BY KELLY BETHKE
Have an idea but don’t know where to start? Here’s a step-by-step guide.
This guide was originally published in The Creative Independent, a resource of interviews, wisdom, and how-to guides for creative people. Illustrations by Jeremy Nguyen.
Thinking about crafting a new business with concern for the larger systems at play–all while considering your personal bandwidth and well-being–can feel pretty daunting. For this reason, I work with individuals and teams in their early days to explore what forming a business can and will look like for them. For people who go to biz school, the steps to getting a business off the ground are laid out. For the rest, it can feel completely overwhelming, or worse, it can feel a little bit like selling out. The good news is that formalizing a business can actually be a highly creative–and even energizing–undertaking.
As a consultant specializing in business innovation and sustainability, I work with people every day who are looking to turn their work or ideas into a functioning business. Although they’re all smart and experienced in their particular field, most of them need help mapping out the process, making a business plan, and kicking it all into action. Over the years, my consulting work has revealed a pattern for the building blocks of a successful business. If you’re considering starting a new venture or taking your work to the next level, but feel unsure about the steps, I hope this guide will get you going.
The ideation phase
Step 1: Answer a few key questions
Step 2: Get all your ideas out with a mind map
Step 3: Make an empathy map
Creating a business plan
Step 1: Get clear on a few key points
Step 2: Make a “Business Model Canvas”
Surveying the playing field
Step 1: Make a SWOT chart
Step 2: Create a competitor analysis sheet
Vision, mission, and values
Deciding to formalize your business, or not
Money, money, money
The costs of getting your business formalized
Financial modeling: It’s not so bad
Getting even more strategic and official
The pitch: It’s not just for finding investors
Getting the word out through marketing
Developing a long-term strategic plan
Plan time to work toward your strategic goals
Work with a mentor to add some accountability
This guide is a rundown of the path that many successful businesses have taken. It’s true that you could go a different route and still be successful. Some attempts at starting a business will “fail,” but again, failure is just feedback. If you’re hitting a rut, go back and tweak your business using the tools and approaches in this guide, because iteration is the key to innovation.