Q: I am interested in starting a computer consulting business, but don’t really know where to start. What path would you recommend?
A: Starting a business will be one of the toughest and most fulfilling experiences of your life. We have been involved in the launch of several businesses over the years; some successful and others not. Additionally, we have been through all the trials and tribulations of owning a business. Here are five basic fundamentals which are essential to success when starting a business:
Stop procrastinating – just do it! The first thing you must do is to put your thoughts to pen and start to make it all happen. Simply talking about what you want to do is not going to make it reality. So, once you’ve decided what you want to do, use your most valuable tool, research, to help you iron things out. Learn everything you can about the product you want to sell of the service you intend to offer before you do anything. However, when you’ve gotten yourself 90% of the way there, stop procrastinating and start the ball in motion. You’ll never be 100% prepared and you can figure out the remaining 10% on the job.
Ask for help. Many people highly recommend the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), which is a volunteer organization that helps new entrepreneurs with advice regarding starting a business, from business plans and modeling to funding. Another good resource is the Small Business Administration (SBA). One can often find a local office in their neighborhood and an extremely vast amount of valuable information can be found on their website www.sba.gov.
Build the plan or plan to fail. Put your thoughts about starting your business on paper. Our businesses wouldn’t exist without a business plan. Jen Diebel, a partner in NetworkNetPlay, a Phoenix venture, stresses, “we believe the business planning process is essential. The structure of a business plan helps assure that we haven’t missed any of the key elements that could affect the success of our company in the short or long-term. It limits risks.”
Take the money and run. When starting a business there are basically three ways that it can be funded: from your own money, venture capital, and/or from loans. To obtain funding you must be able to show how money is made and spent. Understandably, it can be difficult to pinpoint cash flow details with accuracy when writing a business plan for a new business. Thus, calculate them to the best of your ability. Your business plan serves several purposes, not the least of which is to show lenders how they will be paid back if they grant your business a loan. Investors, who take on greater risk with start-up ventures, are looking for higher returns than they can get by investing in a more established company.
Love what you do. Business is not only about money; it is also about your passion. Starting a business takes a great deal of energy and the journey can be a long and trying one. If you don’t love what you do, the journey may prove to be more than you can bear or even want to. However, the most important reason to love what you do is this – customers. When you are passionate about the product you make or the service you provide, it shows. This passion will resonate with your customer and will shine through in all that you do. So whether it be selling to customers, presenting to bankers, or just getting the product in the stores, you will do it with enthusiasm – and all around you will be able to key into just how much you care about what you do or sell.
Obviously every situation is different, and there is a lot of information to be gathered and work that must be done when starting a business. The five steps listed above are pretty basic, but they were fundamental to getting our company up and running successfully many years ago and we’re sure they will help you as well.