The last 18 months can understandably make it seem like now is a terrible time to start a business. But for some entrepreneurs, the steps for starting a business are still the same — it’s just the rules that have changed. Two small-business pros explain how COVID-19 has rewritten four basic tenets of starting a business and what the path to success looks like for new entrepreneurs in 2021.

What’s the same: You still have to write a business plan, says Frank LaMonaca, a small-business mentor with SCORE in Westerly, Rhode Island. A business plan typically includes such things as how much your product or service will cost, how you’ll market it and how much you’ll need to make to break even. “I think the basic business plan is … tried and true, and that certainly doesn’t change in COVID,” he says. “A lot of people don’t even ask that question when they go to start a business, which is, ‘How much money do I need every month to live on?’” LaMonaca says.

What’s different now: Your online strategy has to be front and center. Are you prepared to connect with customers through video chat? How interactive is your website? Do you know how to market yourself on social media? The past 18 months have proved how important these questions are for startups today, according to LaMonaca. 

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