Many of us have aspirations to own our own business – to be our own boss. Every year hundreds of thousands of small businesses get started by people just like you and me; people who have an idea for a product or service and follow through on it.
You may have an idea for a business but think because you don’t have the money that your dream of starting your own business will never be a reality.
However, there are a number of things you can do right now to help you get started on the path toward building your dream business. There are many steps you can take to develop startup ideas and flesh them out. And those initial steps do not take any money at all — just time and effort on your part.
1. Start a journal.
You probably have two valuable tools sitting on your desk right now: paper and pencils. Many of the greatest business people and inventors of our time kept notebooks full of ideas, thoughts and sketches. If you are still investigating what type of business you might be interested in keeping a journal is a great way to come up with great ideas. You might be shopping at the local grocery store and have that “Aha!” moment for a product or service that would take the marketplace by storm.
2. Every good business needs a business plan.
In fact, when you are looking for financing from the Small Business Administration, or even local financing, many lenders want to see a business plan first. There is a wealth of information available online  and at your local library to help you put together your business plan.
In fact, putting together a business plan is one of the first things you should do before investing a dollar of your money into a business. It involves a lot of research and number crunching but is well worth it. It not only allows potential lenders to see how you plan to run the business, but it may also give you a reality check. When you see the numbers and figures on paper it lets you see firsthand if your business has a good chance of surviving, because the reality is that sometimes we have great ideas but the marketplace just isn’t ready for them yet. A good example of this is the personal computer — the idea had been around for well over a decade before IBM and Apple found a suitable marketplace for it.
3. Do you know your competition?
This is another area you can focus on right now without money. Learn about your potential competitors, what they offer and how they differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Learn from them to not only make your business better but to also find out if there is additional room in the marketplace for your business.
While you may have a great idea for the next gadget you may very well find out that the marketplace is already saturated with similar products from other competitors. You could potentially save yourself a large amount of money avoiding a failed venture by knowing your marketplace.
4. Cut through red tape and delays.
Does your business idea involve a physical product? If so, are you up to speed on all the regulations and requirements to bring that product to market ? Use this time to find out about not only federal but local regulations that might affect your product roll out. Food products, for instance, are heavily regulated by various agencies because of their potential to harm others if not properly manufactured, distributed and sold.
You can find out a lot of this information from the Small Business Administration and your state government. Ask your local librarian as well, as they may be able to point you to local rules and regulations that will also affect your product.
5. Build the infrastructure.
If you are new to the world of running your own business you can also use this time to find out more about how to keep bookkeeping records, comply with federal and state tax codes and get the proper licenses. You might find that local Chamber of Commerce groups have free, introductory classes on running a business you could take to learn about the behind the scenes work required to run your own business.
Even though funds might be tight, or even non-existent, there are a number of things you can do now to get your business off on the right track. Use this time wisely to investigate the proper way to run a business as well as to investigate how the marketplace for your particular business is currently looking, not only today but in the near future. By putting a little research into your business now, before you take the plunge, you may come out miles ahead when you finally open up shop!
* * * * *
About the Author: Husband, Father, Friend, Lifestyle Coach, Author, Educator, and Entrepreneur, David B. Bohl is the creator of Slow Down FAST. For more info go to Slow Down Fast  and visit his blog at Slow Down Fast blog.