There is a lot of stuff to do and remember when starting a new business. It is like a complex recipe with more than 100 ingredients; no two people will follow the recipe the same way. In fact, there are many variations of the recipe as well, depending on the type of business you start and where you live.
Here are some common things that all business will have to do.
1. Decide on a name for your business
The simplest business name is simply your name and your product. For example, Bob’s Burgers or Henry’s Laundromat. This is a nice approach; when you are small, it produces a business name associated with your person, and it can work for large businesses too (think Wal-Mart or Ford Motor Company). These type of names are informative names. Then there are abstract names, or names that suggest meanings. Consider Oracle, the world’s largest database company. The “oracle” is the traditional sense is a person who either tells the future, or gives wise advise. It’s a great name for a software company whose flagship product is about information storage and retrieval. Twitter is another name which invokes the imagery of birds chirping. You can have made up words in your business name, too.
Make your business name flexible. If you call yourself “Farmtown Oil Changes”, what if you expand your business to other locales, or expand your services to include transmission and brake services? Customers who simply see your name might not know you have locations in other areas, or that your car repair services are comprehensive.
A lot of consideration has been given as to whether the domain name was available for a business name, especially in the.com TLD. This is because consumers naturally will first look for a business on the internet with the.com extension at the end. This can be a debatable topic as to whether you want to choose a name if the domain name is taken, but the bigger concern probably is whether you will end up infringing on a trademark, or confusing yourself with another business.
2. Finding out how to reach and communicate with your customers
Businesses generally will need to find ways to reach their customers both for marketing and product development purposes. Imagine you are forming a local bakery. What kind of bakery are you aiming to be? Are you a bakery whose primary traffic is going to come from walk-in customers who happen to walk by your storefront, or do you wish to serve primarily catering or call-in orders? “All of the above”, you might say. Everyone wants to be all of the above, and get every type of customer, however may you want to focus on a type of customer. If you are catering, you will want to market yourself not only to customers directly, but also wedding planners, caterers, and other bakeries who may not be able to handle higher volumes. In addition, real estate agents or PTAs may need your services. Maybe local restaurants. These types of marketing channels may or may not be different than for the channels for retail customers. The marketing messages in these channels may be different.
As far a customer research, these days online is one of the best ways to find out what customers want. The aforementioned Twitter, along with Facebook, and the myriad of blogs and forums allow business owners to find out customer desires. One key point about finding out what customers want is not to ignore what you don’t want to hear. You may realize that the solution you are offering is being criticized, or will not meet the needs of your market. This is invaluable when starting a new business.
Doing small advertising runs online will also help you gauge customer reaction to your idea. The sales funnel though, has many detours. You will need an advertisement which attracts clicks, a web page which markets correctly and explains the benefits, and working sites and links all in between. All of these are failure points which have nothing to do with the actual service or product you are marketing. The point is to make sure that you put your best foot forward so the reaction you get is measuring what you want.
3. Organize yourself and Administration of the Business
Business owners always have an incomplete list of things to complete, along with new ideas in their heads, plus customer problems to solve. Getting organized early when starting a new business can help you smooth your business operations and clear your mind to focus on more important business problems. Organization is overhead. It does not directly contribute to the bottom line of the business, however lack of organization can hinder your efforts.
For some owners, organization is not a problem. They are naturally attracted to lists, writing, and logging details of their operations. For those who have trouble getting organized, I would suggest to take behavioral changes slowly, or see if you can hire someone to help with organization.
It is not necessary to have tracking or time management software to get your business organized. Large business existed one hundred years ago before computers were invented. However, you do want to make sure your operational efficiency is up to par with your competitors. The more parts you have to your business, the more communication you need to do effectively.
For a small organization, start with a well known method such as Getting Things Done by David Allen. This is a very well-known, modern method to productivity. There are other similar books in the field. For project or product management tools, paid tools such as Basecamp, as well as free software tools such as Trac or Redmine are available.
Aside from naming, marketing, and organization, people starting a new business face a myriad of challenges and requirements. The business should always keep in mind its objective, and take a just-in-time approach to solving problems to remain efficient.