Is this the year you make your entrepreneurial dreams come true? Congratulations! But… you’ll need a plan. Consider this your month-by-month guide to ensuring that the business you launch thrives.
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Month 1: Dream big (and write it down)
I know you’re excited to get going, but first you really need to articulate what you want your business to look like. You probably know in general what the product you want to sell is or what the service you wish to deliver is, but dive deeper and consider:
- Who your clients are
- Who your competitors are
- How you will market your business
- How you will price your products or services
- How much money you need (approximately; we’ll go deeper next month)
- What you want your business to look like one, five and 10 years from now
Don’t be shy about dreaming big! But realize that in order to accompany those dreams, you’ll need an action plan.
Month 2: Get your finances in order
This month, dedicate energy to your finances. Make a detailed budget that includes operating expenses, inventory, payroll (if you’re planning on hiring in the future), marketing and emergencies.
Consider where the money to start will come from. Do you have a nest egg you can tap, or would you need to take out a loan or perhaps seek a form of alternative funding?
Open a business checking account this month. It’s best to keep your personal and business finances separate, and when it comes time to file your business taxes, you’ll thank me.
Month 3: Get your website and social media up and running
Now it’s time to lay the groundwork for a website and marketing. Hire a web designer to create a stunning professional site, or if you have a little design and technical expertise, try a website builder like Wix.
Also, create social media profiles on the channels you think are best to connect with your audience (this goes back to Month 1 when you identified your target audience and what platforms they use). Less is more here: rather than setting up profiles on every site available, focus on just one or two to start so you know you’ll have time to manage them.
Month 4: Situate your space
Now’s the time to start looking for the ideal property that fits your needs and budget, whether that be a retail space, office, coworking space, etc. And if you’ll be working out of your home, designate a space for your home office that will minimize distractions and help you be productive. It might also allow for a deduction come tax time.
You’ll need to buy supplies and equipment this month, as well. Consider opening tradelines (or credit with vendors) so you can get supplies when you need them and pay later, usually 30 days after receiving an invoice. Look for vendors who report to business credit bureaus so you can build your business credit.
Month 5: Get your permits and licenses
Chances are, you’re going to need at least one business license before you can start operating. Depending on the type of business you’re running, you may need several months to get these approved, so start getting them in line before you launch your business.
Even if you work out of your home, you will need a sales tax certificate or some type of permit(s) specific to your business. Check with your city, county and state government to find out what you need.
Month 6: Put your marketing plan together
If you’ve done your homework and truly understand where you will best connect with your audience, this is the time to put together a detailed plan on how you will market to spread the word about your business and attract customers.
In your plan, include which marketing channels you’ll use, what your budget is for each, and whether you, an employee, or a third party (freelancer or agency) will help with the marketing tasks.
Month 7: Hire help
You’re getting closer to opening your business, and you’re going to need some help! Consider what aspects of your business you will need the most help with. Sure, you could try to do it all yourself, but you’ll end up doing a mediocre job with everything. Instead, put your attention on running your business and hire others to do the rest.
If hiring a team of full-time employees isn’t in your budget, start with part-time help and/or freelancers.
Month 8: Plan your launch
The type of business you’re opening will impact what sort of business launch you should have. If you’re opening a services business online, you can activate your website and be up and running. But if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar business, you may want to alert local media and social followers to attend your grand opening event. The bigger the splash you can make, the more aware of your new business people will be.
Plan an event with giveaways, discounts, entertainment, and food and beverage. Promote it in your local newspaper, online publications and through your social media channels.
Month 9: Launch!
All your hard work has paid off, because now you can officially open your company for business!
Don’t be disappointed if sales are slow to trickle in; this is also a period of learning, where you pay attention to what’s driving revenue and what isn’t. Make sure to track website visits through Google Analytics so you know which marketing channels are driving visitors to your site, and any areas where you might need to reconsider strategy.
Month 10: Focus on promotions
You may see a little slowdown in traffic or sales after your initial launch, and that’s when it’s time to start thinking about promotions and sales. Discount products that are slow to move. Bundle two items together to push some of those slower-moving items. Create a loss leader to drive people to your store where, hopefully, they’ll buy more.
Month 11: Assess results
By now, you’ve had some time to build up your web traffic and social media following. If you have a physical store, you’ve gotten some face-to-face time and have spoken to customers. You may have developed an email subscriber list as part of your marketing efforts in Month 6. Use all these points of contact to determine where you should take your marketing efforts in the future.
Are customers asking for a loyalty program? That could be a good way to drive repeat sales. Are your emails not getting opened? Look at the subject lines you’re using and test out different copy.
Month 12: Look to the future
You put a tremendous amount of energy into the launch of your business, but your work isn’t done.
Now is time to look ahead: where do you want to take your business in the following year? Five years out? How about 10? Look back at your business plan and see if you’re still aligned with the direction you were initially going in, and if not, tweak it to reflect your new direction.