Starting a new business can be daunting. In fact, while every new entrepreneur starts their business venture on a learning curve, very few make a victorious progression to success. There are common mistakes every new business owner makes, some more serious than others. But the good news is that you can minimize the risk of failure by acquiring the 15 essential things every startup needs.
1. Online Appointment Scheduling SaaS Software
If you’re going to attempt to keep track of important appointments on a paper calendar or in your cell phone calendar, think again. Those “tools” are the fastest way to drop the ball on important meetings with people who can help you launch and grow your new business.
Instead, invest in a good online appointment scheduler like EZnet Scheduler®.
EZnet Scheduler offers a robust menu of features, including unlimited appointments, unlimited, free text message confirmations, notifications and reminders (which is what approximately 70% of today’s consumers want), resource management and customer database tools, plus a built-in payment module that works with any payment authorization gateway. Appointments, confirmations, cancellations and rescheduled appointments appear on your calendar in real-time, so you always know when your appointments are, and with whom.
Moreover, EZnet Scheduler is a flexible, fully-adaptable, customizable, cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) program, so you need not install or maintain anything. Just log in and schedule to your heart’s content. We do all of the work so you don’t have to.
It’s such a simple, yet powerful appointment scheduling and resource management software program.
And for those few customers who still prefer phone contact, the EZnet Notify voice messaging service comes with every EZnet Scheduler plan. Customers can choose to confirm, cancel or reschedule via the interactive menu. And then, those appointment confirmations, cancellations and rescheduled appointments appear on your calendar in real-time. No guesswork required.
Talk about having your bases covered!
2. Automated Accounting System
Because managing cash flow is one of the biggest challenges for new business owners, a strong, dependable, automated accounting system is an essential business tool. Investing in a robust automated accounting software program can help eliminate many problems associated with faulty accounting and record keeping.
Your best bet is to look for a cloud-based SaaS solution like QuickBooks, as these automated accounting systems are highly efficient, easy to use and affordable. Whatever you choose, make sure it contains related business automation tools like sales, payroll management, inventory management, operations automation, and more. With a little research and guidance, you can easily find a system that offers maximum benefits for your business.
3. Access to Emergency Funds
The biggest mistake many new business owners make is underestimating the amount of operating capital they will need to sustain their business until it generates enough sales revenue to become self-sustaining. That’s why all new business owners must ensure that they have access to emergency funds.
For brand new companies that don’t have a payroll set up, Covid-19 relief from the Cares Act passed by Congress earlier this year is not an option. Likewise, if your financial difficulties do not stem from the pandemic, you will not qualify for federal assistance.
4. Formal Business Organization
You will need to formally set up your business by either filing a fictitious name certificate (otherwise known as “D/b/a” or “doing business as”) with your county, or, better yet, forming a small corporation.
There are two options for incorporation: LLC or Subchapter S. Both require payment of corporate taxes only to the state. Profits and losses are reported on the owner’s personal 1040 tax return.
A word of caution: If you choose D/b/a as your formal means of business organization, be prepared to possibly pay a hefty self-employment tax on April 15 when your business begins to be profitable.
5. A Business Plan
A business plan essentially outlines what your goals are and the strategies and tactics you will use to achieve them. Attempting to form and run a new business without first developing a solid business plan will be very much akin to flying a plane blindfolded. Might you get lucky and successfully land the plane? Perhaps. But, in all likelihood, you would crash and burn.
At the very least, you’ll need to define what your products/services are and who your target market is. Then, you must gather information about that target group of potential customers and the competitors, from whom they likely already buy whatever product service you intend to offer.
6. Dedicated Work Space
Whether you rent office space or operate out of your garage (as Jeff Bezos did when he first started Amazon), you will need a dedicated space out of which you will operate your business. It should be free of distractions and interruptions from family, friends and pets.
Other viable options post-pandemic will be office sharing and co-working. They are similar yet slightly different, but the point is that you will be able to have a dedicated work space at a fraction of the cost of rent on full office space.
7. A Website
The internet is not new. In fact, given that it became accessible to the public in 1995, it’s now almost 30 years old. Worldwide, the vast majority of people search for information, products and services online. Moreover, a significant percentage of people buy online rather than shop in brick-and-mortar stores. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many businesses have found a way to operated virtually for the foreseeable future, even after the pandemic finally comes to an end.
In light of that, you do need a website for your new business. If you don’t have a budget to hire a website designer, there are customizable templates and affordable hosting plans available from WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, GoDaddy as well as many other website-hosting companies.
If you have the budget and the desire for a custom-built, responsive, SEO-optimized website, EZnet Services is a great option.
8. A Social Media Presence
The word has literally gone social. And businesses have, too. That’s why Facebook and Instagram enable you to create business profiles. LinkedIn has always been a business networking site, but in addition to creating your own personal LinkedIn profile, you can also create a business page.
In addition, Facebook and LinkedIn have a multitude of small business-related groups you can join to ramp up your social networking efforts.
But beware: You must post thoughtful, interesting content. And your content shouldn’t always be designed to promote your business. Some of your content must educate, entertain or inform your connections and followers.
To make your social presence work even better for business building, EZnet Scheduler integrates with Facebook, so you can offer appointment scheduling on your Facebook company page.
EZnet Scheduler can also be embedded on the home page of your website for 24/7 appointment self-scheduling. And since almost 70% of consumers want to be able to self-schedule appointments, this one move will seriously ramp up your competitiveness.
9. Credible experience
Knowing your industry is the #1 thing you need if you want to be successful. Having knowledge of the products, services, competitors and problems in an industry not only helps you avoid the pitfalls of trial-and-error decision making, but it also gives customers the confidence they need to hire you or buy from you.
Your experience and credibility are very important to potential team members, investors, customers, suppliers, and strategic partners. If you don’t have the skills and experience to build your business, you’ll fight an uphill battle. If you lack industry knowledge or don’t have a full range of industry knowledge, you should consider acquiring a partner who does.
10. A Great Business Name
You want a name that will stick in your target audience’s heads. Check your competitors: Are their companies incorporated or formed via D/b/a? Incorporation means they have exclusivity of their company name throughout the state in which they incorporated the business. If they formed via D/b/a, their name is protected within their county only, unless they paid extra to cover additional counties in their state.
It’s also important for you to do a name search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. If a competitor has trademarked the name you want, you will not be able to use it. A trademark registration gives the owner nationwide exclusive use of the name in their industry. This exclusivity applies whether the company was formed via D/b/a or incorporation.
This leads us to an important point: Budget for trademark registration of your business name. It costs about $250. Be sure to file directly on the USPTO site and not any other site you may stumble upon that will claim to be an “alternate method of trademark registration.” There are no alternates. If you want to achieve registered trademark status, you must apply on the USPTO website.
If you hire an intellectual property attorney to do it for you, do your homework on that individual or firm to ensure that they actually have trademark registration experience. There are strict requirements that must be met in order for your application to be approved, so it is important that the application be correct and accurate.
11. A Business Bank Account
After you legally form your business via either D/b/a or incorporation, it will be very important for you to keep your personal money separate from your business finances. Pay only business-related bills (addressed to your business name) from your business checking account. Do not pay personal bills with the funds in your business account.
You will need a business account for many aspects of business operations, including business loans and credit card applications. If you get to the point where you start hiring people to work for you, they will expect to be properly paid with a business check.
12. Business Cards
Even in this digital age, a business card is still a “must.” As a startup founder, you should be doing a lot of in-person networking at Meetup events and other networking opportunities, and people will ask for your business card. If you don’t have one, you will lack credibility. Order at least 500 of them from Staples, Vista Print (or similar businesses that offer affordable business card printing).
Depending upon the type of business you’re starting, you may need insurance of one kind or another, like liability, workers’ comp, or health insurance, especially if you hire full-time staff.
14. Information Technology (IT) Security
Whether you’re running a tech company or some other type of business, you will likely store sensitive data on your computer system and devices, and all of it must be protected from intrusions and cyberattacks. IT problems and security breaches can derail a fledgling company. And since cybercrime is on the rise in small businesses as a result of the pandemic, data security needs to be a priority for your new business.
15. Sales Professionals
In many startups, the business owner starts out as the chief salesperson. If selling is not your forte, you might want to consider hiring a sales professional to help you grow your business. In some organizations, such an individual is called a “new business development associate.”
Whatever title you give this person, make sure he/she understands your business sector. Are you a B2C (business-to-consumer) company? Or are you a B2B (business-to-business) company? Or, are you a B2G (business-to-government) company? Each type of company will follow a different sale protocol because B2C, B2B and B2G audiences have different buying behaviors.
The sales professional you hire must understand the difference in the buying behaviors of those market sectors. They are distinctly different and are not interchangeable. One size does not fit all.
Understanding which sector your business fits into will affect your brand messaging and marketing communications (website, landing pages, email campaigns, social media content, etc.), so it’s important that you get it right.
About EZnet Scheduler
EZnet Scheduler® is a cloud-based, SaaS appointment scheduler with built-in resource management and credit card processing functionality. Our advanced data security guarantees the safety of your data and your customers’ data. That’s why Software Advice rates us as one of the best for value, quality and features.