Are you thinking about starting your own business? If so, you’ll want to ensure everything is in order before you launch. This article unveils the ultimate business startup checklist tailored specifically for budding enterprises. Our comprehensive guide walks you through every essential step to set your business in motion, putting you firmly on the path to entrepreneurship. Let’s read on to find out more.
Why Should You Use a Small Business Startup Checklist?
As a small business owner, you may be tempted to skip the preparation steps and rush into launching your business. But that can create unnecessary risks and complications down the line. Here are five reasons you should use a business checklist when starting a new business:
- It will help you stay organized. You’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary documents and tasks lined up and in order before you launch. This will help you stay focused and on track with the launch process.
- Identify potential problems early. A business checklist gives you the opportunity to double-check and ensure that everything is in order before you launch. This will help you avoid costly mistakes or problems that could set your business back.
- Save time and money. By having a checklist to follow, you can make sure that all the necessary tasks are done properly and efficiently. This will save you time and money in the long run.
- Facilitates Better Decision-Making: A well-structured business checklist can serve as a decision-making tool, guiding you through key choices and alternatives. It helps you weigh options systematically, ensuring that decisions are made based on thorough consideration and not overlooked or rushed.
- Enhances Team Coordination: If you’re working with a team, a checklist ensures everyone is on the same page. It can clarify roles and responsibilities, coordinate tasks, and help maintain a unified approach, preventing confusion and overlapping efforts.
- Supports Effective Resource Allocation: A checklist can be instrumental in planning and allocating resources effectively. It helps you anticipate the resources needed at each stage of your startup, including financial, human, and material resources, ensuring that you utilize them judiciously for maximum efficiency and impact.
- Ensure compliance. Following a checklist will also help ensure that you comply with all applicable regulations and laws for your business. This could help you avoid fines or legal trouble in the future.
- Improve your confidence. Following through on a startup checklist can help boost your confidence and make sure you have everything in place before launching your business.
- READ MORE: How to Write a Business Plan
While You are Crafting Your Checklist
While you’re crafting your business checklist, make it a point to watch the video “Best Advice to Small Business Owners” by Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors in the world. In the video, Buffet shares his invaluable insights from his extensive business experience. Notably, his number one advice for new business owners emphasizes the importance of taking care of your customer – a concept that can significantly influence your business’s success and reputation from the outset. This sage advice can serve as a cornerstone principle as you build your business operations.
Early Stage Business Startup Checklist
Small business owners should go through the following steps to make sure they are ready for launch.
1. Choose a Viable Business Idea
Small Business Deals
When starting a business, it’s important to pick an idea that has the potential for success. Make sure your product or service is something people need and are willing to pay for. Some questions to ask yourself include what problem does my business solve, who is my target audience, and how will I stand out from the competition?
2. Create a Business Plan
Your business plan should include your business goals, a market analysis, and how you intend to launch and grow the business. A business plan is necessary for many things when starting a business such as securing funding, attracting investors, and developing strategies.
3. Determine Budgets and Financing
You’ll need to have a financial plan in place that includes startup costs and operational expenses. You should also decide how you will finance the business and if you’ll need outside investors. A financial plan should also include projections of future cash flows and financial statements.
- READ MORE: How Much Does it Cost to Start a Business
4. Make Sure Your Family is Behind You
Starting a business is a big commitment, and it can affect your family life. Make sure everyone in your household is on board with the decision to start a business. Sharing your business plan and financial projections with your family can help them understand and support you.
5. Decide on a Business Name
Your business name is the first impression customers will have of your company. Make sure it’s something that reflects the values and goals of your business. Some ideas for deciding on a company name include using wordplay, using a name inspired by your values or origin story, or using an acronym.
6. Register Your Business Domain Name
Secure a domain name for your business website to ensure you have an online presence. It can be your company name, a keyword related to your business, or something else. Every business is online these days so registering your business domain name is important when starting a business.
7. Determine Your Business Structure
Figure out which business legal structure best fits your company. You could choose a sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, or another legal structure. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, it’s best to consult with a lawyer or accountant.
8. Apply for an EIN
To keep your personal and business finances separate, you should apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Getting an Employer Identification Number is quick and easy and will help you set up a business bank account when starting a business.
9. Licensing Investigations and Applications
Depending on your business, you may need to apply for local, state, or federal licenses and permits. Make sure you’re aware of any legal requirements and have all the necessary paperwork. If your new business sells physical products, you may need to obtain a sales tax permit.
10. Set Up a Business Website
Your website will be your storefront and the hub of your online presence. Make sure it’s professional, up-to-date, and has all the information customers need to know.
11. Create Social Media Profiles
Social media is an important part of modern business. Create profiles on the main platforms and make sure they stay active with posts and engaging content.
12. Start Generating Revenue
Once everything is in order, it’s time to start generating revenue. Focus on marketing activities and strategies that will bring in customers and help you grow your business.
13. Invest in Office or Retail Space
If your business needs physical space, you’ll have to determine the size, location, and type of space you need. Make sure it suits your business needs and budget.
14. Buy Business Cards
Business cards are essential for networking and building relationships. Make sure to buy ones that reflect your brand identity and the quality of your business. You can easily find them online or have them printed locally.
15. Open a Business Bank Account
It’s important to keep business and personal finances separate. Opening a dedicated company bank account will help you stay organized and protect your assets.
This table provides a streamlined checklist for early-stage startups formulated from the list above. It covers critical steps from idea inception to financial organization. Each item highlights its significance, suggests actionable steps, and includes a ‘Checked Off’ column to monitor progress. It serves as a practical resource for budding entrepreneurs initiating their business journey. Just carry your clipboard with the checklist around you and check everything off as you go!
|Choose a Viable Business Idea
|Essential for business success
|Identify a problem, decide on a solution, define target audience, consider competitive differentiation
|Create a Business Plan
|Critical for setting direction and securing funding
|Outline business goals, conduct market analysis, define launch and growth strategies
|Determine Budgets and Financing
|Required for financial sustainability
|Calculate startup costs, operational expenses, define financing sources, project future cash flows
|Make Sure Your Family is Behind You
|Ensures personal life stability
|Communicate plans with family, share business plan and financial projections
|Decide on a Business Name
|Forms part of business identity
|Brainstorm names reflecting business values/goals, consider wordplay, inspirational names, acronyms
|Register Your Business Domain Name
|Establishes online presence
|Secure a domain that reflects your business name or related keywords
|Determine Business Structure
|Legally defines business operations
|Consult with a lawyer or accountant to decide between structures (e.g. LLC, sole proprietorship)
|Apply for an EIN
|Separates personal and business finances
|Apply for an EIN from the IRS to facilitate business bank account setup
|Licensing Investigations and Applications
|Ensures legal compliance
|Identify required local, state, federal licenses and permits, complete necessary paperwork
|Set Up a Business Website
|Primary digital storefront
|Develop professional, up-to-date website with necessary business information
|Create Social Media Profiles
|Facilitates online engagement and marketing
|Set up profiles on main platforms, maintain active presence with engaging content
|Start Generating Revenue
|Core purpose of the business
|Implement marketing strategies to attract customers and generate sales
|Invest in Office or Retail Space
|Needed for certain types of businesses
|Determine space needs based on business type and budget, locate suitable space
|Buy Business Cards
|Enhances professional networking
|Order business cards reflecting brand identity from online or local providers
|Open a Business Bank Account
|Organizes and protects business finances
|Open a dedicated business account to separate personal and business finances
- READ MORE: How to Start a Business: Step by Step Guide
Pre-launch Business Startup Checklist
Small businesses should also consider the following steps to ensure a successful launch.
16. Get Your Accounting System up and Running
You’ll need to set up an accounting system to keep track of expenses, income, and taxes. Invest in a good accounting software or system that’s simple, easy, and straightforward to use. Consulting with a professional accountant can be helpful here.
17. Identify and Assign Co-founder Responsibilities
If you have co-founders or partners, decide who is responsible for what tasks. Put it in writing to avoid confusion and disagreements in the future. Clearly defining roles can help with accountability and ensure everyone’s duties are fulfilled.
18. Business Smartphone and Apps
Invest in a smartphone and the right apps to help you manage contacts, emails, expenses, and more. Having business apps can make your job a lot easier.
19. Free Small Business Resources
Take advantage of free resources offered by the SBA, local organizations, and other businesses. These can help you save money and time during your startup process.
20. Secure Business Insurance
Protect your business with the right insurance policies. Find an insurer who will meet your needs and budget. Business insurance is essential to protecting your business.
21. Make Your First Hire
You may need employees to help you grow your business. Determine the job requirements and start searching for potential candidates.
22. Identify and List Suppliers and Service Providers
Find reliable vendors and service providers who can help you with tasks such as printing, web design, merchandise, etc.
- READ MORE: 19 Businesses to Start with No Money
23. Obtain Patents and Trademarks
If you have a unique product or brand name, consider protecting it with patents and trademarks. This will help guarantee that no one else can use your intellectual property.
24. Utilize Your Network
Tap into your personal and professional contacts to help spread the word about your business. Ask them to share with their networks as well.
25. Don’t Focus on Partnerships
When first starting your business, don’t focus on getting into partnerships. Focus on developing the business first and gaining customers before looking for partners. This will give you a strong foundation to build on.
26. Make Sure Your Pitch Is Clear and Concise
When pitching your business to potential customers, partners, or investors, make sure you have a clear and concise message. Figure out what makes your business unique and highlight that in your pitch.
27. Optimize Your Product, Sales Approach, and Marketing
Continuously optimize your product, sales approach, and marketing activities. This will help you improve and stay ahead of the competition.
28. Ensure Your It Security
Make sure your data and IT systems are secure from hackers. Invest in cybersecurity solutions to protect your business assets.
29. Hire a Salesperson or Establish a Sales Team
Depending on your business model, you may need a salesperson or team to start generating revenue. Identify the ideal candidate and create an effective sales strategy.
30. Connect with Business Mentors and Advisers
Find a mentor or adviser who can give you advice on the best practices for running your business. Connecting with experienced professionals can provide invaluable insights that will help you succeed.
Like the first table, this table summarizes and structures the list into a checklist. It provides a structured path for the pre-launch phase of a business startup, detailing essential steps that range from establishing an accounting system to connecting with business mentors. With the added ‘Checked Off’ column, this table facilitates straightforward progress tracking.
|Get Your Accounting System up and Running
|Key to tracking finances
|Choose a user-friendly accounting software or system, consult a professional accountant
|Identify and Assign Co-founder Responsibilities
|Vital for team cohesion and accountability
|Define roles and responsibilities, put it in writing
|Business Smartphone and Apps
|Streamlines business processes
|Invest in a smartphone, choose appropriate business apps
|Free Small Business Resources
|Can save money and time
|Use resources from SBA, local organizations, and other businesses
|Secure Business Insurance
|Protects your business
|Choose insurance policies that meet your needs and budget
|Make Your First Hire
|Can help grow your business
|Define job requirements, search for suitable candidates
|Identify and List Suppliers and Service Providers
|Important for business operations
|Find reliable vendors and service providers
|Obtain Patents and Trademarks
|Protects intellectual property
|Apply for patents and trademarks for unique products or brand names
|Utilize Your Network
|Useful for business exposure
|Leverage personal and professional contacts
|Don't Focus on Partnerships
|Advised for initial stages
|Prioritize business development and customer acquisition first
|Make Sure Your Pitch Is Clear and Concise
|Essential for attracting interest
|Craft a clear, concise, and compelling business pitch
|Optimize Your Product, Sales Approach, and Marketing
|Key to staying competitive
|Regularly review and improve product, sales, and marketing strategies
|Ensure Your IT Security
|Crucial for data protection
|Invest in robust cybersecurity solutions
|Hire a Salesperson or Establish a Sales Team
|Can help increase revenue
|Define ideal candidate profile, create effective sales strategy
|Connect with Business Mentors and Advisers
|Provides valuable insights
|Seek advice from experienced business professionals
Your New Small Business Has Launched, Now What?
Starting a business is a tremendous achievement, but the real journey begins after the launch. Success is not a guaranteed or instantaneous result; it requires continuous effort, resilience, and a willingness to evolve. Here are some pointers to help you navigate through this exciting phase:
- Review and Refine Your Business Plan and Goals: The business plan you created initially is not a static document but a dynamic blueprint that should evolve with your business. Regularly reviewing and updating it ensures you’re adapting to changes in the marketplace and staying aligned with your overall objectives. Similarly, your goals might need to be adjusted as you gather more data about what’s working for your business and what isn’t.
- Never Stop Learning: The world of business is constantly changing, with new technologies, consumer trends, and economic landscapes emerging all the time. Keep learning and staying abreast of industry news, market shifts, and evolving best practices. This might involve attending webinars, reading industry literature, or networking with other entrepreneurs in your field.
- Embrace Growth and Adaptation: After launch, your primary goal is to grow your customer base and scale your operations. This might involve expanding your product line, exploring new markets, or investing in marketing. Remember, growth often involves adaptation, so be open to refining your strategies and business model based on feedback and performance data.
- Cultivate Customer Relationships: Your customers are your biggest asset. Focus on delivering excellent customer service, gathering feedback, and building long-term relationships. Loyal customers not only bring recurring revenue, but they can also become brand advocates, helping you attract new customers.
- Monitor Financial Health: Regularly review your finances to understand your business’s financial health. This includes tracking expenses, monitoring cash flow, and analyzing profit and loss statements. If necessary, adjust your budget and financial forecasts based on your current financial status.
- Practice Resilience: Challenges and setbacks are an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey. Embrace these experiences as learning opportunities and maintain a positive, resilient mindset. Remember, every obstacle overcome brings you one step closer to success.
Starting and growing a business is a rewarding, yet challenging endeavor. Remember to celebrate your milestones, big or small, and keep your vision in sight. Good luck on your journey to success!