I mentioned a few weeks ago that Tim and I started our own small business together. I already considered the running of our household to make us business partners, in a sense, so I didn’t think this was going to be any real challenge, at least not in terms of communication.
Uh, yeah. I was wrong on that one! We have butted heads repeatedly over the last month as we try to get our business to take wing and fly. So far all we seem to be doing is sitting on the launchpad, going pretty much nowhere. I think we will get there, but after reflecting on how we got started, I think that there are a few things that I would do differently. If you are thinking about starting a business, perhaps our rookie mistakes can save you from repeating them!
1. It’s “on your mark, get set, go!” not, “on your mark, go, get set!” Launching our business (which is a daily deal site for Chattanooga, by the way) has been time sensitive. We’ve given ourselves a deadline by which to get 500 people signed up. That is the tail wagging the dog, for sure! As a result, we are putting pretty much all of our energy into trying to get folks signed up before we have even written a business plan, created goals for the business, or talked about who is in charge of doing what. That is NOT a recipe for success, my friends. I know why we launched right into getting those sign ups, but I wish that we hadn’t done that, and that we had taken a few weeks to put together a solid plan for the business.
2. LLC? Individual Proprietor? Huh???? One other thing we haven’t yet done is figure out how to explain our business to the IRS. If you just start a business and don’t register it anywhere, then you are an individual proprietor. Depending on your business, this could be just fine, or it could be illegal. It’s not illegal for what we do, but we are missing out on some additional protection by not being an LLC. If someone were to sue our businesses at this point, our personal assets are not protected. That is NOT GOOD, my friends. Before you launch a business, really take the time to figure out what makes sense for you. Becoming an LLC requires paperwork and several hundred dollars each year (boo), but it may be worth it to protect everything else you’ve worked so hard to build.
3. You need a marketing budget. One of the things that we loved about the business we started was that it required lots of time, but no financial investment on our part. Oh, how naive we were! It’s true, no additional money is REQUIRED to be spent, but that doesn’t mean that it SHOULDN’T be spent. As a blogger, I really understand the power of marketing. Getting your message to the right audience is absolutely critical to the success of a business. It is often the case that you need help from other businesses who are already engaging the audience you are looking for. And you aren’t entitled to their email lists or to any sort of free publicity. You have to pay to play! As Tim and I have watched our efforts at recruiting individual sign ups produce abysmal results, we’re realized that we must get some help. It’s going to cost us some money, for sure. I think it will be worth it, but we were pretty much clueless about this when we got started.
So those are my top 3 tips after trying to run a business for a month. We are still excited about our business, but now are a little bit wiser about what you should not do when getting started. What about you? Do you have a small business? Any tips for those of us just getting started?