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When starting your own business, there are countless matters to plan and things to do. Regardless of your industry or the scope of your business, however, there are key elements that can help you succeed. To guide you along the way, check out these essential small business survey for startups.

1. Write a Business Plan

Many fledgling entrepreneurs think they only need a business plan if they are applying for a loan, and while many traditional lenders require a business plan, loan applications aren’t their only use. Beyond that, a business plan helps you identify short and long term goals for your company.

Throughout the lifetime of your business, you should revisit your business plan on a regular basis and ensure that it reflects your current goals and expectations. Setting clear goals is key to moving forward in an organized and orderly fashion.

2. Be Ready on Day One

Ideally, you should never open your business doors until you are completely ready to go. Similarly, if your business only has a web presence. that should also be fully functional before the launch.

Let’s say you get a rush of customers the first day, but you’re not ready to serve them due to lack of inventory, poor employee training or other issues. In most cases, those customers won’t come back, or it will definitely be an uphill battle to get them back. Whether it’s dating or business, first impressions are everything.

3. Test, Test, Test

To ensure you’re ready on day one, test everything. If you’re manufacturing a product, get the prototype into use so you can identify and address weaknesses before you order a large batch. If you’re opening a restaurant or cafe, have a “dry opening” with friends or family so you know the front and back of the house is ready. Regardless of what your business offers, make sure to test as much as possible before opening day.

4. Visualize Your Corporate Culture

As part of your business plan or as part of a separate document, you should define your corporate culture. What’s important to your company? What are your values? How can your customer service model reflect those values? Similarly, how can your employee compensation and benefits packages reflect those values?

Those are the types of questions you should consider as you fine-tune your corporate culture statement. Ultimately, your corporate culture should inform everything from how you deal with clients to how you treat employees.

5. Sketch Out a Worst Case Scenario

Hopefully, your business will go perfectly, but in most cases, that’s not the case. To ensure you’re ready to deal with bumps in the road, you should sketch out several worst case scenarios. For instance, let’s say you have a budget that outlines projected sales and expenses. To be on the safe side financially, you should see what happens if your revenues are half what you expect and your expenses double. Can you make it? What’s your plan?

6. Set up Three Months of Operating Capital

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t expect to take any money out of the business for at least a year. Unfortunately, that’s simply not realistic for most people. As you run your business, you likely need funds to cover day to day living expenses.

Even if you can’t fathom not taking money out of your business for a year, you should set aside three months of operating capital. That can be in the form of savings, small business loan, a line of credit, or even a credit card if you have no other options. Those funds can be a lifesaver until your revenue gets firmly established.

7. Learn from Others

Other industry professionals can provide a wealth of knowledge, experience and guidance. Consider connecting with other professionals through local or online groups. Alternatively, set up a mentorship for even more guidance.

8. Don’t Forget Finances and Accounting

As a small business owner, you have a lot of financial obligations, and to stay on top of all of them, you need to be organized financially. Whether you’re opening a business that consists of just you or starting up a firm with dozens of employees, you need to make an accounting plan early on.

You should start tracking business related expenses long before you ever get your first client. Depending on the size and scope of your business, you may want to check out a streamlined accounting app, a more detailed accounting program such as QuickBooks, or even consider outsourcing the job to a third party accountant.

9. Hire Conservatively

When your business is just getting started, it’s important to not over-obligate yourself, and that includes with employees. Whenever possible, you may want to hire freelancers instead of employees. If you need employees, be careful about promising things you can’t provide. For example, you may want to be clear with employees about how many hours you can provide — you don’t want to commit to full time hours and then only be able to provide part time work.

10. Get Your Name Out There

Finally, marketing is essential. You need to get your name out there and make sure that people hear about you. That can take a variety of forms from traditional marketing to social media posts. If you don’t have the funds to take out paid advertisements on social media, check out each of their business’s pages (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have them) for tips and tricks on how to organically boost your social presence. Once you’ve built a big enough following, you should reach out to industry influencers to see if they can promote your brand.

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