When we graduate, my friend and I want to open up a store. We don’t have grand plans for a startup, or anything: it’s just going to be a little local shop that sells things we really value. Of course, if our business grows, we’ll be happy with that–but, for now, it’s just about doing something with our lives that we care about.
I am a little nervous, though, about our ability to pull this off. We have the support of our families, and we’ll have some financial help from them, but I’m worried that we don’t know enough about the specifics of founding a business or running a store. Where should we start? How can I learn about the important stuff?
Starting your own business isn’t easy. Eight out of 10 businesses fail in their first 18 months, and it can be tough to know how to make sure your store isn’t one of them. And running a business involves all sorts of things besides just running the day-to-day operation of your shop–for instance, you’ll have to worry about payroll, taxes, and other tricky financial concerns.
The first step in running your business will be coming up with your idea and researching your market. Thinking things out ahead of time is key when you’re first setting out. Turn to useful checklists online and try to cover every angle and answer every question–and remember to put things in writing so that you (and your investors) have that information when you need it.
So is setting your business up in an intelligent and effective way. That means turning to a lawyer to figure out what kind of legal entity you want your business to be. A good business attorney will walk you through things and make sure that you’re on track for a successful start.
Assuming your passion and talents lie primarily in the salesmanship and customer service tasks related to whatever it is you’re planning to sell, your next step should be making sure that all the other tasks–from payroll to taxes–are properly handled. The good news is that a new store will find plenty of potential support from the many businesses, products, and services that exist solely to help you with this sort of thing. You can use online sales tax calculators, outsource tax and payroll tasks, and contract with companies to handle everything from HR training to branding.
You’ll learn a lot running a business, but it wouldn’t hurt to educate yourself before you get started. You could consider heading to business school, where you’d be taught by experts and could meet potential future business partners. You could also call up owners of similar businesses (in areas where you won’t be competing, ideally) and ask them about their experiences and for their advice. Finally, you can (and should) read books on founding, running, and promoting new businesses, as well as books on small business management and finances.
You have some tough challenges ahead of you, but running a small business can be extremely rewarding. Good luck!
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Peter Drucker