You've got a business idea that you think will be a sensation and you're eager to break out on your own. But where do you start? The process of getting your business up and running may not be as difficult as you think. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of what it will take to start cashing in on your great idea.
1. Make sure your business concept is something that will keep your interest in the long run.
"You have to have a degree of passion if you are going to start a business," said Thomas Shinick, professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. and president and CEO of Corporate Development Partners, a management consulting firm. "There is tons of information out there about scouting the right location and obtaining the proper business licenses for your startup business, but if it is not something you truly care about, it is going to sink. I've seen too many people simply take over a business because it was available to buy, not because it was something they necessarily dreamed of doing. You'll be sacrificing a lot of time to get your business off the ground. Make sure it is something you want to invest your time in pursuing."
2. Educate yourself. "Take courses online or at a university and look into courses offered through your chamber of commerce and the Small Business Administration," Shinick said. "If you can, work part time in the industry so that you get a feel for the business."
3. Write a business plan to help move things forward. "A lot of people might argue that you don't need a business plan, but putting things down on paper validates your idea," Shinick said. "It will help you obtain the capital you need and will show that you have thought your idea through."
4. Assemble a board of advisers to talk things out. "Include professors, accountants, attorneys and bankers," Shinick said. "This will provide you with people to bounce your ideas off of and add credibility when you move forward with your plan. Investors like to see that you have fleshed your idea out."
5. Get an accountant on board early in the process. "I had a full-time job as I considered starting my own business in 2009, but I did a lot of groundwork before I started, and bringing on an accountant was an important step," said Sarah Burningham, owner of Little Bird, a New York-based public relations, marketing and branding firm. "People didn't understand why I would consult an accountant before I left my job or made any money with my new venture, but it helped me understand what I needed to do to make this work from a profit standpoint and the ins and outs of state, federal and local taxes."
6. Understand how you will acquire customers. "Depending on the type of business you are starting, foot traffic and word of mouth is very important at the beginning," said Stuart Wall, CEO of New York-based Signpost, an online local marketing service .
Determine how you will build an online presence with social networks such as Twitter and Yelp. "Have those in place before you start," Stewart said.
Every business has a fixed cost regardless of how many customers they have, so it is important to have a plan to acquire new customers quickly and keep the existing ones if you are taking over a business, he said.
7. Gather demographic data and explore the neighborhood where you want to locate your business. "Don't just lease space because you go by there every day and think, 'Oh, that’s a great location,'" said Devon Wolfe, managing director of Americas strategy and analytics service for Pitney Bowes Business Insight, a Troy, N.Y.-based division of Pitney Bowes that provides customer relationship data and analytics. "Even being on the wrong side of the street can have an impact on your business success. Visit the site on different days and at different times of the day," Wolfe said.