If you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, then you’re probably dreaming of starting a business but may not know where to start. Let me tell you… I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to start a business as a busy college student with many competing priorities.
So, if you’re ready to start a business, here are the key steps to follow:
- Develop a Business Plan
- Write Down The Steps to Reach Your Goals
- Batch Your Tasks
- Invest in Yourself and Your Business
- Learn How to Prioritize
1. Develop a Business Plan
Here are the main elements to include:
- Executive Summary
- SWOT Analysis
- Five-Year Plan
- Financing Plan
Note: your business plan does not have to be perfect and it is not something that you need to spend very long on. It’s a document that should guide you and will always be subject to revisions.
Now, let’s discuss these elements with a little more detail.
The executive summary is a brief overview of what you will be discussing in the business plan. Think of it as the SparkNotes or CliffsNotes of your plan. It should provide a glance at the potential of your business and show how your idea can fit into the current business scene.
In the introduction, you should aim to discuss a few things:
- Who the business is owned and operated by
- Description of the business and the services or products offered
- Unique characteristics
- Unlike the executive summary, which is an overview of the entire business plan, the introduction is focused on providing an overview of the business itself.
A SWOT Analysis has four components:
Your strengths and weaknesses are always an internal evaluation while the opportunities and threats are an external evaluation. Consider asking a marketing teacher or professor for some help in creating this the first time.
Imagine if you were pitching your business idea to an investor with venture capital funding. They’d want to know how they can make their money back, right? That’s what this section is all about!
In a five-year plan, you should include the following topics:
- Expansion opportunities
- Marketing plan
- Target market and demographics
Cover how you plan to grow and details about the audience you plan on reaching. This is a section that can benefit from in-depth market statistics to show viability for your business before it’s even created.
When running a business, you need to know how you will finance your ideas. It may be as simple as using the money you make from a part-time job. Maybe, you’re also asking friends and family to invest. Having initial capital is critical to getting your business off the ground.
As you construct your financing plan, consider including the following topics:
- Profit & loss statements
- Fixed overhead
- Contract labor
- Cost of operations
- Capital requirements
- Time to achieve profitability
Not all of these may apply initially, but it’s good to keep them in mind for the future as you revise your business plan.
When it comes to the conclusion, you should be summarizing a few topics:
- What the business (investment) opportunity entails
- Growth strategy
If you pitch this to an investor for funding, it may be helpful to come with a “memorandum of understanding” document for them to sign (if they like your concept).
2. Write Down The Steps to Reach Your Goals
A lot of people underestimate what goes into running a successful business, especially when you don’t have much time to begin with. To maximize your time, write down everything that you have to do - or as much as you can think of off the top of your head.
For example, if you’re starting an online business, your to-do list may include:
- Buy a domain and hosting
- Design and build your website
- Write content for a blog
Then, you want to take your big ideas and break them down into actionable tasks that include reasonable deadlines or timeframes. This allows you to incorporate those tasks around your class and extracurricular schedule.
The 12-Week Year
If you’ve never heard of The 12-Week Year, then you’re not alone! I only came across it recently when a client of mine sent me a copy. It’s a book by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington that goes over how to get a lot done in short periods of time.
Instead of viewing your goals as annual, they encourage you to view your goals as quarterly, or 12-week goals. In essence, you have four years in every calendar year. This drives you to accomplish much more in your day and week. And, when you don’t have much time to work, this system gives you actionable ways to check off items on your to-do list.
3. Batch Your Tasks
If you don’t already practice this, I highly recommend it to increase your productivity! There are so many things to do when running a business. If you can organize your tasks into different categories you can be more productive.
For example, let’s say some of the items on my to-do list for this week are:
- Post on social media 5x per week
- Publish blog posts 2x per week
Instead of performing those tasks individually, I would batch them! I’ll create all of the graphics for social media and for my blog posts at one time and save them to my computer for easy reference. Then, I’ll queue up the social media posts (easy to do this a month in advance) in a scheduler such as Hootsuite so I don’t have to actively post every day. Finally, I’ll write both blog posts in one sitting and then schedule them for publication on different days.
It would take up so much time to do these tasks individually. With batching, you would save many hours per week!
4. Invest in Yourself and Your Business
When it comes to investing in yourself and your business, I generally classify this within two main categories: Information and Tools.
Information can be anything from eCourses and eBooks to hiring a coach and/or mentor to further your business’ progress. If you don’t actively invest in your knowledge, then you will be lagging when it comes to growing your business.
Tools are what you use to grow your business. For example, I have email marketing software, scheduling software and more. While I advocate for lean entrepreneurship, there are some necessary expenses, and if you skip out on them, you could be hindering your progress. Don’t let that happen to you!
5. Learn How to Prioritize
Prioritization is an important concept to learn. If you want to succeed in business, you have to learn how to get stuff done in a limited time. That means spending time only on topics that need to be dealt with.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Eisenhower matrix, it classifies tasks as:
- Urgent and important
- Urgent and unimportant
- Important and not urgent
- Unimportant and not urgent
You should do tasks in the order listed. Have an honest chat with yourself about what actually needs to get done to start and grow your business. Utilizing the 12-week year technique that I discussed earlier will help you prioritize tasks.
Make sure you also prioritize your academics and extracurriculars. You also may want to prioritize your business over a social activity. In fact, it’s not a bad idea at all. Those are the times when I’m the most productive!
If you want to start a business while you’re in school, I encourage you to do it! Being your own boss can be very rewarding.
I love hearing from my clients that are now flourishing—hearing from your customers is an incredibly uplifting and motivating experience. At the end of the day, that’s what being in business is about. It’s about helping people first and money second.d