Starting Your Own Business in Texas: Seven Steps to Success
Step One: Determine Your Business
Now, this may seem pretty elementary but take out a piece of paper and answer these questions. At the end of answering these questions, you should have a good starting point.
Who? What? When? Where? How?
What is your product or service?
What will you sell? What is the product or service you want to build a business on? You can have a tangible product or provide a spectacular service, starting a business from scratch is the same.
Who is your target audience?
Who are you going to sell your product or service to? Will you sell your product or service to businesses or consumers? Who will your primary customer be?
When are you going to market?
When will you sell your service or product? Meaning will your product be seasonal, all year round? Creating a plan for "slow seasons" is key so it is very important that you determine if your business will sustain all year long. For example, if you are considering landscaping, be aware of the slower periods such as winter. What will you do during that season to keep your business going?
Where are you going to sell your product or service?
Where will the most viable platform be for selling your product or service? Online is definitely important whether you are providing a service or selling a product but also consider festivals, networking seminars, etc. depending on where your customer base is going to be.
How will your customer receive your product or service?
If you provide a service or sell a product, determine how your customers will receive that product or service. This is one less thing you'll have to worry about later on.
These are basic questions to get your started but once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll find it easier to create your business plan. Not only that, you now have it in black and white, you’ll be motivated to follow it through. Hang a copy on your fridge and remind yourself everyday what you are doing this for.
Step Two: Choose a Business Name
This is the MOST IMPORTANT step in starting a business. It's almost like naming your child. Once you choose a business name, you are more likely to care for it like a child.
Write down 5 names for consideration. That way, if one isn't available, you still have options that you like. Here's a tip. Do a domain search for each name. You are more likely to see if someone else could be using that name before going to register the name.
Next, visit your local County Clerk's office to look up the name you want to use and to make sure no one else is using the name. If you choose to, you can purchase the business name.
In Texas, for example, the fee is somewhere around $18. That’s a one time fee that just ensures no one else can conduct business under the name you have registered.
When choosing a business name, I recommend not settling on the first one that comes to mind.
Once you finalize your business name, that’s it, there is no going back. :) Not to sound too serious. Just make sure you really want that business name. You can also take votes throughout your family and friends to see what they think. Come up with about five business names, throw in some snacks, invite everyone to vote, and there you have a good time PLUS a tax write-off!
Plus it’s a great way to start the word of mouth process.
Step Three: EIN Number from IRS
I only provide this information from personal experience, I am not an accountant nor should anything here be considered legal advice.
Determine how you are going to pay your taxes. Here’s a tidbit, no matter how you file your taxes, there are tax breaks out there for everyone. Even if you have an EIN (a social security # for your business) you’ll still have to report all of your total income. I’m not a tax specialist so make sure to visit http://www.irs.gov/ and click on small business.
Call their toll-free number and ask any questions you have. If you don’t hire a CPA off the bat then call Uncle Sam himself. They will answer any questions you have. You can find their phone number on the website. This is homework for you.
Once You Have EIN
This isn't a lengthy section because opening a bank account isn't a HUGE step but keep in mind that you cannot open a business banking account without an EIN Number from the IRS. Even if you have the business name registered, the bank account will be opened under your name and social security number if you do not obtain an EIN.
Step Four: Start Your Website
In Step Two, you already looked up domain names for your business. Take it one step further before buying a domain name. Google the name with your city and state to see if it comes up in your area, and then also see if it’s available as a domain name. That’s going to be your website name.
I use Name.com to buy my domain names but I use Wix.com to build the websites. You can choose to do it yourself or hire someone to build a website for you from scratch, either way you’ll have to have the domain name! You can find different variations to the website name you want and again see which one is more popular.
I recommend using a website name that is pertinent to your business so search engines will pull your site faster for people to find when they type in their keywords.
Step Five: Create Your Business Plan
Ok, let’s write your business plan, which will be easier to do since you have already written out the who, what, when, where, and how of your business. There are very detailed business plans and ones that are short and sweet. If you are planning to stay small, don’t try to give yourself a huge headache by using one of those technical business plan formats.
Find business plan samples by doing a Google search, they have sample templates you won’t have to pay for.
Here’s a breakdown of the sections a business plan should have:
1. Cover Page
2. The purpose of your business
3. The business structure
4. What makes your business different?
5. How will you meet the clients’ needs?
6. Product or service description
7. Rates – Financial Table
8. Time Table to achieve goals while maintaining finances
9. Additional revenue if any – describe that here
10. Your business staff and management, donator and suppliers
Again, use your answers in the who, what, when, where, & how section and just expand on them. By now you already know what it is you want to do so a simple business plan will just help you maintain those goals. Business plans need to be as detailed as possible if you will use it to try and obtain funding from loans, grants, or private parties. People want to know where the money is going and how you plan to sustain after the seed money is gone.
Step Six: Marketing Your Business
The next step, and most fun, is Marketing. I saved the best for last because marketing is the most important aspect of your business!!
Marketing is important but so is customer service, but I can’t teach customer service ~ JUST TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT TO BE TREATED AS A CUSTOMER!
Marketing is key to your business because it is the cornerstone on which your business is built. It’s about getting your name out there in front of actual people that are willing to pay for your service or product, and believe me, they are out there. They are just waiting to hear about you.
Again, your website is a huge tool for your business. So many people are looking online now to find what they are looking for. Yellow Pages are a thing of the past so don’t put too much money (if any) into those.
Word of mouth referrals are free and more effective than any other means of advertisement. This is where good customer service comes in. You’d use someone a friend referred you to before you’d use someone you found in the phone book. Correct?
No matter what, you’ll want business cards. These are like miniature billboards that are not only professional looking but can be a useful referral card, etc. Visit Vistaprint for an inexpensive start to your marketing materials.
Other great marketing tools are postcards, brochures, car magnets, business card magnets, and lots more! Sometimes it's just a matter of do you have the time to do all of this while also starting up your business? More than likely not, but your budget will determine this. Hire someone if you can.
If you have to, print some business cards from home just to get going, you can find plain white business card paper at any local store where the copy paper is found.
Sign up for a LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram accounts to promote your business immediately. They are all free.
Step Seven: Get Going
Start passing out your marketing materials, place ads on free sites such as craigslist.org and don’t wait for people to come to you. It’s like waiting for someone to knock on your door with your sweepstakes check. It’s likely he will never show up.
It’s more likely you’ll find business within the first week of following these directions. There will be people that try to discourage you from starting your own business, especially in this economy, but keep your head up and keep trucking. When you’re a success, those same people will possibly be asking for a job!
Manage your finances well, treat your customers with respect, and make sure to pay yourself. Even if you are only paying yourself $100 a month to begin with, just make sure you do it. You’ll keep yourself better motivated if you see the fruits of your labor.
So that's it.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Sydney Spence