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4 big-time tips for your small business

Key takeaways

  • Do your research. Spending time on market research at the start can help your business hit the ground running.
  • Figure out funding. There are many different avenues to fund a small business. Investigate which may be the best for you.
  • Write a business plan. Writing your plan down can force you to think through all aspects of the business. It can also be useful to show to potential investors.
  • Ask for advice. Seek mentorship from other business owners. And be in constant contact with your customers.

It's a big deal to start a small business. While launching can be incredibly exciting, it can also be a little terrifying. With a small business comes all sorts of new decisions you may not have dealt with before, including planning, key financial choices, marketing, and even legal concerns. But there is nothing quite like building, nurturing, and growing your own business—from idea to reality.

For those who have taken the leap into their own small business or are thinking about starting one, we have 4 tips to consider.

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1. Do your research

Doing some market research up front can help you refine and stress test your business idea.

Here are some good questions to answer before you launch: What, exactly, are you selling? Does anything like it currently exist? Who are your competitors? What are they good at? What holes in the market are you looking to fill?

Try also to get into the mindset of your potential customers. Who is your target audience? What do they care about? And keep in mind, the answers to these questions are constantly changing as consumer trends change and other businesses innovate.

Spending the time to thoroughly investigate the market you're looking to break into can help you anticipate roadblocks and come up with a realistic route to success. It can also help in making informed decisions as you build your business.

2. Figure out funding

There are many different avenues to fund a small business. Although some owners choose to self-fund (often called bootstrapping), it's important not to jeopardize your emergency or retirement savings to start your business.

You could also apply for a small-business loan or take on equity investors, such as with venture capital. And many new business owners rely in their early days on financial help from friends and family, whether with a gift, loan, or equity investment. There are many ways to fund a business, and we suggest looking into a variety of options to determine which may be the best for you and your startup.

Learn more about the main options for funding your small business.

3. Write a business plan

This might feel unnecessary, but taking the time to write down your business plan can force you to think through all aspects of the business, including the size of the market, your business model, startup costs, earning projections, and timelines. This doesn't have to be set in stone, but writing down everything can provide a valuable chance to work out the details of your vision and come up with an actionable plan. Having a written narrative can also help you share your business idea easily with possible investors.

4. Ask for advice

Many businesses fail, but yours doesn't have to. Talk with people who have gone through it. Reach out to other founders and ask them for a phone call or to grab a cup of coffee. Ask them detailed questions about their journey and what they wish they had known when they started. Finding a mentor (or several) can help give you a sounding board for your ideas and questions, especially when you are stumped on the next step.

Also, make sure to keep in touch with your customers. At the end of the day, they are likely driving the success of your business. Hearing feedback directly from your customers can not only help you change your product to better address their needs, but also build loyalty with your customer base.

Finally, don't forget to keep learning—whether by reading books, listening to podcasts, or taking classes. Although you might not be able to call up some of the world's leading CEOs, you can likely read their books or listen to lectures they've given online. Learning from industry leaders can help give you perspective, insight, and inspiration.

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