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What do you need to do to start a business? There are dozens of websites including ours that have checklists that remind you of the many tasks you should perform to start a business. Although such checklists will help you remember important startup steps you might otherwise overlook, they are just To Do lists. They tell you what to do, but not what it takes to make a business successful.
Unfortunately, you don't succeed in business just by completing certain tasks. Nor will your business be a success just because you think it's a good idea.
What will make or break your business? What determines if it will be a success? Here are 13 tips for turning your business idea into a successful business.
- Know yourself, your true motivational level, the amount of money you can risk, and what you're willing to do to be successful. Sure, we all want to make millions of dollars. But what are you willing to give up to reach that goal? How many hours a week will you work on an ongoing basis? How far out of your comfort zone are you willing to stretch? How far will your family stretch with you? To be successful, keep your business plans in line with your personal and family goals and resources.
- Choose the right business for you. The old formula – find a need and fill it – still works. It will always work. The key to success is finding needs that you can fill, that you want to fill, and that will produce enough income to build a profitable business.
- Be sure there really is a market for what you want to sell. One of the biggest mistakes startups make is to assume a lot of people will want to buy a particular product or service, because the business owner likes the ideas or knows one or two people who want the product or service. To minimize your risk for loss, never assume there is a market. Research the idea. Talk to real potential prospects (who aren't family and friends) to find out if what you want to sell is something they'd be interested in buying, and if so, what they'd pay for the product or service.
- Plan to succeed. If you're not seeking investors or putting a huge sum of money into your business, you may not need an elaborate business plan, but you still do need a plan - one that specifies your goal – your destination – and then lays out at least a skeletal roadmap for how you'll get to where you want to go. The plan will change as you progress and learn more about your customers and competition, but it will still help you stay focused and headed in the right directions. Use our business planning worksheet to help develop that basic plan.
- Don't procrastinate. I've heard some people advise would-be business owners to not move ahead with their business until they have investigated every last detail of the business they want to start, and are absolutely sure it's all going to work and be profitable. The problem with that approach is that it leads to procrastination. No one ever really has all the pieces in place – even after they've started their business. Yes, you need to research the market, have a rudimentary plan in place and do things like get a tax id if needed, register with local officials, if required, etc. But if you try to make everything perfect before you launch, you may never get around to starting the business at all.