The fabric and backbone of America are its small businesses, and lucky for us, we have an abundance of them in our area. It’s the American dream after all. But when it comes to starting and or expanding a business, the devil is in the details. It is the minutia that can become cumbersome, and may seem overwhelming at times. But fret not, as long as you keep working it can all be resolved – and in the process you create and grow a dream.
I thought that I could share some wisdom when it comes to starting and expanding a business, whereas I’ve quite literally spent my entire life surrounded by mavericks and entrepreneurs, ultimately becoming an entrepreneur myself at the first opportunity. With that said, I am not claiming to be a business expert. But I’ve had to figure it out, have had help, and have put in the hard work and long hours to build my dream. And I find myself in the throws of it yet again. That said, I thought that I could share some of that wisdom in hopes of sparing a budding entrepreneur a little work or having to learn the hard way.
First things first
One of the first things that I learned, and one that keeps getting reinforced, is having a great team around you. When I say team, I mean experts in their fields that you trust and are (often) vital to your business. Those experts include your lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent for starters. Beyond that trio, there are business and financial advisors, marketing experts, and so much more. But I have found that seeking counsel from my trio has proved time and time again to be not just helpful, but has guided me down the right path at every turn.
When starting a business, you first obviously need to know the type of business you’re starting. Beyond that, discussing with your lawyer and accountant what kind of business you should form is the next step: should it be an LLC, or a DBA, or should you form an Inc.? They will guide and advise you with that decision. After deciding that, my next step has always been to call my insurance agent to discuss my insurance and liability options, to make sure that I am covered in all aspects.
Then comes step two
The second step in starting a business is a competition between numerous things that need to seemingly get done simultaneously: create a brand, get all supporting materials for the type of business (website, business cards, brochures, social media accounts, signage, etc.) – and this is beyond setting up the actual business whether it be a storefront, retail shop or a service. For the purposes of this article, the actual setting up of your business is a given – and that setup varies greatly depending on the type of business and everything involved in doing so. So I’ll be leaving that portion out of this.
In putting together all of the “stuff” for your business, you are crafting the iconography, the “type” of business that you’d like your customers and clients to perceive when they come into contact with it. What I mean by this is that the visuals and language that you put out there (in whatever form necessary for your business) is interpreted by your audience and they form an association. So what is that association you’d like them to make with your business?
Network and spread the word
I have found that networking can be one of the most crucial parts of running a business in our area. We know that word-of-mouth is quite literally the best form of marketing, advertising, and brand reassurance. Networking plays a part in that, because community is so important in our area. At the end of the day, to network and talk with folks about your new venture could mean all the difference to your young business.
Expanding your business
Growing and expanding any business is multi-faceted and the type of growth should be directly related to your business goals. Sometimes expanding your business means you need a larger space to operate out of, or that you need to hire more people, but sometimes expanding your business means staying up-to-date with the ever-changing world of technology. This could mean updating your website (as a result of Covid, it could mean offering your products and/or services for sale through your website), creating or updating your Google Business account, it could mean using such tools as Geo-fencing, paying for Google AdWords or boosted ads/content on social media – to name just a few examples.
When it comes to expanding your business, I always find it helpful to get out the good old pen and paper; do the numbers, write down the dream, write down the challenges, write down the “what ifs” so that you are prepared if they happen. In doing this, I find that I prepare myself for the work, the obstacles, as well as the possible upsides so that I can then weigh my options and make sure that expansion – in whatever form it may take – is the right decision for me and my business at this point in time. I emphasize “point in time” because where you and your business are now could be different in six or twelve months, and being able to answer the easy and hard questions at this juncture, as well as figuring out the nitty-gritty is always the best way to be prepared for any situation, at any time.
At the end of the day, whether you are starting a new business or expanding an existing one, once you have somewhat figured out all of the pieces and the details – it’s just work. What I mean by that is, if you put in the work, you will make things happen. This sadly won’t guarantee the success of your business, but by doing the work, you are doing everything that you can to make your business a success. So roll up those sleeves and get to work at making your dream a reality.
Disclaimer: In addition to being the owner and publisher of this magazine, Thorunn is also the principal of Thorunn Designs, LLC. a design and marketing firm.