So, you may have been pondering the idea of starting a business for quite some time now. The problem is, there's so much information about what's necessary in a business, so you don't know where to start.
I completely understand. A few years ago, when I started my business, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of information, and half of it wasn't where I needed to start.
What if I told you, there's a basic strategy every successful business HAS to use, and I can give it to you for free? You'd think you'd hit a jackpot, right? Besides, business consultants charge up to $100,000 for ONE SESSION, and I'm giving you a working strategy for free.
Well, guess what...you're absolutely right. You're going to get a strategy that can take you from idea to enterprise AT NO COST.
But, that's not all. In this article, I'll share my story and examples of how this strategy can be used to build businesses from an idea into an enterprise. I'll also give you links to articles, downloads, and webinars that fill in the gaps so you'll have everything you need to get your business started. Are you ready?
Before we begin...
Our mission is to train entrepreneurs to grow businesses from Concept to Enterprise Level, so we're dedicated to adding solutions that help you start or scale the business of your dreams!
This guide will show you how in 10-Steps! You can return to this guide from time-to-time to stay on track.
Great! This guide will serve as an amazing tool to guide you along the path to get leads and sales online.
This guide along with our complimentary training will lead you on a path to learn how to sell online AND how to add additional revenue streams!
Here's a Few Brief Facts About Me...
I'm not a gazillionaire (I made that term up) with private jets, a Rolls Royce, or an account with a billion dollars+ in it, but...
I was born in the home of two entrepreneurs. Growing up, my parents ran a real estate investing company where they'd buy, renovate, rent, and sell properties.
The business enabled us to have control of our income and control of our time. My family was also able to help by providing housing to hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of people over the years. As a result of my experience growing up, I've always had a passion and inner appreciation for entrepreneurship (and those who pursue it).
As an adult, I ventured into the workforce; joining the military at 18, but the entrepreneurial spirit hadn't left me. I pursued many side hustles during the 9 years I served in the military, and I separated to pursue a startup construction company with my husband. At the time of this writing, my parent's business is nearly 31 years old, my husband's construction company is 5 years old, and my business is 2 years old. This 10-step guide has directed each (very different) company to success, and I'm certain it can direct you also.
I think it's extremely disheartening that 80% of small businesses fail, but I see there's a gap of information that disables most people from succeeding--that's why I've written this guide. My hope is that this guide can serve as a resource that you use to evaluate where you are in your business growth cycle and stay on track.
Before succeeding in a business, the first thing you must do is...Evaluate Yourself
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There are many skills that are required to succeed as an entrepreneur. While I believe anyone can choose to become an entrepreneur, the reality is that not everyone will be willing to go thru the evolution it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship requires a very personal mental and spiritual evolution, along with a professional change of identity, a social experience that impacts how you interact with others,and it even carries into very uncomfortable thoughts and beliefs.
The entrepreneurial evolution is quite a journey, and you won't make it without being VERY clear about your "why"
In Simon Sinek's book "Start with Why", he publicized the philosophy that success starts with a "why". I couldn't agree more. You set yourself up for failure if you start a business without a reason or for the wrong reasons. If you believe:
It's likely you may fail.
Entrepreneurship is one of the hardest things you can do. It's like running a marathon, fighting in a war, raising kids, or making a marriage work. It requires lots of training, persistence, work ethic, dedication, sacrifice, and disappointment.
And, after all of the training, persistence, work ethic, dedication, sacrifice, and disappointment, the epitome of what you become is a SERVANT.
Rather than having one boss, you have several, and each customer counts as one. Each employee counts as a boss. When you realize the importance of your customers and employees to your business, you'll realize, they are the heartbeat and lifeblood of your business, and you need to do everything you can to make your business a machine that attracts and solves a problem for them.
If you don't have a deeply embedded "why", you'll give up. You won't want to sacrifice and you won't want to work.
If you're starting for money, material possessions, or another superficial reason, you may want to try an alternative route. Starting a business is one of the hardest ways to make money or get material possessions.
I'm not saying it's the long road, but it's not an easy one.
If you believe you have an idea that's bubblin' in your belly, and it's your life purpose to bring it to the world, starting a business is a GREAT CAUSE. Starting a business is one of the most noble causes (up there with serving in the military).
You give jobs, stability, and solutions to the world. You boost the world economy, and you can leave a generation of people instilled with work ethic and creativity rather than the consumption mentality that seems to be waging war.
Starting a business will drastically change your life and can even drastically change your legacy long term. Is this what you want?
I hate to go too deep, but businesses take alot of time and effort, so it's important to think about whether it fits into your overall lifeplan. If you haven't done a life plan before, STOP BY HERE TO DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE.
Briefly, you want to think about:
Every business (big or small) will require sacrifice. You may want to spend time with your husband or wife, but you have given your word to a customer. You may want to homeschool or practice attachment parenting, but your business vision may compete with desires like that. You will be able to balance some objectives while building your business, but there's some things you may have to let go in order to start or grow the business.
Are you willing to make decisions in favor of the business and tell yourself "no"? Are you willing to solicit community support to ensure a balance in your family and life? Will you have the self-discipline to uphold what's right even when it may be tough?
***Take some time to think about that***
Once you know how the business will fit into your life plan, it's important to hone in on an idea. What problems do you see that need a solution? Your solution doesn't have to be unique, the first of its kind, or even exclusive to you.
For example, there's lots of marketing companies out there, but I've still been able to get lots of great opportunities by offering marketing services.
Think about the skills, the knowledge, and the connections you have, and decide what problem you're capable of solving for others. What's the problem you can solve?
Be careful to find people who can offer constructive feedback!
Once you've been careful to choose people who genuinely want to see you excel, try to get feedback on your idea. Find people who have a sense of the inventory of knowledge, skills, and connections you have to evaluate whether your business idea is a good way to invest what you have.
Some people will relay their personal fears and beliefs of what they may or may not be able to do. Be careful to sieve thru that, and listen for what they believe you can do.
Inviting advisors in this journey and others in your life is crucial, but test all advice with your gut (your inner conviction). I recommend Pickfu for constructive feedback. You can LEARN MORE ABOUT PICKFU HERE.
Added onto creating your life plan and generating an idea, you'll need to decide how you'll re-arrange your work-life boundaries. Now, you may:
To start a business, you'll have to compromise some of your current work-life boundaries, which can be tough.
For me, I wanted to homeschool my son, stay home with my kids, never send my baby girl to daycare, spend more time with my husband, and there were many other challenges I faced while growing my business. I was able to homeschool for 2 1/2 years. I was able to stay home with my daughter until she was 2 years old and during that time I grew my business on the side, but it came to a point where I realized who I wanted to be as a professional, and I had to compromise my work-life boundaries to get there.
You may be required to face the same tough decisions. I remember my parents, my husband, and other entrepreneur friends experiencing the same conflict.
Business has ebbs and flows. There will be times where business enables a flexible schedule and there's times where the business will be like raising a newborn; where it needs a lot of pampering and attention. You'll have to create a schedule, modify it to cater to the business needs, and stay flexible to give the business the time it needs.
Other relevant articles:
Added to the changes in your schedule, you'll also have to change how you handle your money. Regardless of how you choose to fund your business, it will require a re-evaluation of how you interact with your budget.
Companies (big and small) experience money obstacles like:
No business is exempt from having to overcome challenges with money (regardless of budget size). As a result, you'll have to get skilled at prioritization, manage risk, and grow sharp in strategic use of money. Improving your money management begins with budgeting in your personal finances and moves on from there.
Related article: How to Budget and Save Money for a Business
Even the best idea cannot keep the doors of a business open. Sales are required, and entrepreneurs play a vital role in building the initial sales as a proof of concept. If you have a good idea, but you cannot get anyone to give you money, you have a problem.
You'll need to re-work the concept and your process of selling it until you can get people to buy. After you've proven people will buy what you're selling, everyone will have more confidence: investors, employees, banks, family, and your social circle.
You'll need to be aggressive like a hunter to find people who would be interested in buying your product or service (regardless of whether you sell online or in person). If you're currently uncomfortable with sales, this step may take time to hone.
I've tried so many opportunities. Many of them made me good money, but they weren't enjoyable in the long run. Some business ideas will sound good, but maybe you might realize, you're missing too many of the pertinent skills to make it work.
I have an accountant friend who decided to buy a car repair shop that was already in operation. He thought his financial background could enable him to successfully run it, but when majority of the customers left (due to their loyalty to the prior owner), he was left drowning in mountains of expenses, and struggling with rebuilding the clientele. He had a hard time building trust and authority with the employees and the customers, and he ended up loosing $200,000 or more AND shutting the business down.
Learn from him.
You'll have to decide whether your idea is something you can commit to for a long time, and whether you have the necessary skills to build trust and authority. If you don't have the skills, you can build them or partner with someone else, but it'll take even longer to get the business going.
Remember, you'll be required to make sacrifices, to represent this idea in front of different people, and it can even become like a nickname for you. For example, many people in my community call me "the Marketing Lady". If I didn't enjoy marketing, having such a nickname may not be exciting, but since I love what I do, I'm okay with having a nickname tied to my profession.
Decide for yourself whether the idea you're considering is a good fit for you. It's a personal decision; not about numbers or logic. It's up to you.
After you've honed in on what you want to do, you can exit the "concept phase". Congratulations! Now, it's time to make the business official. This part is important from a legal standpoint, so don't gloss over this.
We recommend hiring an accountant, lawyer, and marketing professional about now. They can help you make these decisions in a way that you won't have to come back to this step later on down the line. It can be much more painful later.
Similar to choosing a child's name, your business name will identify you in the marketplace. You want it to be memorable, relevant to the potential buyers, and easy to remember.
Your business name may be placed on uniforms, signs, flyers, and many other places, so decide whether it's a good name that will represent your company well.
In the US, there are several classifications of businesses. Other countries have similar classifications:
Up until now, you've been operating as a Sole Proprietorship, and you can continue like that if you'd like. If you want to operate under a different name than your name, you'd need to get a "Doing Business As" (DBA) or surname certificate. Other legal structures offer tax advantages and liability protection (in the event of a lawsuit). It's best to seek legal advice and accounting advice to decide which business model is the best fit for your concept.
I can only really speak for the United States here, but I've noticed similarities in other countries as well...
In the US, the Secretary of State files the "Articles of Incorporation" recognizing the business as a legal entity. You'll have to complete your Articles of Incorporation and send them to your Secretary of State's office (if you're in the US).
If you reside in another country, you'll need to do a little more research on how to legally incorporate in your country.
While the rumor on the street is "cash is king", it's not common anymore that businesses or consumers operate with paper money. As a result, it will be paramount that you open a business bank account. The business bank account will serve as a financial hub for your business cashflow. There are some considerations you should keep in mind when opening a business bank account like fees, location, ease of use, and more, which is why I wrote an article to help you choose a business bank account. Check it out!
To get help choosing your business structure and incorporating your business, I recommend one of the following services:
Swyft Filings (Top recommendation) - They'll help you incorporate, create your bylaws and minutes, and open your bank account! Prices starting at $49+State Filing Fees. LEARN MORE ABOUT SWYFT FILINGS IN MY REVIEW HERE.
Other alternatives I recommend are:
Once you have your account set up, you have to decide how you'll get money from your customer into your account. Nowadays, most customers enjoy the luxury of electronic payment, ACH, credit cards, debit cards, and cash or checks are used on a much smaller occasion. You'll have to decide what's the most effective way to get paid, and what's most comfortable for your customers. If it's a challenge for customers to pay you, they may be more likely to go to someone else whose nailed ease of use.
Related article: How to Choose a Payment Processor
As you start getting ready to operate your business, you'll start to see there are many costs. Businesses cost money to operate. From business cards to equipment and materials, you have quite a few things you'll need money for. You'll have to choose how you'll fund your business. Here's a few common options:
While other funding options (like loans or equity funding) seem to be trending, bootstrapping is the most common way to fund a business. With bootstrapping, you'd get money for your business from:
Bootstrapping is my #1 recommended option to fund a business, but it's not easy. You have to divide your time between acquiring work or sales, and growing your business. In the longrun, you own 100% of the business, and once it's built, you'll have the most freedom from a bootstrapped business. You also get to experience how all of the business systems work together
As an alternative to bootstrapping, some people prefer to get loans. In this case, the banks will give you money. Typically, they require you show your business plan and sometimes to provide collateral. In exchange for a "good business plan" and collateral, the banks will give you money and charge you interest for the service. Here's a short 10-minute webinar by a Finance Professional at FitSmallBusiness on how to get business loans OR here's a 1-hour webinar (that goes more in-depth) by SCORE on how to get access to Capital thru Business Loans.
With shows like Shark Tank hitting the top of the charts, many people have begun to think equity funding is the best or only option for funding a business. Entrepreneurs go before the Venture Capitalist judges, present their ideas, and if their idea has peaked the interest of the judges, they may get an offer.
With equity funding, you'd exchange a percentage of ownership of the business for cash. When you exchange equity, you also exchange a percentage of power. The people (or person) who has bought shares of your business has also bought a voice in the operations of the business. They get a vote in your affairs, they get payment (whether they ever invest sweat equity or not).
Equity funding could be awesome because you may acquire cash and good mentorship. Alternatively, equity funding can be a disaster if:
Equity funding adds more responsibility onto the investors. I've worked with clients who were funded by equity funding and I've been able to see when it works and when it doesn't. Sometimes, clients I've worked with were under immense pressure because of shareholders' expectations. Don't let the hype associated with equity funding fool you into thinking that acquiring an angel investor or venture capitalist investment is a "Savior" for a business that doesn't know how to get sales and balance lifetime customer value. Here's a great article that shows the pros and cons of equity funding, bootstrapping, and business loans. Hopefully, that can help you make a decision on how to fund your business.
Sometimes, you can find enough people in your community who either, feel passionate about the product or service you'll be offering, or, who want to support you. In this case, a simple fundraiser can help you raise funds for your business.
I've also seen business owners who host fundraisers similar to the "old" school fundraisers where they sell water, cookies, or other simple commodities to raise funds.
Sometimes, fundraisers can work very well to raise funds, but other times, they can be an additional source of money going out. Here's a great article on Crowdfunding and Fundraising that can help you decide if it's a good funding option for you. Check it out!
With the preliminaries out of the way, it's time to build your business into a machine that makes money for you, rather than simply a job. You want the business to work for you; not you working for the business. It's a fine line that many people cross which is what Michael Gerber talked about in his book The E-Myth. It's very easy to get stuck being a technician rather than being a business owner if you don't have these 7 business systems in place.
When you're first starting out (or if you're trying to scale up), you need to get more people calling, emailing, commenting on your blog, and become a magnet for those who demand what you offer. You have to:
And, focus your marketing strategy to penetrate a specific portion of the market to maximize the ROI with your budget. Depending on the size of your budget, you may have to start out more laser focused with a smaller amount of risk. Bigger budgets can market wider than smaller ones, and may be more comfortable with inheriting risk. Smaller budgets have to be much more careful and strategic otherwise they can run out of money with very few results to show for it.
Once your lead generation system is set up, you should be getting phone calls, emails, and inquiries without needing to be the aggressor all the time. Of course, to scale and grow, you'll have to expand your lead generation system, but you want to create a working prototype first.
In it, you'll learn how to drive traffic and sales from online.
Once the phones are ringing off of the hook, the email is getting full, and people are pretty much wanting to "trample down your doors", it's time to focus on increasing the number of inquiries that convert into clients. Your lead conversion system gives details for how you:
Every business will do this differently, but every business needs to have a lead conversion system.
Some businesses have phone scripts for inbound sales, some have email templates, some have paper applications, and some rely most on technology. You have to evaluate what works best for your business, and its likely, you'll need to do some experimenting.
As an example, you may try a conversion process you saw from a competitor, but find a low conversion rate for your business. You have to decide what's the most comfortable fit to address your customers and convert them from prospects into customers.
When I started out, I used video conferencing in my lead conversion process, but now, the more my blog is growing, the more it makes my lead conversion process more efficient. Rather than coming to me with a ton of questions, many customers come after having read my articles, therefore, we have trust, context, and authority somewhat established before ever meeting.
You'll learn how to start a blog from scratch and grow it into a lead generation and lead conversion system!
It does no good to have lots of calls and inquiries with bad service or a bad product. Like all of your other systems, yor client fulfillment system will need to continue evolving: improving, growing in quality, and responding to customer feedback.
Your lead generation system and lead conversion system is where the promises are being made. There, your team will be saying:
"We're the best at..."
"We're better than our competitors because..."
"You should buy from us because..."
And, nothing else can put a short fuse on a business than if they build trust and authority of the frontend in the marketing and sales, but then they disappoint in the delivery. The client fulfillment system is where all of the marketing and sales promises are delivered, therefore it has to be consistent. If the client fulfillment system falls short of the marketing and sales, you can develop a bad name which taints your brand.
Instead, you want to make sure you're quality standards and competitive advantages are delivered to your customer's satisfaction. Delivering a good product and service consistent with the sales and marketing helps to build a good reputation of integrity, quality, and outstanding service, which is what any longstanding business wants.
While most people get stuck thinking that "branding" is about the logo and colors, it actually piggybacks on the unity of your marketing, sales, and client fulfillment systems. As a result of your marketing claims, sales consistency, and follow-thru with great product and service delivery, you'll begin building a reputation.
In summary, your brand is how others perceive you. The perception of your brand can be effected by your logo, your presentation, what you wear, and the colors associated with your company, but the most important piece of your brand is your client fulfillment system.
You can impact your client fulfillment system and your overall brand by:
It's paramount that people begin to perceive your brand with strong virtues, and with your consistency and dedication to improvement, your brand reputation will grow. Over time, you'll cross over from appearing as a "generic" brand and becoming the name brand in the market. I wrote an article that can help you with converting from generic to name brand. There's quite a significant difference in your price flexibility and overall freedom when you're a name brand rather than when you're the generic one. Check that article out to learn more!
You need continuity.
For example, when a customer goes to McDonald's for a cheeseburger, they know they'll get a bun, a squirt of ketsup and mustard, one slice of cheese, one slice of beef, and it'll be wrapped in paper. If a customer came to McDonald's and the size of the meat was completely off one time, it might be a deal breaker. They may not come back for awhile, and they might not even tell them why.
Similarly, your products or services should render consistency. A customer who comes to you once should be able to return again for a similar or improved experience. You don't want to make too many changes, and you'll need managers who can oversee the processes and make sure their being carried out properly.
Your lead generation, lead conversion, and client fulfillment systems should be documented in training manuals that serve as a portion of your business plan. When you make changes, you train your team, and modify the documents. The managers will ensure the team complies along with your training manuals, and have the power to enforce compliance in accordance with your management system.
Up until this point, all of the 7 business systems have been working IN the business, but the leadership system is working ON the business. In the leadership system, you have to decide a vision for the business by answering questions like:
Within the leadership system, you want to ensure the DNA of the business (vision, mission, and purpose) stay intact as it grows. You want to keep the team motivated to perform the mission and fulfill the purpose.
The leadership system has to:
Within the leadership team is usually the CEO, CFO, CMO, the shareholders, business advisors, and others who can help bring insight on how to grow the business and maintain a reputable brand.
Even from the earliest days in the business, where you (the entrepreneur) is wearing many hats, you want to start creating job prototypes. You want to document the actions you're doing and identify which actions correlate to common skills.
For example, you may find yourself answering the phone and booking appointments quite a bit. You can document your process for answering the phone and booking appointments, then create a job prototype, then when business picks up, you can quickly fill the position because you'll have clear work expectations and training in place for the person (or people). You can read more on How to Create Job Prototypes on an article I wrote HERE.
With all of your preliminaries underway, your personal and professional systems in place, and your 7 business systems, you are on pace to grow an enterprise. In an enterprise, there's the potential of having many moving parts simultaneously: many employees, many customers, and many onlookers.
It's important to document the processes, the tests, and every action that makes the business operate smoothly. The documentation will serve as a leader to the team, which will free you (over time) from having to direct and engage as much. The thorough documentation will enable the team to make independent decisions and run the business smoothly even when there's turnover, people on vacations, hardships, or otherwise.
Your documented goals and operations will continue to serve as a roadmap to the business, so it achieves your goals.
And, last of all....continue scaling and growing! After each system is set up, you can re-evaluate each of them. If the systems are operating well and you'd like more growth, start with scaling one system at a time. For example, if the lead generation system only has one traffic source (like SEO), then consider live event marketing, social media, or another traffic source. Similarly, if the lead conversion system is purely on your blog, you can consider adding a sales team, or another conversion system.
Continue scaling and growing!
As your going along the journey of starting and growing your company, it can be very challenging to keep your priorities straight. There's a few things I don't want you to forget along the way.
We talked about work-life balance before, but it's a juggling act. As you're growing your business, there will be times where you can get completely off balance, and you might not notice right away. Don't pay attention to balance when it's too late.
Some entrepreneurs who forget about balance wait until:
Don't let things get out of whack! Implement routines where you have time to reflect. Review you life plan from time to time. Keep your relationships high up on your list of priorities. Meditate, pray, exercise, socialize, and keep an outlet.
Stay encouraged by studying successful people, learning from others, reading, and taking care of yourself. You don't want to rob energy from one important priority and give it to the business because it catches up over time. Celebrate your big and small wins, take time off, get rest, and set small goals that you can achieve rather than always setting big 1-year or 5-year goals.
While the business will bring demands on many sides: professional, personal, emotional, etc. Don't lose yourself in it all. Don't forget your "why", and don't allow the business to deviate from it's core reason for being. When you lose yourself in the business, it becomes less and less fulfilling, and over time, it can even feel like a trap.
You don't want that. Stay true to yourself.
The goal of this article was to show you how to start with an idea and scale it into an enterprise. This is quite a monstrous topic, and I can definitely understand if you have more questions or there are other areas I haven't covered. If you have questions or concerns about this, don't hesitate to leave them in the comments section. I'd love to help you out!
Congratulations for reading the 10-Step Guide on How to Start a Business from Idea to Enterprise. Hopefully, this has given you great insight into where you may be in your business growth and where you're going. You can refer back to this from time to time to stay on track. Even if you're still a little unsure whether you can start a business online or grow your business online, it doesn't hurt to try, right?
Many people (just like you) started a business online and have succeeded at it. You can do this too! If you'd like to give it a shot, CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW to create your account for complimentary training.
How To Entrepreneur was founded in February 2018 by Tiffany Domena. Our mission is to teach ambitious people (like you) how to take a concept and turn it into a job-creating enterprise. Join our movement and start writing your business success story today!
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