How to Start a Business

Each year in the United States alone, there are more than 500,000 new businesses started. I believe there are even more people wanting to start a business but are held back by not knowing what to do in order to plan and launch their business idea. Owning a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences and can greatly improve your lifestyle if you take the time to do it the right way. So what is step 1?

1. Your life plan comes before your business plan:

I used to ignore this concept.  In misery from trying businesses that did not fit with my life plan, I finally realized how important it is. You do not live to support your business. Your business is created to support you and your plan for your life.

So what do you want in life? What do you hope to achieve? What kind of lifestyle do you want? How much free time do you need to live the life you want? Where do you want to live? What are your top 3 life goals (not business goals)? Start with creating your life plan and the business will take its rightful place as a means to support your life.

 

2.  Determine your business selection criteria:

Based on your life plan, you will determine your business criteria. In other words, you will define how the business will fit into your life and what you want from it. Once you know this, you can select the type of business you want to start.  Below are some examples of business selection criteria.  

  • I want a flexible work schedule. I don’t want a store that has to be open from 10 to 9 and open on weekends.
  • I want a high margin product or service (above 55%) or I won’t consider it.
  • I want to be geographically independent. I can work from anywhere.
  • I want to have an office where I work from every day.
  • I love to work nights and want my business to be able to serve customers during that time.

Yours may be different. Figure out your criteria before you decide on your business. You should not start a business of a certain type simply because you have experience in that type of technical work. If you hate your job now, why start a business doing the same thing? You should pick a business type that fits with your life plan, meets your criteria, and allows you to do work you actually enjoy.

3.  Begin with the end in mind by creating your business vision:

With your life plan and business selection criteria in mind, develop the vision for your business. This is where you take the business dream and start to give it life. Think of the vision as the blueprint for your business design.

When you start a business without having a clear vision, it can be compared to trying to construct a building with no plans.  Everyone working on the project knows they are there to construct a building but nothing is guiding them toward a common goal.  Each person is constructing the building as they decide it should be.  Could you imagine the chaos on this job site?  And the end result would be some semblance of a structure with many different random interpretations of what it should be.  The owner of the building would not be pleased because only he knew what the building was being built for.

Small businesses are started every day by using the method described above.  We will figure it out as we go and hope it ends up looking like something we like.  I want you to have intentional design by spending the time to create the vision and building around it.

Can the vision change over time?  Absolutely!  Remember, the vision is your idea of what the business should be to fit your life plan and business criteria.  You may discover a niche market you wish to focus on that you could not foresee in the beginning.  You may discover a passion and a market that better fit with your criteria and plans.  Even if you adjust the vision over time, always intentionally build your business in a proactive manner.

If you would like some help with creating your vision, I have created a free guide for your use.
Receive Your Free Business Vision Statement Guide

4.  Is the business idea viable?

Once you have the vision, you will need to determine if your business idea is viable.   In other words, can you make money with this business idea?

This is the confirmation step to make sure there is a market for your vision. You may have a fantastic idea, but there has to be a market that is willing to buy your idea in order for you to have a successful business. An idea becomes a business when a market is available.  This is the step so critical in reducing the number of business failures we see each year.

To determine if you have a viable idea, you will need to:

  • Gather demographic data to determine market size, ideal business location, competitor information, and market needs.  Entrepreneur lists several resources you can use to gather this information in this article.
  • Evaluate the existence of a market in the area of your business idea.  If you cannot find people buying or competitors selling a product or service similar to what you want to offer, there may be a reason.  A market may not exist.
  • Determine if you have the resources to start your business, market your idea, and support yourself while building your business.  Making money immediately is typically not the case.  It will take anywhere from a few months to a few years to see the returns you are hoping for.
  • Figure out your projected payback on your investment to start the business.  Is it reasonable for your life plan and business criteria.
  • Evaluate your pricing position in the market to ensure you can sell your product at the desired margin to cover costs and earn the return you desire.  You do not have to be the cheapest product/service in the market but you have to be competitive enough to influence buyers to purchase your product rather than someone else’s.

If you go through this process and determine your idea has some holes, do not give up hope.  This is part of the development process.  It is much better to determine your idea has flaws now rather than after you have invested a large amount of capital and energy.

The work you do in this process will give you the best chance at success.  I don’t want you to be a statistic.  The timing and speed of starting a business is not as important as building a sustainable business.  Take your time and get it right.

If you would like more in depth help on starting your business, check out the Start Here page or Work With Me page.  Consider subscribing to the blog so you never miss a post.  The next post will cover the business plan.

Simplifying The Business Plan

In working with many different entrepreneurs over the years, planning has always been a topic of discussion. Should you have a business plan and actively review and adjust it?  I strongly believe in active planning.  I believe planning provides your effort with direction.  I don’t want you to waste your time with fancy, formal plans that serve no purpose.  Create a useful plan that helps you achieve your vision.

So you may be saying, “I don’t need to write a business plan.  My business is small and I know what I want to do.”  Whether you write out a plan or keep it in your head, you will complete some kind of plan.  Spending the time to think through your business and have a sound plan for marketing, organizational structure and money will save you time.  You can avoid some of the trial and error of business if you think through your plans on paper before you actually try them rather than facing the same foreseeable problems every day.

In reading an article on Entrepreneur.com, I stumbled on an interesting study.  William Bygrave is a professor emeritus at Babson College and longtime entrepreneurship researcher.  In 2006, he studied several years of Babson graduates to determine if writing a business plan increased the chances of success over students who did not have a plan.  Bygrave and his team determined those with a formal business plan had no greater success than those who started a business without a formal plan.

If having a business plan does not increase your chances of success, why do it?  I think the reality is everyone completes a plan.  Some do it through a formal planning process prior to starting.  Some do it every day while trying to build and run a business situation by situation.  The difference is the amount of time you lose and energy exhausted figuring it out as you go.

I also believe going through the planning process gives you the confidence to actually take the risk of starting your business.  In a study completed by the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics, they found that writing a plan increased the likelihood of someone starting a business by 2.5 times.  Planning answers the questions to reduce the anxiety and doubt that holds most people back from starting a business.

I recommend you complete a business plan but keep it simple.  You do not need a 20+ page plan.  You have your vision and your research to determine your idea is viable.  This supplies you with a blueprint of how to build your business and market research on your target customers.  The plan will build on this data and:

  • Clarify how you will sell and market your product/service
  • Describe the different roles needed for your company to start
  • Project revenues and costs associated with operating your company over a fixed period
  • Determine startup costs

The two biggest weaknesses I see with most companies are

  1. They do not have a clear sales and marketing plan.
  2. They do not review their financial information on a regular basis.

If you start your business with well thought out plan for these two areas, I believe your chances of success increase exponentially.

Once you have the plan, what should you do with it?  I recommend reviewing and revising your business plan every 3 months.  This is a long enough period of time to give you a chance to gain results and short enough to be able to realistically project numbers.

Planning your business is not a onetime event.  You should enter each day, each week, each month, each quarter, each year with a plan.  Then review, revise and reinitiate.  Build your small business dream in a proactive manner and you will enjoy the journey much more.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.

Paul J Meyer

The Right Perspective

Life can change in a moment.  What is important right now can very quickly become minutia in a matter of seconds if our perspective changes.  Perspective is defined as the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.  I found myself sitting at a funeral this week due to a tragic event in the life of a family member.  Work that was so important become something that could wait.  At this particular funeral, no one spoke of the type of work the person did, what their skills were, how much money they had or any of the general descriptions we place importance on.  It was more on memories of good times, sadness over the loss of a relationship and the tragic end to a life.  There was discussion of talent and time lost.

Approximately two weeks prior, I was able to observe with fascination how perspective determines our focus.  I sat in a men’s bible study with approximately 15 others and the question was asked, “What is the biggest relief you have ever felt?”  Not one person who responded mentioned money, work, business, status, or any of the so called indicators of success.  I believe everyone there mentioned a situation where there was a sudden change in the well-being of a spouse or child which turned out to be okay in the end.

Why is it we lose perspective on the most important parts of a life?  We get tunnel vision becoming so absorbed in our career, our business, a problem, or a project that we forget and neglect everything else around us.  One day we look up and realize the intense focus we had was misplaced and we have lost or damaged what matters most.

As business owners, we can get lost in the pursuit of “success”.  We focus on profit, money, sales, negotiations, employees, problems, projects and the like.  We say we are doing for our loved ones, to make a living, because no one else will.  We get this idea that, “no one else can do it but me.  If I am not there it will fall apart!”  Then a life event can change perspective and suddenly our priorities change.  Money is not the goal, power is not the aim, and recognition is no longer important.  We no longer have to be there long hours because we are snatched back to what really matters for a moment.

I have fallen in this trap of lost perspective.  As I have stated before, the business itself is not the dream we pursue.  It is what it can provide for you, your family and your life.  The business is a tool.  It is not your identity, your baby, or your life goal.  God said in Genesis that we would earn our living by the sweat of our brow all our days because of the fall of man.  It is something we must do but it is not who we are.  I enjoy business and I hope you do as well, but it is not the most important thing in your life.

How do you avoid this pitfall?  I believe you must take regular moments of quiet reflection to stave off the assault of wrong perspective about life.  Loss of priorities can happen so easily when we don’t take inventory of what we cherish most and establish a hierarchy of importance in our life. In one of my first posts on this site, I suggested you understand why you want to own a business.  I encourage you to discuss that with your spouse and your children.  What is the vision you all have for the business and where does it fit into your life.

When life ends, make sure you laughed a lot, loved those you cherished most, and made an impact in the world for God.  Money will pass away and success fades so quickly.  Take time to create your priority list.  What is most important to you?  Who is most important?

As you pursue the small business dream, keep the right perspective on your priorities in life.  You will not regret putting more important things ahead of your work.

Encouragement for When Business Gets Tough

If you have owned a business for any amount of time or just starting out, you know it can be tough at times. Starting a business is difficult but it also comes with a large amount of hope and enthusiasm for the new venture. Times when it can be most difficult to persevere is after years of hard work establishing your brand, developing a base, providing great service and putting in the hours; you find yourself in the middle of a business slump or personal dissatisfaction. What do you do when the enthusiasm is gone or the anxiety of business decline pop up?

1. Remember your vision: I think this is when knowing what you hoped to accomplish with your business is most important. You can review where you are compared to what your life goals and business vision were and see if you have stayed on track or veered. I have found from personal experience that my motivation and enjoyment of my business wained, especially during slow times, when I had gotten away from what I hoped to accomplish in the first place. If you find yourself in one of these moments where you dread your business day and hate your job, it is time to do a little soul searching and remember why you decided to start a business in the first place.

2. Remind yourself that work is not your top priority in life: I do not believe we were created solely to give the best of our life to our business or career. As I state often, your business is a means to an end not the end in itself. The Bible says we would make our living by the sweat of our brow but it does not say it is our whole life. If your business is consuming you, it is time to evaluate your priorities. Ask yourself these questions:

a.  Will more money actually make life better and make me happier?

b.  What do I say is most important in my life versus what I give the most time to in my life?

c.  I am serving my own purposes in what I do or am I serving others?

d.  Does my business still fit with my life goals?

Now don’t get me wrong.  One of the main purposes in having a business is to make money.  But money will not fulfill you and it will not solve your problems.  You should run a profitable business and work to make money because that is a necessary part of living in this world.  Just don’t let money become your number one goal or you will never have satisfaction.

3.  Verify your business is viable:  You should review your business in the overall market multiple times per year to make sure you still have a sustainable, viable business.  Sometimes markets shift, customer desires change, and your idea no longer works.  You have to be in tune with your market rather than driving with blinders on not realizing the road is out ahead.  We all know of total business sectors that no longer exist.  Pagers are a good example.  Once a booming business with a great recurring revenue model, pagers were the business to make money in.  But technology changed, people moved on to cell phones and pagers became obsolete.  Anyone with a pager business who was not paying attention lost their business.  The signs would have been there in industry reports, business articles, and trends in financial statements showing attrition and decline.  No matter how hard these people may have worked, there was no turning around this business without change.

Be willing to adapt to your market and change your business strategy.  If you are not willing to take an honest look at your business and determine if you can sustain it, you may be headed for a long, slow decline that ends in disappointment and financial difficulty.  I encourage you to be agile in your business.  Listen to your customers and continue to serve them in the areas where they want to buy from you.

4.  Remember to serve:  The best business owners are those who have a  desire to serve.  I was brought up in my dad’s business and taught that customers should be well taken care of and our job was to serve their needs (within reason) to give them the solution they wanted.  I was also taught this in life outside of work.  We can take a view in life of lifting other people up to make the world a little better or being a drag on the world that continues to pull it down.  I get the most joy from serving others in my business.  The money becomes secondary.  If you create a culture in your business that you and your team are going to provide a win/win solution for your customers and your business, you will not lack for a customer base.

To go a little further here on my soapbox, customer service has seen a decline with the increase in companies who focus mostly on bottom line business management and less personal interaction with the customer base.  Some companies that start with a focus on excellent service and build a successful business around this dynamic fail to sustain the culture as the business grows.  Outside managers are brought in who are taught in school about management practices and profitability.  They did not grow through the early days of the company and no clear strategy is in place to sustain the culture of success and service the company started with.  There are still those great ones in existence who create a customer experience that creates loyalty through service although they have become the exception rather than the norm.

So don’t forget to create a customer experience that gives your customer a feeling of satisfaction to spend money with you.

5.  Have faith:  I could not own a business without faith.  None of us know the future and cannot predict how our business will perform over time.  Statistics tell us that only a small percentage of businesses are still open after 10 years of operation.  If you have researched your business idea, verified your business model is viable, created a business that provides a great customer experience and have a market for your product/services; then persevere on faith.  I am a Christian and count my faith as a major part of my daily survival.  Desperation is a cancer to a business and can cause you to look into compromises just to make money.  Maintain your ethics, work hard to gain the trust of your clients and potential clients, make the decisions that are right for your business, and maintain your faith that it will work out.

I think faith is one of the most important characteristics of leadership.  If you have people looking to you for direction and guidance, they want to know you believe the business can succeed.  If you are worried and desperate, your team will take on your emotions and it will spread like a cancer through your business.  Customers will begin to notice it.  You have created  a good business and you have maintained your morals.  You are willing to take an objective look at your business and make decisions to move it forward for success.  You provide your customers with a quality product/service and you are continually learning to improve in your profession.  With those beliefs in place, move forward on faith and you can survive the difficulty you are in.

 

6.  Be willing to be honest:  Sometimes a business can get out of hand.  It started out as something you were excited for and enjoyed but the joy is gone.  You dread the alarm clock signaling another day.  You no longer want to talk to customers or employees.  If you were honest, you would admit you no longer wanted this business.  I want you to know this is okay.  We tend to think if we end our business, it is labeled as a failure.  I for one have tired of labels placed on who we are.  You are not your business or the type of work it does.  You are a person with a life who is making a choice to improve your life whether that is having a business or admitting you no longer want to be a business owner.

If you honestly realize you hate your situation and no longer want to own the business you are in, have the courage to make a change.  I left the industry I grew up in and sold out of my ownership in a business because I no longer liked it.  It was difficult and stressful but my wife and I wanted a different life.  We wanted a different kind of business and less stress.

So what are your options?  If the business is profitable, you can find someone to sell to or take it over.  You don’t have to get every single dollar you think it is worth.  Be fair and look for an exit that meets your needs.  You may have an employee who would love to buy you out, a family member that is interested in taking over, or a competitor you trust that would be interested in acquiring your business.  You can also use a business broker and list the business for sale.

If the business is struggling and showing losses, you may still be able to find a buyer and walk away.  If not, find the best scenario to shut it down and walk away.  Your life, your family, your peace are too important to let pride hold you back from making the best decision for you.  People will talk no matter how honest and ethical you are and what you do.  Refuse to listen and do what is right for your life.  If you shut it down, take the experience you gained, regroup, and go enjoy the life God has given you.

 

To wrap up, you always have options to come through the difficulty you may be in.  Be willing to make the choice that is best for your life and puts you and your family in a better situation.  Business can be rewarding but it is not your life.  It is only a means to support you while you live your life.  I wish you success in your Small Business Dream.

 

Improve Your Business By Asking For Help

Being a small business owner means carrying lots of titles.  I was working with a client a few weeks back to develop an organizational chart and found the owner’s name filled 7 of the positions listed in the company.  With so much responsibility, how do you spend the time needed to work on your business?  It can be difficult.  I have been in the same situation and after spending 10-12 hours every day working in the business to make sure you generate enough sales and revenue to stay in business, I did not want to spend another few hours working on business systems.  It is so crucial to establish the systems you will operate by during the planning stage and augment them as you start the business rather than waiting until later to figure it out.
What happens if you skipped that step when starting your business and now everything revolves around you?  Regardless of how busy you are or how much you think you have to do everything, you will have to set aside some time to create and implement processes to take some pressure off you.  Otherwise, you are doomed to live the same day over and over again.  The good news is you can ask for some help.  Below are a few tips to help you work on your business.
1.  Look for internal talent to help you:  If you are a small business with a few employees, look to your internal staff to see who you can delegate projects to that create processes in your business.  You drive the process and make the decision about how the project is completed but work with a trusted staff member to get the tedious work done.  This does not work in every case but some projects that will help you can be handled by a staff member with your direction.
2.  Spend a few hours twice a month on your day off to work on your business away from the office:  it is extremely difficult to get much done during the work day with all the responsibilities of your business.  Take a small amount of time away from the office on a weekend or your day off to work on improving your business and planning to build the company that will lessen your stress.
3.  Ask for help:  You may not think you need help or you are not large enough to hire a consultant.  The truth is investing in your business improvement is sometimes the highest return you will receive.  I learned many business lessons by hiring people who knew more than me to teach me how to improve my business.  I also attended classes and seminars to learn how to make my business life less stressful.  Consultants can work with you to determine your goals and then develop processes to improve you business and your life.
I love small business owners because you are some of the hardest working, honest people on the earth.  You impact lives throughout the world providing more jobs than large corporations.  You deserve a better life with less stress and more rewards.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results.  If your business is inefficient and every system revolves around you (or everything is in your head), more money and more work will only increase the problems and inefficiency exponentially.  Take the time necessary to honestly look at your business and implement the changes you need to get the life you want.
If you have questions or need some help, contact me for a free discussion.

It Truly Is A Wonderful Life

Each year at Christmas I enjoy watching one of the traditional Christmas movies, It’s A Wonderful Life. The movie serves as a reminder to me toward the end of each year that although business can be tough and money may be an issue, there are much more important things in life than money and business. I think this movie serves as a good teaching tool for business owners. As I get older and gain more experience in my own life, I think we can all avoid some of the traps that hinder George Bailey.

1. If you hate the business you are in, change the business or change yourself. I have been where George was in the movie. I was raised in a family business. My dad owns an HVAC contracting business. He loved it and still works in it every day at the age of 72. He groomed me to take it over from birth I think and I was on that route for many years. I came back to work for him out of guilt when I graduated from college because he expected it. I never wanted too and I was miserable like George. I had plans and was going to see the world and make a name for myself. Instead, I was the future of the business in an industry I did not like. I eventually told my dad I could not work there anymore. I loved him but I was so unhappy I did not want to own this business. I had a passion elsewhere and I needed to pursue it. We worked it out and became closer over the years by me not working there. And now, I am helping my sister and her husband take over the business and learn how to manage it. I am consulting with them in the role I enjoy. I am helping them succeed and finally giving my dad an exit plan.

I encourage you to look at your situation. If you are unhappy in your business, find out why and take action. If you feel stuck and are not sure what to do, you have options and you can get help. I meet with owners who feel like their business is a trap more than a path to freedom and they do not know how to get out. I am here to let you know you can change it to enjoy your business and let it be a means to your lifestyle not a job you own.

If you are in a job you hate and want to start a business, what is holding you back? Is it fear? If you have an idea that is viable and a plan to support yourself as you develop the business, move on the plan. You get one life and there is no reset button. Money is an issue and we have to support ourselves. I rarely find money is the real problem. It is our mindset and our fear of the unknown. I am not a believer in the Cortez method of burn the ships so there is no going back. You have to be smart but take a risk. Through education, planning, and intelligent strategy; you can have the business you dream of and live more of the life you want.

2. Failure is not going to kill you: in the movie, George’s Uncle Billy loses $8,000 of deposit money from the building and loan they own. This causes a discrepancy in the books and could cause George to go to jail when the bank examiner comes. In response to the pending failure, George considers committing suicide for life insurance money for his family and this debt. He starts to believe he is worth more dead than alive. An angel is sent to show him otherwise.

If you are in financial difficulty, even to the point of having to close your business, your life is so much more. I can tell you failure will not kill you. Money is a commodity. It comes and goes. I think of it like water in my hands. I cannot hold onto water. It slips through every tiny opening. I may make lots of money or only a little. Either way, I have bills and issues to arise that will take some of it away. Your life is worth so much more than money.

Your reputation may suffer if you have financial difficulty. Remember you are not the only person to ever have a financial struggle. If you do struggle or lose it all, you can recover. These are some of the greatest learning opportunities in life. I learned some of the greatest lessons from my most monumental failures in business.

I also encourage you to ask for help. Don’t be ashamed of your situation. A true professional is not going to judge you. As a consultant, I am here to help people get through their challenges in business. I can empathize with your situation and possibly show you it is not as bad as it seems. I have worked with businesses on the brink of bankruptcy and helped them turn around to become successful. Get a different perspective on the situation and look for solutions. I encourage you not to

3. In the end, your true wealth is the people who love you: When there is struggle, we all have those people around us who will support us, love us, and help us get through. It could be one or multiple people. It is the person who does not judge you or condemn you. They encourage you and help you through the problem. You truly see the sincere people in your life during these times. You can overcome any difficulties you face but you cannot replace loyal, loving people.

Remember, your business is just a means to an end. It is the platform that provides you with the opportunity to make an impact in the world and make some money while you are doing it. Your business is not your life. You are doing a great job chasing your dreams. If you ever get stuck, it is not the end of the world. Seek out someone who can help or start looking for ways to better educate yourself so the problem develops a new ability in you.

Take a day between now and Christmas to plan for success in the first quarter 2016. This way you have a plan going into the new year and can enjoy the holidays with your friends and family. You will start the year refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

Having An Online Presence Is A Must

Depending on which survey you read, anywhere from 25% to just over 50% of small business owners don’t have a website.  If you don’t have an online presence, you are missing a segment of your market that is looking for you.  Your online presence is also part of your overall brand and gives your market a way to connect with you any time of the day.

If I hear of a business and I want to find out about them, I whip out my phone and Google the name.  In most cases, I cannot find the business online other than through some generic site like Manta.  Many times I will find a Facebook page but it has limited to no information about the business.  I still may visit the business, but I am not as likely since I do not know anything about them.

Like it or not, some people will decide whether to do business with you based on whether you have a website and how it looks.  Your online presence is part of your overall marketing strategy.  It is a key component of your platform on which you will build a brand (but I will cover developing your brand in a different post).

We live in a technologically advanced society where 64% of the US population has a smartphone and 74% of the population has a computer at home with an internet connection of some kind.  People are looking online for information more and more and that includes looking for information on your business.

You may not think having an online presence makes much difference in your business.  Here are some interesting statistics found by the web team at Deluxe.com about online searches and what they mean:

  • Local searches are 2x as likely to lead to a purchase
  • 50% of consumers searching for a local business on their smartphone visit the store within 24 hours
  • 66% of consumers searching on a desktop or tablet go to a store within 5 miles
  • 75% of consumers searching on a smartphone go to a store within 5 miles

You also need the right content.  When potential customers visit your site, what content are they looking for?  Be sure to include the information listed below.

For smartphone searches:shutterstock_213269284

  • 54% are looking for business hours
  • 53% are looking for directions
  • 50% are looking for local store addresses

For desktop or tablet searches:

  • 45% are looking for product availability
  • 42% are looking for business hours
  • 38% are looking for local store addresses

How to build a simple website

If you don’t currently have a website, setting up a simple site to provide the essential content is easy.  In most cases, you can do it yourself in less than an hour.

1.  Pick a domain name and setup your hosting account:

This is step is very easy to do.  I recommend using Bluehost to register your domain and setup your web hosting services.  I have used them for all my sites over the years and have been very happy with their service.  I also like the values they have since they do not provide hosting for any pornography, gambling, or other sites with objectionable content.

Go to the Bluehost website and click in the green box to get started registering your domain and hosting

Bluehost 1

I recommend the plus plan.  It is only a small amount more money but you get unlimited website hosting on this one account and unmetered website space.

Bluehost 2

Once you select your hosting plan, you will be taken to the sign up now screen where you will choose your domain name.  I recommend using your company name or a name easily associated with your business.  I also recommend getting the .com domain. Play around here as you can always hit the back button and try several different names to see what is available.  If you select a name that is not available, you will see other suggestions that are available.  You can pick one of these or hit the back button and try a different domain name.  As I said, get a .com name rather than settling for something else .net, .co, etc.

If you already have a domain name, you can transfer it to Bluehost or point the name servers to Bluehost and leave the domain where it is.  If you registered through a service like Name Cheap or Go Daddy to reserve a domain but never had a site, I would go ahead and transfer the domain.  Bluehost will help you with the transfer.

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2.  Provide information to complete hosting

Once you have a domain name and have hit next, you will sign up for your service by entering your information.

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Here you will select your account plan for hosting.  You can purchase 12 months, 24 months, or 36 months.  The pricing drops the longer period of time you agree to.  Keep in mind, you will pay the full amount for the hosting period up front so make sure you select the plan you can afford.

⇒You will also see options for add on services on the signup screen.  The only one I encourage is Domain Privacy Protection.  If you do not have privacy, someone can see who owns the site and the likelihood of you receiving lots of spam email increases.  For the price, it is worth it.

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Enter your credit card information, check the terms and conditions box, and click submit.  You will now be taken to the screen to create your password to login to your hosting account.

3. Select your password for the hosting account

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Once you have selected a password (please save it somewhere to make life easier), go ahead and copy it for ease of logging into your account.  You should be taken to the login screen. If you domain is not prefilled, put in your domain name and paste your password.  When you hit submit, you will be taken to your hosting account.

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If you receive any more upgrade offers here, just skip them.  If you ever want to add them later, you can.  No need to spend additional money now when you are just getting started.  You want to click on hosting at the top left side of the menu.  If you get a popup asking if you want help, you can close out of it and proceed.  If you would prefer help, you can always request it later.

4.  Find your hosting cpanel

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You should see hosting at the top left in the menu.  In the submenu under hosting you will see cpanel as the 2nd menu item from the left.  Click on cpanel and you will be taken to the control panel which looks like this:

You want to install WordPress to start developing your site.  Click on Install WordPress under website builders.  It may ask you again if you want help but just click you will do it yourself.

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Click the green install button and select the domain you want to use.  If you only have one, that domain should be showing in the drop down list.  Click “Check Domain”.

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Once you check the domain and there are no issues, you will see the screen below.  Check the terms and conditions box and click “Install Now”

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While WordPress is installing, you will get another ad.  Click the X at the top right to close it. You will see the progress of the install in the top right section of the screen as the arrow shows.

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When WordPress has been installed, you will see the orange banner at the top saying your install is complete.  On the right is a button which says view credentials.  This is your login information to your WordPress Dashboard where you will create your website.  Click “View Credentials” to see the information.

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You will be taken to the mojo marketplace where you can see your credentials.  Scroll down to where you see the section below and click on view beside the red credentials button.

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Once you click view, you will see the login URL for your WordPress site, your username, and password.  Save these where you can get to them and they are safe.  This is the access information to get to the backend developer of your website so protect it.

Once you have this information saved, click on the URL link and you will be taken to the WordPress login for your site.  Enter your information and close the ad asking if you want help creating your site.

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You are now at the WordPress Dashboard. This is where you can create your website and publish for the world to see.  You will also write and publish your blog posts from here.  WordPress provides you some very basic themes for you to get started.  To learn more about WordPress and how to use it, I recommend WP101.com as a starting point.  It is very low cost training and is what I used when I started learning WordPress.

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Premium Themes

I recommend considering a premium theme.  With a premium theme, you get a lot of options and flexibility to create your site.  Two places I have used are:

Themeforest – I like the X theme because it is very customizable. I use it for my site here. There are many other good ones here as well.

Studio Press Premium Themes – Studio Press has quality premium themes built with SEO in mind.  They have a great reputation

Outsourcing your design

If you don’t want to tackle building your site and need help, you can engage the help of someone else.  A few resources to consider are:

Genesis Developers for Studiopress themes: – Studiopress has several recommended developers you can check out and touch base with.

X Theme Customer Developers, you can reach out to these custom developers if you would like help with setting up your X theme.  You can purchase the X theme at Themeforest as mentioned above.

Envato Studio is an online shopfront for freelance services where you can get web design services and programming help if needed.  I have not used this service but have heard good things.

Regardless of the route you take, you will not regret establishing an online presence.  You will be providing your customer with a 24 hour a day connection point to learn and engage with your business.  Technology is not going away and internet marketing is rapidly becoming the one of the key advertising methods required to reach your target audience.

What questions do you have about setting up your online presence?  Connect with me through facebook or twitter and I will answer your questions.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw

Keep Your Dream Close

We all have that moment when an idea for a business first enters our mind. I hope before you do anything else, you evaluate the idea against your personal vision and make sure it is a fit. I want to encourage you when the business idea comes, keep it to yourself as you develop it.

An idea needs time to build into a dream that can become a vision. Too many small business dreams are destroyed before they ever have time to take root. Starting a business takes a great amount of work and a lot of faith. I saw a sign on a church today that said do not pull up in doubt what you planted in faith. This is the reason I want you to hold the idea close.

When you begin to share an idea in its infancy with random people, you will inherently develop some doubts because you do not have all the answers. I believe doubt has killed more great ideas than anything else. The discussion will involve either several questions you cannot answer, negativity toward the idea in some form, or blind support with no substance.

You may have that one confidant who provides the right input and support, but I still encourage you to not share your idea until you give it time to develop. In this early stage, most feedback does not help your idea take root and grow.

You have different types of people in your life. You have those who are comfortable with you as you are. They do not want you to make radical changes because you will make them uncomfortable with their life and their situation. Rather than embracing their feelings that maybe they can make changes to pursue their dream, they want you to play it safe and validate them no moving. These are not trusted advisors and you should not involve these people in your idea formation.

Other types of people are those who are more mature and will encourage and challenge you. These people are good advisors and good people to have in your life. You can at some point discuss your idea with these people and get some clarity and challenges to the idea. This conversation should not happen until you have developed the idea more.

Once you have developed a vision, completed your research to determine if the opportunity is viable, and have a basic idea of how you would pursue it, you are ready to get some feedback. You have information to back up your idea and answer the challenge questions. You have a more developed belief in your idea and can face some adversity to it.

Your dream is something important. You should never allow others to take away what only you know the depths of. Eventually you will share it with the world. First, allow the seed to take root and grow. When your roots are strong, you can clearly answer the tough questions and endure some adversity while still hold on to your dream.