Not all New Years resolutions are created equal! It’s one thing to resolve to go to the gym every morning: you just do it. But what if you resolved to finally pursue that big idea you’ve always had — where do you even start? Whether you’re founding a food blog, a photography business, or the next Facebook, here are some things every new entrepreneur should be considering from the outset.
1. Develop a business plan. There’s nothing like putting pen to paper and fleshing out the business case for a potential endeavor. This is your roadmap to success, laying out the problem you’re trying to solve and how you intend to accomplish it. Your business plan should be comprehensive, covering topics such as operations, marketing, financials, and so forth. A business plan will not only help convince you (or talk you off the ledge) of your new endeavor, it will also help potential investors evaluate the viability of your idea.
2. Implement the appropriate corporate form and governance. Words like “limited liability company” and “operating agreement” are boring when you’re busy getting your big idea going, but it’s crucial to give proper attention to corporate form and governance. Choose the wrong corporate form, and your personal assets may be at risk, or you may not be able to raise money from investors like you had envisioned. Put off drafting corporate governance documents, and you may end up in an easily-avoided disagreement with your business partner. A lawyer experienced in corporate formation can alleviate many headaches for you in this department.
3. Think about your exit strategy. Particularly if you’re hoping to sell your business one day, you need to plan ahead for this possible outcome. What about your business will be of value to a potential buyer? If it’s goodwill, then you should be thinking about how to grow and protect your brand. If it’s user-generated content, then you need to be obtaining copyright and privacy permissions from your website users. A little forethought can go a long way when it comes to preserving the marketable value of your business.
4. Hire a great accountant. Taxes are complicated! You don’t want to end up on the bad side of the IRS. Find an accountant that you trust, and ensure that you’re complying with state and federal tax laws from day one.
5. Create top-notch branding. For better or for worse, judging a book by its cover is the way of the world. Don’t undermine your genuis ideas with substandard branding! Luckily, a great logo doesn’t have to be expensive to come by. If you’re on a tight budget, try a site like fiverr.com or 99designs.com. And, as discussed in greater detail a couple weeks ago, don’t forget to protect your brand.
6. Understand the legal landscape. You’ll need to get a handle on what local, state, federal, and potentially international laws govern your operations. Even small businesses that aren’t in heavily regulated industries will have things to think about. For example, if you’re running a website or blog, and you feature content that was paid for by advertisers, you may have to reckon with the FCC’s rules on sponsored content. How, you may ask, can you possibly know what laws are out there that might affect your business? This is another area where a lawyer can save you a lot of time and frustration, helping you spot legal issues and address them on the front end.
Now get out there and crush those 2017 entrepreneurial resolutions!