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The Entrepreneur's Road Map: 11 Steps to Success

Mark Sands
Mark Sands

So you've decided to start a business. What exactly do you need to do?

Regardless of whether you currently work for a corporate organization or have just started a business, the path to becoming an entrepreneur has no limits.

The entrepreneurial spirit is an attitude and perspective inclined to seek out change rather than just adapting to routines and strict plans. And you do not necessarily need lots of cash, a college degree or even business experience to become an entrepreneur.

Making bold plans to leave your day job means you already have the entrepreneurial drive and desire to do things differently, to take control of situations, and craft a dream path for yourself. If setting your startup on the pathway to success poses a challenge, rest assured you are not alone. More and more people have grown weary after discovering their dream job doesn't really exist. Others feel the need to create the job they love, structured to fit their life goals and objectives. 

Whatever your motivation is to become an entrepreneur, you can start right away. Here are 11 practical tips to help you get started and grow your dream enterprise.

1. Discover and evaluate your entrepreneurial spirit.

Before making your final decision, you'll have to evaluate yourself and determine if you have what it takes to succeed. Why do you want to start a business? Do you just want extra money? If so, maybe you could start a side hustle. Or do you want more freedom? Maybe you could do with something new.

You also need to assess your capabilities. Do you have the experience and knowledge to achieve success? Can you navigate different phases of the business, including failures and successes? Having a realistic view of yourself – taking into consideration your strengths and weaknesses – will give you a better perspective of your unique situation.

Once you have established a reason for your new venture, try to figure out the type of business that will fit your goals and objectives. What skills do you possess? What is your level of experience? How much capital do you need? Do you have the financial standing required to pull the business through? The pathway to success for your startup will require brutally honest answers.

2. Set your goals.

Have you decided what you want to do? How do you hope to achieve it? Do you already have a genius business idea? If you do not have a business idea yet, you could apply several strategies to brainstorm for an idea that aligns with your goals:

  • Identify upcoming or emerging technologies or advancements that may change the business landscape as you know it. Can you stay ahead of the curve?
  • Can you provide a solution? When you can fix a problem that affects people, you have identified a savvy business idea.
  • Could you do things differently? The entrepreneurial spirit revolves around breaking the norm. Most businesses prefer to do things in a particular manner because they've always been done that way. Providing a fresh approach to things could make you stand out.
  • The faster, cheaper and better approach works every time! If you have a business idea that is not entirely new to your target audience, focus on how you can make your service faster, cheaper and better than the competition.
  • Seek advice from industry leaders. Reach out to those who have been in your desired industry and experienced success.

Once your business idea is well in place, it is time to set goals that fit your idea. Do you want to provide more options for a particular service? Or are your goals based on noble concepts? Whatever the case, it would be wise to set short- and long-term goals that are clear, realistic and feasible.

3. Do your market research.

Research your potential competition or partners within the industry. What are they currently doing? How successful have they been? Can you improve upon their offerings? Conducting market research may involve organizing phone or face-to-face interviews. You may also conduct questionnaires and surveys to find out factors that influence your target audience's purchase decisions.

4. Test the waters.

After you have a concept ready, it is time to take a chance. Start out with a simple business model before you scale up. Introduce your products and services to people on a small scale and gauge their level of acceptance. For instance, if you have decided to set up a beverage company, you can start by preparing some of your products from home where possible. This will aid your short- and long-term planning process.

5. Get feedback.

While your product is in the market on a small scale, take advantage of this stage to get feedback from users and incorporate their responses in your strategy. A fresh set of eyes may help you pinpoint areas you could improve. These people will eventually become advocates for your brand, especially if you recognize their input on the product. But how do you handle the feedback you get?

  • Take your time to consider the feedback you just received. This will help you avoid making bad conclusions – and to better apply new ideas where necessary.
  • Show appreciation. Whether an individual left positive or negative feedback, recognize their efforts. Those who leave negative feedback would hardly expect you to thank them, but doing so – and encouraging them to continue to review your service honestly in the future – will likely make them respect you and your brand. 
  • Look out for patterns. If you receive similar comments on a product, it is time to take notice.
  • Ask questions. Why did someone dislike a product or service? How could you improve your offering? What would be a better approach or solution?

Since your online reputation is crucial to the eventual success of your business, it would be ideal to create a "wall of love," where potential customers only see positive comments about your service. This will not only inspire you to continue to improve, but it makes a big difference in appealing to your target prospects.

6. Create a business plan.

A business plan is a written outline of where you currently are and how your business will evolve. This plan should include the framework of your organization and describe the history and goals of your business. A finished business plan should serve as a guide to how you run the business and as a proposal to potential investors. These are some other important aspects that form the blueprint of your business plan:

  • Title page: This is the name of your business. Selecting one is actually more difficult than it sounds, as you must use a name that sets you apart as unique from your competition.
  • Executive summary: This high-level summary should include your business description, the problem it sets out to solve, the solution it provides, and why this makes your offering unique. This will also help you appeal to potential investors.
  • Market strategy: Knowing your target audience is very important before you spend a penny. These are the people who will actually purchase your products or services. They are crucial to your success.
  • Competitive analysis: Conduct a SWOT analysis of your competition. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can you outdo them in the industry?
  • Design and development: How do you hope to develop your service over time? Once this is established, create a budget that fits the product or service.
  • Finances: Where is the business funding coming from? How? When?

While your business plan is a reflection of your business, you must ensure you summarize it in a way that does not appear too bulky or ambiguous. You'll also have to update the plan as your business develops, since the business plan is a living strategic document for your company.

7. Obtain funding.

How do you want to finance your entrepreneurial activity? Do you want to fund it yourself or apply for a bank loan? If your business is cash-intensive, seeking loans from financial institutions might be the best idea. Reach out to your local financial institutions. You could also check out other funding sources, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration. Google Ventures is an especially great funding source for young entrepreneurs, and you could also join a startup accelerator or incubator. These organizations are set up to help startups take their business to the next level.

If you decide to seek a loan from friends or family, you should say so in your business plan. Do not get involved in investments due to personal relationships, as such engagements may eventually lead to estrangements and divisions. Explain your idea to these lenders, including why they should invest, and make clear they should only do so if they are excited about and believe in your plan.

Determining the legal framework of your business will give you a clear perspective of its formal structure, including your legal and tax responsibilities. Sorting out the legal aspects of your business early on is very important. That way, there will be no worries about anyone stealing your idea or suing you for any trademark-related offenses. Important features of your legal framework may include the following:

  • Business structure (corporation, LLC or partnership)
  • Title or name of business
  • Business name registration
  • State tax ID
  • Federal tax ID
  • Operating license
  • Permits
  • Bank account
  • Trademarks and patents

Although it is possible to sort out a few things on your own, it's ideal to speak with a business lawyer so you can decide the best legal structure for your business. This is especially important because the law may vary depending on your state.

9. Find a specialist or manufacturer.

After all your efforts to ensure you scale up your business successfully, it will feel awesome to finally see your idea come alive. But keep in mind that you will likely need specialists – if you are not one – and if you need to produce items in mass, you will need a manufacturer too.

Reach out to manufacturers and be sure of the pricing strategies you can apply to your product development. Quality and simplicity are the most important factors in your product development. You do not necessarily have to offer the cheapest product. Ensure the product is simple, high-quality, and can grab the attention of your targets quickly.

To avoid pitfalls, start learning about the production and its requirements. This will guide you as you decide on the best team members and specialists to hire for your business.

10. Find your location.

Are you looking for a store or an office? Your location will largely depend on your priorities and your business approach. Some factors that could affect your location decision are your style of operation, demographics (your target customers and their proximity to your business), accessibility and parking, foot traffic, competition, site history, building infrastructure, and utilities and other expenses.

11. Scale up your business. 

There's a wide range of strategies you could adopt to grow your business. You could target a new market, expand your service or even acquire another business. Whatever the case, you can hardly achieve success without a growth and development plan.

How do you want to market your brand? Can you effectively leverage social media to improve your marketing campaigns? How can you ensure you retain every new customer? Creating a development plan will help you build fruitful relationships with your customers – this is crucial to the eventual success of your business.

Closing thoughts

The fire in your eyes is significant to your startup. The decision to become an entrepreneur is a bold one – and your ability to leverage those crazy thoughts of yours with a smile and calmness already puts you ahead of your competition. Go on and get it done!

Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock
Mark Sands
Mark Sands Member
With over 20 years experience in the credit card merchant account industry, in 2008 I set-out to build HRMA-LLC into a leading force in the payment space. Over the past decade, we have assembled a winning staff and have differentiated our company as a powerhouse in our industry.