One of the hardest parts about starting a business is taking those first steps. You might have your idea, and a few vague plans, but when it comes to actually starting? All of a sudden you feel stuck.
What if you could start your business, from scratch, in 30 days? Well now, you can—we’ve laid out all the steps you’ll have to take to get your business up and running in one month. Follow along, and you’ll be running your own business in a few short weeks. If you’d like to read a more in-depth guide on starting your business in a month, you can do so on Bplans. Otherwise, let’s get started!
Week 1: Get the ball rolling
During week one, you’ll be hammering out the logistics. You’ll focus on strategy, doing your research, and making sure your business is legal.
Day 1: Figure out what you’re selling.
Do you know what you’re selling, and — arguably as important — who you’ll be selling it to? The first day of starting your business is all about determining what your business is about. What is your product or service? Who needs it? What specifically are you offering?
Day 2: Get started on your strategy.
What does your ideal business look like? What markets would you like to serve—and which ones will you steer clear of? Get a sense of your overarching business strategy; we’re thinking big picture here.
Day 3: Establish your business location
Where will your business be located? Can you run it from home, online, or do you need a brick-and-mortar location? Will it be open to the public, or will you simply require office space? For the former, accessibility and good location are key; for the latter, making sure the location has a great layout and ample space for employees may be a more important consideration.
Day 4: Figure out how much money you will need to get started
What are your startup costs? Costs can be divided into two categories: expenses and assets. Expenses include things like payroll, rent, and legal costs; assets include buildings, inventory, and so on.
Day 5: Start “business planning,” not the “business plan”
Don’t worry — you don’t need to write the official “business plan document” yet. Just focus on giving your business some direction. Things to think about at this stage are: your identity as a business, your market need, the steps you’ll take to get your business up and running, startup costs, and a preliminary sales forecast and expense budget.
Day 6: Do your market research
There are seemingly endless ways of doing market research. Sending out email surveys, holding focus groups, and looking at governmental research data are just a few of the most common starting places. You’ll want to make sure you have a good sense of your target market, so don’t skimp on this step!
Day 7: Make it legal
Today you’ll choose your business structure, and make your business an official legal entity. Exciting, right? There are a number of ways you can do this, from forming a corporate structure, to registering your DBA (or both).
Week 2: Get financed
Spend the next week working on your pitch, your business plan, and on researching your financing options. Remember that your business plan isn’t set in stone. It should remain a “live” document as you progress and grow.
Day 8: Write a one-page pitch.
A one-page pitch is like the precursor to your business plan. It’s efficient to write, and distills the plan down to the essentials. What exactly are you doing, who is your target audience, who are key partners or employees, and how much money do you require to get started?
Days 9 and 10: Work on your business plan
Now that you’ve done plenty of research, you’ll get into writing your business plan. Now, the business plan is just an expanded version of the one page pitch, so don’t let it overwhelm you. Think of it as a living document, that can be updated as needed, and used to set goals and track progress.
Day 11: Explore your funding options
How do you plan to finance your business? Will you be using your own money, borrowing from friends and family, seeking a loan from the bank, or maybe outside investment? Determine what funding options are best for your business; don’t forget, you can always combine methods.
Days 12 and 13: Start the funding application process
Start sorting out how you’ll actually get the funding you decided on in Day 11. Call your bank, set up a meeting with your investor, or speak with the relative who plans to fund your business. It doesn’t have to finalize the process, just get started.
Day 14: Get set up on LivePlan or write your elevator pitch
Week 3: Keep the momentum going
Now you’ve made progress, continue working through the next steps. In this week, you’re going to look into insurance, creating your online presence, and figuring out whether you need to hire employees.
Day 15: Figure out how you’re going to get paid
One of the primary reasons businesses go under isn’t due to lack of profitability — it’s because they simply ran out of cash on hand. Establish a credit policy with your vendors early on, and avoid this situation. Also determine what types of payment you will take, and how you’ll take them.
Day 16: Cover your assets and get insurance
In addition to covering your own assets in the case of a fire or a burglary in the building, you will also need insurance against the loss of a key employee due to illness or an accident on the job. Depending on your business, you’ll want to consider workers compensation insurance, general liability insurance, auto insurance, property insurance, and potentially more.
Day 17: Work out whether or not you need to hire employees
Do you really have the ability to do everything on your own at the start? If you need to hire someone with specific qualifications or training, outline what that person will do and what the role will require. Look to friends and family, put ads on Craigslist, or use an employment agency.
Day 18: Brand your business
Before you can advertise your business or set up your website, you’ve got to think of how you’re going to brand your business. Not only will a strong brand help to differentiate you from the competition, but it will clarify your message, create value, and be a key element of your marketing.
Days 19 and 20: Establish an online presence
Now that you’ve got your brand, it’s time to take it online. Create a basic website, or at the very least set up all your basic social media platforms — Facebook and Twitter, and maybe Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest — depending on your business.
Day 21: Advertise
Advertising can take many forms; you don’t need to hire a PR person or an ad firm, although you certainly can go that route if you wish. Consider Google Adwords, speak with local journalists about getting featured in a story, buy offline advertising, use your social media channels, or get involved in your local community by hosting or sponsoring an event.
Week 4: You’re now in business — start selling!
This is the time to get out and talk to people. Start selling, continue advertising, and follow up.
Day 22: Uncover your USP
Your “unique selling proposition” is what makes you unique. You will need a USP if you’re going to start directly “selling your business” to potential customers. What do you offer of value? Why do your customers choose you over a competitor?
Days 23 and 24: Start introducing yourself on the phone, start pitching your business, start in-field sales, start reaching out
Do your research, and create a list of prospects before you reach out. This will help you focus on targeting the right areas and the right people. Try making 50 calls in 150 minutes; that means no longer than three minutes per call. This will help you stay on target.
Day 25: Follow up on prospects you’ve reached out to, people you’ve pitched, and so on
If someone expressed interest, follow up. If someone gave you a specific reason for not taking up on your business offer, is there new information that might change their mind? This could include an endorsement from a mutual friend, a meeting in a non-business environment, an invitation to visit your facility or an article about your company. What might they be interested in that you missed sharing on that first call?
Days 26 and 27: Figure out how you’ll maintain an ongoing relationship with customers or clients and then build, maintain, and engage with them
Little touches like sending seasonal or birthday cards, offering special discounts for loyalty, and otherwise thanking them for their continued support will go a long way in keeping these relationships strong and long-lasting.
Day 28: Choose your accounting software or online bookkeeping application
The main benefit of using good accounting software is that it will make your costs and expenditures visible, which will ultimately result in more responsible financial decision-making. Software like Quickbooks Online, Freshbooks, Xero, Zoho, and Sage One are a few good options.
Day 29: Use LivePlan
If you have a LivePlan account, take this day to familiarize yourself with the program. The Scoreboard feature in LivePlan will make managing your business much easier.
Day 30: Rest
Congratulations, you’ve successfully started your business! You’ve earned this day of rest. But, don’t be surprised if you can’t shut off completely; running your business is likely to be at the forefront of your mind for some time. So while time to rest is needed, don’t worry if your new business feels like a full-time responsibility — it probably will be!
While the 30-day framework is a great way to keep you on track and avoid procrastination, it can feel a little daunting. Don’t be afraid to take more time if you need it, or spend less time on things that aren’t applicable to your business. The most important thing? Getting started.
Did you start a business in 30 days? What was your experience? What worked, and what didn’t? Share your stories with us in the comments.
Candice Landau is the Managing Editor of Bplans. With a background in writing and digital marketing and an interest in technology, business, creativity and just about everything else, she aims to find the best answers to your questions. Follow Candice on Twitter