Dropbox, Airbnb, Twitter – all these succesful companies have one thing in common: they became successful using the lean startup model. This method questions traditional business concepts and procedures, and instead promises greater flexibility and innovation. But what do lean startups mean for product development and company culture, and how can you benefit from these new ideas?
Being your own boss and seeing your ideas come to fruition – all it takes is courage… but maybe also careful planning! There are several steps, from the initial ideas to your business plan, and then from financing to marketing. We’ll explain what’s important when considering how to start a small business.
- How to start a company? Ideas take pride of place!
- Start your own business: How to develop ideas
- Business planning: How to start a small business through planning
- Starting a company in the right legal form
- Important tasks in starting a small business
- How to start a business and spread the word
- Summary: How to start a business
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How to start a company? Ideas take pride of place!
They do exist - those business ideas that change the world. But those get-rich-quick ideas are the unicorns of the business world — a startup that is valued by investors at over a billion dollars is a rare sight. In most cases, however, hard work and time are needed for a successful company. The central idea, however, is also important.
Either you already have a profession that is suitable for starting your own business — programmers, consultants or architects are examples — or you have an idea for a new product, or a service that does not yet exist (in your region) or something similar.
To find startup ideas, ask yourself, for example, “What problem is there that I can solve (with a product or service)?” Looking at the current market helps, too. It’s a good idea to check out what already exists, what could you add or improve on? This yields potential for either adopting an existing idea or optimizing it.
Start your own business: How to develop ideas
After you’ve collected ideas, start sorting them out and padding them out. If there are ideas on your list that you don’t enjoy or lack expertise in, discard them. Be as reductive as possible so that you can start developing the best candidates early on and get going with your idea.
First, briefly describe your idea, what skills you bring, and how customers will benefit — this is an important first step in working out your business model. Think about the partners, service providers, etc. you’ll need, and what the structure of your company or business will look like at some point in the future. Importantly, you should think about how your company will get its profits, after all, you’ll want to earn money from your business!
Business planning: How to start a small business through planning
Once the idea is developed and robust, the core of every start-up starts to take precedence: the business plan. This gives you the space to detail your idea, its market, as well as the opportunities and risks of your idea. In addition, it is important to create a business plan in order to convince investors of your idea or to apply for subsidies, if necessary. Here’s how to create a business plan in detail in a separate guide – but in the following we’ll outline the most important points:
- Describe your business idea, i.e. what you would like to offer and why. Also explain what core skills you bring to the table.
- Outline your target group(s) in as much detail as possible and carry out a market analysis. What does the market look like? Who is your competition? Why should customers come to you rather than your competitors? Use statistics and findings from market research for example, as a starting point.
- Explain your company structure, for example the location, production processes, team structures and the chosen legal form. Important partners and suppliers and whether and which dependencies result from them should also be explained here.
- Highlight strengths and risks (in the market, your legal form, etc.) of your business, and how you deal with them.
- Explain your sales and marketing strategy. We will go into more detail on this below.
- Describe your finance plans. First, which prices you want to offer your products and services at; Second, which ongoing fixed and variable outgoing you’ll have and how much capital you may need and/or bring in. There are various financing options for startups - from a bank loan to subsidies. Important components of a business plan also include a profitability plan (at what point does your business become profitable?) and an investment plan.
These steps do not need to be followed sequentially. What’s important is that you set up your business plan and describe the contents. If you are unsure how this plan should be formally structured, there is special businessplan software that will support you in creating it.
Starting a company in the right legal form
When thinking about how to start a company, the choice of which legal business form your company will take is important. It provides the legal framework within which you will operate as an entrepreneur. This not only has legal implications, but also financial ones.
A distinction can be made between sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations, which are the most common types of business in the USA.
Important tasks in starting a small business
A new business really becomes official when you have decided on a legal form and have notified the appropriate authorities or have been registered. In many cases, you must register a business.
As an entrepreneur, you will need to be aware of what your business might be liable for, and therefore taking out various trade insurances is a good idea. Business and professional liability insurance, for example, protects you from claims for damages by injured third parties. In addition, you can insure your office building, inventory, vehicles and other contents, as well as take out legal expenses insurance.
How to start a business and spread the word
Once the paperwork is settled, you can start spreading the word about your new company. Depending on the sector and what you’re offering, there will be different methods for this. In the digital age, however, almost every business – whether an online business or not – needs its own website, the business card of the modern age.
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Set out your business’ vision
Since some marketing measures are very expensive, as is the process of developing a brand, you should also carefully consider your target group here: Who are they? Where do they live/operate? What media do they consume? What are the current trends and how do they affect your business and marketing? What values are important? What is your corporate vision and mission?
The perfect brand
In the course of creating your website, it may also be worth thinking about your own branding. Do you have a logo - or even your own brand name? What colors and fonts should be used on your website, and on other business stationery? If you really want to create an entire brand, it’s definitely worth working with branding experts.
Creating a website is child’s play!
You don’t have to be a programmer to create your own website. Website toolkits like IONOS My Website help you manage the design. Or you can use the Website Design Service, which will create a complete website for you. To get a feel for types of websites and how expensive a domain is and what a website costs, we recommend you read our articles in the Digital Guide.
SEO and Social Media
Once the branding and website are sorted out, the next step is to promote your business and website. Depending on the target group, different approaches are suitable for this - for example, via social media accounts, influencers, online magazines, etc. Search engine advertising, i.e. the targeted placement of ads on Google, is also often worthwhile.
The counterpart to this is SEO – the targeted search engine optimization of your content. However, if your website has only a little content or a few pages, this option is not very effective for getting your website out there. For the foundation of an online store with a lot of content, on the other hand, SEO is indispensable.
Other marketing strategies
Of course, you don’t have to promote your business only via digital means - flyers, on-site promotions, placing ads in print media, or booths at trade shows and other exhibitions related to your business are also good ways to promote yourself.
Be prepared for holiday shopping season and turn off-line visits into online sales. Learn more about Small Business Saturday and special marketing & promotion ideas for business owners in our Startup Guide article.
Summary: How to start a business
Starting your own business should be well planned if you want it to be successful. The most important steps in doing so are:
- Develop a start-up or business idea: What is the potential of my products or services?
- Outline business model
- Outline company structure
- Name partners and service providers
- Describe revenue model
- Create a business plan: How do I finance my startup?
- Idea and core skills
- Market and target group analysis
- Company structure
- Strengths and possible risks
- Sales and marketing
- Cost structure and profitability
- Organize your company: Banks, authorities, insurances
- Secure financing
- Find the right legal form
- Registration in the commercial register and with the chamber of commerce
- Take out insurance
- Promoting your company: Marketing
- Define company vision and brand
- Create website
- Plan marketing measures