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Start-Up Basics

Starting and managing a business takes motivation and talent. It also takes research and planning. Although initial mistakes are not always fatal, it takes extra skill, discipline, and hard work to regain the advantage. Take time beforehand to explore and evaluate your business and personal goals, then use this information to build a comprehensive and thoughtful business plan that will help you reach these goals.

Developing a plan will force you to think through some important issues that you may not otherwise consider. Your plan will become a valuable tool as you set out to raise money for your business, and it will provide milestones to gauge your success.

Getting Started

1. List your reasons for wanting to go into business. Some of the most common reasons for starting a business are:

  • Self-management
  • Financial independence
  • Creative freedom
  • Full use of personal skills and knowledge

Starting and running your own business has its rewards, particularly the satisfaction of having built something greater than yourself. But entrepreneurs typically put a tremendous amount of time and resources and rarely take extended vacations. It's important to determine whether entrepreneurship is right for you before you do anything else (see also, Do You Have What it Takes?).

2. Next determine what business is right for you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I like to do with my time?
  • What technical skills have I learned or developed?
  • What do others say I am good at?
  • Will I have the support of my family?
  • How much time do I have to run a successful business?
  • Do I have any hobbies or interests that are marketable?

3. Identify your business niche. Research and answer these questions:

  • What business am I interested in starting?
  • What services or products will I sell?
  • Is my idea practical, and will it fill a need?
  • What is my competition?
  • What is my business's advantage over existing firms?
  • Can I deliver a better quality service?
  • Can I create a demand for my business?

Regardless of your interests, knowledge, and abilities, any new business venture must find a niche in which to operate. Then, evaluate your general idea to determine how you can bring something new or better to the table.

4. The final step before developing your plan is the pre-business checklist. You should answer these questions:

  • What skills and experience do I bring to the business?
  • What legal structure will I use?
  • How will my company's business records be maintained?
  • What insurance coverage will be needed?
  • What equipment or supplies will I need?
  • How will I compensate myself?
  • What are my resources?
  • What financing will I need?
  • Where will my business be located?
  • What will I name my business?

Once you've gotten this far, you're ready to figure out how the business will be created and operated. See FindLaw's Business Start-Up Checklist for more tips on how to get started.

In Conclusion

Your answers will help you create a focused, well-researched business plan that will serve as a blueprint for business operations, management, and capitalization. Once you have completed your business plan, review it with a friend or business associate. When you feel comfortable with the content and structure, review and discuss it with your banker. The business plan is a flexible document that should change as your business grows.

Need Legal Help?

Starting a business requires focus, dedication, and a certain amount of luck. But while attorneys may seem costly at first, getting legal help can mean the difference between a successful startup and a failed one. Contact a business and commercial law attorney in your area to get some peace of mind.

FindLaw's extensive Starting a Business section provides additional resources to help you get your venture off the ground and running, including a printable mini-guide to starting a business (PDF).

Next Steps
Contact a qualified business attorney to help you
navigate the process of starting a business.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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