If you’re waiting for the perfect time to start your own business, you could be waiting for a long time. But if you have an idea and the drive to take control of your own future, 2014 is your year to launch.
The way we do business has changed. Our personal networks are global, and so are our resources. The number of tools available to any small business owner is staggering, and each one is more accessible, affordable and targeted to your needs than ever.
The benefit of this shift is that you can use these solutions as the building blocks for your business and focus more of your time and energy on what you’re building instead of the back-office administration.
Networking on your own or with a crowd
Entrepreneur and AppSumo founder Noah Kagan recently challenged himself to start a business and make $1,000 profit on a crowd-sourced business idea—independent of his significant AppSumo and OKdork networks, within a 24-hour time limit. The results the day after launching his SumoJerky beef jerky club? $3,030 in revenue, $1,135 in profit.
To get the word out, Kagan tapped into his personal networks:
- He asked for business through his personal Twitter and Facebook networks,
- He asked his friends for referrals via Facebook and email, and
- He leveraged Facebook’s graph search to search for friends who liked beef jerky.
Kagan ultimately found that real-time communication—Skype, Google Talk, texting and phone calls—brought more sales than social media or email. But it’s the ability to leverage your network that will help you grow your business and reach new people.
Networking also helps you bring experience into your circle of advisors, both as mentors, potential partners and fellow business owners to swap tales and advice with. Established communities like the Young Entrepreneurs Council and Freelancers Union are a great place to start, and there are many niche groups on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Pros from near and far
When it comes to finding people with the right skills to support your business, the global workforce has a lot to offer. Platforms like oDesk, Elance (which recently merged) and Guru can connect you with web developers, designers, writers, programmers, engineers, accountants and other professionals when you need them. Often hired on a project basis, working with a freelancer can be a time and cost-effective way to get things done.
Even just around the corner, there are other ventures that might fit exactly what your business needs.
Good Eggs is just one example. Started in the San Francisco Bay Area but now available in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and New Orleans, Good Eggs aims to make local food more easily available to the masses. They source food from local farmers and food producers, allow people to shop online, then deliver orders directly or make them available for pick-up. For a local pie business like Three Babes Bakeshop, run by two friends in San Francisco, Good Eggs is a great distribution partner.
Tools that do the heavy lifting
Traditionally, small businesses have taken enterprise-level software and adapted it as best as they could to meet their needs. But a newer generation of vendors have launched with those small business owners in mind; they’re creating solutions designed to fit their specific needs, without unnecessary features.
While eBay owned the e-commerce space for a decade, online retailers now have numerous storefront options like Shopify and Etsy. Kagan used PayPal to collect online payments for SumoJerky, and both Shopify and PayPal are moving more service offline to compete with point of sale (POS) services like Square. People want to be able to do business wherever they are.
LegalZoom has become a go-to resource for many business owners when they need legal work done; from forming your business to filing patents or trademarks, LegalZoom offers template forms at a reasonable price.
Administering payroll and dealing with government compliance can also suck up a lot of time. Online payroll services can automate the whole process for you, from making direct deposits to employees to calculating and paying state and federal payroll taxes and submitting your filings.
Entrepreneurship at its heart is about solving problems, not performing maintenance. By turning to solutions created by other entrepreneurs, you can free your time to focus on the work you do best.