Many of us have dreamed of starting our own business. The idea of being your own boss can be both exciting and scary at the same time. Throughout my professional career, I’ve always worked for large organizations, my mom taught school and my dad worked for companies in the warehouse and driving trucks. Now, I know many people who have gone out on their own, loved it and thrived.
When I ran the auto lending business at Chase, I got to meet a lot of the owners of car dealerships. They were passionate about their business–and about cars. They reinforced for me that when you have your own business, big or small, you can reap all the benefits of your hard work, but you also take on all the risks and some of the responsibilities. This includes health coverage, tax processing and financial liability—all of which an employer might handle for you, but when you are on your own, you are the employer and the empployee.
To help you explore starting your own business, let’s walk through some of the steps you’ll need to take.
First, figure out what you like doing and who you want to serve. I know it sounds simple, but I encourage you to spend time really thinking about it.
You better like doing the work because you’ll likely end up putting in way more hours in your own business than when you worked for someone else. My first job was at Putt-Putt Golf & Games, where my flower-watering and hot-dog-making fell short of the owner’s expectations because my heart just wasn’t in putt-putt golf. And every business needs to make money by providing services or products that customers can and will pay for. Is your idea centered around something you’ve been providing to customers through someone else’s business, and now you want to go out on your own? Who else is providing it now? Are they earning enough to stay afloat?
Next, start to develop a business plan. This means putting downyour ideas on paper–or on your computer. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), there’s no right or wrong way to write a business plan. And it’s never set in stone, especially early in this process, so you have more flexibility than you may think.
What’s important is it meets your needs. It simply lays out a plan for how you intend to launch your business as well as your strategy for long-term success. I recommend you start with a lean startup plan, especially when you’re just thinking about starting a business. It takes high-level focus, is fast to write, and contains only key elements. When you start looking for investors to put money into your business or a bank to provide financing, you’ll need to create a more detailed version.
The SBA recommends considering including the following in a lean startup plan:
- Key partnerships. Cite the other businesses or services you’ll work with to run your business. Think about suppliers, manufacturers, subcontractors and similar strategic partners.
- Key activities. List the ways your business will gain a competitive advantage. Highlight things like selling direct to consumers or using technology to tap into the sharing economy.
- Key resources. List any resource you’ll leverage to create value for your customer. Your most important assets could include staff, capital or intellectual property. Don’t forget to include business resources that might be available to Minority and Women-Owned Businesses, often referred to as M/WBE in short-hand.
- Value proposition. Make a clear and compelling statement about the unique value your company brings to the market.
- Customer relationships. Describe how customers will interact with your business. Is it automated or personal? In person or online? Think through the customer experience, from start to finish.
- Customer segments. Be specific when you name your target market. Your business won’t be for everybody, so it’s important to have a clear sense of who you will serve.
- Channels. List the most important ways you’ll talk to your customers. Most businesses use a mix of channels and optimize them over time.
- Cost structure. Will your company focus on reducing cost or maximizing value? Define your strategy, then list the most significant costs you’ll face pursuing it.
- Revenue. I’m listing this last, but it’s probably the most important.Explain how your company will actually make money. Some examples are direct sales, memberships fees and selling advertising space. If your company has multiple revenue streams, list them all.
Then you’ll need some accounting, tax and/or legal support. For your accounting, you can use pencil and paper, software or a professional. The goal is to know where your money comes from, where it goes and what your expenses look like. It will help you understand your cash flow, figure out what you’re making and project what your future revenue could look like.
You’ll also have to figure out how to file income taxes for your business. That could include everything from choosing how to structure your business, perhaps as a sole proprietorship, and whether to file for an Employer Identification Number with the Internal Revenue Service. That would enable you to pay taxes as a business, rather than an individual.
I have one last recommendation if you’re thinking about starting, growing and scaling your own business: the Advancing Black Entrepreneurs program created by JPMorgan Chase in partnership with the National Minority Supplier Development Council, U.S. Black Chambers, National Urban League and Black Enterprise. This program has three fundamental components – educational courses, on-demand resources and business spotlights.
I’ve found that many businesses start with an idea that is nurtured by time, sweat and love. Does that sound like you? If so, then you are already on your way to starting a business.
The suggestions presented come from the Small Business Administration and are intended to offer general information. Before beginning any business consult with your legal advisor, accountant and trusted advisors.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Opportunity Lender