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6 Steps to Starting Your Business Before Memorial Day

Do you have a great business idea? Are you dying to get started on it, but you just don’t know where to start?

Start by setting Memorial Day 2013 as the deadline for you to turn your business idea into a reality.

If you’re thinking, “I can’t do all of the 6 steps in four months,” don’t be dismayed. Every business is different, and every business requires its own unique adjustments in strategy, especially in the beginning. But if you start with a deadline, you have set a goal that you can strive to achieve. If you do not hit that goal, that is not failure; it is merely an adjustment that you need to make. The most important thing is to get started and build momentum.

(Check out Docstoc co-founder Jason Nazar’s 21 Golden Rules of Entrepreneurship for tips on getting past the inevitable hardships that entrepreneurs face.)

So, what are you waiting for? The following 6 steps will guide your path.

1. Get to Know the Market for your Business

The first thing that you will want to know before starting a business is whether customers will buy your product or service. Otherwise, you run the risk of putting a lot of time and effort into something that is wonderful but that does not sell.

Avoid that situation. Ask yourself: Who are the people who will buy this product? Why would they buy this product as opposed to a similar product?

One of the best ways to know if people will buy your product or service is to ask them directly. Talk to people who you know about your idea. Ask people who are experts in the field. You can even ask strangers what they think. Consider all of the feedback that you receive carefully before moving forward.

Helpful Tools: Market survey documents, Survey Monkey

2. Write your Business Plan

You’ve determined that you have a product or service that will sell. It is time to write your business plan.

Writing a business plan does not have to be a complicated process. However, it must perform its purpose. For a business plan to perform its purpose, it must set reachable goals on a specific timeline and detail the steps required to achieve each one of those goals.

Part of the plan should include financial estimates and a budget. Budgets are notoriously overrun when it comes to starting a business, so make sure that you include a significant financial cushion written into your budget.

Need to learn more about business plans? Check out these two articles from Docstoc. 6 Steps You Should Take Before You Draft a Business Plan and 7 Situations Where You Will Need a Formal Business Plan, and this online course Business Plans: Perfect the Pitch.

Helpful Tools: Docstoc Premium Documents Business Plan Checklist, Business Plan Template

3. Fund your Business

Entrepreneurs have a variety of options for funding their businesses. If your business requires very little capital investment, you may be able to secure enough money by using your own funds or by asking for loans or investments from friends and family.

The government also provides loans for small businesses. Research and consider your options at http://sba.gov, a federal government website and fantastic resource for people who are starting a small business. Also consider the options of private bank loans, venture capital assistance, and grants.

Funding options vary with regard to interest rates, loan periods, and trade-offs of control. Research your choices and determine the best fit for you and your business.

Helpful Tools: Docstoc’s Online Courses – Bootstrapping Your Business and Raising Capital for Your Business

4. Take Care of the Legalities

Your business should be in compliance with government policies. Taking time to organize the legal aspects of your business from the beginning will serve you well.

Depending on the type of business you plan to run, you may choose among several types of legal structures for businesses, including sole proprietorship, partnership, and limited liability corporation (LLC). The tax implications and member responsibilities for these organizations differ, so know your options and what they offer.

After selecting an appropriate legal structure for your business, register your business in the state where you plan to do business and check whether you will need to acquire specific permits for your business to operate.

Helpful Tools: Go to License123® to get the right licenses for your business.

5. Create Your Product or Service

You have a market for your business idea, and a business plan. You have funding for your business, and the go-ahead from the government. You are now ready to create your product or service.

If you have already created your product or service prior to this step, devote this phase to iteration. Iteration in business is the process of continuous improvement of products and services. No matter what your product or service is, there is almost certainly room for improvement before it formally hits the market.

Helpful Tools: Alibaba.com, Docstoc Online Courses – Create and Sell a Physical Product, Build, Sell and Promote a Physical Product and Build, Sell and Promote an Online Product

6. Market your Product or Service and Launch

Before introducing your product to the market, have a launch strategy ready. For some markets, it is best to start building buzz well in advance of the actual launch. Others may not require as much preparation. Either way, you will need people to help you get the word out about your business.

Do you have a marketing strategy? If not, create one that is designed to reach your target market.

An advantage that entrepreneurs have today that they did not have in the past is access to large amounts of potential customers without the need for large marketing budgets. Social media has opened a whole new world of possibilities to today’s entrepreneurs. To get your marketing engine running, you should take advantage of one or more of the most popular social media networks available.

Helpful Tools: Docstoc Online Courses: Twitter for Small Business, Facebook Pages for Business

Start off your business on the right foot. Make the launch of your new business worth remembering, and hold an event to commemorate your business launch – and it is not as expensive as you may think. Check out this resource to get ideas on how to plan your event on any budget.

Helpful Tools: Eventbrite

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.