Starting Points

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How do I set up a company?

There are a number of on-line services that can help you. You will need to determine what type of company you want: a sole proprietorship (just you), a partnership (partners), a limited liability company (others) or a corporation (lots of others). They all have different costs and characteristics but your choice will largely depend on the ownership structure you have and the state you operate in.

Do I need a formal plan?

Yes you do, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You need to cover the basics like your company, market, people, operations and financial statements. There is a difference between an idea and a business. Make sure you know it. You can operate a business, but not an idea. A good plan can help.

What is a Value Proposition?

It is a benefit of your product or service that the customer perceives. It relieves pain points. It can make things: faster (time), cheaper (price), more clever (innovation), less complicated (simpler). Most importantly, a value proposition needs to solve a problem for your customer and they need to be willing to pay for it.

What is an MVP?

MVP means minimum viable product. It is the least complicated version of the product that is saleable. Usually it is a bare boned approach without any fancy trappings or bells and whistles. But in its current state, customers will buy it. You get their feedback and constantly improve it. That way, you customers define your product according to their needs which ultimately makes it easier to sell.

What’s the difference between a Vision and a Mission?

A vision is your destination. A mission is your purpose. A vision will determine where you are headed and what you will look like when you get there. A mission is your reason to be; it describes how you will make a difference. A good plan has both destination and purpose.

How do I get funding?

Sources of funding include family and friends, your credit cards, cash loans from a bank, venture funding from incubators and sponsors. It depends on how much you need and how clearly you can explain what you are going to do with it: buy equipment, hire people, advertise, etc. The most important consideration is how you will pay it back. You will need to be able to explain that clearly. So be sure to have a plan.

When should I hire people?

The answer is: when you need them and can afford them. But wait as long as you can as our needs may change. It will always feel like you need them yesterday, but you may not have the cash to get them on a payroll. So, as an entrepreneur, get used to doing as much as you can, by yourself. When you need talent, don’t waste money on recruiting. There are a number of free sites that can help.

Can I protect my intellectual property (IP)?

Yes, you can seek to patent your ideas and plans. There is a formal filing process and you will need professional advice. Patents can be expensive to file so do some homework in advance and make sure what you have meets the legal criteria.

Do I need a website?

Yes. Websites are a necessity and a market expectation. Kind of like a business card. They are a great way to inform people about your ideas, plans, team, mission and products. It can be used for customer acquisition and support. A great Web site can create excellent growth opportunities for you.

How do I not go broke?

Make a budget and stick to it. Each budget should have some money set aside for catastrophes and disasters because they are inevitable. To minimize your risk, it is critical to have a clear plan to act as a guide for your progress or lack thereof. In any case, the key is to only risk what you can afford to lose. Good financial software can be a help.

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