What You Need to Do Before You Start a Business

starting a small business
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Owning a small business is something that many people dream of doing, some throughout their entire lives. To many on the outside looking in, it simply sounds like the perfect situation. You get to do something you love every day, make your own business hours, and independently control how much money you make. You can be free from thankless managers, annual reviews, and office politics. You are the boss and don't have to answer to anyone.

Sounds great, right?

While some of those perks may be possible, you would be very hard-pressed to find a successful small business owner who says that his or her situation is perfect. The reality is that small business ownership can be challenging, requires an immense amount of hard work, and isn't something that you can decide to dive into overnight. It takes a lot of research and planning — along with having certain skills and personality characteristics — to succeed as a small business owner. 

Here are some key things you need to think about before deciding that it's time to start a small business:

  • Have you talked about starting a business with your family, including what life will be like during the startup phase? 
  • Are there certain things you know you don't want to do (i.e., accounting, marketing, administrative tasks, hiring/firing, technology setup/maintenance, etc.)? Have you lined up people to help handle those tasks?
  • Are you willing to give your business everything you got in order to make it a success?

Now that we have done a quick reality check, you have hopefully confirmed that small business ownership is the right path for you. Congratulations! Now the real work starts. It's time to get your finances in order, create a business plan, give your business a name, start building your team, set up your business location, and get out there promoting your business. The good news is that not all of these steps have to happen immediately. Two of them, though, need to be started as soon as possible: getting your finances in order and creating a business plan.

When it comes to your finances, you will need to conduct a financial feasibility study to estimate how much capital you need to get started, what it will cost to keep the business up and running every month, and what you need to make in sales in order to reach your desired level of return. At this stage, some of your numbers will be estimates, but it's important to get them down on paper. Once you know approximately how much you will need, it's time to explore various small business funding options. Keep in mind that you can also leverage funds from more than one source to cover your bases as you get your business off the ground.

After finances, arguably one of the most important steps in starting a small business is creating a business plan. If you are looking for an investor or if you plan to apply for a loan, you will need a traditional and structured business plan. In fact, even if you are planning to launch a solo endeavor, you will still need a business plan. It doesn't need to be as long or as formal as a traditional business plan, but if you are going to succeed, you will need some sort of written document. At a minimum, your business plan should outline what your business is all about, what your goals are, how you plan to accomplish those goals, what it will cost to do it, and what you expect to make as profit. Your business plan, which will incorporate the financial information we talked about earlier, will be one of the most powerful documents you create in your business.

This is just the beginning of what it takes to start a business, but fortunately, we have covered just about every conceivable topic on The Balance. Explore the articles featured in this section to get help with each step of the business startup process and get moving on the path to small business ownership.