Advice On Starting A Business

Business Advice Open Sign

Online.

Offline.

Be it virtual or brick and mortar, business is business and there are advantages and disadvantages to either platform.  You have to start with this advice on starting a business and that’s to destroy the biggest barrier of entry: self-limiting beliefs.

See, without a belief in your ability to achieve your goals your business won’t stand a chance.  You must have confidence in yourself and be able to visualize your business running successfully and smoothly with you in charge.

It’ll come to you, but you have to believe and put in the effort.

Yea, that does kind of sound, “The Secret,” and all.  But if you consider that over 80% of all small businesses and individual entrepreneurs fail within the first three years they’re in business; you better be sure to get out of your own way before you engage.

Advice On Starting A Business Offline

Aside from the following potential costs of starting a business offline (costs may differ based on business type) you should also weigh how long it’ll take before you have your “grand opening.”

If all the set up and building prep takes “x” amount of months you better have padded your budget to allow for any time you won’t be earning.

Consider these costs:

Administrative
This may include desks, chairs, insurance, warehousing, office rental, utilities, phones, copiers, and anything else that helps run the day-to-day operation.

Salaries
Are you going to hire anyone? What will you pay them and will you offer benefits? what are the payroll taxes involved?

Technology
Computers, peripherals, internet, cell phones and PDA’s, and all the “geek squad” support needed to streamline your technical infrastructure.

Marketing and Sales
Printing your marketing materials, brochures, flyers, hiring out to marketing firms and paying fees to trade associations.

Legal
The cost of incorporation in your State, agreements with joint-venture partners, non-disclosure agreements, trademarks and even attorney fees may crop up.

The list could go on.

Advice on Starting An Online Business

There is an endless regurgitation of spammy-cud on the internet.  It’s discouraging to even think of starting an online business when our first exposures online are to salesy, over-hyped, and gimmicky junk.

But hear me out!

There’s a (fairly) painless path from where you are now to where you want to be.  It works BEST in a reverse-engineered approach.  Most people try to think first and foremost of what they can sell or what they can offer someone (preferably many someones, am I right) but you need to rethink this.

Before you venture forth, look at what people are already buying.  What pains are they experiencing and seeking treatment, help, advice, or relief from? Where is a potential audience already gathering around a specific product or service that would benefit from your involvement?

You see, if you start with the mindset that YOU have to SELL someone SOMETHING or PITCH this or that; you’ll have a tough road ahead.

It’s a lot easier, and a lot less work, when you find your tribe of fans via careful research. These are the people that want something you could offer that may take some time for you to learn how and when to offer it.

The holy grail, of course, is striking the right balance of customer demand and your passion.  But let’s face it, in the beginning what will help you avoid the most bruises is finding first what people already desperately want.

Then there are some transformed costs to those previously stated.

  • Office space turns into home-office space
  • employees and benefits can easily turn into sole proprietorship with you doing most of the work (the smart way)
  • technology expenses are reduced to what you already own if you have a cell phone and are reading this on a computer screen at home
  • marketing and sales can be as inexpensive as website domain and hosting along with some continuous online promotion and search-engine optimization
  • legal costs such as incorporating a business name and even joint-venture agreements may still be a factor depending on the type of online business you start.

Things like sales tax is becoming a hotter topic online just as it’s a factor in selling physical goods offline. But I won’t create a 50-State matrix of internet sales tax regulation because, well, that isn’t my bag.

But the moral of the story is that you can hit the ground running a lot faster in the digital realm than preparing a piece of commercial property and jumping through zoning hoops and other regulation.

Call me biased (admittedly I am), but seeing you start an online business would make a whole lotta good sense to me.

Your Thoughts

Where are you in your business research?  Are you already in business but want to offer your wares or services online? Maybe you’re just in analysis-paralysis mode?  Share your situation in the comments.


Photo: el.pelon


5 Responses to Advice On Starting A Business
  1. Sarah Russell
    January 11, 2011 | 10:44 am

    Jon – Great post! I’ve started businesses in both the online and offline world, and for me, the internet wins hands down. Generally, the only things you really need to get started are a domain name and a small hosting package, both of which can be had for under $100.

    Twenty years ago, who would have thought that you could start a legitimate business for under $100!?

    I also agree that reverse-engineering a website is a great way to figure out what’s selling online and how to approach a particular market.

    The only thing I’d add is that it’s a good idea to focus on markets that you either have some experience with or interest in. Not that it’s 100% necessary to love the product you’re promoting, just that it’ll be easier to get going if it’s something you care about (haha – ask me sometime about my complete failure with a knife selling website… :) )

    • Jon
      January 11, 2011 | 6:40 pm

      Sarah,

      Thank you. Wow, a knife selling website? I’m guessing it wasn’t as hot as the acai berry endeavor? :) Oh and very good point; if you have interest in what you promote it can make the road ahead less bumpy.

      It’s amazing what changes in twenty years. Thank you for chiming in!

  2. Joe Thoron
    January 11, 2011 | 9:04 pm

    You wrote: “It’s a lot easier, and a lot less work, when you find your tribe of fans via careful research.”

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s always best to find the people who want what you offer, instead of trying to change the people you find into people who want what you offer.

    Joe

    • Jon
      January 30, 2011 | 8:01 pm

      Changing people – yikes. We’ve all been there and tried that! Thanks, Joe.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Monika Verma, Jonathan Alford. Jonathan Alford said: If you're thinking of starting a business then read this first: http://bit.ly/hvGzNV [...]

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Trackback URL http://www.jonalford.com/advice-on-starting-a-business/trackback