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It is well known that approximately 97% of all startup businesses fail within the first three years. Many of these businesses were well intended but lacked the essentials for getting started. A number of the costly mistakes and disastrous failures could have been avoided if the owners had taken time to address three necessary components vital to a young businesses success - detailed planning, common sense, and current information.

If you have made it past the dream stage it is time to plan your action. Initially several things should be considered to establish the direction of your business.

* When do you intend to get started?
o Remember to find a need and fill it. Before doing so try to determine if it is a valid need. Setting up a snowmobile shop in southwest Florida on the surface may seem novel and bold, but is it valid. You get the point. Look at existing industries and see if there is a niche to be filled. Once you have determined a valid need that can be fulfilled at a profit, and you are in the best position to fill it then it is time to get started.

* Where do you intend to set up shop?
o We have all heard it said before that location, location, location is important it is only one of three considerations when choosing a spot to start your business. Are the demographics a good match for your business? Is the neighborhood safe, clean, and are other businesses in the area making it? Does the location have good access to traffic? Is there local growth?

* What name are you going to use?
o What's in a name? In your case it may make or break your business. Try to come up with a name that accurately describes your products or services. Brainstorm a few possibilities, write them down, and run them past some friends and strangers.

* How are you planning to position it?
o Why are you unique? Create a Mission Statement that is brief, and covers three main components - your mission, how the client benefits, how your company benefits.

* How are you going to figure investment needs and get them covered?
o This is one of the hardest components to estimate. For this step consider hiring a consultant that specializes in business startup financing. Once you have arrived at a dollar amount then double it. Hidden costs can be the undoing of any small business.
o Where is the money to start the business going to come from? Traditionally people have looked to venture capitalists, family, second mortgages, and Small Business Association loans. Wherever you mange to get financing make sure you retain ownership of your concepts.

* What kind of structure are you going to set up?
o There are four basic structures used to set up businesses. (For the sake of simplicity and space I will not go into each type as each state has different laws governing them). These business structures are sole proprietorships, limited liability corporations, corporations, and S corporations.

* How many employees are you going to need?
o This is a tough call for any business owner. Too many employees and you have people sitting around and doing nothing. This may be great for customer service, but tough on the overhead. Too few employees can cause problems in meeting demands such as service, deadlines, and deliveries. The solution may be to start with a few employees as needed and cross-train them in other jobs.

* What company policies will be set in place?
o Create a company handbook that covers employment practices and policies. It should cover such matters as hiring and firing, vacation, sick pay, raises, promotions, and anything else important to the smooth functioning of your company. Do not wait until you've been in business for awhile to create the handbook either. It should be in place before you open the doors for the first time.

These fundamental questions cannot be ignored. Take the time to cover each detail in depth. Write down, evaluate, and discuss your plan with someone you trust. If you have a mentor available already successful in business, and they are willing to look over your shoulder during the critical startup period, then you have an exponentially greater chance of succeeding.

About the Author

Chuck Lunsford is the website manager of UnitedPlastics.com. He offers advice on how to get started in your own sign business. Visit his website and get tips and advice on starting a small sign business opportunity from scratch.