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An Actual Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Business

There are some posts out there on the web that purport to teach you how to start your own business, but too many of them use jargon that a true-blue beginner couldn’t ever guess. The truth is that most small businesses are started and owned by those who already have business leadership experience, either by lofty positions at other companies or through educational programs like MBAs.

While this experience certainly does help you understand what it takes to operate a successful business, it definitely isn’t mandatory for finding success as an entrepreneur. To prove that, here’s a realistic look at what you, a true beginner, need to know to start your very first business.

What Is Your Industry? What Is Your Market?

Yes, speed is imperative with most business decisions, but when you are just considering a new business idea, you should take it slow and focus all your attention on one act: research. Specifically, you should dive deep into your potential industry and market to understand how enterprises function in that field, what your competition could be, and other important aspects that could impact the performance of your business.

First, you should complete a thorough industry analysis. To do this, you must examine the internal forces in the industry, such as manufacturing technology, materials sourcing, and supply and demand capacity. Ultimately, your industry analysis should evaluate the strength of industries related to your business. By going into depth in your industry research, you should be able to determine whether your industry can support another business — or whether it is about to collapse without your help.

Then, you should perform market analysis. Unlike your industry, your market is comprised of consumers. Thus, your market research will evaluate consumer demand, demographics, and behavior. The goal of this process is to identify obstacles in selling your business’s products; for example, if you price your products too high for your market, you likely won’t find success.

Where Is Your Financing? How Will Accounting Work?

To make money, you need money — and more importantly, you need to be able to manage your money well. Depending on your idea, industry, and market, you might need quite a bit of cash, which means you are probably already thinking, “What are my options for small business financing?” Here area few considerations to get you started:

  • SBA Loans. The Small Business Administration offers favorable loans to business that meet specific requirements. (US Option)
  • Other loans. You can use your equipment, your accounts receivable, and other valuable aspects of your business as collateral for other loans.
  • P2P Lending. Using Peer-to-Peer platforms, you can connect with private investors to raise capital.
  • Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding platforms allow you to raise money directly from your consumer audience.
  • Merchant cash advances. Once you have a steady cash flow, your merchant services provider can advance your sales.
  • Invoice factoring. You can sell your unpaid invoices to gain faster access to the cash you have already earned.

After you determine how you will acquire your initial capital, you should put thought into your accounting system. The system you choose should make it easier to manage your budget, set your prices, file your taxes, and perform other vital accounting procedures. Whether you rely on accounting software or hire a qualified accountant to handle the numbers depends on your business’s financial complexity and needs.

What Is Your Structure? Do You Need Licensing?

The formal structure of your business — i.e. how you register your business with appropriate authorities — will determine the trajectory of your business in many ways. Everything from your taxes to your name is impacted by your structure, so you should consider your options carefully:

  • Sole proprietorship. An enterprise owned and operated by one person — you. You maintain control and you are taxed more manageably, but you claim greater liability.
  • Partnership. An enterprise owned and operated by more than one person. You and your partners enjoy pass-through taxes, but dissolution of partnership is a major cause of business failure.
  • C-corporation. An exceedingly complex enterprise that operates as a separate legal entity. If your business is going to grow massive, you might choose this option.
  • S-corporation. A c-corp with simpler regulations. S-corps typically provide the same protection as c-corps but more attractive tax benefits and accounting methods.
  • Limited liability company. A combination partnership and corporation. LLC is the most common structure for small businesses.

*Some terms above are US specific, so make sure to research company structure options depending on where you live and operate your business.

Depending on your location and your industry, you may need to obtain appropriate business licenses and permits to open shop. Once all the correct paperwork is in place — once you know everything there is to know about your industry and market, financing and accounting, and structure — you can start your small business for real


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