Do you dream about starting a business, but don’t know where to begin? Does the idea of being your own boss and creating a company that provides great products and services excite you? But all you do is dream, unable to move ahead? You’re not alone. Many women feel this way.
More than twenty-five years ago, I launched my own company, a public relations agency that is still thriving today. I’ve also had the privilege of mentoring many other women entrepreneurs. I’ve seen what works and what prevents women from moving ahead. Below are five step-by-step strategies that can help you launch the business of your dreams.
1. Commit to one business.
You must commit to one business. The biggest roadblock to being an entrepreneur is fear of choosing one business and going for it. You can’t get an enterprise off the ground, if you spread yourself thin. Over and over again throughout the years, I’ve met women who have the passion to become entrepreneurs, but they keep spinning in circles, never committing to one business. Look at it this way, once you succeed at building your first company, you can always start another one.
Remember, too, that it’s important to choose a business that you are passionate about. This is not about the latest fad or fashion. It’s about making a commitment to something that will absorb large amounts of your time—and possibly quite a bit of money. So choose wisely. If you want to start an online business, then commit to it. If you want to open a retail store, then go for it. If you want to be a contractor, then move ahead. But don’t hang yourself up by wanting to do all three things at once. Make a choice and commit.
2. Research that business.
Today, it’s easier than ever to learn about any business in the world. For the fastest results, look online. Google the type of business you want to start. Find out about professional organizations in the field. Read blogs and bulletin boards by people doing similar things. Learn about sources of help. Read industry articles and buy the magazines or books that can teach you more. Participate in teleseminars. You also need to reach out to business people and others who may be able to help you. You can do this through networking at local events, seminars, business groups, and online through social networks. Make sure you understand the business that you want to start. The more you know about it, the greater your chance for success.
3. Create a business blueprint.
Don’t worry about writing a formal business plan at first. Business plans are essential if you want to raise money through venture capital or obtain a commercial loan from a bank or other source. Most people start businesses with their own funds or a personal loan.
What you actually need is a three to four-page business blueprint that serves as your personal guide to navigating the road ahead. Here’s what goes into a business blueprint:
a. A clear description of what the business does and who it serves.
b. A description of how the business will run on a day-to-day basis.
c. A list of your specific responsibilities as the business owner.
d. A list of what other people will do.
e. An estimate of what it will cost to run the business for the first year.
f. An estimate of how you will cover these first-year expenses, either through sales or from some other source.
Once you create a written picture of how the business will function, you’ll be able to move ahead to the next step.
4. Build a team.
One of the biggest myths about starting a business is thinking that you’ve got to do it alone. But you can’t create a great business without help. Using your business blueprint as a guide, you’ll need to put together the following three teams:
Professional Advisors: These are the professionals who will advise you on the basics of starting a business such as whether to incorporate; what type of insurance coverage to obtain; and where to work. These professionals will include an accountant, an insurance agent, and possibly a lawyer or real estate broker. Make sure you get recommendations from other small business owners before you hire these experts.
Informal “Board of Directors”: This is a group of unpaid advisors, often made up of friends and acquaintances with business expertise, who will mentor you as you’re finding your way in the business world. Don’t be shy about asking for their advice. You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to help, if you only ask.
Your Own Staff: This is the team who will work with you on a daily basis to help you build your business. If you’re not ready for full-time employees, think about adding college interns or part-time employees. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything yourself. Instead focus on the key activities that will give you the biggest return. Your business will grow twice as fast.
5. Surround yourself with positive people.
It’s not enough to simply follow the four steps listed above, you must believe in yourself. There will be many times when you’ll question yourself, wondering whether you’re doing the right thing. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with positive people. Negative people encourage self-doubt. They drain your time and energy, and undermine your ambitions. Negative people come in many guises, from those who don’t want you to get ahead to others who see the downside of every situation. And they are everywhere. Some may even be family and friends. Try not to share your business dreams with them. Instead, share your ideas with people who are supportive. Positive people will help you build your business. Seek them out for counsel and advice.
Starting a business may seem like a daunting task. But if you are passionate and committed to making it work, then following these steps will help make the journey easier, less complex, and much more fun.