Business Startup Checklist

To start your own business you’re going to have to work hard, commit to working on it at all hours of the day, and making sure that you’ve ‘checked all the boxes’. Here are 8 steps to starting up your very own business:

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 your location. You’re going to be in business for the long haul, so you really should pick something you love. You can do this by:

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses by doing 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 and ask yourself: What are popular businesses today?

2. Test your business idea and do market research

How do you really know you’ve hit upon something that’s going to work on all levels? You may want to get out and talk to real people about your business idea and see what they think. It’s a great idea to do market research by:

  • Define the ‘problem’ your business is solving

  • Summarise the ‘solution’ your business offers

  • How urgently do people need what you’re 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’re trying to solve

  • Interview potential customers to validate that your solution is something they’ll pay for

  • Determine if your initial price points will work for your customers

3. If you’re seeking funding, you may need a formal business plan

While you don’t need a business plan to get your business up and running, you will need one if you’re seeking funding for institutions such as banks. You can ask them if a ‘one-page pitch’ will be enough, or if they’ll need a traditional business plan with a detailed financial section. If it’s the latter, then you’ll need to include this in your business plan:

  • Executive summary

  • Company overview

  • List of products and services (and the problems they’re solving or needs they’re fulfilling)

  • Target market details

  • Marketing and sales plan

  • Key milestones and metrics

  • Management team

  • Financial plan

  • Appendix

  • Elevator pitch

4. Brand your business

A strong brand is the key to customer loyalty and higher sales. Through your brand, you’ve got the opportunity to grab your customers’ attention. You’ll need to:

  • Choose a name for your business or choose a brand name you can trademark

  • Decide on your ‘brand message’ (also known as unique selling or value proposition)

  • Develop a tagline

  • Identify your brand’s ‘tone of voice’

  • Define what your brand looks like (colour scheme and fonts)

  • Create a logo

5. Make it legal

Before you start running your business, you need to make sure that you have done these things:

  • 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’ll use your business name to identify a product or service

  • Obtain any licenses or permits that you’ll need

  • Find a lawyer if you think you’ll need help

6. Get financed (only if you need it)

While not every startup needs outside funding, most businesses do require some help at least at the beginning. If you’ve worked through your business plan and have a sound handle on your financials, pitching for funding should be easy. You’ll need to:

  • Estimate your startup costs

  • Decide whether you’ll use personal finances, loans, investor money, money from friends and family, or crowd-sourced finances

  • Prepare the relevant financial statements including sales forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet

  • Refine your elevator pitch for investors

  • Apply for financing

  • Open a business bank account

  • Set up an accounting system

  • Know your exit strategy

7. Set up shop

Once you’ve found your business location, or set up an office, and set the hiring motions in process, you’ll be ready to begin marketing. You’ll need to:

  • Find a business location

  • Decide whether or not to extend credit to your customers (if need be, establish a credit policy)

  • Purchase insurance (this will vary depending on your business)

  • Workers’ compensation insurance

  • General liability insurance

  • Property or casualty coverage

  • Life, disability, and healthcare insurance

  • Define your staffing needs

  • Do you need full-time, part-time, or freelance employees?

  • Draft job descriptions

  • Post advertisements for these jobs

  • Interview employees

  • Hire employees

  • Set up technology

  • Point of sale (POS) systems

  • CRM

  • Billing and payment systems

  • Accounting

  • Email

  • Phone systems

8. Market and launch your business

This is your opportunity to get things going and get people talking. If you give yourself enough time, the media may ask to run a story about you. You’ll also be able to spread the word yourself, as well as ask others to get the word out for you. You need to:

  • Create a marketing plan

  • Market your business

  • Network, network, network

  • Create your marketing materials

  • Shop signs

  • Stationery, invoices, and PowerPoints

  • Brochures and flyers

  • Get set up on social media platforms

  • If necessary, create branded t-shirts or uniforms

  • Let the press know when you’re opening

  • Organise an opening day

  • Create a website (part of marketing your business)

  • Register a domain name

  • Purchase hosting

  • Build your site

  • Get your site listed on key directories

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