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Starting A New Business: 27 Things You Need To Know Before You Open

opening a storeStarting a new business can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. It can also be the most demanding. (See related post Should You Start A New Business Now?)

If you’re not ready to handle those demands, then you’re not ready to start your own business.  I know it is a dream for a multitude of Millennials, but let’s get real – a business will not stay open and be profitable just because you dreamed it would.

If you’re a parent, aunt, uncle or other family member, or even a teacher of one of these hopeful business-focused Millennials, you might want to send this post along to them.

I understand the desire of so many who want own their own business – especially if they’ve worked in a store, had a job or have a hobby to base it on.

Let me give you an example…

A guy who works for someone cutting lawns decides one day to launch out on his own. Great. He gets a few clients but doesn’t make money. Because of that he can’t add employees, so his growth is tapped out to as much as he can do himself. And he just cuts the lawns like he did when he was an employee.

And since he isn’t thinking like a business owner, he’s not suggesting additional fertilizer, checking out the sprinklers or suggesting additional services to his current customers. His nose is to the grindstone and bleeding.

As a former franchisor, and as a retail consultant, I’ve helped a lot of people navigate the finer details of a business idea. This post is more of a self-assessment than a planning checklist.

Here are 27 tips to help you decide if starting a new business is right for you.

Assessing Yourself

  • Personal Investment —You’ll work long hours away from your family and friends. You’ll also need to give up a weekend trips with your spouse, dinners out with friends, sports activities, kids’ birthday parties, Saturday night baseball with the guys, shopping trips with the gals – and all of the money to do these things so you have the cash flow to keep your doors open.

  • Family Investment —Can your family deal with the time you’ll invest in opening a business? A lot of businesses sink under the weight of your missing presence from home. Your kids will have to deal with seeing less of you. You will have to deal with whatever way they take out their disappointment and anger. You’ll need the emotional strength to handle it all AND run a thriving business.

  • Time Investment —You have to be prepared to work 60-80 hours a week for the first few years. Not months – years.

  • Investment Risk — Are you willing to put all of your assets and relationships on the line for your business? That’s what being an entrepreneur means. There are no safety nets!

  • Losing Your Investment —Can you handle it if your gamble doesn’t pay off? Many new businesses fail. Can you and your family survive the emotional and financial cost if your business doesn’t succeed?

Planning for Success

  • Market Research —Is there a need for your services in your community? You can use a retail consultant like me to help you evaluate the market in your area. There are already too many places to buy too many things.

  • Naming Your Business —You need to pick a name that no other business is using, then register it. And when you pick your name, you need to make sure it was available as a web domain and on social media, didn’t you? Otherwise you could be in trouble when you open your doors.

  • Operating Assets —Do you have the money to keep operating until you reach your break-even point?

  • Business Plan —Again, a retail consultant like me can help you form a solid business plan around your idea. A business plan will help you secure loans and keep you on track.

  • Long-term Support —Do you have the money to keep operating if you don’t reach your break-even point when you expect to? Plan for success but have a fallback. You don’t want to be turning off the lights to save on the electric bills.

Dealing with Bureaucracy

  • Location, Location, Location —Have you found a storefront, or are you operating out of your home? Either way, your store will have to comply with local, state, and federal regulations. This could be as simple as installing a smoke detector, or as complicated as putting a wheelchair ramp in your front yard.

  • Type of Business —LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, etc.? The kind of business you choose will impact tax filings, licensing, and more.

  • Licensing and Taxes —Can you meet the requirements for licensing and keep up with all of your tax documents? Most states require quarterly filings, so you’ll be doing taxes four times a year. If you hate that stuff, it doesn’t matter; you’ll either have to learn or pay someone.

  • Insurance and Bonding —You’ll need insurance on your property, merchandise, employees, vehicles, etc. Depending on the services you offer, you and your employees may have to get a surety bond. That can really impact your hiring of friends and family.

Day to Day Operations

  • Vendors, Suppliers, etc.—Dealing with deliveries and pickups will take you away from other business activities.

  • Packaging and Shipping—Shipping orders takes extra time and preparation.

  • Mountains of Paperwork—Everything you do creates more paperwork. Managing it could be a full-time job.

  • Unhappy Customers—Be prepared to deal with angry and rude customers—frequently.  When you are brand new, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Customers will notice and complain. Can you deal with that?

  • Tasks Eat Your Day – Are you able to give up the fun parts of running a business to handle the multiple details you need to handle as a successful business owner.

  • Competition – You must be able to recognize when your market shifts or new competition crops up in your neighborhood or, more likely, online.

  • Technology – You have to be up-to-date with current technology so you can use it to market your business, monitor customer reviews online and use social media effectively.

  • Employees – You better like people because without them liking you, you won’t be able to provide an exceptional experience to your customers. You’ll deal with their crap whether you like it or not.

Personal Growth

  • Perseverance—You need to tough it out during the hard times and maintain focus during the good times.

  • Flexibility—You will be wrong. Accept it, make changes, and move on.

  • Customer Service—You can’t always make customers happy and make money. To avoid being taken advantage of, you have to remember that you’re a merchant, not a charity. Do your best, but don’t sink your business trying to please everyone.

  • Employee Relations—Just like customers, they won’t always be happy. Don’t use personal attachments as an excuse to keep a bad employee.

  • Walking Away—If the time comes to walk away, you have to be willing to do so.


When you start a business, you won’t be able to immediately buy a three bedroom house on the sand in Newport Beach or have your minions run your successful store while you vacation in France. But you will be able to find out just who you really are and what you are capable of.

These aren’t all the considerations you need before you start your own business, but you need to candidly look at your own skill sets, motivations and personal tolerance for risk and the unknown before you open your doors.

Build it and they will come only works in the movies.

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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on June 22, 2013.

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2 Responses to “Starting A New Business: 27 Things You Need To Know Before You Open”

  1. abbas says:

    One of the best articles with pratical advice on New Business Start ups

  2. Don’t discount a word of this article. Not. A. Single. Word. After 25+ years in corporate and a year out of work at the bottom of the Great Recession, I lost my mind and opened a small vitamin store. Only after I had completed a business needs analysis, a competitive analysis, a projected business plan and budget, and, and, and…. I closed on the property in Feb. 2010 and opened the store 3 weeks later. Three years out, the hours are down a bit, but still over 60 per week. We are closing on break-even and still are sustaining double-digit growth. That all said, I have lived every single step of this article and can add only one thing: Take emotion out of the mix. Opening a business cannot be your passion, your love or your dream without a hard and coldly practical underpinning. I have watched several new businesses fold (in my town) since 2010 because the owners dreamed of their own little store without having a scrap of business sense. You absolutely must be able to walk away, to hire and fire without falling into the employee-as-family trap, to go eye to eye with the pushiest, most emotionally manipulative sales reps you never want to meet. And do it all while smiling and giving your customers the best possible service. Ice in your veins isn’t a sin- it’s a necessity. Love what you do and what you have – with an open hand.