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The Time Factor of Starting a Business

written by: W. A. Swan•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/1/2010

People often go into business not completely understanding the time required to properly start the business. How much time does it really take?

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    Part of the time needed to start a business involves a range of issues and items. Most of the time before opening day will be taken up by planning, traveling and dealing with multiple issues. Start the time clock at least 12 months ahead of opening day to ensure everything is taken care of in time.

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    The Planning

    Planning the business should start at least a year in advance of when you want to actually have the first customer. The time in proper planning must be included in the time needed to start a business. Planning will not be a one-time item but will be part of required time to start a business up to the actual opening day. Plans can, and often will, be altered as you go along during this 12-month period.

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    Permits and Licenses

    In the time needed to start a business, the longest amount of time will be in applying for and obtaining permits and licenses. These include applications for the business name, Employee Identification Number (EIN) which will be needed by the IRS, local and state tax numbers, operating permits, building or remodeling permits and any special licensure needed for your specific business. The actual filing of the paperwork will take little time, but the approval can take weeks and one filing is often required to obtain another (ex. State tax authority is required before applying for an EIN). Business licenses and tax numbers are often required to open bank accounts or any other accounts.

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    Business Plan

    After you start the process of applying for permits, writing the business plan is another time critical element. The time needed to start a business plan depends on how complex your business model is. This is when the research officially begins. Depending on the market, income expectations, type of business, experience and qualifications of the owner(s) the business plan can take a few days or a few weeks to complete.

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    This brings up the next section – finances. Starting the loan process, should you need it, must be done well in advance to obtain any needed funds. This is especially true for the Small Business Administration or any grants and other loans you may be applying for. The time it takes to secure financing may depend on the requirements of different bank or government offices. Be prepared for this process to take weeks.

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    Leases and Equipment

    Once you have obtained financing, permits, licenses and other approvals required to open then you could take time to look into equipment and leases. This is not when you start buying and renting though; this is when you take the time to shop around for the best prices, locations and options available to make your business a success at minimal cost. Again, the research and the planning are important here and can take up to a month to gather the information.

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    Accountants and Lawyers

    Now that you have all of the numbers, it is time to seek out professional advice from accountants and lawyers. The necessary meetings with these professionals are required. Time to start a business properly includes having these professionals look over your business in detail to ensure you don’t accidentally fail to follow governmental guidelines that would hamper your success. Depending on their schedules, this may only need a few days.

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    Delivery and Marketing

    Finally you get to where you can take delivery of initial stock or equipment. While you are waiting for your stock or equipment to arrive, start the marketing plan. This should be started about three months ahead of the opening day of business. Marketing involves getting the word out that your business is coming and how it will improve potential customer’s lives. Marketing takes time and includes handing out business cards, flyers, ads, planning placement and the look of the ads.

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    Finalizing the Operation

    When you reach the final 30 days before opening up for customer’s time will appear to speed up. In the final days before opening you will need to make sure all preparations are completed. For retail locations this includes build-outs and inventory placement is complete. Insurance must be in place and in force by opening day. Contingency plans must be in place to ensure successful operation after day one. Employee training takes place during this time as well.

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    First 30 Days

    The required time to start a business isn’t over once you get the first customer. There are always kinks and issues that cannot be seen until you are actually in operation and open for business. Once these issues are recognized, they must be rectified early on. Things will go missing and mishaps will occur. Testing your procedures and processes takes place during this time.