So you’ve got a great idea for a business, but you’re not quite sure if you have the skills to pull it off. Maybe you’ve never run a business, and don’t know what you need to make sure it is successful. Maybe you know you can create an amazing product or deliver an outstanding service, but you don’t have the right administrative background to handle the back end of keeping a small business running.
If you’re ready to jump into entrepreneurship, don’t worry about having to become an expert at everything right away. Instead, use these five items to get you on the fast track to a successful small business.
1. Online LLC forms
The process of forming a LLC, or “limited liability company,” used to be much more complicated. Now, you can create a LLC online in under an hour. There are three different types of small businesses you can create — LLC, C-corp, and S-corp — but the LLC is nearly always the best option for first-time businesses. Read Startup 101’s guide for more information on how a LLC protects you and your fledgling company.
2. An on-call CPA
The best thing you can do for your business, especially in the early stages, is get to know a certified public accountant. This person will help make sure you take all the right steps at the beginning of your business process, including pay all the appropriate taxes. There’s nothing like getting a tax letter from the city a year after your business is formed, telling you that you owe back taxes that you’ve never heard of. A good CPA will get you on the right track and save you money in the long run.
3. Contract software
Have you ever written a contract before? It’s both simpler and more complicated than you think. As an entrepreneur, you are likely to be involved in writing numerous contracts, from vendor agreements to short-term consultancies (like the graphic designer you’re going to hire to create your company logo). Look for a contract solution to help get you through the process of writing and tracking legal contracts. Contract Logix offers a SaaS cloud option, an on-premise client server/client, and its own web based application
4. A support group
Use Meetup or your local library to find entrepreneur groups in your area. The more people you know who is following similar paths, the better you all can leverage your knowledge and discuss those tricky issues like “do I use PayPal, or build my own shopping cart?” Don’t worry about these other entrepreneurs being your competitors; instead, think of them as your network. Plus, once you all get your businesses started, you’ll be able to refer customers to each other.
5. A part-time (or full-time) job
Wait, what? Why do entrepreneurs need another job? The truth is that it’ll take you at least a year to learn if your business is viable: if you have what it takes to handle running a small business, and if your product or service has a market in the real world. During that time, it’s a good idea to have another income source coming in, because it’s really easy to burn through your life savings on a business that has, at best, a 50% chance of viability.
In addition, keeping another job during your business’s first year will help you stay focused — when you can only work on your business for a few hours every day, you’ll avoid procrastination and work on only the most important tasks. Even Forbes agrees: keeping your day job until your business takes off is one of the smartest choices entrepreneurs can make.
Think you’re ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship? Use these five items to give yourself a good start. Then use the next year to create a business that wows its customers, provides a unique product or service, and builds the foundation for years of success.