7 Steps to Starting a New Business in 2012

This is part 1 of 2. As the year winds down, all sorts of things compete for people’s attention – the holidays, time off, sales (if yours is a seasonal business) and plans for the New Year tend to top the list.

And for not a few people, especially in an economy like this one, when they think about the next year, their mind turns to starting their own business, for many reasons – maybe they don’t like their job or boss, maybe they lost their job, maybe it’s time to live the dream…whatever the case, the question then becomes – how do you do it?

While whole books are written on that subject (heck, I have written a couple myself!), what is far more helpful at the beginning is a basic overview of the process, a roadmap as it were. Once you get the broad overview, then you can drill down into the details.

So in this blog post and the next, I would like to go over just what the entrepreneurial roadmap looks like:

1. Taking stock: Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Some people are athletes, some are chefs, and some are entrepreneurs. When analyzing the self-employment life, consider first the self-employment lifestyle -

  • Are you able to live with uncertainty? There’s no paycheck every two weeks and no matching 401(k) in this gig.
  • Are you a reasonable risk-taker? You better be.
  • Are you a go-getter? Ditto.

You get the idea. You can learn many of the skills necessary to start a small business, but whether it fits your psyche is a different matter.

Here’s a quiz to help you: If the thought of leaving your job and starting your own business gets you more excited than scared, you are an entrepreneur.

2. Come up with a good idea: Once you decide that entrepreneurship is for you, the next step is to come up with a business that will likely be a winner. It has to be something that you are passionate about, that people want or need, and that you can afford to start. You might love 18th Century Flemish architecture, but there is probably no profit in that passion project. Instead, come up with an idea that serves a market need, because that’s the key.

Example, my pals here at Concur have a great product that takes the pain out of expense reporting. That is a business that people need and which solves a problem. It is also the kind of thing you are looking for as well: A product or service that the market would pay for.

3. Draft a business plan: Just as a pilot would never fly from Rome to New York without a flight plan that tells him which way to head, how much gas he needs, signposts to look out for, and so on, so too does an entrepreneur need a business plan that tells him which way to head, how much money he needs, important signposts to look for on the way and so on. Your business plan is your flight plan for success.

You can draft the plan yourself, but I recommend that you use a computer program to walk you through the process. The one I like best is Business Plan Pro from Palo Alto Software.

Next week: The Top 4 steps!

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