This Small Business Assessment Check will help you determine if you are ready to start a business, as well as identify which areas need more preparation.
1. The Business Plan
The first step to starting your business should be developing a business plan. The business plan itself doesn’t have a specific structure. However, most business plans will include the following.
Business climate study
Product and/or service description
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis
Web plan summary
The purpose of the business plan is to give you a guide to follow as you start and operate your business. As you develop a business plan, you will learn more about your industry, product, service, and market. Creating this plan will also give you an accurate picture of the financial resources needed to operate your business.
Once the plan has been completed, use it as a guide. However, don’t be afraid to adjust it as your business climate, market and opportunities change.
There are many resources available online and within the Chamber membership that will help you develop a business plan.
- Online Resources
- BPlans – BPlans provides plenty of free business plan templates. If you have limited time or need a template to jump-start your idea, this site may be a good resource.
- LivePlan – LivePlan by Palo Alto Software provides a more customizable option for creating your plan. Liveplan is a paid service, but it could be beneficial to you, if you are unable to hire a firm to help with developing your plan.
- Local Resources
- SCORE – A resource partner of the Small Business Association (SBA), SCORE is an organization that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses start, grow, and succeed. SCORE offers free confidential counseling to entrepreneurs to ensure their success. SCORE also provides local and online workshops, resources, tools, and templates to connect small businesses with both the community and the information they need.
- UniComm Media Group – UniComm Media Group provides the marketing, business, and financial expertise necessary for developing your business plan.
2. Registering Your Business
During the business planning process, you will develop a strong name for your business. The next step in starting your business is registering with the appropriate authorities. Depending on your industry you may need to register with more than one of agency. All business registrations are processed by the South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, but you may need a special license or permit from the South Carolina Department of Labor, License and Regulation, SC Department of Revenue, and any cities or counties in which you operate.
Need help deciding which type of business organization (license?) is best for your business? Contact your attorney or accountant to discuss this topic. You may also contact local accounting firm Spara,LLC (update link?) for guidance.Registration Links
- SC Secretary of State – All business registrations (LLCs, LLPs, S-Corps, C-Corps, etc.) are processed through the South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office
- SC Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation – LLR issues licenses to specific types of businesses including CPA firms, contractors and cosmetologists. Check the LLR website to see if you are required to have a license to operate in South Carolina.
- SC Department of Revenue – The South Carolina Department of Revenue collects sales and use taxes, as well as withholding taxes from your business.
- SC Business One Stop – an all-inclusive website on how to start and run your business in South Carolina. It offers step-by-step instructions on how to register and license your business for the first time. All information pertinent to registration and license applications, hiring employees, renewals, and other business claims can be found here.
- Local governments – cities and counties may require specific registrations and licenses for operating in their territory. Check your local city or county website for local codes and licenses applicable to your industry.
3. Financing your business
There are a variety of funding sources available.
- Small Business Administration – The United States Small Business Administration provides loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions, and other assistance to small businesses. There are many useful resources for small businesses located under the start & managing a business tab on their website. The SBA mainly provides services in four areas: access to capital, entrepreneurial development, government contracting, and advocacy.
- Community Works
4. Branding & Marketing Your Business
Once the business is registered, financed, and planned, you need to implement a brand and marketing strategy.
Your brand will be what is most closely associated with your business. Because of this reason, you should invest time and resources in developing your name, logo and brand identity. Hire a marketing expert that will provide you with quality designs and insight. Avoid design firms that promise above-average branding services at very low rates. You should plan to keep your brand for a minimum of five years. And as a new business with no brand recognition, it is imperative that your brand stands out from your competitors.
Hire an expert firm like UniComm Media Group to help develop your brand. You can also find more marketing firms in our Membership Directory.
Your marketing strategy is vital to the success of your business. You have to decide how much to spend on advertising, which advertising venues you will use, and how you will measure your return on investment. Be careful not to engage in uncoordinated marketing campaigns. Take the time to plan your strategy and measure results. UniComm Media Group offers marketing strategy services and offers SCHCC members a free consultation about their marketing strategy.
5. Accounting Help
Accounting information provides the basis for sound decision-making. Having an in-depth knowledge about accounting will help you know your business better, know which products or services are profitable, and predict cash flow and plan purchases accurately. It is vital that you take the time to properly set up your accounting system in a way that will help you streamline record-keeping and provide accurate statements. Learn about accounting software like Intuit Quickbooks, but more importantly, hire an accounting professional like Spara, LLC (link) to run your accounting functions for you. You can find more accounting firms on our Membership Directory.
Starting a business tax guide – The IRS “Starting a Business Tax Guide” provides the information that new business owners need to know about taxes. It can also assist you with basic business decisions.