EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an exclusive guest article by blogger, small business owner and personal trainer Jason Lewis. Be sure to check out Jason’s website and contact him directly here. We love Jason’s passion for fitness and personal success, and you will, too.

When starting a business, you have a lot of considerations to make, and the decisions can sometimes be daunting, especially if this is your first startup. One of the most critical phases of starting your own business is the planning phase. The decisions you make in the planning phase set the tone for your new business and either set you up for a better chance for success or make your road rougher than it needs to be. To ensure sure your road to success is as smooth as possible, properly plan for the launch of your new business.

For Starters

Writing out a business plan is one of the most important steps in the planning process. The Small Business Association (SBA) refers to a business plan as “an essential roadmap for business success” that “projects three to five years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues.” It helps you to organize your thoughts and is typically required if you’re applying for funding from outside sources.

Another essential key to success is finding a mentor who’s a business veteran to help guide you through the process of starting your own business. When searching for a mentor, start by asking your friends and family, then move to previous teachers, employers, and other connections you may have within your industry. You can also search online sources for advice and tips from seasoned veterans.

Although the paperwork involved in starting a business is probably the least exciting aspect, it’s one of the most important. You don’t want to break any laws or have to pay any fines from something you overlooked or weren’t aware of. Create a checklist of all the licenses, permits and registrations that are necessary. There are unique requirements on both the state and federal levels.

The Finances

Your business plan will outline all of your start-up costs, which will give you a good idea of how much capital you’ll need to get the business going. Whatever number you come up with, add to it. You want to overestimate. Also, keep in mind that most startups aren’t profitable in the first few years, so be prepared.

Before choosing a way to finance your business, consider all of your options and thoroughly research each option. If you need a relatively small amount of capital and are comfortable doing so, ask friends and family for financial assistance. Funding can also come in the form of loans, grants, or angel investors. Sources can include banks, commercial finance companies, or government resources via local business chapters or the SBA.

Remember to start small and modestly. If you’re able to work from your home office or garage, you can reinvest money into the business that would otherwise be spent on property costs. Strive to keep debt at a minimum; don’t buy the fanciest desk, office chair, or computer when you’re just starting out. Once you’re ready to move your business to a set location, aim for a small location with growth potential, perhaps just outside of a large city. Leasing is typically better in the beginning.

The Website

Your business website is a reflection of your company and a tool customers will use when deciding whether or not to do business with you. As such, when you create a website for your business, ensure that its impeccable. This extends beyond the design and layout. Of course, the design should be clean and easy to follow, and you should include original and high-quality content. Overall, your site needs to be customer-friendly and inspire customers to do business with you.

When creating your website, don’t choose a complicated Web address; keep it simple. You want to include thorough and easy-to-find contact information and a clear description of who you are and what your business is. Don’t forget to add customer testimonials once you’ve sold products or provided services. Obvious links to the most important pages and a site map are crucial. Lastly, whether you use an online website builder or seek professional help from a company or individual with experience in building websites, be sure you choose a secure hosting platform.

Starting a business means you’ll be making a lot of important decisions, which is both exciting and intimidating. From writing a solid business plan to creating a pristine website, each phase before the big launch is crucial. Prepare for each step so you can ensure the decisions you make set the right tone for your new business and set you up for the best chance for success.

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