Start your business in 10 days

If you’re really serious about starting a business, our guide will help turn your vision into reality quickly and efficiently. From coming up with the perfect idea to creating your business and marketing strategies, follow this 10 day action plan to start a new venture.

DAY 1

FIND THE RIGHT FIT

It’s important to begin a soul-searching process to determine what kind of business is right for you. You’ll definitely have an advantage with a business that’s a spinoff of your background or experience. You can also enjoy success
in an area where you have strong interest yet lack experience, though you may need to qualify yourself through entrepreneurial training or professional certification programs.

Evaluate your talent bank. What do you like to do with your time? What technical skills have you learned or developed? Do you have interest or hobbies that are marketable? It might help to create a personal resume that lists your professional and personal experiences as well as your expertise. For each job, you list, describe the duties you were responsible for and how successful you were at each. Be sure to include professional skills, educational background, hobbies and accomplishments that required expertise or special knowledge.

Don’t forget the personality factor. Areyou outgoing and friendly or do you prefer to keep to yourself? Do you like working indoors or outdoors? Do you enjoy to work with the general public or with a few close clients? Do you love working 24/7 on an exciting project or do you enjoy your downtime as much as your work time? Every business has a personality, and your personality should be a complement to it.

Talk to others in the field. Ask them the traits and temperaments needed to be successful. Find out what they really like about the businesses they’re running-and what they don’t like. Compare their responses with your interests and personality and see if there is a fit. Don’t stop searching until you find an idea that couples your love for work with your marketable talents. – KIMBERLY STANSELL

DAY 2

VET YOUR IDEA

Many people have great ideas, but businesses flounder in the real world because there isn’t a viable market for their product or services. One of the biggest mistakes many would-be-entrepreneurs make is going into business based on what they think people should buy, rather than what people want or actually do buy. How can you avoid this trap in your own set-up? Here are four simple and inexpensive things you can do before you get into business to make sure there is a viable, sustainable and growing market for your business.

Identify your market. How big in terms of dollars is the current market for your product or service? Is it a new or mature market? Are you in a new or mature category? A lot of these questions can be answered with a few hours of online research. Another tactic is to go to a trade show or exhibition and look at your prospects as well as your competition. What do your potential customers really want? Who are they? What is your competition selling and at what price point? Can you deliver the same at a lower price, or can you add value and charge a premium? Is the sales cycle long or short? Is the exhibitor’s list growing or declining from year to year?

Identify your customer. Develop a list to help profile the “perfect customer” for the product or service you are going to sell. It’s important to include questions like “Is the target male or female? “How old are they?” and “Are they married?” as well as deeper questions like “What was their main motivation for purchasing your product or service?” This knowledge will give you additional insight into how your own sales process should be structured. It will also help you operationally tailor your product
or service offering to better fit your audience.

Test and measure demand. Big companies spend a lot of resources testing ad campaigns and hiring focus groups, but you can do more effective research on your own by simply starting small – then testing and measuring everything you can do. Consignment arrangement, farmers markets, local markets, trade shows, expos and industry meet-and-greets provide great opportunities to network, get to know industry players, make contacts and get feedback on your product or service. All are
relatively inexpensive ways to test waters.

Start your list of contacts.  At this point in your startup and planning phase, you might have a list of vendors, suppliers or even potential customers. If so, great. Keep building that list and start to develop a communication strategy  to keep in touch with yur contacts on a consistent basis; today’s contacts may be tomorrow’s customer. More important, they have access to entire networks of people who may need or want your service. The real goal of networking is not making a sale to your direct contact. It’s about creating a relationship with that contact that paves the way for referrals and word-of-mouth leads down the road. For most businesses, your contacts database often becomes the most valuable asset you own – BRAD SUGARS

DAY 3

CALCULATE YOUR COST

It’s critical to determine how much cash you’ll need to open and operate your business before hanging your shingle. To keep your business running smoothly in its startup phase, you’ll need enough capital to cover all expenses until you reach the break-even point. Many experts recommend starting out with enough money to cover projected expenses for at least six months. It’s foolhardy to expect to generate revenue immediately – it’s best to plan for all contingencies. Create a checklist of expenditures. These tips can help you get started:

List the equipment, furniture, supplies and people to run your business.

Itemize startup cost for inventory, signage, sales and marketing literature or tools, research and product development, licenses, permits, operating capital and legal or professional fees.

Calculate your monthly overhead. Include rent, supplies, utilities, business and health insurance, taxes, internet access, shipping and other services. Also factor in salary and employee or contractor wages.

Refer to industry specific startup resources for additional costs that may apply to your respective business type. A good rule of thumb is to assume everything will cost more than you expect. Pad your number to create a safety net.

Tally and double check the numbers before you begin writing your business plan and seeking startup funds. – K.S.

DAY 4

WRITE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

To launch quickly, your fledgling business doesn’t necessarily need a complex strategy document – just some basics. The first rule for crafting a strategic plan is to not be so afraid of the process that it stalls your progress. Here are some guidelines for developing a straightforward and effective plan.

Scale it down. Unless you have a plan for knocking out Google, you probably don’t need a 100 page plan. Most early stage companies need a strategic outline of about 10 to 15 pages.

Cover the basics. Bigger isn’t better – it’s confusing. You can always add components to your plans as your business grows. Review your capitalization requirements and capital resources. Clearly identify your markets and provide a basic analysis. List your assumptions and establish benchmarks. Outline financials, including sales forecasts and an expense budget.

Have a fallback position. “If everything goes according to your plan, that great,” says Thom Ruhe, director of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “But 99% of entrepreneurs need a contingency plan. Put in a line that says, “If we don’t have X dollars in sales by this date and we have not obtained profitability, we will….’Do what? Double down? Change market tactics?”

Ask for help. Before putting your plan to potential investors, seek the counsel of trusted friends, business owners and other entrepreneurs. Have them review your business plan. Listen to their suggestions. You typically get one shot with an investor, and vetting your plan is a good way to fill in the holes and anticipate questions.

Keep it fresh. Schedule a few hours every month to review your plan. This will ensure that you use it as a living document rather than a stagnant framework. Use the  review process as a way to gauge what’s working for your business and what need to be altered. – IVY HUGHES

DAY 5

FIND FINANCING

Once you’ve decided on the type of venture you want to start, the next step on the road to business success is figuring out where your funding will come from. Here’s a quick look where to begin.

Self-financing. Many entrepreneurs self-finance their business through personal savings, credit cards, second mortgages or loans from friends and family.

Microloans. You may be able to match your qualifications with a microloan: Banks, Private and SBA-backed agencies make loans of a few hundred to thousands.

Crowdfunding. You might also investigate crowdfunding sites (like kickstarter), a way of online networking with people willing to invest small amounts of money to back a venture they believe in.

DAY 6

FIND A LOCATION

Consider possible locales where your business could thrive. This is particularly critical for retail and consumer businesses.

Check the demographics. These determinations can be as simple or as complex as you make them. There are for instances, sophisticated location analysis tools available that include traffic pattern information, demographic and lifestyle data and competitive analyses. Whatever method you use, the goal is to get the a demographic overview of the desired area, looking at neighbourhood traffic generators, such as other retailers that draw people to the area, as well as industrial or office parks, schools colleges and hospital complexes. You’ll also want to look at highway and foot traffic.

Consider the competition. Being close to your competition can help your business benefit from their marketing efforts. Your competitors chose their locations based on the ideal demographics of a particular area. In many cases, they’ve also devoted large portions of their advertising budget toward driving traffic to their location. Being located near to your competition can be a boon to business, provided you’re confident enough in yur product to outsell your competitors. – KAREN E. SPAEDER

DAY 7

FORM YOUR IDENTITY

If you’re smart, you’ll put just as much effort into naming your business as you did into coming up with your idea and writing your business plan.

Names. The right name can make your company the talk of the town. The wrong one can doom it to obscurity and failure. An effective name will establish your marketplace presence, convey what you do and create a memorable impression. Thumb through
phonebooks, DBA filings, directories to research names already in use or similar to what you have in mind.

Marketing. So now it’s time to create the plans that will draw customers to your business again and again. A marketing plan consists of the strategies and devices you’re going to use to communicate to your target audience. A customer service plan focuses on your customer’s requirements and the ways to fulfill them – the two work in concert.

Communication channels. Choose the communication channels you will use to get the word out about your business; social media, blogs, email newsletters, web banners, pay-per-click ads, radio, TV, billboards, direct mails, fliers, print ads and other venues. Then prioritize your tactics and begin with the ones your research has shown to be the most effective for your audience.

Testimonials. Consider offering free consultations or an introductory price to first-time buyers. Also consider joining forces with a complementary business to get their help in spreading the word about your new venture. Once you’ve done work for a few satisfied customers, ask them for a testimonial letter to use in your promotions. – K.S

DAY 8

BUILD YOUR TEAM

Even if you think yourself as a one-person operation, you’ll need a team of support people to help you build a successful business. From contractors and suppliers to advisory board members and employees, each of these individuals can make or break your new venture.

Network. Start networking with friends, family, business associates and other professionals in your life to widen your circle and choose the best people for your team. Your advisory board can include a mix of professional peers, legal or financial advisors or mentors. You need to develop a network of advisors whose talents, knowledge, resources and skills can be used to handle the
demands of your business. Plan to meet with them a few times a year to solicit their professional feedback.

Staff up. If you need to hire employees, consider interns, students or part timers as your first hires. If you think you do not need permanent employees in the beginning, you can also look into temporary services and independent contractors. If you’re planning to hire someone full-time, however, remember that the employees you bring onboard are critical to your business. Start smart
by taking time to figure out your staff needs before you start looking for job candidates. – K.S

DAY 9

EXECUTE YOUR MARKETING PLAN

If you took our advice for Day 7, you’ve already created a marketing plan designed to help you spread the word about you business. Now it’s time to establish your marketing infrastructure.

Prepare. You work against yourself when you’re not prepared to respond to opportunities that result from your marketing efforts. Your website, stationery, business cards and marketing materials should be ready for distribution. Set up autoresponders to handle customer email queries. Have a phone system in place that allows customers to easily get in touch with you. Your website should offer information on your company and its products and services. Create a Facebook page for your business. Whatever response methods buyers can use to contact you, you should have materials that can be sent via those same media.

Jump into action. Mail a press release to the local media announcing the opening of your business. Do a joint mailing with other complementary businesses to widen your reach. Take advantage of all free directory listings. Contribute an article to a trade journal. Send out specific offer postcards to prospects. Create a coupon offer. Make a speech at a networking event. Track
the results of your devices by asking respondents how they heard about you. Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and wait for your business to fall into your lap. Despite popular opinion, if you blind it, they will not just come. You’ve got to get the word out and keep working your contacts to attract customers to your new business. – K.S

DAY 10

HANG YOUR SHINGLE AND SELL

You’ve done all the legwork. All your permits and licenses are in hand, your dedicated business phone line is set up with a professional voice mail greeting; you’ve marked the calendar with a few prospect meetings and networking events; you’ve got your shelves stocked and even a few projects lined up. Now it’s time to open your doors to more opportunities and much success as an entrepreneur.

Create a sales checklist. It will serve as a quick reminder of the essentials. Use it as a review before and after sales call to make sure you cover all the bases. Your checklist could include a list of all sales materials, a reminder to research the account and identify the decision makers and a sales script that covers key selling points.

Identify problems. Closing a sale is often a matter of overcoming a customer’s objections. But first you must identify them. Problems are often opportunities. If you can identify a problem, you can provide real-world solutions and ideas.

Keep your energy level high. When you call on a customer with energy and enthusiasm, it means you believe in your product or service and are excited about what you have to offer. It’s hard to discount the power of attitude when
it comes to selling; your customers will appreciate the positive approach. – K.S