Owning and operating a successful business is part of the American dream, the American hustle, the way of life that many seek to have. However, according to research from Business Insider, only an estimated 50% of new businesses survive the first 5 years in the United States. It’s a volatile, changing world full of economic uncertainties, lost jobs, lost wages, and an ever-changing and competitive market.
Still, what makes owning a business the dream is that it can make you rich, get you doing what you love, and if it survives, be able to be passed down from family generation to generation. It’s never too late to start your own business, and it can be done in any economic climate so long as you stay smart and do adequate research. These 10 quick best tips for starting a business can help you see the overall picture, get you thinking, passionate, and ready to take the next steps to become a business owner. It’s important to do as much research as you can before starting a business in order to build a reliable base and prevent your business from becoming one of the many five-year-flops.
1) Start with What you Know
When starting any business, it’s essential to do adequate research before you begin. However, more than research, it’s always best to start a business in an area you’re familiar with. Don’t start a dental practice without any medical or dental experience for example. As common-sense as this might seem, sometimes it goes over people’s heads when they read too much about risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirits who start businesses.
It’s true, recent surveys show that most business-owners now don’t have a four-year college degree, and only 44% of business owners have a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s less than half of all business owners! But, this doesn’t mean you should take a major risk and start a business in something completely foreign. One of the best tips for starting a business is to start one in the work you are passionate about. Though it’s always easier to go back to school and get a business degree to learn about things like accounting, networking, etc., the work experience you have in something you’re passionate about works just fine. Passionate about fixing guitars? Start a business. Passionate about the catering gig you do on the weekends? Start a business. As long as you have some idea of what the business you’re about to start entails, and have a passion for it, the sky is the limit.
2) Do Market Research
Though it’s great to bring passion, energy, and drive, it’s important to be realistic about your business and your current market, and see how your business will do with customers. Market research involves gathering information about your audience, how they shop, how they buy, what they want, etc., in order to see if your business will be a success of flop with them. You can seek the help of a professional market researcher or simply do your own searches online about the business you want to start in your area.
Utilizing market research is one of the best tips for starting a business that you can use. Developing a buyer persona, customer surveys, research on problems you can expect, and competition are all key elements in developing a superior product and brand. In addition, you can do all this research before you even begin investing in your business, thus saving you valuable time, energy, and money in case you need to bring your business to a different audience or hold-off for a better time.
3) Explore E-Commerce or Brick-and-Mortar Shops
Admittedly, when we envision a business, most of us envision what is known as a brick-and-mortar shop, that is, a shop that offers products face-to-face. Boutiques, restaurants, hardware stores, party supplies, the businesses are endless here in America! However, with real estate prices going up, rent becoming more expensive especially in states such as New York and California, and a list of other possible business problems, perhaps it’s best you do some research on e-commerce business instead.
Of course, some brick-and-mortar shops have no other way to sell their products. Pet stores, restaurants, and car dealerships just to name a few. However, look at the potential for your products to be sold either all, or partially online. Even if you have a storefront set-up already, the e-commerce economy is booming. Online stores such as Amazon, Alibaba, Zappos, Etsy, and old-school eBay are all great options to sell your products online. Even if you have a pet store, for example, perhaps selling pet products online would be a good added income stream? Looking at how to expand online might be one of the best tips for starting a business you might have yet.
4) Have a Great Online Presence
Even if you don’t sell products online, it’s still important to have an up-to-date and trendy website design in order to attract more customers. Good website design can not only make it easier for customers to navigate through your business but also share your business with others. In fact, studies show that between 70-80% of people research a company online BEFORE visiting the small business or making a purchase with them. Having a great website will allow people to not only research your company but be impressed by it before even shopping. Nobody wants to shop or do business with a company that cannot update its website design, and it adds more difficulty to access products and services.
In addition, besides maintaining a website, having social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and a Facebook page can help kick-start your business by having it available to the public eye. Hire a social-media editor, or run your business apps yourself by constantly updating and giving feedback to customers, staying trendy, and in-the-know of other competition as well.
5) Have a Secure Business Network
Similar to having a great website design, one of the best tips for starting a business is to make sure your customers and your business are protected on your network. A business might utilize either a computer networking system small enough to only use one or two Local Area Networks (LAN) to support connectivity. Several devices and computers make up a LAN, that then share a communication channel to a server.
On the other hand, cloud computing, or cloud-networking, runs these same applications of security, storing data, and allowing multiple people to access shared information through the internet. This is what is used by most businesses today, as setting up a physical computer networking system with various servers can be expensive, use up a lot of electricity, and manpower to maintain. Whatever system you choose to run your business, it’s important to consider security settings such as authentication factors, separate guest networks, etc., in order to keep valuable information safe, whether on the cloud or through a LAN server.
6) Get Good Business Insurance
One of the best tips for starting a business that can save you money and heartache, later on, is purchasing the best business insurance possible. What do we mean by business insurance? There are two types of insurance that you generally need in order to help your business. General liability insurance helps pay for lawsuits that claim your business caused property damage or worse bodily injury. A small business administrative attorney or one from a similar law firm dealing in corporate and business law can also help your business interests. Professional liability insurance can help cover lawsuits that claim you made errors or failed to provide adequate services to customers. In either case, it’s best to seek the help of a legal professional, in order to know what insurance is best for your company.
7) Expand on Advertising
We’ve already talked about maintaining a great website and social media platforms, but advertising can be done in other ways as well. Consider buying a radio ad in your local area, for instance. Ads can be written to fit within 60 seconds by either yourself or a public relations specialist and can serve to attract customer’s attention on their commute home or to work. In addition, consider buying ads on platforms such as Instagram, which now allows users to set-up a “business profile” and purchase ads this way. Old-school but effective business signs on bus-stops and billboards can be helpful also. Explore all options, and don’t limit your business to just physical or online ads, but use a combination of both.
8) Don’t Settle for Any Employee
A loyal employee can make your business grow, stick with it, and provide excellent talent for your unique business. It’s important to not only go with the first option that walks through the door or take a personal referral. One of the best tips for starting a business is to utilize a variety of methods to attract talent. For example, host a contest in order to see who the best (and most qualified) graphic designer for your team should be. Post regularly on sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and do your own research on qualified candidates.
In addition, make sure you do a thorough background and reference check on employees for your new business. Don’t get lazy and be starstruck, no matter how good a future employee might be. It’s important to follow all best-hiring practices to keep your business and customers safe.
9) Have Good Customer Service
Having good customer service is not just about hiring great customer service employees. Having an easy refund process for unsatisfied customers, setting up a parking lot with sufficient space, having handicap-accessible entrances and exits, the details can start to pile up. It’s important to look at ways to keep your customers happy from the very beginning of starting your business. Don’t overlook small details, such as how you speak to a customer, how much time you spend reviewing a product with them, even how you handle money in front of them. Market research, surveys, and personal experience can all help in giving you the best tips for starting a business and keeping your customers happy.
In addition, looking at ways to constantly improve your business, either online on in-person, is a process in and of itself that can never stop. Pay attention to trends of the business, and examine to make sure your customers aren’t lost to the competition.
10) Look for the Best Loan Options
Finally, one of the most important and best tips for starting a business to follow is looking at all your small-business loan options. One of the best steps to take is looking for SBA-approved loans to ensure you keep your finances safe. Predatory loans are a dime-a-dozen, and can quickly leave you in debt with high-interest rates that are literally impossible to pay back. Never leave any boxes blank, and consider the help of an attorney, accountant, or financial planner when choosing your small-business loan.
Following these best tips for starting a business doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take a fair amount of research. From interviewing future customers to doing adequate legal research on loans and insurance, starting a business can seem daunting. But, with the right professional help, a good law firm on your side, a support system of friends and family, and real passion, starting a business can be done fairly easily. However, it’s important to never forget to stay on your toes, keep up with market trends, and explore all possibilities for e-commerce and online selling.
Having a business survive after 5 years is a feat all in itself, but once a business survives, it can then be passed on and grown generation after generation. It’s important to cross all your t’s and dot your I’s to ensure you have a steady, strong base when starting your business.