Is 2020 the year that you finally start your own small business or startup?
There are a lot of good reasons to consider starting your company this year. You can do it. You don’t necessarily need a degree in business or finance to be successful. But keep reading—there are a few essentials for getting up and running that you won’t want to miss.
1. A great business idea
If you’re kicking around a few ideas for your new company, or you think you have a concept but aren’t sure it will work, use these resources to help you think it through before you invest a ton of money and time.
Validate your best ideas
Our guide to coming up with a great business idea is packed with ideas for all kinds of industries. This article on generating hundreds of business ideas is a great place to start. When you’ve settled on one (or a few) favorites, download our free Business Idea Validation Checklist, which is an excellent tool for making sure your idea has legs before you invest any more time or resources in it.
Give your idea (and yourself) a SWOT analysis
From there, we recommend a good SWOT analysis. That acronym stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats” This is a flexible, simple analysis format that you can do on your business idea, and on yourself as a budding entrepreneur.
In just a few minutes, you’ll know exactly how you and your business idea stand apart from the crowd, and where you need to make improvements in order to succeed. Try our downloadable SWOT template.
2. A 30-day roadmap to starting a business
If you have a great business idea, it’s time to get started! Use this free startup checklist and our guide to starting a business in 30 days to help you make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Can you really launch a company in a month? That depends on what type of business you’re starting. No matter what, you can make a ton of progress if you make it your priority for four to five weeks.
During this 3- day stretch, you’ll think about your business name, your legal structure, and more of the nuts and bolts of making thing official. This is also a great time to do market research, build your website, and figure out how you’ll manage your bookkeeping in the early days.
3. A business plan
If you’re not sure how to write a business plan, you aren’t alone—we talk with entrepreneurs and people who want to start a small business every day who feel this way.
There’s good news: you can do it, and it’s easier than you think.
Start with a Lean Plan
Set your timer for 30 minutes and write a one-page summary of your business idea—a Lean Business Plan. A Lean Plan is actually a better alternative to the Business Model Canvas. It takes those core ideas from your mission statement and goes a little deeper.
You’ll be thinking about the problem your business solves, your target market, and its competition. Not sure how to format it? We have a Lean Plan template you can download.
Grow your summary into a business plan
Once your summary is done, you’ll have a bigger set of core ideas (and more confidence) and feel much more ready to dive into writing a full business plan.
Download our free business plan template to capture notes as you gather information. Once you feel like you have a starting point for all the recommended sections of your plan, you can get started with the writing.
We have a list of helpful tips for business plan writing, as well as a detailed guide. And of course, we make LivePlan, a business planning app that’s designed to make putting together your plan simple and intuitive—even those financials, even if you don’t have a degree in finance.
4. Funding to get started
With your business plan finished, you may be heading out to present your business idea to investors to a bank. We know the funding part of your journey can be challenging, but don’t give up—many entrepreneurs end up making several attempts before getting funded. Check out our funding guide to help you get started.
If you’ll be making presentations to investors, we recommend having some specific slides in your pitch deck to help get your business idea across in a memorable way. It’s also a great idea to formulate several versions of your pitch, so you can deliver it in as little as one minute or as long as 20 minutes.
For most startup businesses, angel investors will be a more viable resource than venture capitalists (who are interested only in a handful of very high-growth companies). We have a complete guide to locating and approaching angels, and you can download our ebook on how to pitch and get funded.
Looking for lenders and other alternatives
If you’ve decided to seek out a small business loan, check out our guides for approaching banks and the Small Business Administration. If your credit is bad, you can still get funding, though it may take longer.
There are always alternative sources of funding to explore, such as crowdfunding, approaching friends and family, liquidating assets you own, bootstrapping—or even keeping your day job for a while. If you’ve validated your business idea and built a solid business plan, don’t let a few initial rejections stand in your way. Stay determined and think creatively.
5. Milestones and goals
Down the road when your small business or startup company is up and running, you’ll have a whole new learning curve: becoming a smart small business manager.
That business plan you wrote will be a companion on this particular journey—you’ll be updating it regularly, and comparing it against how your company actually performed. Set some goals, create some forecasts—these milestones will help you keep your new business on track.
For now, however, just stay focused on the steps you’re taking to get started. An entrepreneur never stops learning, and with each new skill you take on, you’re better equipped for the next challenge.
One last bonus tip: Find a mentor or someone you trust who can be a sounding board as you make early decisions—don’t try to do it all alone.
We wish you a successful start to your small business or startup in 2020!