For most, actually starting a business is the most difficult part of the process.
You have books and books of notes with ideas, plans, and maybe even some concrete pathways you plan to take to achieve your goals, but deciding how to actually get the engine started is the biggest hurdle. Having an educational background in business, I assumed that becoming a business owner would be seamless, but I was truly surprised when I realized that it would take much more than understanding business in theory to run a business.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in being a Business Librarian starting a business was to have a plan and to do as much research as possible before starting the business—it will prevent wasting time, effort, and money.
For this installment of the blog series, I’m going to provide some tips on steps one can take to make the process of actually starting a business seem more attainable. Each person will have somewhat of a different experience based on the type of business and industry in which they will be operating, but there are some core focus areas to highlight and some resources that can serve as a guide, based on my experience as a business owner and a Business Librarian in Philadelphia.
Research, research, research! You can never do too much business research, especially because information changes so rapidly. A great place to start is with market research, which is research on your chosen industry. This will give you insight on the climate of your industry, trends, opportunities, challenges, and even resources to expand your network. Watch our Introduction to Market Research video to get a step-by-step guide on how to conduct market research for your industry. It’s also helpful to research the necessary steps to register a business in the city of Philadelphia, as you want to be in compliance with city regulations as it pertains to doing business in Philadelphia. It can also be helpful to research other businesses like yours—competitors—as it will allow you to learn what other companies in your industry are doing (or not doing) while giving you more insight into the key players in your industry, more formally known as a competitive analysis.
Planning is the next most important step because it will take all of your research efforts and allow you to create a concrete roadmap to achieve your business goals. After determining your business structure, the business plan is the most important part of the planning phase because it gives you the opportunity to articulate the who, what, where, when, and why of your business. It is the founding document of your business and helps to keep you aligned with your core mission as you establish, grow, and expand. A business plan can also serve as the formal "press kit" of your business as you present to potential investors, customers, and fellow business owners. Since the business plan is a very detailed document that must include extensive research, structure, and planning, it can be intimidating to some. The Business Resource and Innovation Center has sample business plan documents readily available to help with structuring your business plan and recently recorded a guide to navigating the Gale Business Plans Handbook, which is a database that features real business plans from actual businesses. Your business plan is unique to your business and industry, and sample business plans should only be used as a guide.
Business information is constantly evolving, so it is important to be knowledgeable of business resources in the form of educational webinars, workshops, and industry-specific information. Some great resources to explore to obtain this information include the Small Business Administration, which assists with every level of business planning, funding, and local assistance, SCORE, which has a local Philadelphia chapter that provides access to workshops and opportunities for business owners to obtain a personal business mentor, and a host of additional resources by topic / need that you can explore on our Business Services page to assist with learning opportunities to help your business at every growth level.
Business is not static, so these three core focus areas will have to be constantly revisited along your journey as a business owner. They will definitely help you make those important business decisions that will instill confidence and make starting the business less intimidating and more seamless.