Before taking any big leaps, you need to have a solid business plan. Business planning isn’t just smart — it’s essential for determining the validity of your business idea. Here are a few things you’ll outline in your business plan:
Again, this is a super trimmed-down introduction to writing a business plan — there’s much more you’ll need to include, especially if you’re hoping to secure funding.
If you feel like taking a crack at this on your own, read through our definitive guide to writing a business plan for a look at everything it will entail. If you’re still up for the task, go for it — but if you’re like most new business owners out there, you could use some professional assistance.
Business planning software is a great way to hunker down on your business plan without having to write all the content off the top of your head. Check out our top 7 business planning software tools for a look at our favorite services!
Your next major task is going to be registering your business with the state of Arizona. Before you can do that, though, you have to figure out what type of business you want to form: an LLC, S Corp, C Corp, or Sole Proprietorship. Let’s take a quick look at each:
It’s extremely important to choose the right structure for your business, so don’t just choose one by default. Read over our business structure comparison guide to get a closer look at each option.
Filing all the necessary legal documents with the state can get technical depending on your business structure, and recruiting the help of an incorporation service is worth considering. Our top 7 business incorporation services is a great resource for learning about the best providers in the online filing industry.
Once you’ve formed your Arizona business, it’s time to make sure you’re totally compliant with the state.
Unlike most states, Arizona doesn’t require you to have a “general” business license, but depending on the nature of your business you may be obligated to obtain several permits and pay special taxes on a federal, state and local level. Trust us, it’s worth putting the effort in now to avoid getting hit with a hefty fine later on.
Here are some great resources for learning about what taxes/licenses you might need to take care of:
Since Arizona doesn’t require you to obtain a general business license, it’s possible that you won’t have to obtain any permits or licenses whatsoever — but it’s still important to put in the research to make sure!
If you end up feeling completely swamped with federal, state and local license applications, you can always enlist the help of a business license service. These companies specialize in doing all the research on your behalf based on the specifics of your business, so all you’ll have to do is fill in a few details and sign your name on the forms. This isn’t necessary for every business, but it can be a real lifesaver in certain circumstances.
Now’s the time to open a business bank account and completely separate your business and personal finances. Even if you’re running a sole proprietorship, it’s still a good idea to do this because:
Letting your business and personal expenses get muddled never ends well, so make sure to take care of this as soon as possible. Keep in mind that you’ll need to acquire your EIN (Employer Identification Number) before you can open a business bank account. Read our guide to getting an EIN for free when it comes time for you to tackle this step!
Before settling on a bank, check out local options like Bank of Arizona and OneAZ Credit Union, and national options like Chase and Bank of America. Local and national business banking both have their perks, so it really comes down to choosing a bank that meets your top priorities. For you, this might be ATM accessibility, online banking, customer service or fee structures.
If your business has multiple members, talk this over together and arrive at a mutual decision to make sure you’re setting everyone up for success.
Once you’ve officially set up your shiny new business bank account, sync it with accounting software to start tracking your finances. This is especially important if you’re not working with an accountant yet! Check out our top software recommendations.
Once you’ve got the fundamentals of your finances sorted, it’s time to get some money rolling in. The question is, from where? There are tons of funding options out there, so it’s best to decide based on:
… and some other factors, depending on what approach you’re considering.
First, check out our guide to financing your new business where we cover everything from trade credit to social lending to angel investors. Once you feel like you’ve got a handle on the basics, reach out to your local Small Business Development Center. Arizona has dozens of SBDC locations across the state where you can get help with:
The best part is that their business counseling is completely free, unless you sign up for a paid workshop.
While every step so far has been largely logistical, this one gets down to the heart and soul of your business. Building your brand is all about capturing the essence of your company: your mission, your product/service, what sets you apart from your competition. Ideally, your company’s logo will encapsulate all of these to some degree.
When designing your logo, keep in mind:
For more information on choosing the perfect logo for your business, read our definitive guide!
Your website is another place where you can build your brand image, and a professional, relevant aesthetic will go a long way here, too. We think the best way to create a beautiful business website is through a service like StudioPress. Their platform is super user-friendly, and a great alternative to building a website from scratch. Check out StudioPress and some of our other favorite website builders!
Here comes the step that never ends: marketing your business! You’ve been doing this all along — including every barista, bartender and grocery clerk you’ve chatted with about your innovative idea. It’s a natural process in many ways, but also one that you need to approach strategically in order to maximize results. Merely networking isn’t enough anymore.
There’s so much to be said about marketing your business in the 21st century, but here’s a few main bullet points:
Mastering the art of marketing is a full-time job, so naturally it’s best to delegate it to a professional. However, if hiring a marketer simply isn’t in the cards right now, read through our marketing guide for more tips and tricks.
There are tons of software solutions out there that can make marketing your business much, much easier. From scheduling social media posts to calculating ROI, modern software tools have truly revolutionized the way many entrepreneurs go about marketing — and many of them are quite inexpensive or totally free. We list several of our favorite resources at the tail end of our marketing guide!