5 tips for starting your own business
(BPT) - There’s no doubt the pandemic has hit small businesses hard. Even in its early weeks, February to April 2020, the number of active businesses plummeted by 22%, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. And unfortunately, the consequences of the early shutdowns impacted minority-owned businesses even harder, with Black-owned businesses seeing a 41% drop, Latinx businesses 32%, Asian businesses 26% and women-owned businesses 25%.
Does that bad news mean that now is the wrong time to consider starting a new business? Not necessarily. Opportunities exist for small businesses today, including support and funding for start-ups — and especially for minority business owners.
If you want to start a small business, here are steps to get you started.
1. Do your research
First, make sure you understand the current market for your business. This step is crucial to turn an idea into a full-fledged business plan.
Ask questions like:
Ask other business owners about their challenges and rewards to explore whether this is a good option for you. Use market analysis tools recommended by resources such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) to get to know the market for your business.
2. Write a business plan
No business can find funding, investors or partners without a solid business plan. Learning to write a comprehensive plan also forces you to fully think through every aspect of your proposed idea. The SBA is a great resource to research types of business plans.
Enlist the help of other business owners during the process if you can to understand how their plans helped them and what to avoid.
3. Fund your business
Every business needs capital to get started. Your business plan’s financial section should provide a clear idea of the capital you need to launch. Most businesses rely on multiple financial sources, including:
SBA loans can be a good option. For example, Huntington Lift Local Business is a small-business lending program focused on serving minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Huntington is a top SBA 7(a) lender that has developed creative lending options and other features to help bring relief, recovery and growth to small businesses across the Midwest.
With Huntington's program, businesses can secure SBA-guaranteed loans from $1,000 and up to $150,000 with:
“The economic uncertainty sparked by the pandemic has highlighted the need for increased financial opportunity for everyone starting or sustaining their small businesses,” said Huntington’s SBA program director, Maggie Ference. “Everyone deserves a shot at success, and our program delivers a new solution to customers when they need it most, whether for a startup or an established business looking to grow.”
4. Develop a marketing plan
Creating a brand identity and communicating it well is crucial to success. Consider hiring or contracting marketing services to help you choose your business name, create a logo, build your website and develop a strategic marketing plan to get the word out about your business.
5. Take care of business
Dotting the Is and crossing the Ts is necessary for any business. Details include choosing your business location and registering your business, applying for all the required licenses and permits, including federal and state tax IDs — plus opening your business bank account. Also, consulting an accountant with experience helping small businesses can ensure you have your business and financial ducks in a row.
Starting a small business is a daunting challenge, but it can also be a rewarding opportunity. Taking the time to fully explore and utilize all the resources at your disposal can help ensure that your new business will be a success.
With winter on its way, there seem to be so many things for your business to do. While you want to make sure that you can end the year on a high note, it’s also important that you pay enough attention to preparing your building for winter. Thinking about specific aspects of your building’s maintenance can help you make an effective winter care plan.
Checking your insulation is one of the best ways to ensure that your building stays comfortable during winter. But also, checking your insulation and adding more if necessary, will help you save a significant amount of money in utilities bills.
When it comes to checking your insulation, have your inspector pay special attention to the upper part of the building. Heat tends to exit up and out of a building. So having good insulation around your roof will make a big difference in ensuring heat stays inside the building.
Maintain Your Heat System
It’s essential that you check your building’s heating system before winter sets in. There is hardly anything worse to have to deal with than a broken heating system when it’s 15 degrees outside.
Even if you do not suspect that your heating system has any major damage or problems, it’s good to have it inspected before winter. Doing this allows you to identify any inefficiencies that may cause it to lose heat and thus lose money for you and your company.
As winter gets closer, repair leaks or other damage in the roof is essential. It’s important that you look for any missing shingles or any damage on the inside of the building’s ceiling that could have come from water leaking.
In addition to looking for leaks, you should also get your roof inspected to make sure that its drainage is functioning properly. Even if the roof is in good shape, if the drainage is not working well, you could end up having other major problems.
Protect Your Pavement
There are a variety of things to consider as you’re preparing your pavement for winter. You want to check the surface of the pavement for any potholes or other damage that may need to be corrected.
You also want to make sure that the pavement is properly sealed. This will ensure the concrete does not expand or morph during the winter as a result of cold temperatures. Sealcoating holds asphalt together and extends the life of your pavement.
Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
It’s also very important that you test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before the winter sets in. Cold weather and cold temperatures can affect batteries. If you don’t check your smoke detectors and replace batteries regularly, you could have lots of false alarms during the winter. Because these detectors play such a critical role in assuring everyone’s safety, you want them to be fully functioning during all the months of the year. Checking them before winter sets in will just protect you from possibly turning the detectors off because of annoying beeping from faulty batteries.
Prepare Lobby Areas
Of all places in your business’s building, your lobby area is one of the highest trafficked. As you prepare for winter, consider your specific preparations to make sure this area stays safe and clean. You’ll especially want to pay particular attention to the flooring here. Is it damaged at all? How is the sealant?
You might need to reseal areas of the tile in the entryway to ensure you don’t have further cracking or problems as winter becomes more harsh. You also want to make sure that you have enough coarse matting in and outside your building to prevent damage but more importantly, to prevent injury.
It’s easy to make the mistake of not having enough mats around your lobby area. Sometimes, businesses will have some matts right in the entry area as clients and employees walk through the doors but before they enter the actual lobby. While it is essential to have mats here, you should also have mats outside the building and in the lobby area as well. Having mats in all these areas will ensure that your business stays safe and clean.
Make a Better Snow Removal Plan
It’s essential that you consider your snow removal techniques before winter comes around. If you want to prevent potential damage and ensure the safety of your guests and employees, planning to have someone from building maintenance shovel snow every now and then won’t be enough.
Start by considering the unique situation of your building. Are there areas of your building exterior that need particular attention? Maybe there are some areas of the walkway to your building that are more prone to ice because they are heavily shaded.
Or maybe there is a certain part of your parking lot that has a few potholes. After examining these areas of your building, make a plan. Maybe you’ll need to communicate with your building manager that you hope to have the shaded part of your walkway salted twice as often as the others. Maybe you’ll need to have potholes filled before winter really sets in. Doing these things can make a big difference in your building’s safety throughout the winter season.
Check Your Foundation and Walls for Mold
In addition to making a better snow removal plan, you should also think about inspecting your building’s foundation every now and then. When there has been water buildup over time, foundations and walls can start to develop mold. Mold can have negative effects not only for your building but also for client and employee health.
Preparing for the winter and holiday season can be busy enough. But even in the hustle and bustle of the season, you shouldn’t forget to make sure your business’s building is ready for winter. Thinking about these suggestions can help you get started with ensuring that your building will stay safe, clean and warm throughout the season.
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The holiday season is approaching quickly, and now is the time to prepare. Whether your company is younger or older, smaller or bigger, there are some complications that come from the holiday influx of business, and it is difficult to know exactly how to prepare. Here are some quick ideas to consider.
Hire Seasonal Employees
Many businesses, especially retail businesses, need extra help during the holiday season. Though you can look internally and ask your current employees for longer hours and offer overtime pay or bonuses, it’s important to consider hiring seasonal employees. It’s a common practice to hire seasonal employees to meet holiday demands. Especially in a year like 2020, providing this work could be very valuable.
According to Harver, finding skilled seasonal employees takes time. Start early in your search for seasonal employees so you can find the best and most committed employees. Remember to always plan ahead. Be sure to prepare the training they will need carefully.
Take Out a Line of Credit
Operating during holiday expansion can be expensive. Consider what it costs to hire extra employees, increase on-demand inventory, rent extra storage, update your website, and increase operation hours. These are all expensive endeavors. Besides these, there are often other costs that you don’t expect.
One way to combat these extra expenses is by taking out a line of credit. A business line of credit acts similarly to a credit card. As you use money on the line of credit, you build a balance and that balance begins to build interest. This allows you to pay things off as they come up, without having to pull a loan for a specific purpose.
Finding the right lender is important. Research potential vendors and their requirements to take out a line of credit. According to HDA Financial, lenders usually prioritize businesses that have been around for two years or more.
Update Your Website
Depending on your website’s hosting provider, there might be limits on how many resources your site can consume. If these limits are exceeded from increased traffic (such as from a promotion or sale), you might have some expensive surprises on your invoice, or worse, degraded performance or outright failure of your website. Make sure that you’ve prepared your website to be able to handle the load so that you don’t get any nasty surprises or missed business.
According to Web FX, you will also want to make sure your website is extremely accessible. There are tools and technologies that you can use to make sure your website is navigable to blind people. You should evaluate how well your website performs on poor Internet connections as well. Fine-tuning your site to make it friendlier to use no matter who is accessing it or where they are accessing it from makes a more pleasant shopping experience and better business.
The holiday season is exciting, but a little stressful for business owners and those anticipating increased work. But don’t worry. Start by following the steps above, and you’ll be on your way to a successful holiday season.
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Knowing how to properly manage your inventory is an essential skill to learn. You can better understand when and how to stock your items, keep track of trends, and establish good practices. Doing so can allow you to optimize your inventory and overall benefit your business.
Keep Extra of Popular Items
When choosing what to stock, it’s important that you know what your most popular items are. These items will sell quicker and people will be eager to get them. You wouldn’t want to risk running out of a popular item, especially in the middle of a busy season. To help manage stocking these popular products, you should consider a classification system within your store. You can classify items by popularity so you can know which items to prioritize. Along with knowing how popular an item is, you should be aware of the demand for it. This will help you determine just how much stock you should have on hand.
Record Relevant Data
When you keep track of your inventory and sales data, you can make more informed decisions about what to stock. For example, you can keep track of what does and doesn’t sell. Understanding what products sell best lets you optimize your stock. You can know what to keep on hand and what you can have a limited stock of. Having this data also allows you to evaluate your products. If a product is consistently not selling well, then maybe it’s time to discontinue that product. On the other hand, if certain products are doing well you can increase the stock of those products and anything similar. It doesn’t do much good if you only make guesses and estimates about your products. Record data and use it to optimize your inventory.
One way to keep everything organized is to establish policies for how your inventory should be stocked. Having these policies in place ensures that everyone is stocking and restocking in the same way. Policies also make sure everything is consistent and predictable. One policy you can employ is a classification system. When you classify items, you can group them by value, by type, or any other factor. You can make it easier to find products and maintain organization.
Your inventory is an important part of your business so you should give it plenty of attention. You want to make sure your inventory is well organized and that you have a clear system in place for stocking. Take time to plan out how you can best optimize your inventory.
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When you run a business, you know that drawing in new customers is incredibly important. By working to reach a new audience and effectively retain customers, you can create a business model that will beat out the competition every time.
Learning to communicate effectively and concisely is a skill that is unusual in a lot of business circles. Concision in writing helps you to get to the point quickly and effectively. This is especially important because our world is fast paced, and people don’t have time to read a novel on every service and product they need. Keep things simple in your writing so your customers don’t need any extra knowledge to understand what you’re talking about. Make your sentences short and to the point.
Good Design Instincts
An eye for design is a great skill that can help you reach your audience effectively. Your website especially needs to have strong design because it is sometimes the only thing your customers will see before deciding whether or not to use your business. If you don’t design it well, 38% of people will leave your website soon after engaging with it. Simple, clear design can support your message and help your audience access your services more easily. The more quickly customers can get to what they need and the more sense the design makes, the better.
Customers are more likely to come back to your business time and time again if you are able to show them that you listen to what they have to say. Active listening is a great skill that can set you apart from other businesses and help you have a better understanding of what your competition is looking for.
When you’re talking to customers, give them your undivided attention. This helps you develop rapport and show them you care about their needs. Nodding and answering when appropriate can show them that you're listening. Wait until you have the whole picture before making decisions or jumping in with answers. Sometimes answering too early can make you miss the point or be unhelpful.
Bringing in new customers is always the goal when running a business. Luckily, there are many skills you can develop to continue growing your client base. By gaining new customers and taking care of your existing clients, you can create a business that will survive the most challenging times.
Read this next: Why Running Your Own Business is More Complicated Than a Day Job
Running your own business is an exciting prospect. You have a lot more freedom and control over what happens and when. You also get to decide how much your time is worth instead of being paid an amount determined by someone else. Before too long, though, you'll realize that running your own business is probably a lot more complicated than your day job was.
Juggle Multiple Tasks
When you first start out with your own business, you will inevitably end up wearing a lot of hats. You'll be required to juggle multiple tasks. If you don't make it happen, it probably won't happen at all. If you don't have any partners or employees, it's all on you. You'll have to handle the marketing, billing, any shipping, and any other work involved. This is in stark contrast to your typical day job, which involves relatively limited duties and responsibility. You'll need to learn to prioritize your tasks and manage your time effectively if you're going to successfully juggle everything you need to get done.
Odds are that your last day job didn't require you to do much with regard to the legal aspects of the business unless you were working within the legal industry. Since you're running your own business now though, you'll have to manage them yourself. You should speak with a tax attorney to discuss the best way to structure your business. How your business is taxed will depend in part on the way you choose to structure your business. Becoming informed is the best way to make the best decision for your business.
Holding Yourself Accountable
Now that you're your own boss, there isn't really anyone to hold you accountable for the work you do or don't complete. You'll have to hold yourself accountable for it instead. This will be essential to your ability to achieve your goals for your business. Write down your goals. Record accomplishments and milestones as you achieve them. Review your own performance regularly. Watch out for signs that you're procrastinating and take a more proactive approach to getting your work done.
Running your own business is a lot more complicated than your typical day job. There are multiple tasks to juggle, legal aspects to manage, and you have to do it all while holding yourself accountable. It's a huge learning curve, and that's only scratching the surface. That said, running your own business has the potential to be hugely rewarding and well worth the sacrifice.
Read this next: How to Start a Business When You Don’t Feel Qualified
Safety is key in business. To keep your business safe for employees, you need to keep track of different key indicators that show your business’s progress in different areas. What indicators you choose to measure will depend entirely on the work you do. Recording safety metrics will keep your employees safe and your business less liable.
Most government officials request that companies participate in safety inspections. If you work in construction or around heavy machinery, they will analyze how dangerous your equipment is. They also inspect pipes, building integrity, and other workplace problems. While some business owners may try to do the minimum work for their inspections to save money, the fines you receive for not keeping safety procedures can be much greater.
Inspections are great—as they also hold you accountable and measure how effective your company is. They are a physical example of your success in making your business a safe and open space for your workers.
Recording an injury rate in the public break room (and in your personal notes) is a great way to promote safety and encourage caution. Workplaces that face a lot of dangerous circumstances (like the energy, mining, and construction industries) have specific procedures to encourage safety at work.
By making daily updates to your injury rate count, it will motivate your employees to keep themselves safe. A high incident rate is a red flag for your work environment. It does not encourage potential employees to apply to your business, and draws undesirable media attention. You should try to keep the injury rate down by any means necessary.
Another way you can measure the safety of your company is by analyzing the training of your employees. Educating your workers on safe work practices is one of the best ways to prevent future problems. You may be doing this for new hires, but it is important you re-educate your long-time employees too.
Make training meetings mandatory, and instruct on the most recent safety guidelines you have received. Record who attended. Observe your employees and find ways to train them in an encouraging way on the job. Consistent training is the first protection against dangerous situations.
Safety metrics are important to every business. As a business owner, your first priority is to keep your employees safe. By ecstatically embracing inspections and training, you will be able to set your workers up for success. Your injury rate will go down, and you will protect yourself from lawsuits.
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For many people, starting a business is the first step on the path to financial freedom. Sometimes it can be difficult to get your business going. If you don't feel you're qualified, that can make it even more difficult. It's not impossible though. Here are a few tips.
Get Your Foot in the Door
Lack of experience is a huge obstacle to feeling confident in your ability to succeed with your own business. Overcome that lack of experience by getting some for yourself. Get your foot in the door in the industry you want to operate in to get a better idea of how that industry works. You might try working different jobs in the industry to get experience. Different jobs can give you different perspectives. Alternatively, consider shadowing experienced professionals within the industry. Shadow people at all levels to get a more thorough understanding of how things work.
Go Back to School
Education can be a great tool to help you feel more qualified to start your own business. To get the greatest value from your experience, pursue a business degree or one related to the field you want to be in. You have multiple options for how to pursue this. Choose between going back to school full time or as a part-time student. You can also choose between an in-person or online format for attending classes. Online courses are perfect if you have other responsibilities to take care of. They tend to be more flexible with scheduling.
Many entrepreneurs before you have been exactly where you are. A lot of them have written about their experience. If you need guidance, it helps to read the advice of those who have gone before you. There are a lot of great books for entrepreneurs to read. In them, you can find lifestyle advice, business advice, and financial advice, among other topics. If there's an area of entrepreneurship you want to learn about, there's probably a book about it for you to read.
It's tough to get a business going if you don't feel qualified to do so. You can overcome those feelings by getting your foot in the door in the industry you want to operate in, going back to school, and reading relevant books. This will help you feel more qualified and prepared to get your own business off the ground.
Read this next: Is a Franchise the Right Path to Entrepreneurship for You?
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