The road to small business success starts with taking the right first steps

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Building a successful small business takes a lot of time, thought and planning. If you’ve never taken the entrepreneurial route before, you might find it overwhelming. With so many details to pay attention to, where do you start?

Marc Goldberg, a SCORE Mentor with expertise in business management and marketing, outlined some first steps that work for almost any type of business:

  • Contact your local from SCORE for advice from a business mentor and what to expect when starting a business.
  • Determine your value proposition. What customer needs are you going to satisfy and do you have a large enough base of prospects meeting those needs?
  • Find a good lawyer who specializes in small business issues. Legal training, human resources issues, etc.
  • Find a small business accountant to ensure you are complying with requirements and filing your taxes accurately.
  • Determine what legal form your business will take? Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), S Corp or C Corp? Consult your lawyer and your accountant.
  • Create a business plan. You don’t need a full plan with finances unless you are looking for start-up capital.
  • Select a bank or financial institution general purpose and can potentially provide funding if you need it to start or grow your business.
  • Secure commercial insurance for liability protection. Speak with a trusted agent who can guide you in acquiring the right types and amount of insurance coverage.
  • Create your brand identity. Choose your business name and develop a logo. Check with the state and US Patent and Trademark Office that the name and logo design is not already taken.
  • Create a website. An online presence for your business is essential because most potential customers will be looking there for information to learn more about your business and its products and services.
  • Identify appropriate social media platforms that will work for your business based on where your potential customers are spending their time online.
  • Secure a dedicated location for your business. Your needs may be very different if you are a physical retail store or a service provider.
  • Identify your technology needs. What hardware, software, applications, IT services, etc. will you need to serve customers, market your business and manage your business?
  • Run a cash flow analysis. The number one reason small businesses fail is because they lack money. Make a month-by-month projection of the source and use of cash for the first year. This will help you determine what your terms of sale should be so that you have enough income to sustain your business.
  • If you have employees, get a quote for payroll services. Most are reasonably priced and offer peace of mind when processing payroll (including applicable taxes), filing necessary paperwork, and handling tax returns.

To learn more about what is involved in starting and running a business, visit the SCORE.org and Small Business Administration websites. Also consider contacting your local SCORE chapter for guidance and resources for small businesses.

David Inskeep is a retired commercial lender, college educator, and military member. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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