As an aspiring entrepreneur, you may have dreams of one-day building, growing, and running your own business. The idea of being your boss, making decisions that affect the success of your company, and nurturing your organisation to success is a dream. However, where do you begin? Enter, The Ultimate Business Startup Checklist.
There are countless blogs and articles on the internet that tell you what you need for a business once you begin. But how do you move from an idea to something physical, sellable, and marketable?
This blog aims to bridge that gap, taking would-be entrepreneurs from idea to creation, holding your hand along the way, and revealing secrets about entrepreneurship that you won’t find anywhere else.
Starting a business can be incredibly rewarding, but the demands are great, and the anxieties are real. Get it wrong and try to do it all yourself can result in long hours, burnout, and decisions you may ultimately regret.
However, in saying all of this, the most critical decision you can make is to just begin.
Get started right away.
If you’re waiting for the right time to launch, you’ll be waiting forever.
Launching a business is the best way to learn what you need to do.
Build a product and continuously test it.
Network with others to learn more about your industry and start sharing what you are doing.
Creating a business and talking about it makes it real, giving yourself a fresh stream of daily motivation.
Building a business is humbling, testing, and tough. It will test every ounce of your patience and motivation.
Before Starting a Business
Many people believe that starting a business is one of the best ways to achieve financial freedom. And while that may be true, make no exceptions to how hard making a business successful is.
It is the ultimate test of your resolve and patience. It can be hard to admit when things go wrong.
It is humbling, testing, and tough. It will test every ounce of your patience and motivation.
That’s why I recommend only starting a business while you already have a stable job. It’s good to have something that will fund your business and keep your personal cash flow positive while taking risks on a personal adventure.
It’s also worth asking yourself the following questions;
- Are you willing to take risks and work long hours for free in the pursuit of success?
- Are you willing to test your mental and physical strength in the face of adversity?
- Are you certain you have an idea that you think will make it?
- Does your product or service solve a genuine problem for others?
- Are you willing to give up stability for potential financial freedom?
If the answer to the above 5 questions is YES. Then you’re ready.
If you’re still here, then let’s get started.
We’ve put together the Ultimate Business Checklist.
10 points which you can follow today to get your business started.
Before bringing your product to market, you should complete the following 10 points. Doing so will help you start on the right foot, and you should take any advantage you can get when starting a business.
1. Do Your Market Research
Before starting any new small business, regardless of which industry you are in, it’s essential, to begin with your market research.
Market research is the process of identifying if there is an opportunity for your product or service and analysing the competition to find their weaknesses. When starting a new business, it’s essential to identify whether your business is, valuable, rare, non-substitutable, and not easily replicated.
Let’s say you want to build a platform that helps people share their photos while adding a filter.
Before we even begin, we know that, while that idea is valuable, it’s not rare. It is substitutable, and it’s very easily replicated and, therefore, will not work as a viable business.
On the other hand, let’s say you created a light bulb that never burned out and used half the energy of a traditional bulb. In contrast, this is extremely valuable, rare, non-substitutable, and not easily replicated.
- Do your research
- Analyse the competition
- Judge whether your product or service provides real value and cannot be easily substituted by something else
Developing good branding is so important. It’s what truly identifies your company to your customers.
2. Pick a Niche & Understand Your Target Customer
Choosing a niche is absolutely vital when starting any new small business. Depending on the type of business you’re looking to start, whether you’re looking to build software, offer online health coaching, or build a social media management company, you must target a particular niche to operate in.
Without a niche, it’s impossible to identify your target audience. If you don’t identify your target audience, you have no idea who you’re building a product or service for, nor will you develop your branding appropriately.
Identifying your niche is so key when you start a business that failing to do so will be your downfall early on. Decide what niche you want to operate in to focus on who exactly your ideal potential customers are.
Choosing a niche will not only provide you and your team with focus but will also show future investors that you’ve identified an opportunity or gap in the market that you expect to penetrate.
If you try and target everyone, you’ll end up building a business for no one.
3. Write Your Marketing Plan
Most blogs that cover how to start a business will tell you to write a business plan. I’m here to tell you; you don’t need one.
Business plans are old news.
Unless you’re planning on securing a business loan from the bank, save yourself the time and effort and write a marketing plan instead.
While some people will tell you that a business plan is a necessary document since it may help provide focus, there are some things that a business plan cannot help you plan for.
Unforeseen circumstances, the behavior of your customers, the market response to your product, etc.
If you develop a business plan, you end up shackling yourself to a document you made before you even started running your business.
In reality, you have no idea how the market will respond to your products or services until you launch and start running your business.
On the other hand, a marketing plan is a fine way to identify how you’re going to get your product or service into the hands of your target customers.
This is arguably more important because without customers buying what you’re offering, you won’t be making much money. This is another reason why a marketing plan trumps a business plan. Save the business plan for when you’re trying to raise cash, and figure out how you will market to customers first.
When developing your marketing plan, you need to consider;
- Who is your target market
- Your brand’s message (more on this below)
- What platforms you will use to deliver your message
- How will you capture your leads
- How will you nurture your leads
- How will you convert your leads
- How you intend to deliver a world-class service
- How will you increase your customer lifetime value (LTV)
- How you can build a referral engine
Answering these questions will put you in a much better position to start running your business than any business plan would.
Don’t deliberate whether to write a business plan or not. Save yourself the effort and plan your marketing instead. I bet you won’t find that advice on another business startup checklist.
4. Sort Your Branding Out
Developing good branding is so important. It’s what truly identifies your company to your customers. However, there is such a thing as diving too far into your brand.
Business psychologists will tell you certain colours or letters resonate with people more than others.
And, while that may be true, it’s no reason to get bogged down into the branding specifics.
Also, it’s very easy to spend hours deliberating over a logo and business name.
Want to come up with some chic and edgy? Wrong.
Logos don’t matter as long as you don’t have one that’s complicated or offensive.
Just keep it simple.
When it comes to your business name, again, simple is best.
The most effective names are the ones that explain your business. “Joe’s Blog Writing Services” is better than something edgy like “Maverick or MVRK” that requires customers to do more research into what it is you actually do.
One of the most important parts of your brand is your message, and this is often overlooked by people who start a small business.
Your message is your personality.
It’s what will be delivered in all your website copywriting, email newsletters, blogs, and ads.
The more you can keep your message consistent; potential customers are more likely to relate to your business and brand.
5. Get Funded
There are a couple of different funding options you can choose from here;
- Get a bank loan
- Find an investor
- Bootstrap your business
Let’s look at the pros and cons of all 3:
It used to be the number one way to bankroll your business and get started. If you’re looking to set up a physical business, a bank loan still provides an effective way of providing yourself with capital to start.
However, in doing so, you’re taking on a massive liability straight away.
Most banks may need you to put up collateral in return for issuing a loan, which means risking an asset such as your house to start a business.
May no mistake about it, you’re taking on debt, which means it has to be repaid, one way or another, and if your business doesn’t make any money, or fails, then you could be staring down the barrel of a bad situation.
Raising money for your business or going through seed rounds for startups is becoming more popular.
In contrast to acquiring a bank loan, the investment you secure for your business does not have to be repaid (although investors will only give you money if they think there is a good chance they will get a return on their investment).
From a financial point of view, businesses that secure funding acquires an asset in cash while also bringing in a strong team member, one that usually has knowledge and experience in that field.
However, the downside is that you’ll need to give away equity or a percentage of your business to your new investor.
How much you give away is down to you and your negotiating skills. It will also depend on what your business is valued at.
Bootstrapping your business refers to funding it yourself or through loans from friends and family.
The advantage for a startup here is that you retain 100% ownership of the company; however, your capital is limited to how much money you’re willing to risk.
This may also limit how quickly you can scale the business.
Most bootstrapped businesses will re-invest 100% of the profits back into the business to hire employees or team members, delaying the founder from taking a wage.
6. Pick a Location
While the location is important, it really depends on whether you want to develop a physical or online/remote business.
If you’re starting a physical business, the location could be determined by; foot traffic, local tax structure, federal licenses, permits, local legal structure, and more.
However, if you’re building an online business, you need somewhere with a stable wifi connection.
Picking a location is also important when registering your business and setting up a business bank account.
While this startup checklist is not intended to offer any legal advice, make sure you research into licenses and permits you may need to secure when you register your business.
If you’re setting up an online company and you’re in doubt about what location to register your business in, make sure you seek out a lawyer to consult with to avoid any unnecessary liability.
7. Outsource The Technical Parts
Any new business is only as good as the team that makes it up. One of the most important parts of building a successful business is finding the right employees or outsourcing tasks and hiring freelancers or other businesses.
If your goal is to build a small business that operates in tech, outsourcing your software development, MVP development, or marketing can help you focus on other important tasks where your skills lie.
This could be, securing funding, building the brand, managing the office (if you have one), analysing data, collecting resources, set up an accounting system, or organise the business structure.
Time is a valuable resource, so make sure you are managing your time effectively.
Outsourcing technical areas of your business to a professional can save you hundreds of hours.
8. Register The Business
Once you have your business name, business structure, brand, and location, you can now register your business in your country of operation.
Depending on what country you register your business in will determine how lengthy or difficult the process is.
Given that the legal structure for registering a business is country-specific, we won’t comment too much on it here.
9. Set Up Your Business Bank Account
For accounting, liability & tax purposes, it’s important to set up your business bank account to track sales and pay for expenses.
Accounting for businesses can be a daunting prospect for many new businesses. However, make sure you track everything your business spends and makes on a spreadsheet. Alternatively, you can use accounting software to monitor your business accounts which makes it easier when you need to pay your tax.
For any startup or new company, cash is king. Monitor your cash flow and watch your bank account like a hawk.
Poor cash flow management kills more businesses than anything else.
Finally, start running your business.
There is never a perfect time to start.
Inaction is a bigger killer than anything else.
Stop trying to decide when to start.
If you’ve followed this checklist and completed all the tasks above, then you’re ready to begin. You’ll figure out the rest along the way.
That’s it. There is your 10 point business startup checklist. It doesn’t get more simple than that.
Creating a company is a learning process. Don’t take anything too personal; it’s all business at the end of the day.
While the hours can be long and rewards limited, persistence can help even the most free-falling businesses prevail.
The road to creating a successful startup can be a long and arduous one, but by following this checklist, you’ll be starting on the front foot and giving yourself an advantage right away.