1. Identify your tribe. Determine who your potential customers are. Decide what they need and want. Assess what you can do for them that is different than what currently exists in the marketplace. Identify the key attributes of your target market - age, sex, income level, habits, and so on. Detail how you can reach your target audience.
2. Document your dream. Create a strategic business plan for achieving your dream. Set forth your vision for the future. Identify your purpose. Detail the core values that provide the fundamental principles that drive all of your business decisions. Establish a timeline for accomplishing your goals and objectives.
3. Put numbers to your dream. Identify your financial assumptions for start-up capital. Establish operating assumptions for revenue and expenses. Develop a 5-year financial pro forma. Be realistic with your projections. Don’t let your passion override a business-like approach to determine the numbers.
4. Get on the radar. Establish a legal entity. Seek advice from both an attorney and a certified public accountant (CPA). Choose the right legal structure (sole proprietorship, S-corp, C-corp, limited liability company, or partnership). File for legal status in your state. Obtain a federal tax identification number.
5. Take the plunge. Determine where your business will be located (rent, lease, or purchase). Create the business accounts that will be required. Purchase the insurance that you need. Comply with all pertinent local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
6. Seek the goose that can lay the golden egg. Determine the source of your initial start-up capital (self-financed, friends and family, investors, bank debt, and small business administration). Seek out investors, and be sure to identify the price you’ll have to pay. Be prepared to give up a lot - but not too much. If necessary, pursue bank financing. Consider a cosigner. Keep in mind that, as a rule, starting smaller is a better option than trying to do too much too soon.
7. Get the right people on your team. Identify the type of talent who can help you achieve your plan (dream), including an attorney, CPA, consultants, staff, and so on. Hire the talent essential to your dream. Determine your role in the business. Develop job descriptions for every member of your staff. Avoid the temptation to save money by hiring mostly young staff; instead, try to move toward an older, more mature, and more productive staff.
8. Start the buzz. Register a domain name. Develop a Web site. Actively seek the advice and assistance of colleagues and business associations who could provide helpful input. Leverage existing relationships to spread the "word" through education and service. In that regard, keep in mind that the more you do, the more you’ll benefit. Develop targeted marketing efforts. Accept the indisputable fact that marketing is a natural and essential part of being an entrepreneur.
9. Pinch the buffalo and fly with the eagle. When first starting your business, think and act like a scrooge. Take what you need out of your business to survive - not what you need to thrive. Constantly prepare for the possibility of a drought. Remember that the best time to fix a roof is when the sun is shining.
10. Commit to success. All factors considered, success is a choice and not a matter of chance. Honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Build on your strengths, and create support for your weaknesses. Don’t let initial success pull you away from your plan. Know when to say "no." As such, success doesn’t occur by accident - it requires hard work and preparation.
James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.
Copyright 2010 by the American College of Sports Medicine.