10 Steps to Starting a Small Business

Whether you are 25, 35 or 55, there is never a bad time to start a new business and fulfill a dream. But to make sure you consider these secret steps before you dive head-first.

There’s never been a better time

Thirty years ago, business was vastly different, and starting a business wasn’t for everyone. Now things have changed. The barrier to entry into the marketplace is lower than ever before. You don’t have to have a bunch of investors or even a brick-and-mortar store. You could start your business today with nothing more than your idea and a Facebook page. When I started selling my books, I just put out feelers as in a website post and had 4 sales in a week. Remember in the Digital age, hard copy anything g is not necessary. You have heard of eBooks, right?

You don’t have to be ‘business-minded’

You don’t have to have an MBA. And you don’t have to be a certain “type” of person to start a business anymore. I see more “accidental entrepreneurs” than I do people who set out with the goal and intention to start a business. This is not to discount having a formal education. But that is not a pre-requisite for starting a new business. I do believe you need to have a skill. Thinks about that before we go further. What skill do you have? What insight do you have that maybe is something someone else doesn’t? Or maybe you have a new delivery of that information. For myself, I am a healthcare consultant. I started as a coder and biller after HS while I was going to college. I was 17, then a degree in nursing and economics, but being a nurse and hating the sight of blood doesn’t work. I dove into the administrative end of healthcare, and financials and education.

I love numbers. Working at physician practices to continue in the education of how the coding, and insurance reimbursement system works, and since I was well-liked, I was always being asked to train an employee or to explain to a physician why he or she could or couldn’t capture their services a certain way. Then one day, I was called to be an authoritative source for the Journal of American Medical Association on a referral of my physician. Then a medical association conference had a speaker go down with a heart attack, I know that is sad, but again, a physician friend of a general surgery practice I was working at that I had educated on coding and reimbursement asked if I could cover and speak at a conference without notice in Salt Lake City. I was 28, with a newborn baby, but had about 30 hours of unused vacation time. I thought sure, thinking it was going to be 30 people. It was 400 and I was never so nervous in my life. But when they laughed at my first joke, I never looked back. The Q& A session was exhilarating, and a line formed after the session and I stayed and answered every single question. I knew. This was for me. I had 3 phone calls for clients wanting me to educate their staff, and physicians, and then a seminar company asked me to work for them as a contracted consultant, and I never looked back. Almost 25 years ago. One of my best qualities I am told is relating to people at the basic level. Not trying to be someone who knows it all, but someone who has a “good working knowledge” of their business and their needs and their future needs. That is what business-minded is today. It’s the relationship you build with that potential client.

Solve a problem

Businesses exist to help people, so your business needs to solve a problem that people face. Consider what needs you fill, what problems you solve and why people should care about your business. This is the value you provide, and it’s what you market and ultimately charge for. Think about that especially in our current climate of this public health emergency. If you are at home working, but finding time on your hands like never before, are you learning GoToMeeting? Zoom? Microsoft 360? The media platforms that people have been forced into to work remotely. How valuable would you be to almost anyone at this point if you had experience in that?

Work with what you already have

Your business has the best chance to make money, and therefore be successful and sustainable, if you keep costs down. A great way to do this is to start with what you have. When you look at your resources with new eyes, you’ll be amazed at how much you have that you can put to use. If you already know what you need for your business, challenge yourself to be as resourceful as possible with what you currently have. It can help you save a tremendous amount of costs. Not everything has to be shiny and new.

Bartering could be your best friend

For the activities that you can’t and shouldn’t do yourself, barter. You have something to offer that people need, and people have something to offer that you need. What can you trade to get services or supplies while you’re getting started? Be sure to give yourself credit for the valuable talents you have, and don’t be afraid to offer them in exchange for the talents of others. An example for me is that I needed some start-up funding for my podcasting. I offered to spotlight several businesses as a “sponsor” (free marketing) and speak at their local chapter association meeting for no fee. This was a huge barter of value for both sides. Also, back in the day when I first started, I would offer to train staff on coding updates, for a referral.

Get creative

Creativity allows you to bypass many startup costs. Who do you know who can help? Which connections might be able to assist you? The connections you already have can help you get around your biggest expenses — like a workspace. With a little creativity, you always have more options than you think. I sublet my office space from my tax consultant that only needs to use my office 3 weeks a year. But I get $300 off my lease costs per year and I work from my home office, those days. Win-Win. It never hurts to ask.

Treat your business as a business

There’s a difference between a hobby and a business. A business makes you money. A hobby costs you money. It sounds simple, but many people miss this reality. If you want to turn your hobby into a business, you must treat it as a business. That comes from recognizing and accepting the reality that for it to work, it has to make you money.

Keep your accounts separate

Your business needs to have its own checking and savings accounts instead of co-mingling with your personal finances. This helps keep your money separate, which makes life much easier for you. It is a must for tax reasons as well. At some point, you will want to pay expenses out of your business account, not your personal. Also, one credit card for your business is a good idea. I have 2 and AMEX and a Mastercard because not everyone takes AMEX, the fees are too high. But it is always good to have either a Visa or MC. When you are starting, if you can get one with low interest, and at least a $5000 limit you are golden. Just a reminder; No groceries, or personal expenses on that card. It is for business.

Having a plan is a must

Begin with the end in mind. Many people slide into business instead of being intentional. When you don’t have a plan, you can end up overwhelmed and discouraged. Think through the details and the pricing of your business, which includes covering the bases of how you’ll operate. Having a plan gives you focus and control, and helps you have fun with your business. Think of it this way: “A Goal without a plan is just a wish”. I am a big fan of task lists, outlines, and business plans. Even in the basic format. You need to see it and follow it. It’s like a budget. You need to know how much you have to know how much you can spend. See it.

Do it scared

So many people have the dream in their hearts to start something, but they stay stuck because they are scared. They aren’t “ready.” Entrepreneurs face real fears every day at every stage. But the successful ones do it anyway. If you’re waiting until you’re ready to try, you’ll never try it. Ready is a myth — so push past your fear, put in the work and it will be worth it. In the words of the Nike Slogan: Just. Do. It.

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