5 Things To Do The First Day You Start a Business Jonathan Herrick Starting a business may be the most important career and financial decision you ever make, and many people are succeeding at it. Four out of five firms that started in 2016 survived into 2017, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, and about half of all businesses make it through the first five years or longer. The steps you take early in your business can have a big impact on your success. Many people feel overwhelmed on the first day, they don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, if you take things step by step, it’ll be easy to get off to a running start. Here are five things to do on your first day in business. 1. Take time to plan. Starting a business without a plan is like walking into a maze blindfolded: You won’t know what to do next. Sit down for a few minutes to write down how you will spend your time this week before you plunge ahead with projects. It will bring structure to your days, so you don’t feel lost. You’ve probably already decided on the purpose of your business and given some thought to what major steps will be necessary to get to where you want to go. Now it’s time to break down those big goals into manageable tasks that you can accomplish on your existing budget. Take 15 minutes to write down the single most important thing you need to accomplish this week to move yourself toward your biggest goals. Make a list of the three to six most important things you can do today to chip away at your larger goal for the week. Let’s say your goal for the week is to win your first customer in a professional service business. You know from your experience in your industry that it will probably require both networking and building your online presence. In this case, your list for Day One might look something like: Update my LinkedIn profile with the name of my new business and relevant keywords. Make list of contacts in my LinkedIn who might be able to give me advice on how to spread the word. Send emailed or LinkedIn notes to 5 to 10 contacts let them know I’m in business and ask their advice for how best to spread the word. Research inexpensive website providers so I can put up a website later in the week. (Or research web developers, if you need an elaborate site). You may not get through the whole list in one day, but even if you roll some things over until tomorrow, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. 2. Start telling world you’re in business. The only way you’ll get customers is if other people know you’re in business. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing but that’ll come later, after you’ve built up a group of satisfied customers. The sooner you start bringing in money from the business, the healthier the business will be. There are many ways to market your business. You’ll want to narrow your focus to the most effective methods that you can afford. On the first day you’re in business, make a list of four or five ways you have seen successful businesses in your field market themselves and take the first step toward using what you think will be the most effective one on the list. If you’re running a retail store, for instance, your methods might include: Advertising our grand opening in local publications Put up a website Build a presence on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor and Put up an Instagram page with pictures of our products. Let’s say getting people to your grand opening is the most pressing item. Then your first step on Day One might be to check out the FAQs for advertisers on the local publications’ websites to find out how much advertising costs and how far in advance you have to place an add for it to run. 3. Set up your “back office.” Many small business owners start a business because they want to follow their passion but you’ll only be able to do that on an ongoing basis if you’re somewhat organized. Money is the lifeblood of any business. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you have the technology in place to get paid by your customers. If you’re running a retail store, for instance, you’ll need a point of sale system. If you are in professional services, you’ll need an invoicing software, such as QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero, to choose from. Set aside some time on your first day to check them out. Often, you can do a free trial, so try before you commit and choose the one that is easiest for you to use. That way, if you have a great first week and bag a client, you’ll be well prepared to send an invoice when you complete that first project. Many entrepreneurs like to form a legal entity, such as an LLC, and set up a business bank account early on to separate their business finances from their personal finances; others wait until they’ve been in a business for a few months. If you’ve not sure of the best approach for you, taking a few minutes to schedule a call with a local business attorney or small business accountant can save you hours of research. 4. Remind yourself why you’re qualified. No matter what you sell, there are going to be some rejections. They can be hard to take, especially if you’ve never been on the front lines selling before. To keep your confidence high, start a small notebook or computer file where you jot down a list of the experiences and qualities that allow you to bring something special to your customers. For example, if you’re an accountant who’s just gone solo, your list might be: 15 years in public accounting Deep subject-matter expertise in sales tax Continuing education every year Did stand-up comedy in college—clients find it fun to work with me Trusted member of the community. Have been coaching basketball for years Truly care about helping people. Break out your list during tough moments. You’ll be surprised at how, by reminding yourself of what you bring to the table, you’ll be able to communicate that better to your customers—and get your business off to a strong start. 5. Reach out to a friend. Running a business can feel a little isolating if you’re used to working in a big organization. You’ll feel less isolated as you win clients and start working with them but in the meantime, friends can be your life-support, cheering you on when your energy is flagging. Send a quick note or text to a supportive friend to make plans for later in the week whether it’s for an early morning workout or a drink after work. It’s tempting to work all the time, but taking breaks from your laptop to recharge will make a real difference in your staying power. If you’re afraid your friends will question your decision to start a business and discourage you, check out Meetup.com and find a gathering of entrepreneurs to attend. Even if your buddies don’t understand why you’d leave your job behind, fellow attendees at any entrepreneurial gathering will—and you’re bound to come away pumped up and ready to take on your next day in business.