Statistics tell us that 26% of entrepreneurs start their own business because they're "ready" to be their own boss. 23% consider business ownership because they want to pursue their passion. Whether you're tired of the corporate grind or your desire to start a business stems from an unquenchable thirst to pursue your passion, the road of entrepreneurship and building your business is not an easy one!
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My dad would always say, “Only 3% of the people out there can start a business and actually make it.” Now, I don't know where he got that percentage or if that statistic is even accurate. To his general point though, owning your own business is hard work. It takes perseverance. It requires personal drive to start a business and grow it into something valuable and additive to society.
The challenges of starting and building a business get even more interesting when you're working a full-time job in an unrelated field while getting a start-up off the ground. Speaking from experience, to do this successfully requires being intentional. Laying a strong foundation for your business, establishing an efficient workflow, and setting goals for the future are absolute requirements for your business to thrive. Only then can you turn that side hustle into a full-time gig.
Building a Strong Foundation
When we first started bumble burgh Events Co., my partner and I knew having clear intention in our market entry was critical to our short- and long-term success. Our corporate backgrounds had taught us as much. Laying a strong foundation for our company ultimately made it easier to establish an efficient workflow and set future goals. So how do you intentionally lay a strong foundation?
Treat Your Business Like a Standalone Business from the Start
It's tempting to begin building a business by working on the ‘fun’ parts first. The networking (i.e. taking vendors out for coffee) and posting pretty things to your Instagram are important and seem easy enough. Focusing on the fun and visible aspects of your business only, however, will make for a messy process and blurred vision down the road. Avoid approaching business ownership like a hobby. Instead, treat your business like one you hope to someday do full-time.
- Form an LLC or S-Corp. We recommend having an attorney complete and file the paperwork or review the forms you complete to ensure it's done correctly.
- File for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. You will need this number to open a bank account or hire employees, so it is best to get it ahead of time. Create a separate bank account for the business and keep it separate from your personal account.
- Find an accounting system that works for you and use it. (Think QuickBooks or WAVE).
- Hire an attorney to draft any needed legal documents for your business, such as a contract for your services.
- Find a planning software (read: Aisle Planner - NOT google docs and excel) that is user friendly for you and your clients. Use it to its fullest capacity to help you stay organized on both the back and front ends of your business.
Budgeting (queue collective sigh)
Yes, this is one of those not-so-fun parts of building a business; however, it is one of the most critical. Do you know of any successful businesses that don’t have budgets? Budgeting for the present, as well as for the future, is one of the most important things you can do to set your business up for success.
Start by listing out all of the costs you can think of that will be associated with operating your business. Any overhead costs, marketing, business cards, software, employee or intern compensation, tax accountant fees, etc. Designate where your budget should be allocated (even if you don’t have any yet!). If you don’t outline where your money should go, you'll end up wondering where it all went at the end of the month. Trust me - this is not where you want to find yourself.
As mentioned in the previous point, a good bookkeeping system is key. It can help with tracking weekly expenses and categorizing transactions. These systems make it easy to generate reports at the end of each month to track your spending against your budget, ensure you're staying in line and meeting your financial goals. Your budget should help inform the categories in your books and identify what expenses you should expect to see in your ledgers.
Once your budget and bookkeeping processes are established, figure out what your target revenue has to be if you want to transition to building your business into a full time job. Once that target is met, create a timeline to meet that revenue target before you make the jump. Be realistic with your expectations here - you may find the path is longer than you anticipated but having this map with you from the start will ensure a safer, happier journey.
Building a Workflow
Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘Workflow’ as: “The sequence of steps involved in moving from the beginning to the end of a process.” There are a lot of helpful articles out there on the subject. We like to think of building the workflow process as three-part:
Define your workflow. Write down all of the steps you take to complete your regular tasks, and in the order you take them. Aisle Planner provides two great articles on defining your workflow:
- Why You Need Workflows In Your Wedding Business
- Defining Your Worklfow: Taking Control of Your Work So It Doesn't Control You
Automate your workflow. Utilize online tools and software to organize and automate the tasks and processes you've defined in your workflow.
Execute your workflow. Once the process is defined, force yourself to follow it! Having these guidelines to follow will give you the greatest opportunity to find those quick wins, learn from your failures and give you measures for success as you grow. And, automate your process as much as possible - you'll be grateful for it, promise!)
Doing all three will help you move clients effectively and seamlessly through the planning process from beginning to end. Establishing a workflow will take time; therefore, be intentional about doing it. Once you establish a workflow, however, it will save you so much time and stress! Cheers to that!
Setting goals is important for any company. This is less about setting the goal as it is about becoming intentional with the actions you take to meet it. Years ago, when I was still working in corporate Finance, one of my managers would tell my team to break our larger tasks into a bunch of mini tasks. She'd then order us to write the mini tasks down on paper. She would break things down into mini tasks, or baby steps, and then check off each step as she went. This was surprisingly effective. It helped us get our heads and our arms around the task at hand. It also helped us feel more accomplished as we checked off each mini task along the way. I have found the same method to be effective for setting goals in our business. You can’t just set a goal and forget it. You have to act deliberately to achieve the goal. To do so, break the actions you need to take to achieve the goal into a series of mini steps. You can even think of these mini steps as mini milestones on the way to reaching your overall goal. Write these mini milestones down on paper and check them off, step by step, as you go. Be pro-active about completing each step along the way. Having these mini steps on paper helps you visualize the steps you need to take. Additionally, they provide a sense of accomplishment as you mark off each one.
The pointers laid out above are a few but very important items we've found particularly helpful in our own journey to building a sustainable business. Even with all of this, it was still intimidating leaving full-time, corporate job to devote my time exclusively to it. We're continuously striving to be intentional in how we build bumble burgh. It's the only way to ensure success. There is so much that goes into building your business. The road of entrepreneurship is rarely paved with gold. With a good foundation, established workflow and clear goals, you put yourself in a position to grow your start-up into a self-sustaining, successful venture.