Key steps for your business startup process – Twin Cities

Second Sunday Series – Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of 12 columns on starting a business — one on each second Sunday of the month, from September through August. Last week’s column discussed burnout, while the weeks before focused on the entrepreneur’s personal assets and weaknesses, and on self-employment as a career choice.

Amy Lindgren

If you’re a person who likes to make lists, business startup is going to be your jam — it’s nothing but lists and steps and things that need to be done next. Somewhere in there is the actual process of running the business, but that turns out to be on the list too, broken down into small chunks to make it achievable.

Starting and running a business truly is a journey of a thousand steps, followed by the next journey of a thousand steps, and the one after that.

I hope that doesn’t sound discouraging! On the one hand, the picture I just painted could seem relentless or dull. But in truth, knowing that the entire process breaks down to one step at a time can give entrepreneurs courage to keep going, even when the big picture is intimidating.

Speaking of the big picture — you need that too. If you’re always looking down counting small steps, you risk walking around in circles. For business startup and operation, having a far-reaching vision while managing the daily details is a good recipe for success.

But about those lists … what should be on the list for business startup? Naming all of the tasks would take a year of columns and still not be complete. Rather than trying to list everything, it makes sense to cluster key concepts so you can follow a general road map to stay on track. Here are nine such clusters to guide your business launch. They’re not necessarily in order, since you’ll likely revisit each area repeatedly through the life of your business.

Identify your goals. Do you want a side hustle, a business that conforms to your family life, something you can build and then sell? Maybe you want to work for yourself for a year or two, or maybe forever. Answering these questions could require conversations with others, or beta testing to see what fits for you. The effort is worthwhile, to ensure you build a business you enjoy.

Choose a product or service. If you already have an idea, your task now is to refine it. Otherwise, initial steps will involve research and exploration, to decide just what it is your business will do.

Learn the rules. Ignorance is no excuse if your business breaks the law. This cluster of steps includes checking for local and national codes regulating the work you choose, as well as the unspoken rules governing how this work is done.

Make a sale. Just one, to make sure you can. If you can’t convince anyone to buy what you want to sell in your business, then either the idea or the salesperson (you) needs tweaking. That’s good to know before locking in on everything else.

Create systems. This is a natural concept if you’re planning a production business, but less familiar for service owners. You’ll need systems for everything from marketing to client management to invoicing.

Build a team. Law, accounting, banking … these are the big three in terms of advisers most businesses rely on. Your team will be customized to include people who know your area of business, people who know and support you, and people who can fill in for skills you’re missing.

Mind the finances. You’ll need some way of tracking sales and monthly income, including the traditional financial reports (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement). If these feel like foreign concepts, this series of steps might include a class or meetings with an accountant. You’ll also need to set prices and establish processes for getting paid, and start business bank accounts.

Work on your brand. Anything from choosing your business name to designing product packaging to building a social media image could fit into this category.

Make more sales. Of course! But how will you do it, and how will you do it again? Nearly every other cluster of steps feeds into this one, especially as your business moves from startup to being an ongoing operation.

Overwhelmed? That’s a rational response to knowing that each of these concepts involves dozens of steps. For now, just take deep breaths and then identify where you’re at in each category related to your own business idea.

We’ll dive deeper into each area as we continue the conversation in the next installments of the Second Sunday series on business startup.

Working Strategies: Key steps for your business startup process

Christin Hakim

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