How To Start & Grow Your Business

Starting a business can be both exhilarating and challenging. It requires your full attention and energy. It all begins with an idea, an observation that there is a problem and the belief that you have a new solution – or a better one.

Allow us to walk you through the steps in this free guide: How to Start A Business. Take advantage of all our business resources including printable PDFs, useful templates and checklists. Download in our free members’ area HERE.

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15 Steps to Starting a Business

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Starting a new business can be an adventure
… hang on and enjoy the ride
 

Step 1: Be sure to do your research (thoroughly)!

Research is crucial. So much can be learned and extrapolated from just a few hours of Googling and surfing the Internet. “Do your homework” thoroughly and you’ll be so much better off. In fact, it’s a necessary first step to determine the viability of your business idea.

It’s important to be honest with yourself. If it seems your idea has already been done, can you do it better or offer it cheaper than the competition? Ask yourself the hard questions and get feedback from associates and mentors.

Better yet, test your idea with a simple landing page that describes your product or service. See if people will give you their email address to be notified when your product or service launches. Then, let the facts and numbers speak for themselves and don’t let emotions cloud the truth.

Recommended Resource:

Unbounce – A powerful tool for testing an idea through creating a simple landing page which anyone can build without knowing how to code.

Tip from an expert

Eder-Holguin“Research your market, your competition, your ideal target market and validate your main value proposition. Getting fast and real feedback will save a lot of time, money and will allow you to make changes to your product quickly. Most new entrepreneurs spend a lot of time trying to build a business just because “they” think is a great idea.”

Eder Holguin, Serial Entrepreneur, Digital Sales & Marketing Expert

Read our full chapter 1 for more details: How to do your research

 

Step 2: Write a killer business plan

Some of us may cringe at the thought of it, but anyone who is serious about their startup must write a business plan. Here’s the good news: You can do it and it can even be rewarding!

First things first. Get your ideas written out. Don’t worry about brilliant prose. Just make notes on your product or service. Describe the product; how you’re planning to market and sell it; what is your pricing model; who is your competition; and what is your expertise.

Bonus: We offer a free Business Plan Template to help you succeed with this which is available when you signup in our free members’ area HERE.

 

Recommended Resource:

100 Tips to Writing A Killer Business Plan That Gets Funded – A killer business plan doesn’t simply explain who you are and what you do, it is actually a strategy to design your business.

Tip from an expert

akira-hirai“First timers shouldn’t overthink things and try to reinvent the wheel. The first funding sources you’ll approach are friends & family, or for certain types of businesses, maybe a bank that offers SBA-backed loans. They won’t expect anything elaborate. Just use something like Business Plan Pro or LivePlan.com – they’ll help you organize your thoughts and produce a decent result if you carefully read and follow the instructions.”

Akira Hirai, CEO of Cayenne Consulting (Business Plan Consulting service)

Read our full chapter 2 for more details: How to write a business plan

 

Step 3: Intimately know your product or service

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Knowing your product really means 2 things:

Firstly, what is it made of? That is, you need to know what are the ingredients or components in detail. Even a service is made up of something. If you are starting a Plumbing service then you need to describe what parts you have for inventory; do you need a truck; what tools need to be purchased etc.

Secondly, what are the features and what are the benefits? There’s a difference and you need to understand the distinction. If you are selling low-fat cookies the feature may be: ‘we use an alternative sweetener’ but the benefit is ‘our cookies are healthier for you’.

Understand everything there is to know about your service as it relates to your target audience. How do you deliver it? Is your price competitive? How is it packaged? What makes your product unique?

Only after thoroughly going through this exercise can you properly price your product or service; understand who your customer is; and how you can communicate with your target audience.

Read our full chapter 3 for more details: Know your product or service

 

Step 4: Write your marketing plan based on your research

In your research phase you should be able to determine how people in your niche seem to be doing their marketing. This will give you ideas for how you might like to do your own marketing. Is it going to be Google Adwords; Facebook marketing; will you rely on word-of-mouth referrals or something completely different?

List bullet points describing who your ideal clients would be and also a set of points explaining how you will let them know about your business. Next, explain how you’ll create leads and ultimately sales from your target demographics. After you’ve done this, the Marketing Plan (which is actually a section in the business plan) should flow more easily.

If possible, it’s even better to do some real testing of both Facebook and Google ads (or whatever marketing channel you see fit). You can send the traffic to a simple landing page and see if people enter their email in exchange for more information. Then you’ll have a much more accurate idea of how much it will cost per lead.

Bonus: We offer a free Marketing Plan Template to help you succeed with this which is available when you signup in our free members’ area HERE.

 

Recommended Resource:

Unbounce – A powerful tool for testing an idea through creating a simple landing page which anyone can build without knowing how to code.

Tip from an expert

Lincoln-Murphy“First, develop your Ideal Customer Profile and research their Desired Outcome (Required Outcome + Appropriate Experience); don’t try to be all things to everyone. This’ll allow you to acquire customers that rapidly get value from what you sell, stay with you longer, buy more over time, and tell their friends.”

Lincoln Murphy, Top blogger on SaaS Growth Strategies

Read our full chapter 4 for more details: How to write a marketing plan

 

Step 5: Do your financial projections – breathe … breathe

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Can’t I just start selling my product? Maybe. Do I really need Financial Projections? The short answer is yes. If you plan to raise funds they need to be more detailed. If you are bootstrapping the startup yourself or with a partner you might be able to get away with a simpler set of Projections.

Think about it: How can you know whether you’re charging enough and when are you going to be profitable unless you put down some numbers?

Fear not, help is on its way!

Bonus: We offer a free Financial Projections Template to help you succeed with this which is available when you signup in our free members’ area HERE.

 

Recommended Resource:

Microsoft 365 – For a reasonable monthly fee per user (approx. $15) you have access on all your devices to the entire Office suite of software tools including Word, Excel (essential for doing financial projections), Outlook, Powerpoint, OneNote, Access and SharePoint. No additional costs for upgrades. Versions for PC or mac.

Tip from an expert

Meredith-Wood“Always put finances first. Get a handle on all important financial documents before even starting. Offer a barter with a bookkeeper or an accountant so you make sure you have someone watching your finances from day one. Too often, startups waste money by not tracking spending and thinking wisely about financial investments. Don’t let yourself start a business cash poor because of your inability to make the “not so fun stuff” a priority.”

Meredith Wood, Top blogger at Fundera.com

Read our full chapter 5 for more details: How to set up financial projections

 

Step 6: Come up with your business name and brand strategy

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The name of your business is obviously very important. Also consider whether the .COM domain name is available. We use and recommend GoDaddy.

Some tips for choosing a name include:

  • Using your own name in the business name e.g. John’s Delicatessen
  • Finding an attribute of the business to create a positive response in the audience – Precision Marketing or Green Logistics, for example.
  • Helping prospects remember the website address by choosing a short name that is recognizable, easy to remember and meaningful.

Once you’ve got your business name selected and your domain name secured it’s time to work on your branding strategy. Brand is all about building credibility with your target audience. It takes time and is important for you to be consistent across the board with your messaging. Your logo is the fun part of branding but don’t spend too much time and money on it at first. You could use a local designer or a website like 99designs to create a professional logo affordably.

Of course, be sure to attend to the basic needs of your customers and always put them first. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing which comes from an exceptional product or service and brand.

Recommended Resources:

GoDaddy – The world’s largest domain registrar.
99designs – Create a stellar business logo for as little as $299.

Tip from an expert

Andrea-Beltrami“Spend the time to define the foundational elements of your brand, including your brand mood & personality, exactly what you’re brand is all about, and who your perfect reader/client is before you try creating a unique brand identity. Branding really boils down to knowing exactly who you are. A killer signature style + consistency = brand recognition and online visibility. It’s all about setting yourself up for success, baby!”

Dre Beltrami, Founder of The Branded Solopreneur

Read our full chapter 6 for more details: How to Name and Brand your Business

 

Step 7: Decide on which legal structure is right for you

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At bizHUMM we always strongly suggest to our members that they incorporate their startup. It should help to protect you and your personal assets from potential liabilities from lawsuits. It is worth the modest investment of a few hundred dollars.

There are 3 basic choices you have to choose from when incorporating: S Corp; LLC; and C Corp. The right legal structure for you depends on issues related to taxes and liabilities.

Recommended Resource:

LawDepot – Free legal forms, documents and contracts.

Read our full chapter 7 for more details: How to Choose the Right Legal Structures

 

Step 8: Start fundraising for your business

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Fundraising starts with 2 simple questions: How much do you need? How much equity are you willing to sell? This takes us back to Steps 2 & 5: your Business Plan and Financial Projections.

If you project losses in the first year of $45,000 you may want to raise $60,000 – $75,000. Now much of your business is that worth? Truth be told, there is no magic formula to determine this. The answer always lies somewhere in between what the investors feels is fair in return for their money and what percentage of your company you feel is fair to offer for their money?

Recommended Resource:

Fundera – The best website for small business loan comparison shopping.

Tip from an expert

Lynda-Bekore“When funding your new or growing business, don’t invest or raise money until you’re sure what your profit model will be and how your product will generate revenue. If possible, try not to rely too much on outside funding. Bootstrapping is usually more effective in the long run, because you retain complete control and you always know where your revenue stream is coming from and how long it will last.”

Lynda Bekore, Blogger at SmallBizClub.com

Read our full chapter 8 for more details: How to Raise Money for a Business

 

Step 9: Set up your accounting system for under $10/ month

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It is vital that you manage your accounting properly. However, it is not necessary to spend a fortune doing it. You can combine an affordable payroll service with a part-time bookkeeper and you’re set.

Now you’re ready to spend your time where it needs to be – growing the business and caring for your customers.

Recommended Resources:

Xero – This highly affordable financial software allows you to keep track of all your business finances, sync with your bank, pay employees and analyze the financial health of your business each month with just a few clicks.
PayChex – Offering back-office solutions that help you run your business efficiently: online payroll; top reporting features; human resource management; employee benefits; 401(k) administration; and more. They are bizHUMM’s payroll provider and we love them!

Tip from an expert

Gene-Marks“If you’re going to set up an accounting system for the first time then cough up a few bucks and involve a CPA. He or she will advise you on the necessary accounts. This way you can be sure that it’s done the right way and the system will grow with your company. Remember – do what you do best and bring in experts to do what they do best.”

Gene Marks, Expert in Sales, Marketing and CRM Technologies

 

Read our full chapter 9 for more details: How to Setup Your Accounting System

 

Step 10: Make sure you’ve got business insurance

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Insurance always seems like a waste of money – until you are faced with a theft, or fire, or lawsuit etc. Then you may wish you were covered.

For most businesses, insurance coverage is a must for survival. Take a reality check, ask yourself what would happen if:

  • An employee or visitor falls in your office.
  • A customer takes an action based on advice on your website and it all goes wrong.
  • There’s a fire and your equipment is damaged.
  • A customer is injured as a result of a faulty product.

The list can go on, but it’s clear, you will need general liability insurance and some other specialist policies. In some cases, insurance will be a legal requirement.

Recommended Resource:

CBIZ – This is the business insurance provider we use and like.

Read our full chapter 10 for more details: How to Setup Business Insurance

 

Step 11: Set up an office or work space affordably

Do you really need an office to start out or can you save the money and work from home? When starting a business it’s always good to be practical but also save money wherever possible. If you do decide get an office space there are several things to consider:

  • Furniture – It’s usually possible to find quality used furniture from your local thrift shop but these days Amazon offers good quality options for very affordable rates. To start with you office can be very simple with a desk, chair or two and a filing cabinet.
  • Communications – Getting a reliable landline phone and the highest speed Internet connection is a must. These days it’s also essential to have good quality smartphone for Internet, email and useful apps so that you can work from anywhere while traveling etc.
  • Technology – Prior to investing in a new computer, decide how you’ll use it. Will you only be working from your office or will you need to meet clients in a coffee shop? A desktop computer is better because of the big screen and more powerful processor while a laptop or tablet enables you to be more mobile. An affordable laser jet printer is a necessity and it’ll rarely need new over-priced ink cartridges.

Recommended Resources:

Amazon – One stop shop for buying all your office needs.
Goodwill – Nationwide thrift shop for finding used furniture etc if you can’t find what you need at affordable rates on Amazon.

Tip from an expert

Lisa-Barone“Never let the business become more important than your health. Have set work hours. Get yourself in a schedule that you can live with (emphasis on the “live). The number one mistake I see new entrepreneurs make is that they sacrifice their lives and their health for this thing they’re trying to create. Be smarter than that.”

Lisa Barone, Blogger at Overit.com

Read our full chapter 11 for more details: How to Setup Your Office or Workspace

 

Step 12: Make a beautiful & professional website without breaking your piggy bank

A professional and aesthetically pleasing website lets everyone know you mean business. It is the virtual business card or storefront for all your products and services. It gives you the chance to reach millions of people all over the country or even world.

These days it’s possible to create a top-notch website affordably without ever touching code. Vendors such as Weebly, ThemeForest and Shopify all offer great solutions that any new business should be satisfied with.

Remember, just creating your website won’t drive customers to your door. You’ll also need a good domain name, great content and corresponding marketing strategy to attract quality traffic and to then turn them into leads and buyers.

Recommended Resources:

Weebly – One of the simplest and easiest to use website builders available. Including hosting your website and your domain name it starts at $8/ month
ThemeForest – Website templates for WordPress (most popular platform for building websites). Themes range from $4 to $50. Then you’ll need web hosting which is only $3.95/ month with Bluehost.
Shopify – An ecommerce exclusive platform that enables you “to sell everywhere”. This is possible because they not only help you create a beautiful ecommerce website but also offer POS (Point-of-Sale) software that connects to your in-store tablet. For retail stores with both a physical and web address, Shopify is a great option.

Tip from an expert

Stephanie-Chandler“When it comes to blogging, don’t choose quantity over quality. It’s better to start with one amazing blog post per week and promote it like crazy than five mediocre ones.”

Stephanie Chandler, Author of “Own Your Niche”

Read our full chapter 12 for more details: How to Make a Website

 

Step 13: Market your business and measure your results

Thanks to the Internet it’s now possible to advertise your business affordably and measure the return on investment with every cent spent. The two most obvious places to start are with Google Adwords and Facebook advertising. Then there are countless other channels to explore such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Local marketing

Google offers an amazing free tool called Google Analytics which tracks everything that happens on your website. If setup correctly you can know exactly how much each lead for your service or sale of your product costs per marketing channel. They say that “knowledge is power” and this couldn’t be more true with marketing your business.

Recommended Resources:

Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords – Great book by Perry Marshal showing you how to set up Google Adwords properly.
Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising – Another Great book by Perry Marshal (and friends) taking you through the steps to set up effective Facebook ads.
Hootsuite – Social media marketing management tool to save time and automate posting.
BuzzSumo – Content marketing tool to see which articles are most popular on any topic.
MailChimp – Best entry-level email marketing platform which is free for the first 2000 subscribers.
Google My Business – Get your business quickly listed locally in Google search.
Google Analytics – Track everything that happens on your website whether it’s a sale or a lead etc.

Tip from an expert

Matthew-Woodward“Before launching a blog, I put thought into the execution. Having passion is all well & good but there’s got to be some sort of method to the madness!”

Matthew Woodward, Author of award winning marketing blog

Read our full chapter 13 for more details: How to Market Your Business Affordably

 

Step 14: Start selling like there’s no tomorrow

Few can argue that without sales you don’t have a business. It’s the lifeblood of your business and it’s importance can’t be emphasized enough. Sales requires confidence and this achieved by knowing your product or service like the back of your hand.

Another important part of successful sales is to focus on benefits rather than features. Apple is famous for this. For example, with their iPod launch they labeled it as “1,000 songs in your pocket” rather than, “It has a 5GB hard drive”.

Recommended Resource:

How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling – Bestselling book by one of America’s highest paid salesman, Frank Bettger

Tip from an expert

wendy-weissLearn your craft. Unfortunately, too many sales professionals believe the myth of the “born salesperson.” This myth says that some people are simply born knowing how to sell. While some people may be born with talent, that is not the same as being skillful. Think of all the really talented athletes that never made it to the Olympics. Selling is a communication skill and just like any other communication skill it can be learned and it can be improved on. If you want to succeed in sales then do whatever it takes to learn the skills that you need: read books, talk to other successful sales professionals, attend seminars, listen to audios, watch videos, hire a coach… If you really want to be successful it will be a lifelong learning process.”

Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling

Read our full chapter 14 for more details: How to do Sales Effectively

 

Step 15: Be sure to set up (free) business cloud services

The advantages of using the “cloud” for your startup business are amazing. It allows you to make use of highly sophisticated infrastructure, software and apps all for free or very affordable rates. What’s more: it’s accessible from anywhere with the Internet.

For startups, it means that we live in a time where you can outsource many time-consuming processes. For example, document collaboration, payroll, file sharing, data storage and CRM to name just a few. This makes it possible for you to stay focussed on what’s most important – your customers.

Recommended resources:

Google Drive – Free Cloud-based Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms and Drawings. Google Drive can become the backbone of your small business document needs and because it’s cloud-based your team can access the docs anywhere anytime.
Xero – This highly affordable financial software allows you to keep track of all your business finances, sync with your bank, pay employees and analyze the financial health of your business each month with just a few clicks.
DropBox – Premium cloud storage and file synchronization software that allows you to access and share your important files with any-one anywhere.
WeTransfer – Free way to transfer up to 2GB files to anyone in the world. They also have an affordable paid version that allows for unlimited file transfers of up to 10GB.
Skype – By now everyone must have heard of Skype. It’s an amazing, free way to have video meetings (and screen sharing) with employees, clients and partners anywhere in the world. It also has individual and group text chatting between members, which can be a great way to communicate amongst teams.
Adobe Creative Cloud – Affordable way to get access to Adobe’s creative suite such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign etc. and only pay for the programs your team uses.

Tip from an expert

Melinda-Emerson“I have met many entrepreneurs who fall into the success trap. Once they start making real money, that’s the most important thing to them. Don’t let money or success change you; neither will give you peace or make you happy.”

Melinda Emerson, The “SmallBizLady”

 

Read our full chapter 15 for more details: How to Set up Cloud Services for Automating Business Operations

Before starting your business also consider these additional points below

What is a small business?

By definition, a small business can range in size from one person working from their basement to a company of 50-100 people. Since you’re reading this, you’re probably on the smaller end of the scale, or maybe still brainstorming startup ideas.

How big should you aim for at first?

Technology, as we’ll explain later, gives you the ability from day one to perform at a level that once was only possible for much larger companies. But, as a starting point, you could gain more by focusing on a narrow niche market where you have special knowledge or skills. Niche markets are less attractive to larger companies, so you’ll face less competition as you grow revenue and hone your business skills.

Passion & Expertise are crucial

Passion for what you are going to do every day is of the highest importance. It gives you the energy to hit the ground running. But it’s no use without expertise – a critical second ingredient.

Believe in yourself

Expertise and passion together make a powerful combination, giving you the confidence in the strength of your idea and your abilities.

It’s a fine balance, though. Even if you’re sure you can succeed, sometimes it helps to get a reality check. You don’t want to be acting from a self-created bubble. Talk to knowledgeable friends and family about your idea or ask a local business owner you respect to be your mentor.

A fresh and objective pair of eyes can help you pinpoint any weaknesses in your idea or identify potential pitfalls.

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And Remember: Equity is a precious commodity

One final element to consider at the outset is your equity or ownership in the business. You will have to put a lot into the venture – your time, skills, expertise, passion and your money. Will you attempt to fully retain that equity or should you bring in others to share the equity?

One factor in your decision is your working style. Can you work alone or do you need other people to kick ideas around or share the burden? You may have gaps in your skills or experience that a partner could bring to the venture. Maybe you have great technical skills, but little business experience. A partner could provide vital balance to your new business.

Weigh it all up

It’s essential to go through this preliminary personal assessment. It forces you to think about the viability and potential of your business idea. But, even if the signs are positive, that’s no guarantee of success. It’s just a starting point, so now it’s time to get down to a more formal analysis.

How much of this guide do I need to read?

If you’re serious about starting a business, we advise you read this guide cover-to-cover. We’ve attempted to make it as concise as possible and easy to comprehend. We’ve also created a free printable PDF if you’d prefer, and throughout the guide we’ve listed resources on other sites that are worth paying attention to.

Each section of this guide is necessary to understand in order to be fully informed about the ins and outs of starting a new business.

Free Bonus Materials: We are here to help you start a successful business. Take advantage of all our business resources including a PDF of our “How to Start a Business” guide. Download in our members’ area HERE.