest ad budgets which make you want to run in the other direction! So what can you do instead?
-Start with any available advertising options that your competition hasn’t already taken, which usually means it’s pretty inexpensive to jump on!
For example, if nobody has put billboards where you live but newspaper ads are expensive then go for the billboards–you might be able to secure ad space cheaper than they can. Just make sure there’s a big enough market/audience by checking out the demographics of people who would likely be interested in buying your product/service before you invest too much money into an area where there aren’t enough customers!
-You could also try guerrilla marketing, which basically means using unconventional strategies like dressing up as your mascot and taking photos around town or brainstorming fun ideas that
-Create social media ads or ad space on social media websites and target the right market by choosing your demographic carefully based on age, sex, location, etc.
11. What are some things you should avoid when starting a business
Just as important as the things I wish I knew when I started my business that you should do when starting a business are the things you should avoid!
-Avoid trying to make your business look bigger/more successful than it is because eventually the truth will come out and if you’re using false advertising then people could sue you!
-Don’t start something that’s already being done by someone else unless you have a way of doing it even better or cheaper–this usually just ends up dividing an already small market which means nobody makes any money.
-Don’t hire family members because they’ll expect special treatment while potentially not being qualified for their jobs! “Family first” should only apply to blood relations, so stick with hiring employees who have experience in what they do.
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
-Be very specific about your idea, keeping in mind if it’s unique enough that you won’t have too much competition.
-Try to avoid any unnecessary publicity or recognition. If you don’t build up a company using the best practices, then chances are the business won’t be successful and you’ll look foolish–which means people will talk about how silly/stupid/risky your idea was…and suddenly nobody wants to get on board with YOUR business.
12. How can I know when it’s time to give up on my business?
At this point, you should look objectively at the last few years of your business. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn the hard way with a lot of the businesses that I’ve started and failed. Of all of the things I wish I knew when I started my business, this one was a real kick in the rear for me. I’ve spent hours on ventures that ended up closing and I didn’t know when it was time to throw in the towel.
-Look at all your expenses to determine how much money you’re actually bringing in. If the numbers are too low then it might be time to let go–if even just temporarily to cut costs while you think of a solution!
-Have you tried offering new products/services without success? Is there something else that really interests you but isn’t related to your current career path? Many entrepreneurs have to decide whether or not they’ll compromise on their passion for something less fulfilling in order to make ends meet…or are willing to risk starting over from scratch instead.
-Do any employees feel like they deserve more responsibility after all their hard work? If so, consider promoting them or hiring someone else to take on even more of the workload.
-Do you have enough money for both short-term and long-term costs? Unfortunately, many businesses fail because they get stuck in a cycle where they can’t afford to pay off debts, move forward with any improvements/expansion plans, or get started with the next project!
-Are your employees satisfied? Are they getting paid what they deserve–or at least close to it? Have you provided raises to your employees in the past year or two? Are there any new hires that are unhappy with their salaries compared to the level of responsibility they’ve been given?
-Is this business something you truly believe in? It can take quite a few years before your business becomes profitable, so you should be sure that it’s something you’d happily do for free if necessary.
-Is there someone else who could run this company–whether it be another owner or one of the employees? Sometimes businesses fail because they go understaffed and nobody is available to help when anything goes wrong!
By answering all these questions honestly, you’ll likely have reached a conclusion about whether or not it’s time to give up on your business–and if so then hopefully this article will have prepared you well enough to make the transition as painless as possible!
All of these things I wish I knew when I started my business
Keep these things I wish I knew when I started my business in your mind. Remember, the truth will come out and if you’re using false advertising then people could sue you! “Family first” should only apply to blood relations, so stick with hiring employees who have experience in what they do. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help or advice from others–even those who may seem like your competitors.
The best way to make sure that this company is successful? Be diligent about the decisions that are made during these early stages of development. You might not see success for a few years but it’s well worth it when everything goes according to plan…and even more importantly: don’t give up on yourself because there’s always another chance at finding happiness elsewhere too!
If you’re in a phase of business where you’re not quite making ends meet, you can always reach out to me for a consultation and we will devise a plan to save your business and find the money you didn’t even know you had!