Small businesses are engines of economic growth. In 2014 alone, they accounted for more than 60% of the 3 million private-sector jobs created, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Historically, however, only about half of small businesses survive beyond their first five years and just one-third reach at least 10 years.
To defeat those odds and succeed in the long run, asking the right questions before starting a business can save time and money in the journey. Those queries can range from “Why am I starting a business?” to specific questions, such as “Where should I incorporate my business?”
Examining and answering the multitude of possible questions by category can be a helpful way to ensure everything needed is in order. Let’s take a look at some of the issues likely to be addressed by would-be business owners:
Questions about Operations
- Why am I starting a business?
- What kind of business do I want?
- Do I have a business plan?
- What products or services will my business provide?
- How will I set up the legal structure of my business?
- Do I have intellectual property to defend against competitors?
- What permits, licenses or registrations do I need for my business?
- What kind of books and records do I need to keep for my business?
- Where will I incorporate my business?
- Should l form my company as a C corporation, an S corporation, an LLC, a partnership or a sole proprietorship?
- How will I advertise my business?
- How can I come up with a great name for my business?
- How can I obtain the domain name that I want?
- How can I drive traffic to my website?
- Where will my business be located?
- What types of suppliers do I need?
- How quickly will my products or services be available?
- How will I manage my business?
- How am I going to guarantee that my business will grow?
- How am I going to stay organized?
Questions about Money
- How will I price my product compared to my competition?
- Have I looked realistically at the costs?
- How will I raise money to keep the business going?
- Have I factored in unforeseen costs?
Taxes and Insurance
- What kind of insurance do I need?
- What taxes do I need to pay?
Questions about the Field
- What differentiates my business and its products or services from others in the market?
- Who are my competitors?
- Is the market opportunity large and growing?
- Is this a crowded space already?
- Who are my future customers and competitors?
- Does my business idea offer value to customers?
- What demographic information do I have on potential customers (age, gender, location, salary, etc.)?
- Who is my ideal customer?
Questions about People
- How many employees will I need?
- What do I need to worry about in hiring employees?
- Can I build a motivated and qualified team?
- Do I have good mentors/connections/people I can learn from?
- Do I have a good support system (family, friends, employees, business partners)?
- Is my support system on board?
Questions about Yourself
- Why am I doing this?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- Do I believe I have what it takes?
- Am I able to let other people down?
- How do I handle setbacks?
- Am I willing to wear multiple hats?
- Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
- Is this a good time?
- Am I just miserable in my current job?
- Am I really an inventor, rather than an entrepreneur?
- Am I ready for the startup lifestyle?
- Am I fit to be a leader?
- Am I passionate about this industry/business model/cause?
- Am I engaging in self-discovery and learning something new about this industry each day?
- Can I accept that my company may outgrow me?
- How well do I work without a playbook?
- Do I have the discipline to work on this business for all the hours of the day?
- What will my new day-to-day routine be like?
- What’s my ultimate goal?
Still interested in starting your own business? There are many resources available online for aspiring entrepreneurs and current business owners, including through the SBA and the Internal Revenue Service.
Additional assistance is targeted toward specific groups. For example, although the number of female-owned businesses nationwide increased by 68% between 1997 and 2014, those businesses employ just 6% of the nation’s workforce, the research and advocacy group Womenable noted in a 2014 report.
Women business leaders and innovators can access information through local sources such as WeVENTURE at Florida Institute of Technology, which offers business counseling, workshops, resources, networking opportunities and other assistance.
Veterans, who accounted for about 9% of business owners as of 2012, can access the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veteran Entrepreneur Portal for guidance and resources on a range of subjects, including financing, government contracting programs and franchising opportunities.