Launching Your Business

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Once you have finished planning, established the business from a legal standpoint, and have obtained funding, it is finally time to launch the business.  This step is often both exciting and a bit scary for entrepreneurs. At this point, so much work has gone into starting the business that the risks become clearer and the benefits may be harder to see.  That is why these final steps are so vital: they solidify the idea that got you this far into a real, concrete business. Once you have finished these 10 steps, you will be prepared to take the plunge and become a real entrepreneur.

As a part of all the planning you have done to this point, you should have determined your business model.  Your business model dictates what type of facilities your business needs. If you will be operating a retail business, then you either need to have a brick & mortar location or a fully functional website, or both.  You will need to work on the layout of your retail space, doing your best to maximize its visual appeal and functionality. Operating in an area with a high volume of foot traffic will help any new business to be successful, as there is no direct cost to acquire customers who walk into a store simply because they are near it. Locations with high foot traffic come with more sales leads, but they typically cost more. The common phrase “location, location, location,” is extremely important when it comes to retail.  Ray Kroc, the individual responsible for making McDonald’s the largest franchisor in the world, preached that owning the most expensive commercial real estate in an area is the key reason for McDonald’s success. CVS and Walgreens are also excellent examples of this strategy, as you probably have noticed that they are nearly always located on a street corner, making them easily visible. 


If you are starting a manufacturing business or a wholesaling business, then you need industrial and/or warehouse space.  Manufacturing businesses can take up a lot of room, and if you have planned for expansion in time, then you will need a place with room to grow.  Wholesalers also use much of their space, though it is used to store bulk goods rather than raw materials and machinery. These locations are usually placed in more remote areas. So, when selecting a location it is wise to find a space that is located centrally for clients or for shipping purposes. 


Being centrally located is also important for service-based businesses.  Whether you have to travel to visit customers or the customers have to travel to visit you, you want the trip to be both quick and easy.  After all, no one wants to drive 30 minutes to get their nails done or wait an hour for a technician to arrive. Certain service-based businesses can also benefit from foot traffic in retail areas, like massage studios or car washes. 


If your business does not require a physical location, or if you do not deal with customers in-person, then you may want to run your business from home.  Home-based businesses introduce some complications, but they are certainly convenient for you, the business owner. It is quite common to run a business from a basement or a garage. However, as with any location, you must be sure that you have enough space to meet your needs.  If the business takes over your entire house or apartment, then you might need to move to a bigger place or to a dedicated business space.  


While you should have developed your pricing strategy by now, you might need to tinker or fine-tune your prices once you have decided on a specific product line.  Finalizing your product line is obviously a major step towards getting your business up and running. If you have been struggling to choose between certain products, then it is not a bad idea to offer both initially. Test to see which products sell best, but be sure not to order too much, in case one or more of the products truly struggle.  Having too much unsellable inventory can cripple a startup business, as every dollar matters in the early stages of a business.  


Assuming that you have followed through on developing a marketing strategy and a marketing plan, this step should be relatively simple.  Before you launch your business, you need to get your name and your brand circulating out in the world. Initial promotional efforts should focus on introducing your business and its products to the market. It is essential to set both a timeline and a budget for your promotion, and then go live.  If you decide to begin promotion before you open your doors for business, then be sure to include the date that your business will open in all promotions.  


It is a good idea to start with a promotional strategy that combines traditional and online marketing methods.  By using multiple marketing methods at the start you can compare the relative success of your marketing efforts and make changes as you go.  Once you have developed your brand, create some literature that explains what your business offers and why potential customers should order from you. Simply having business cards and flyers easily accomplishes this. Both are relatively inexpensive, and they are an easy way to allow customers to share your information through word of mouth.  If someone asks for a business card, then give them a few, and ask them to tell their friends and family about your business. 


It is also smart to market your core products or services as well, as those products need to be established within the market.  Specificity is important for a new business when it is promoting itself. Let consumers know exactly who you are and what you have to offer.  By focusing on your core products, you can be sure that when customers encounter your promotional efforts, they will know exactly what you are selling.


Whether you have obtained financing or have funded your business from your own pocket, you must establish a budget for the business as a whole and stick to it.  Too many businesses waste money early in the process on things that are luxuries, not necessities. Products like office supplies (printer paper, pens, binders, etc.), equipment (cash register, label maker, computers, etc.), and furniture (desks, tables, shelving, racks, etc.) are essential to your operations.  Things like a TV, tablets, and even hiring a bunch of employees before you have a clear need for them, can drain your budget. Spending money on luxuries leaves you with little money for promotions or daily operations.  


While you want to stick to your budget, you should not skimp when purchasing necessities.  If you buy cheap products, then it will show with your customers. This can be a delicate balance to strike, but you need to make every penny count as a startup.  So, for instance, if the cheap option needs to be regularly replaced and the more expensive option will last much longer, then the more expensive option is the better choice.  As a new business, customers will have no frame of reference on which to judge your performance. As a result of this, every aspect of your business should communicate your message and accurately reflect your brand from the start.  


There are core functions of the business that require daily attention.  These can be broken into four functions: production/operations, management, marketing, and accounting/finance.  Operations is clearly the meat of the business. No business can survive without smooth and efficient operations.  Though operations are a significant part of the business’ functions, they can tend to monopolize your time. The other three functions are equally important.  


Management is an essential part of any business that has employees.  Managing employees is a challenging task, but it is simply a part of running a business that cannot be avoided.  The most important quality of a good manager is the ability to communicate. It is difficult to be a successful leader if you cannot effectively communicate your ideas, commands, and vision for the business.  Beyond good communication skills, leadership is also vitally important for managers. An entrepreneur must be prepared to lead his or her team, as their example will become the standard that the team must live up to.  There are always areas to improve upon as a manager, so entrepreneurs must be willing to accept feedback from their team and work toward being a better manager.  


Marketing a business is another ongoing process that requires constant attention. Your marketing efforts, especially at the beginning, will be responsible for most of your incoming business.  It is essential to assess your efforts daily to determine if they are maximizing your ROI or if you need to make a change. Marketing can easily drain your time and money if you do not stay on top of it. 


As a small business owner, the finances of the business will be an ever-present concern.  It can be difficult to balance the day-to-day financial concerns with your long-term strategy, but that is your task as a small business owner.  By devoting time each day to your finances and accounting, however, you will be better prepared to handle any monetary issues that might arise. Pay special attention to your expenses, as excess spending is a common downfall for startup businesses.


If you will have employees when your business opens, then you will need to have a Human Resources (HR) strategy in place to manage their employment.  Until your business reaches 50 employees, however, you can likely get away with managing HR yourself. After 50 employees, laws related to HR management in a business basically require that you hire an HR professional.


The first HR consideration you should make is the type of people you hire.  When interviewing, you need to determine if the prospective employee has a valuable skill set, and if their personality will fit in with your existing team. Building a team that will be able to stay and grow together should be your goal.  For a small business, versatility is also essential for the creation of an effective team. Hiring people who have, or who are capable of learning, multiple skill sets will reduce the amount of employees you need, and increase the productivity of your employees.  


Payroll is one of the most significant functions of HR in a startup business, as getting employees paid in a timely fashion is crucial to the business’s operations.  In addition to simply paying employees, you also have to manage payroll taxes. You can simplify payroll management through a bookkeeping software like Quickbooks, or have an accountant manage the payroll for you (though this is the more expensive option).  


Having a system in place to deal with disputes or other complications involving employees is a must.  Frustrated or disgruntled employees can cause serious harm to a startup business. Therefore, you must be prepared to deal with complaints and issues in a timely and respectful manner.  Employees must feel that their concerns are heard and taken into account. If it comes time to part ways with an employee, then you must have a plan in place to quickly and effectively replace the loss of production.  


Every business should have a website.  If you have not already prepared your website, then now is the time.  Your website should be fully operational on the day that your business opens its doors for the first time, if not before.  Your website will be a great resource for customers to learn about your business. Too many startup businesses waste time worrying about the layout or the look of the website, when in reality the most important features will be its content and functionality.  The aesthetics of a website are important. However, your site should be more than a pretty face, otherwise it will not provide value to the business.  


In addition to a solid website, most businesses have software needs.  Accounting and bookkeeping software like Quickbooks and Quicken are quite valuable and can save a lot of time and money for a business.  There are also HR and customer relationship management (CRM) software platforms that help small businesses cope with the large amount of work that goes into running a business.  Shipstation is an excellent platform for shipping out orders using any of the major carriers (UPS, FedEx, United States Postal Service, and more) that will integrate with many online marketplaces.


Online marketplaces, like Amazon, Etsy, and Shopify are excellent sources for online sales.  When using online marketplaces, however, you must be aware of the rules and requirements that these companies place on sellers.  As with any software, you should research these marketplaces beforehand to determine which one(s) fits your needs and abilities the best.   


In addition to the software and technologies that we have addressed above, there are countless others available to help your business.  You might have industry-specific software needs, like digital audio editing software or Adobe Photoshop for creating digital artwork. Just be sure to research your options thoroughly beforehand so that you can make the most informed decision possible.  Software and technology can be quite expensive, so you do not want to waste money on software that you do not need or cannot operate.  


Starting a business requires tremendous patience and a significant amount of work.  At this point, there are few tasks left to accomplish before opening a business. These final steps ensure that you and your business hit the ground running.  Being prepared to handle whatever situations come your way as an entrepreneur is essential to maintaining a successful business. These final steps are all about taking all the preparation that has been done up until this point and using your knowledge to ensure that when you open your doors you are fully prepared to run your own business, and run it well, from day one.  

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