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The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Small Business
Written by Jacob C. Herman
Starting a Business
Starting a business requires a significant amount of effort and may eventually lead to seeking out professional help, such as a business consultant. Novice entrepreneurs should consider these simple steps when kick starting a business: use resourceful tools to create a business plan, seek out professional help, choose a business location, seek financial assistance, sort out the legal structure of the business, register for local and state taxes, obtain a business license and permit, and self-educate on employer responsibilities. There are assessment tools and guidelines to help emerging entrepreneurs to understand the risks and responsibilities involved when opening a business. Conducting the appropriate market research, preparing for emergencies, and understanding the economic conditions behind a select niche will curtail the high-level risks that often destroy small businesses.
- Internal Revenue Service: Starting a Business
- United States Small Business Administration: Follow These Steps to Starting a Business
- National Telecommunications and Information Administration: Starting a Business
- Washington State.gov: Start a Business
- International Financial Corporation: Starting a Business
- Entreprenuer.com: Starting Business Resource Center
Finding a Mentor or Counselor
An emerging entrepreneur will need to make important decisions in order to successfully run a business, especially in the first few months of a grand opening. Seeking out professional help, such as a mentor or counselor for consulting advice may help earn the necessary experience points in order to thrive. In fact, a mentor has tracked down the same path to gain the knowledge shared with clients. Not all consulting services require monetary fees; however, certain specialized one-on-one training does, especially in the privatized marketing field. Follow these simple steps when considering a mentorship program: seek out government-sponsored mentor organizations, trade associations, mentoring for government contractors, privatized mentoring networks, and evaluate the program to ensure a formal mentor structure exists within that organization.
- SCORE.org: A Government-Sponsored Small Business Mentorship Program
- Ready.gov: Working with Small Business to Prepare for Emergencies (PDF)
- National Federation of Independent Businesses: How to Find a Reliable Mentor
- Cbiz.org: Strategic Management Consulting
- Comprehensive Business Consultants: Consulting, Management, and Marketing Services
- Small Business Wellness Initiative: Small Business Consultants
Writing a Business Plan
Writing a business plan might sound intimidating, but it's important to focus on every building block towards achieving the goal of opening a successful and thriving business. A business plan, otherwise known as work in progress, will continue to evolve over time as the business continues to grow. Outside factors, such as the economy and local conditions, should never be overlooked. The most fundamental step to writing a business plan lies in finding a non-competitive niche within a large market. Niche markets will likely draw loyal customers to help sustain business activity. The overall business plan template will consist of an executive summary, business description, a strategical marketing plan, financial projections, and pertinent documentation to support the presented information. The importance of a business plan serves as a roadmap for the continuing success of any new business venture.
- Georgia State University: Writing a Business Plan (PDF)
- Washington University: Writing the Business Plan
- Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center: Business Plan Writing
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Writing a Business Plan Tutorial (PDF)
- Columbia University: Writing a Business Plan
- Walden University: Guide to Writing a Business Plan
Establishing a Business
Establishing a business requires an ever-inquiring mind to cover all bases before opening the doors. For instance, determining the structure of a business, legal concerns, business license and permit details, and comparing business plans to other competitors will help outline the necessary steps to take to establish the business once and for all. Consider the corporate structure of the business, or the necessary procedures to acquiring an existing business. Every small business must meet the tax obligations assigned by the government. Validating the size and standards will help establish a foothold in the government sector.
- Florida State University: Steps in Starting a Small Business
- Louisiana Secretary of State: Business Structures
- Washington Secretary of State: Ownership Structure Types
- Delaware.gov: Legal Business Structure Table (PDF)
- Utah.gov: Select Your Business Structure
- North Dakota.gov: Registering Your Business Name
Preparing Your Finances
Start-up costs for a small business may be too much to fork out-of-pocket. For this reason, you may trot to the local bank or credit union to apply for a small business loan. Consider the risks involved and whether or not the overall financial success of the business will at least break even to alleviate any excessive financial burdens. Understanding the basics will help gain perspective when engaging talk with a loan officer. Preparing a financial statement, such as a balance sheet and income statement, presents all of the pertinent information into an organizable and considerable document for the bank to assess whether the business qualifies for a loan.
- Maryland's Small Business Development Center: Finance and Venture Capital
- University of Arkansas: Financing for Small Businesses
- New York State University: Small Business Disaster Recovery
- West Georgia University: Preparing for a Small Business Loan
- Valdosta State University: Small Business Loans (PDF)
- United States Treasury: Small Business Lending Fund
Loans, Grants and Funding
After compiling existing financial data, consideration of the appropriate loan type will help fit within the frame of the small business. Various financial opportunities may come in the form of loans, grants, and venture capital. The federal government does not issue grants to start and expand a small business; however, state, local and tribal factions may offer grant opportunities under certain requirements. These grants usually require the borrower to match funds or combine other financial funds to kick-start the business. Investor-based venture capital, an equity type addressing entrepreneurial needs that could not be met through other traditional means, are usually conducted through cash-for-share exchanges.
- University of Maine: Capital Sources for Your Business
- Rutgers University: Financing Your Business
- Angelina College: Grants for Small Business: Myth versus Reality
- NIDCD.gov: Small Business Grants
- Grants.gov: Who is Eligible for a Grant?
- Baker Library: Venture Capital and Private Equity
Business Law and Regulations
Small business owners are subject to the same enforced laws and regulations as major corporations. Even start-up businesses must comply with business laws and regulations that include all facets of the entrepreneurial world. The law addresses all facets of business, including employment and labor, finances, online businesses, privacy, environmental regulations, and the uniform commercial code. Contact the appropriate government agency to get acquainted with all applicable laws, such as foreign worker immigration, and employment eligibility, plus workplace health and safety requirements.
- Maine.gov: Business Laws and Regulations
- USA.gov: Laws and Regulations
- Mass.gov: Business Laws and Regulations
- Georgia.gov: Laws and Regulations
- Environmental Protection Agency: Environmental Regulations and Laws
- California.gov: Work: Laws and Regulations
Marketing a New Business
After discovering a new idea, conducting the appropriate market research, narrowing down a niche market, writing a business plan, choosing a location, and acquiring the much-needed financial assistance to achieve the small business grand opening, the next step would require the fundamental lifeline of any new business: marketing. Marketing a product or service will propel a business towards success or failure, depending on the effectiveness of the promotion. Developing a strong marketing plan and obtaining the appropriate advice from a marketing consultant will minimize the chance of all marketing strategies flopping on its path towards the desired outcome.
- University of North Dakota: Writing a Simple Marketing Plan (PDF)
- Tidewater Community College: How to Write a Marketing Plan (PDF)
- Cascadoa Community College: Marketing Plan Tutorial
- Saint Ambrose University: Sample Marketing Plan
- Arizona Tourism University: How to Write a Marketing Plan (PDF)
- Center for Veterans Enterprise: How to Writing a Business Plan (PDF)
The next and final step behind preparing for a small business consists of filling out the necessary paperwork. Starting and managing a business requires many hours of analyzing and constructing a competent call to action. Consult with the overseeing authoritative agencies and services for insight into the appropriate business forms and packages to fill out in order to inject a lifeline into a newly created small business.
- United States Department of Energy: Business Forms
- Texas Department of Transportation: Small Business Enterprise Forms
- Illionis.gov: Business Forms
- Tennessee.gov: Business Information and Forms
- United States Department of Commerce: Small Business Report Forms
- OSHA: Record-keeping
Written by Jacob C. Herman