Starting a business is extremely challenging; that’s why there are entire graduate programs designed to train people to design the ultimate startup.
You don’t need an MBA to launch a company, but you do need some business know-how. No matter where you are in the process—whether you’re brainstorming ideas or getting ready to sign the commercial lease—don’t forget about six key decisions that will need to be made. Putting these off or skipping them entirely can lead to massive bumps down the road.
Before delving in, start by honestly assessing how serious you are about this venture. Most startups fail, most don’t make a profit for years, and some lead to ruined friendships. This may sound like a dismal forecast, but it’s worth accepting it up front so you can avoid the many mistakes other entrepreneurs have made before you.
Of course, some startups succeed, and in order to get there, you need to be willing to put in the elbow grease. Once you’re determined, start ticking the following decisions off your to-do list.
1. Website platforms and hosting
It doesn’t matter if your business is selling gourmet doggie cookies or you offer online classes in Hindi. Every company benefits from a strong online presence and offering consumers access on a variety of platforms.
Having the right platforms, hosting, and tech support is crucial; but it’s not most people’s strong suit. Do your research, find a reputable company and start learning the basics, but hand over the heavy lifting to the professionals.
2. Company culture
Every company is different, and the ones that last don’t build their reputation by chance. For example, Dutch is known for a laid-back environment, blasting music, and absolutely no uniforms. It’s also the largest independent drive-through coffee company in the US and seriously rivals Starbucks in some communities.
You can decide the culture, but get it in writing and hire people who complement your vibe.
3. Personnel moves
Maybe your “HR Department” is just your cousin Bob who majored in psychology, but you still need to have at least one person who makes these types of calls. From hiring to firing, training, and ensuring the laws are followed, not keeping on top of personnel decisions can kill a startup before it even gets off the ground.
Protect yourself, your business, your employees, and your customers by getting this taken care of. It’s not the most fun responsibility, but it’s obligatory.
A good attorney can help you draft documents that outline the details of ownership, shareholders once you get there, and what happens in worst-case scenarios. It may be impossible to envision your partnership with your best friend of 20 years falling apart, but it happens; just look at Facebook.
Writing down how things will play out, and having it done by a legal professional, keeps everyone protected and the company up and running.
5. Funding sources
You’re going to need a lot of capital. Luckily, there are many sources from crowdfunding to applying for loans. Many startups get going with personal loans from family members, and of course founders put in their own money.
If you don’t believe in the company enough to invest in it, why should anyone else? The local Small Business Administration (SBA) office can be a great source of information.
6. Taking care of your employees
It’s probably not the fault of your employees that you’re not making a profit yet. If you want quality workers, you need to compensate them well, and this goes beyond base pay. Flex hours, cafeteria plans, vacations, and child care issues are all on the table. Take care of your employees now and they’ll take care of you.
Published: December 20, 2013