There are many opinions about the right time to start a business. In truth, the “perfect time” will never appear. We are all different, our circumstances are different, and as such, there is no such thing as an ideal universal moment to launch a business.
In this write-up, I am sharing the story of how my two business partners and I decided to launch a business during the pandemic. It may seem like an especially scary time to start something new, but where there is chaos there is opportunity. Remember that established businesses are reinventing themselves right now as well: everyone is looking for the “new normal”, and in that way a new enterprise is on even footing with existing companies.
This is to share that with proper preparation and planning, even in unprecedented times you can still successfully launch a business. Here are the key things we did that allowed us to launch successfully and hit the ground running.
1. Get partners with complementary skills
If you are starting a business alone, kudos to you! But if you are intending to start with equal partners in your business, you have to find people that aren’t exactly like you. Core values and drive can and should be the same or similar. However, your technical skills should differ. With my business partners for example, it was very clear who was going to be the sales champion vs the operations leader. We all had complimentary core skill sets and together we were a formidable team. This helps in the initial formation stage of a business and ongoing operations.
2. Have a solid launch timeline
This is a critical piece. Set clear timelines and do not move your goal post. Set your end goal timeline and work backward to plan and decide how you want to achieve your target launch date. In my case, we created Gantt charts that captured all the actions we needed to accomplish prior to launch on our desired date. We referenced the plans weekly and ensured we were completing our action items on time. If there were delays we shared them with the other partner in our weekly check-ins.
3. Know your runway tolerance
Financial security is another key component to starting a business. Depending on the kind of business you are developing you might fund it through personal capital, outside investors, or business loans. With my business, we funded it individually, and this was something the three of us were open and honest about from the beginning.
We each had saved up money to be able to take a risk like this and were clear on our business runway tolerance and agreed that we are jumping into this with our finances. When you are trying to deal with marketing, sales, and operations of the business, the last thing you need is added daily stress about cash flow. As such, please ensure you project the amount you need to launch and sustain before getting clients/customers and ensure you have this amount ready prior to launch.
4. Use prep classes and books
When it comes to launching a business, there will always be doubts and worry about not being ready enough. Two things that helped us minimize these fears were reading books and taking classes that were specifically focused on helping people launch a business. Encouragingly, it was in a business class that we met someone that successfully launched a business during the financial recession and has scaled and grown into a very successful consulting company. We also read books that helped us prepare for the kind of business we were interested in.
5. Understand legal, financial, and social
This component consumed considerable time and our business partner who was stellar at operations did most of the heavy lifting. Make sure you do your research on how to incorporate your company. Research if incorporating in a certain state has tax benefits for you. Understand which type of corporation has the strongest benefits for your business model (S-Corp, C-Corp, or LLC).
Decide if you want to file the appropriate articles of incorporation yourself, or if a professional agent will be beneficial – we used an agent to file our paperwork. At the same time, we also started building our social presence by securing handles in all the major social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn). This is critical to ensure you have an online presence and to have multiple channels to share your knowledge and content. Lastly, we got the services of a Financial and Tax Accountant to set our payment systems up and ensure all our financial obligations are managed.
6. Utilize early networking
All networking is good networking. When you are close to getting your business off the ground start talking about it with the people you know are in your corner. They might need your services, refer you to someone who does, or simply be a good advocate for your business. In our case, all our initial business came from friends we knew from our previous jobs and LinkedIn network.
There is nothing wrong with being strategic with your networking when you are planning a launch. Start connecting with people on LinkedIn, join certain business clubs, and invest in memberships with networking groups that are in your area of interest.
If you are looking to launch a business this is a great time, don’t hesitate and just do it. I hope what I have learned in my journey helps you and I wish you all the best in your entrepreneurship journey.