So you want to start a business – congratulations! Once you get over the initial excitement, it’s time to break down the process of launching your startup into manageable chunks.
Do the following tasks either before launch or during the early days of your startup.
1. Determine viability
Your startup needs to be something you can make a profit doing or delivering. You may think your business idea is a great one, but do other people think the same? Are you even going to have customers? “Once you think you have an idea for a product, you should test out the idea on potential customers through surveys, one-on-one interviews, mock-up demonstrations and so on to validate your hypothesis.” In addition, you’ll need to research your industry. Find out what some of the major trends are. Determine who your competitors might be and how you can differentiate yourself from them. Ask yourself: would you buy it? Run the numbers: will customers pay enough so that you can cover costs and make a profit?
2. Create a business plan
It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t need a business plan, but creating a business plan with financial projections forces you to think through details. Keep your plan a living breathing thing that you revisit and adapt regularly. Aspiring entrepreneurs sometimes get hung up on writing a business plan as part of their startup business checklist. Why? They worry it will lock them into something that can’t be changed. But if you’re looking for a loan to get your business started, having a business plan shows you’ve thought through some of the issues you might face. In addition, include an end goal and an exit strategy. This could include selling, bringing on investors, going public, finding more partners or other options, he says. Feel free to change it as time goes on.
3. Set a budget
Your startup business checklist would be wholly incomplete without a budget. You’ll need to know (or at least have educated ideas) about how much each unit will cost, what production will cost to get started, how much it costs to acquire a customer, what your break-even point is. It is no fun to find out later that you have been selling something for a loss because you did not understand the economics of your business.
Most startups take a lot more time to get off the ground than you expect. Know where your living expenses for the first year will come from (savings, a job, spouse’s income, etc.). If you need financing for the business start investigating as soon as possible.
4. Choose a business name & file your papers
You want a name that will stick in your target audience’s heads. And it shouldn’t already be taken by another company. Do Google searches and use a corporate name search tool to see if the name you have in mind is unique. Make it official by incorporating or forming an LLC, register it as a brand online and legally before someone else do it. Plus no matter how small your team is, as soon as any income is made, personal assets are at risk if a business owner does not incorporate to start forming that corporate shield.
5. Get your business online
Rare is the business that can get by without a website these days, so register a domain as quickly as you can. Get your website up and running as soon as possible. Today, it’s necessary for credibility. Even if your product is not yet built, you can start with company information. Make sure it’s available before you start using it in documents. Although it may seem premature, building a website is a great next step. The process of designing the site and creating the content will really help you think through how you want to present your ideas to the outside world. It’s a great exercise.
6. Register social media profiles
Getting set up on the major social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, to start) will make marketing on them later easier. Also, it’s important to reserve your brand as a profile name. Don’t forget – people are looking for your product everywhere and would buy more if they see you are representing a stable company investing in its brand. Also depending on the product/service you offer, social media can increase your popularity and bring you many new and loyal customers.
7. Start your revenue stream
Start generating revenue as soon as possible. At the early stages of a startup there is never enough money – resist the temptation to wait until things are “perfect.”
At some point, it’s likely that you’ll run into a business issue that you don’t have the answer for – for example how to increase your website traffic and bring more customers. That’s when it may be time to bring on a partner. Identify your strengths and your weakness and find a partner who is just as passionate about what you want to do and is the yin to your yang.
8. Upgrade your smartphone and choose apps
As an entrepreneur you are going to be on the go – a lot. I can’t emphasize enough how useful a good phone with good business apps can be, in running your startup. Get a credit card swipe device to accept payments, too. Depends on your business it is even more important to make your website optimized for mobile devices and to rank on the first page for Android and iOS (the ranking in Google is different for desktop and mobile devices).
9. Line up suppliers and service providers
Finding a good source of inventory is crucial, especially in certain types of businesses (retail, manufacturing). Beyond inventory, line up good reliable suppliers and service providers so you don’t have to sweat the details.
10. File for trademarks and patents
The best thing to do is consult an attorney early about the need for patents, especially. Get the advice early. Then you may be able to defer filing for a while, depending on the nature of your business.
11. Work your network and & Refine your product
As you go along you will learn more about the marketplace. Use customer feedback to refine your product and service offerings, and your go-to-market approach. Do the most important steps in marketing and sales approach or find a consultant to help you define them better.