Starting your own business may sound like an undertaking of epic proportions. The truth is, it’s not.
Yes, you’re going to have to work hard, and commit to working on it at all hours of the day, but actually getting set up is simply down to making sure you’ve “checked all the boxes,” which is exactly what this business startup checklist aims to help you do.
I’ve broken the tasks down into manageable categories and included links that will help you complete each stage of getting started.
If you’d like to put yourself through a fast-paced version of the starting a business checklist, be sure to check out our article on Getting a Business Started in 30 Days.
‘We are a Start Up’ is perhaps the most inspirational status to have in the society. Never ever has the world ever looked upon a person who has courage for innovation more than what this generation is seeing today.
Today StartUps are a phenomenon! The idea of startup has attracted youth across the globe in the last one decade and has resulted in an avalanche of new ideas. Startups or Entrepreneurship is perhaps an excellent means for self-employment which has not just widened the envelope of the professional ecosystem but has also given widely established companies means to smartly collaborate with young and vibrant startups so as to intelligently control cost and management.
Now the big question is how to start a start up. Are there any dos and don’ts or is there any manual description for a success story. The answer is there aren’t any hard and fast rules truly but yes, there are a few pointers to ensure the right things are done before you begin an auspicious journey.
As the word of caution goes, the idea of Startups can sometimes be a mirage, and one can easily be entrapped in the big idea. Smartness lies in differentiating the mirage and reality. And so here goes the list of 5 check-ins before you start a startup
1. Find a good business idea
A good business idea isn’t just one that turns a profit. It’s one that’s a good fit for you personally, for your target market, and for your location. You’re going to be in business for the long haul, so you really should pick something you can live and breathe.
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself
- Come up with a business idea that caters to your strengths
- How to start inventing things (or how to find something to invent)
- Define what success looks like for you
- Do your research: What are popular businesses today?
2. Test your business idea and do market research*
The adage goes, “ideas are a dime a dozen”—but what about good ideas? How do you really know you’ve hit upon something that’s going to work on all levels?
We use the lean planning methodology to figure this out. Of course, you may also want to start by getting out and talking to real people—do they really want a fancy Basque restaurant in their neighborhood or is another donut shop going to be more to their taste?
- Define the “problem” your business is solving
- Summarize the “solution” your business offers
- How urgently do people need what you are selling?
- Will your business continue to be relevant as time passes? How will you adapt?
- Define your target market
- Define your ideal customer
- What’s your market size?
- How easy is it to acquire a customer, and how much will it cost?
- Figure out the best place to set up shop
- What advantages does your solution have over your competitors?
- How much money and effort will it cost to deliver value?
- Do you know your industry?
- Outline the team that will help you execute your idea
- What key responsibilities will each team member have?
- Will team members share ownership of the business?
- Create a basic financial plan
- What up-front investment will you need before you can begin?
- Estimate your basic expenses and forecast sales to ensure that you can make a profit with your business
- Map out business milestones or goals and when you plan to achieve them
- How long will it take to get to market?
- Validate your idea
- Interview potential customers to ensure that they have the problem you are trying to solve
- Interview potential customers to validate that your solution is something your customers will pay for
- Determine if your initial price points will work for your customers
* While we advise students and new entrepreneurs to do market research before they start, we’d like to clarify that you should not let “doing market research” hold you up if you already know your market. The reality is, the vast majority of real startups are driven by people who know their market from experience and who are ready to bet the farm on it! Market research does not have to be a part of the business planning process. According to Tim Berry, “If you know your market, move on!”
3. If you’re seeking funding, you may need a formal business plan
While you don’t need a 40-page business plan in order to get your business up and running, if you’re seeking funding, institutions like banks may ask for one.
In this case, you can ask if a “one-page pitch” (also known as a one-page business plan) will suffice, or if they’d like a traditional business plan with a detailed financial section (this is the part they pay most attention to).
Complete each of the plan’s sections, as listed below:
- Write your executive summary
- Write the company overview
- List your products and services and the problems they are solving or needs they are fulfilling
- Flesh out your target market details
- Create a marketing and sales plan
- Outline key milestones and metrics
- List your management team
- Create a financial plan
- Include an appendix
- Create an elevator pitch
If you need a jump start on your plan, you can download our free business plan template or check out our library of business plan examples.
4. Brand your business
A strong brand is the key to customer loyalty and higher sales. If you think it’s just for big business, think again; a brand is critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
This is where all the hard work pays off. Now you know a bit more about your target audience, you’ve got the opportunity—through your brand—to grab their attention. And of course, to have fun doing it!
- Choose a name for your business or choose a brand name you know you can trademark
- Decide on your “brand message,” also known as your unique selling proposition or value proposition
- Develop a tagline
- Identify your brand’s “tone of voice”—the heart and soul of all your written communication, your voice is what you say and how you say it
- Define what your brand looks like
- Choose a color scheme
- Choose your fonts
- Create a logo
5. Make it legal
Before you can open shop and comfortably start doing business, you’ve got to make sure you’ve checked all the necessary boxes. Have you registered your business name? Applied for local and state licenses? Obtained an Employer Identification Number? You are going to have to do some things “by the book.”
- Decide on a legal structure or business structure
- Register your business name
- Register for a domain name that matches your business name
- File for trademark protection if you will use your business name to identify a product or service
- Obtain any Central and state licenses or permits that you need
- Find your Startup Consultant if you think you may need help
6. What’s the Vision for start up:
Most Startups begin with an idea and without a vision. It’s true. If one thought a vision statement of ‘being a world class company or a leading institution’ is a vision statement, then one has terribly got it wrong. Vision Statement is undoubtedly the larger picture but it is beyond.
It’s about having variable milestones. It has to be broken down into parts, like the 2-year vision. 5-year vision, 7-year vision, and the 10-year vision. And it’s important to write down the realistic number attached to each and one of those milestones. But remember to be realistic about the number which means one has to do sufficient background work in understanding if the business is scalable to that level or not. This can give you a reality check.
7. Who’s the Mentor:
Mentoring is one of the most important aspects which usually is undermined. The great author Napolean Hill speaks about the importance of Master Mind group, who are a group of individuals who can help you with your VISION statement. So get together a Master Mind Group, it can be someone with a technical expertise, someone from a Management experience, someone from an accounts background. Even if you have to pay them hourly for their consultancy, do it. Identify them and build a rapport and seek help.
8. What’s your Business Contributing to:
Now it’s essential to understand not just who will need your product or services but whose lives you change or influence or make a difference? We live in a very interdependent world; it doesn’t matter who you may be. So one needs to get together what VALUE one is adding with their products or services. The VALUE added can be at a business-level, emotional-level, basic-level or even luxury-level. Understanding of what use your product will be is of utmost importance.
9. What’s the Resource:
The resource is perhaps the last thing a startup looks at as most times a start up is on the hunt for prospective clients or opportunities which give them money or materialistic ends. A great opportunity without the right resource is like water surrounded on four sides without a drop to drink. There can be two kinds of resource – PEOPLE and TECHNOLOGY.
One has to ask oneself of who are the PEOPLE who are going to drive your business further and what’s the expertise level required.
Tip: Remember a committed and open-minded average skilled professional is any day a better asset than a lazy and arrogant talented professional.
Technology is solely dependent on the capital available and the investment.
Tip: Spend on the essentials and not on flamboyance.
10. What’s the Business Model:
Finally after evaluation of your vision statement, advice from mentors and what your business is contributing to, one arrives at the Business Model. Yes! Before you start, you need to put on paper what your Business Model is. In fact, you can even be somebody with a fantastic business acumen, you still need to put on paper what your business flow is.
Divide your Business Model into touch points.
For example, a digital marketing company can have 6 touch points. Approach a client -> Get the Job -> Advance Collection -> Execute the Job -> Final Delivery -> Final Payment. And so one can write down n-number of touch points based on the nature of one’s business.
The aforementioned article is written to give you a sense of direction as it has been written with years of experience and experimentation. Neither the article nor the author enforces any of these views on you. It is most certainly to contribute to your success and prosperity.
Hearty Good Luck with your Start Up
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