10-point Business Startup Checklist
1. Examine Your Company Concept
First, ensure that your business concept is viable. SCORE, a free federal government program that assists startups and existing businesses, provides a one-page Business Model Canvas tool to help entrepreneurs with a fresh firm concept examine the sustainability of their business, according to SCORE mentor Raj Tumber. The tool poses critical questions such as:
- What is your value proposition?
- Who are your vendors and suppliers?
- Who is your intended audience or target market?
The tool will help you decide whether it's a good idea to pursue your concept.
2. Develop a Business Plan
According to research, business strategies help organizations succeed. According to a 2010 Journal of Management Studies research study, businesses that used business plans grew 33.4% quicker than those that didn't.
Tumber recommends adopting templates or using business plan writing software to save time. He also suggests using the free SCORE template. Another source would be Bplans which offers free templates and sample business plans. LivePlan offers a $180 cloud-based business plan writing software. Lastly, your local SCORE chapter offers an affordable desktop program, "Ultimate Business Planner."
3. Choose a Business Structure
If your company is sued, forming an LLC or S corporation can shield your personal assets while also providing tax benefits. Discuss your alternatives and what works best for your region with a SCORE mentor, accountant, and/or legal professional, as each state has specific laws and costs.
4. Obtain an EIN number, Necessary Licenses, and Business Registration
Suppose your small business is an LLC or S corporation. In that case, you must register your business name and obtain an EIN, which is the business equivalent of a Social Security number and is necessary for business bank accounts and taxes. You can get your EIN for free by visiting IRS.gov. You'll then need to complete some further documentation. "Most states require licenses and permits for all businesses to operate," Tumber said.
5. Set up Your Finances for Success
“Start by opening a new business checking account to separate business and personal expenses,” advises Pam Prior, CEO and Priorities Group, an accounting, bookkeeping, and virtual CFO firm. “And, before you make your first dollar,” she advises, “get a bookkeeping package that integrates with your bank and business credit card accounts.” Plans for software like Xero, FreshBooks, or the gold standard QuickBooks have plans starting for as little as $12 per month. She says this allows “you to keep all of your data in one place.” You can even submit expense receipts, eliminating the need for paper copies.” This will also make tax preparation easier.
6. Get a dedicated phone line and high-speed Internet.
“Since many of your customers will reach out to you by phone,” Tumber explains, “you’ll want to have a phone number just for your business, with features like voicemail, call forwarding, and more, that help you manage your calls.” Additionally, “High-speed Internet will help you be more productive and is essential for today’s increased use of online services like video conferencing and task management systems.”
7. Outsource Strategically
Bookkeeping is a critical area of your small business, but it isn't everyone's cup of tea. Luckily it can be one of the easiest to outsource. Marketing is also an essential aspect of running a successful business. You may want to consider outsourcing your social media marketing and marketing tasks to an agency that specializes in working with small businesses.
8. Spend Wisely
Pam Prior, founder, and CEO of Priorities Group, a virtual CFO, accounting, and bookkeeping company, suggests organizing your revenue sources on one side of the page and your costs on the other. "Make sure to pay yourself first," she suggests. Then select what you need to spend money on and what you can do yourself, bearing in mind the value of your time. Business insurance, phones, computers, communication, task management systems, and a customer relationship management (CRM) platform are examples of critical technology. Your small business may incur additional expenses, such as automobiles for service staff or a custom contract that an attorney must draft. You may be able to manage other business functions, such as marketing or bookkeeping, on your own, depending on your level of comfort and skill.
9. Set-up Your Online Presence
Make sure prospects can find you by getting a domain name and setting up your website, email, social media accounts, and your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business).
10. Laser-focus Your Marketing
Marketing can be a money and time-waster if you're not careful. I suggest asking yourself these questions:
- Where does your target market live?
- What is the best way to reach your prospects?
- Are your prospects on Facebook or Instagram?
- Do your prospects live within a specific geographic area?
- Do your prospects listen to a particular radio station?
- Are your prospects members of your local Chamber of Commerce?
Knowing these answers to questions will help you spend your hard-earned dollars more wisely.