Whether you need help naming your company, writing a business plan, locating sources of financing or finding a business mentor, all of the information you need awaits you. From your local chamber of commerce all the way to the offices of the Small Business Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, the resources you need stand ready to assist you.
Business resources, also known as factors of production, consist of land and labor, along with capital and enterprise. Land means natural resources, which provide the raw materials for components, machinery, buildings and transport mechanisms. Labor equates to human resources and it includes all the people involved in your company: employees, fellow staff members and everyone in the supply chain.
Capital usually means money, but it also means everything made from raw materials. Capital includes all of the components, machines, tools and containers used to manufacture, store, transport, display, demonstrate and distribute your products or services.
Enterprise means the drive to achieve something. It refers to the processes used to make decisions, create your business model and push for continuous improvement in your company. Enterprise includes marketing your brand, maintaining your company image and outperforming your competition.
In sum, everything serves as a business resource, from natural resources and farm products to machinery and office equipment. Business resources also include mentors, employees and all of the businesses that support your supply chain. The term also covers the government agencies responsible for collecting taxes and fees, and for enforcing regulations and laws.
Every one of those elements supports your ultimate success as a business. Nevertheless, the business resources that matter most consist of the websites and agencies that allow you to conduct market research and help you develop a business plan. Some assist you with choosing an SEO-optimized name and web presence that will grow with your company and reflect your values and vision. Others provide advice to prevent lawsuits over trademarks and market conditions. Some of these websites and agencies help you avoid liabilities and comply with wage and hour laws, equal opportunity regulations and workplace safety issues.
Planning-Stage Resource Examples:
- Market research sites.
- Namestorming resources.
- Business magazines and other periodicals.
- Local government agencies.
Market research includes reading business articles in local publications and attending business forums and other networking events, both online and in person. Market research also involves gathering demographic information from preliminary investigations such as polls and focus groups. Use local demographics to help you decide which products and services to offer to your customers. Alternatively, you can use the characteristics of your products and services to determine what demographic would respond best to what you provide.
Census.gov maintains a statistical database for the entire country. This data includes such tidbits as the number of fathers that have at least one minor child or how unemployment affects college enrollment in a given region of the country. Census.gov also gathers fresh data every month regarding estimates of retail trade activity, through the MARTS survey. That data helps predict market trends and overall fiscal health in your community and the rest of the nation.
If you intend your company to have international reach, you will find demographic information about 267 world locations at the Central Intelligence Agency website in their World Factbook. The data includes factors affecting supply chain integrity, data security and disaster planning needs.
City-Data.com provides snapshots of every United States city by age, education, crime statistics, weather and housing market. That information will help you decide how educated your future workforce might be and whether or not they will purchase durable goods based on homeownership rates.
Once you gather your demographics, use that data to help you name your company. Hold a few namestorming sessions. Namestorming describes the process of generating potential company names. It includes checking for available domain names and investigating possible trademark issues before registering your company name with the required governmental agencies.
Helpful namestorming sites include Domainr.com, a search engine that currently tracks 1,748 top-level domain names and 174 international domains. You can use Domainr.com to determine the availability of the name you want to register. Other helpful sites include ICANN: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN helps coordinate the critical technical services that allow computers to contact one another with accuracy. If you discover that your desired domain name already belongs to someone else, you can perform a WHOIS data search through ICANN to locate that domain's owners to negotiate a name transfer.
The next two steps in your name search involve a stop at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, followed by a visit to your secretary of state's office to register your chosen company name. Taking time to search records at USPTO will save you the aggravation and expense of a possible trademark-infringement lawsuit.
Once you register your name and purchase your domain, begin writing your business plan. The Small Business Administration, the Service Corps of Retired Executives and local, state and national chambers of commerce all provide advice to new and existing small business owners.
Operating-Stage Resource Examples:
- State agencies.
- Federal agencies.
- Local chambers of commerce.
- Industry associations.
Once you begin daily operations, consider using the services of an accountant to help you stay on top of income tax withholding and other compliance issues. Consult a human resource specialist to address concerns such as paid time off, or PTO, and FMLA or family leave.
When you reach a level of profitability that allows you to afford it, join a few professional organizations and industry associations. For smaller businesses, these affiliations sometimes enable you to negotiate better terms for any company benefits you decide to offer. Industry associations provide opportunities to network, help you train your staff and boost employee morale. This sense of pride increases employee retention rates and reduces training costs from turnover.
As your business grows, you will inevitably encounter union organizers. Whatever you may think of them, the right unions help ensure that all employees undergo the same training, providing a smooth and consistent customer experience for your clientele. Treat your employees well, and you may never have to contend with a wildcat strike or walkout. Provide a living wage and a flexible, comprehensive healthcare plan. Be consistent, and you will become an employer of choice in your town and your industry.
Your business plan must be as airtight and blunder-proof as possible. If not, you may find yourself paying much higher interest rates to maintain a line of credit or take out a capital improvements loan. Visit the Small Business Administration website and click on Plan Your Business. From there, go straight to writing your business plan or refine your market research first. Tools like SizeUp allow you to dig deeper into the competition you may face so that you can optimize your advertising strategy.
You have a choice between the traditional business plan and the lean startup. Banks and investors favor a more detailed roadmap. The more comprehensive information requested in the typical business plan gives lenders and investors the confidence that they will receive an adequate and timely return on their capital.
Lean startup plans take far less time to write. They cover nine essential elements and fit perfectly with the ready-aim-fire approach to starting a business: Figure out what you want to accomplish, whose needs your business will serve and how to target delivery to meet those needs. Lean startup plans bypass the dithering and uncertainty many would-be business owners experience when their ideas coalesce and opening day becomes a reality. Just get the doors open, start serving the public and respond to any issues that arise as needed. As you discover the snags and begin solving problems, the aim of the lean startup changes and your business becomes more effective at predicting and meeting customer demand and exceeding service expectations. Lean startups wind up requiring some backtracking, but only slightly more than traditional business plans.
Once you complete writing your business plan, consult SBA partner organizations, such as SCORE, the Service Corps for Retired Executives, or your local Small Business Development Center, the Women's Business Center or the Office of Veterans Business Development to locate a mentor and network with potential partners.
Veterans Business Outreach Centers provide workshops on business planning challenges, perform concept assessments, help veterans develop viable five-year business plans, provide training and counseling tailored to the challenges faced by disabled veterans and provide monthly financial reviews to help veterans meet their goals.
The SBA also provides management assistance. You can access step-by-step guidance to set up your company's books, receive training in accounting methods and obtain advice on how to connect with a certified public accountant. The SBA also provides guidance on how to establish and maintain business credit, including teaching you about the factors that affect your credit rating.
The IRS steps in by providing the Employer's Tax Guide, Publication 15, Circular E. This guide describes the process of obtaining your Employer Identification Number, or EIN. IRS Publication 15 tells employers how to withhold federal income tax, Social Security tax and Medicare tax. The IRS also has information about employee benefit plans in Publication 15A, the Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide. This publication describes taxable and nontaxable employee benefits and how to administer them.
When you ask a customer to do something, you have made a call to action. When the customer performs the task you requested, that constitutes a conversion. The best conversion for you, the business owner, ends in a sale.
When managing your company's social media presence, two crucial factors to weigh are your calls to action and the total number of resulting conversions. Every social media contact should contain a call to action, whether you ask the customer to watch a video pitch all the way through, sign up for a newsletter or make a purchase. When a customer signs up for email and text messaging, you have more opportunities to pitch your products and services, build your brand and increase your company's credibility. But your bottom line requires sales.
You need sales software that provides a report for every purchase. The best purchase report will include what the customer bought during a specific visit and what items other customers bought when they made similar purchases. After that, every visit to your website could generate a suggested product that makes the initial investment in the original purchase more useful or valuable to the customer.
Google AdWords provides a tutorial to help you set up conversion tracking. Go to AdWords Help, click on Measure Results and choose Set Up Conversion Tracking from the Learn About Conversion menu. Active Growth lists 11 alternatives to Google Analytics, including Clicky, Heap, Open Web Analytics, Piwik, Stat Counter, W3 Counter and Chartbeat, along with Guages and GoSquared. Active Growth supplies detailed comparisons for each alternative.