It’s exciting to start a business. However, you have to face the challenges that come with it. The best way to do this is to set your priorities straight right from the beginning. Here’s a 30-point checklist that can help you start your business. It is divided into two priorities – high and low.
High Priority – Now
These are your first priorities when starting a business. You have to do this before and during the first days or months of your business.
- Run a feasibility study.
This may sound complicated when it’s not, actually. You just have to create a set of questions that would determine the capability and practicality of the business that you want to start. Only you can answer them anyway.
For example, what’s the best product or service to offer to customers? What are the needs of my future customers? How will my business be able to help my future customers fulfill their needs? Aim for brutal honesty when answering your questions. Will your customers buy it? Would you even buy it? How many products should I sell to cover my operational expenses? Will I even make a profit?
- Know how to finance your business.
One of the main reasons why most individuals delay starting up a business is the lack of financing. You can’t start with anything without the right financing. As early as possible, you have to figure out how you will get the money to finance your startup. Otherwise, you’ll end up using your living expenses, which will not be enough in the long run. How else will you get the money to feed yourself and your family? Before you start your business, investigate your options.
- Name your business.
Nothing makes a business more viable than a business name. However, you have to consider a name that’ll work long-term. You may determine the feasibility of your startup and know how to finance it, but without a name that’ll stick to your customer’s heads, your business can fail quickly.
You can use tools such corporate name search and Google search. You can also check government listings for names that are already used. Aim for a unique, trendy name.
- Develop a business plan.
Now it’s time to create your business plan. It should be made in two levels – startup and current. Your startup business plan will include most of what’s mentioned in this article, while your current business plan will include financial projections that can help you operate your business better.
- Create business cards.
Now that you have a business plan, name, and financing, you will soon start creating a network. Having your own business card adds credibility to your business whenever you’re presenting yourself to potential clients, suppliers, and others.
- Ask your family to help.
Starting a business has many challenges. Having the support of your family and close friends is one of the best ways to get motivated. If you’re lucky, they might contribute some of their talent to help move your business forward.
- Ask your co-founders to help, too.
You can’t do everything by yourself. If you have other individuals that helped you start a business, and they want to be part of it as a co-founder, they have to chip in with the workload. To make it easier to delegate responsibilities, put everything in paper. You can add this in your business plan.
- Consider your incorporation status.
While you’re figuring out your financing, you can also figure out the legal structure of your startup. This helps protect your personal assets. The best way to do this is by considering the incorporation status of your business. Discuss this with your accountant or lawyer and the other options involved (sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation).
- Get an EIN.
An EIN is an Employer Identification Number. Like an incorporation status, it helps protect your personal identification (social security number). If you will open a business bank account or incorporate your business, you can give your EIN instead of your social security number. Having an EIN can also protect your personal information from identity theft and phishing (online identity theft).
- Get a business license and permit.
The Small Business Administration can help you get a license for your business. You can go to their website for more help.
- Open a business bank account.
It’s best to separate your personal and business finances. At the same time, you should have separate business bank accounts for your expenses and profits.
- Set up an accounting system.
After opening a business bank account, you should be setting up an accounting program that will take care of your bookkeeping. Your business can fail without a proper accounting program.
- Get an office or retail space.
Depending on the business you started, you should by now rent an office or retail space. However, this is only applicable if you’re starting a retail or brick-and-mortar business. You have to consider accessibility and foot traffic.
On the other hand, don’t rent office space if you’re not starting a retail business. Avoid spending lease payments when you’re just starting.
- Start a website.
Start a website to represent your business. Together with a business card, it makes your business even more credible, not to mention easily accessible whether it’s a retail business or not. Providing company information notches up your reliability a bit higher if you have a website.
- Get a domain name.
Your website should be registered with a domain name that is the same as the name of your business. Don’t settle for anything less. Getting a generic domain name will make your business look like it’s not real or that you’re not planning on staying long. Choose a domain name that comes with a free email address. Your business card will look even better with a domain name and email address under your business name.
- Create social media profiles.
To market your business, the best way to start is by having profiles in major social networking websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (the last one is the best way to widen your business network online). Create profiles that have the same name as your business as well.
- Generate revenue.
As soon as you have all these set up, start generating revenue. Sell as soon as possible. Don’t wait any longer. Don’t forget to have your lawyer create contract forms for your customers if necessary.
- Improve your product, and sales and marketing approach.
While generating your first revenue, you’ll come to learn more about the marketplace you’re in. Use this to your advantage by improving your product, and sales and marketing approach with the information that you gather.
- Register for patents and trademarks.
Depending on the nature of your business, consult your attorney about the need for patents and trademarks.
- Create a network of service providers, manufacturers, and suppliers.
For retail businesses, find a good source of inventory such as suppliers and manufacturers. For everything else, find a good service provider that can help make tasks easier for your business and service delivery for your customers.
- Get a business insurance.
You should be getting insurance coverage for the products you’re selling, and your employees if necessary. Health insurance, worker’s compensation, and liability are only a few of what you should be discussing with your insurance agent.
- Hire sales people.
You may be your own sales team at first. However, to expand your business, you should hire a person, or if possible, a team that will focus on sales only.
- Expand your network.
Aside from your family and friends, you can now expand your network to a wider audience. Keep in mind that you’re not expanding your network just to make sales, but to increase brand awareness for your products or services.
- Improve your pitch.
While you’re doing all of the items in this checklist, you should work on your business pitch. It’ll be your weapon to expand your network, get more investors, persuade more customers, and even hire new people. You should convince them to “invest” in your business.
- Protect sensitive data.
Secure your IT assets. This is important for all types of business and not just for tech companies. Your business data and customer information, especially credit card details, should be protected at all cost.
- Maximize device usage.
Take advantage of the current communication technologies that we have today. As an entrepreneur, you should be easily reached by business partners and customers. Get the best smart phone or tablet. Use the right apps to help make your tasks easier, too.
- Get free advice.
The Small Business Administration website can help you with your startup business. They give free advice, which you can also get by visiting one of their local offices. There are also many small business resources websites that you can access for free business advice.
- Hire a mentor.
If free advice is not enough for you, you can hire a business mentor that can help you with every step of the way. Make sure to consult with a mentor that is already successful in the industry that you’re both in.
- Hire an employee.
As mentioned earlier, you can’t do everything by yourself. Admit it if you need help with the workload. If you already have a sales team, that’s great. However, they should focus on sales to grow your business. Hire an employee that can do other tasks from administrative to IT. You can hire freelancers or interns, too.
- Avoid business partnerships.
Business partnerships are not good for startups. You should be focusing on getting customers and making sales at the moment.
Low Priority – Later
After making sure that you’ve done everything from the first part of this checklist, you can now move on to this part.
You can also add more to this list that you think should be considered when starting up a business. However, making sure that you prioritize the ones on this checklist can help you jumpstart your business.