Many entrepreneurs dream of starting a business — and with the right resources and planning, that dream can become reality.
But the steps you need to take to start your own business begin long before you open your doors and make that first sale. Proper planning and groundwork will not only get your business off on the right foot, but can help you launch your business more quickly and give you a better chance for success in the long run.
- Write a detailed business plan
- Set up your professional support system
- Handle administrative details
- Consider insurance and benefit plans
- Invest in technology
You wouldn’t start building a house without a blueprint, so don’t start your company without developing a detailed a business plan. Business plans typically map out the course of the business for the first 3-5 years and are reviewed and revised regularly as the business moves forward and its goals evolve.
Locate an accountant who specializes in your type and size of business (keeping comprehensive and detailed records is crucial to the financial health of any business). Depending on your industry, you may also need to engage the services of an attorney.
Another good idea, if possible: Find a mentor — someone knowledgeable about your industry who has been through the business startup process before and can offer firsthand advice.
Having the right professionals in place from the start will help you accomplish 2 major goals: They'll have a complete understanding of your business from day 1, and delegating those tasks means your time will be freed up to start and run your business.
Your business will need an employer identification number (EIN); the IRS can help you with that.
You’ll also need to register your “doing business as” name (DBA), which is typically done in the state or county where you live; your local chamber of commerce can help with specifics. It’s important to note that you can’t open a business checking account or get a business credit card without having completed this step.
Finally, you’ll need to determine the legal structure of your business: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), C-corporation, S-corporation, nonprofit or cooperative; this is where an accountant, lawyer or business mentor can help.
Obtaining the right business insurance is important. Contact local insurance agents or brokers to get a quote and information on what fits your unique business needs. There are many types of insurance and your needs will vary greatly depending on the nature of your business, so be sure to get a thorough analysis.
Also, if you plan on hiring employees right away, consider whether or not you’ll provide them with benefits like employer-sponsored health care or retirement plans, and know the costs associated with those benefits.
Even if you aren’t in the technology business, you’ll have technology needs. Consider these 3 elements at a minimum:
- Business website: You’ll need to register your domain name, find a web hosting platform and choose an internet services provider
- Website development: You’ll need to create a company website — even a simple one-page site — and this may be something you need to outsource. There’s a wide range of costs to consider when building a website. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but costs can be significant depending on your business and its needs. For example, if you’ll need your website to be able to sell products and accept credit cards and other forms of payment, setting that up properly will cost more than a static site with basic company information.
- IT support: Your business will likely use some form of accounting, sales or business software. How will you manage your computer systems? If something goes wrong, who will help repair it or provide support? It's a good idea to put an IT support solution in place when you're building the foundation of your business.
Take advantage of startup financing or unique loan programs available to micro-businesses, women business owners and other groups. Consult with bank representatives to learn about any options available to you and consider reaching out to nonprofit organizations in your area.
Also, consider joining a local chamber of commerce, small business association or networking group to help join forces with other area business leaders and tap into their insights. The Bank of America Small Business Community has a wide variety of online resources you can tap into, too.
Determine how many employees you may need and in what roles. Sales or management? Full-time or part-time? Think carefully about the logistics of bringing on staff and ask yourself these questions: What will you pay them? Where and how will you recruit them? When will you need them on board?
When starting a business, it’s a good idea to open up a business checking account and a small business credit card account in order to separate your personal finances from your company finances. Researching different accounts will help you find the right one for your business. Look for accounts that offer Online Banking, a Mobile Banking app for on-the-go money management and end-of-year summaries.