Starting a new business is so exciting. It’s that time in your life where you feel like you’re finally doing exactly what you want to do. And with it comes a lot of preparation and planning. So, to help you have the most successful start, we’ve made a checklist with 15 items to check off as you begin your fearless journey to becoming a small business owner.
Small Business Checklist
1) Right Timing to Open
It’s important to remember timing is everything. As you start a new small business, take into consideration: Is it the best time of year to open your doors and are you going to be 100 percent ready and operational on your open date?
2) Business Plan
It may seem like a no-brainer, but do you have a business plan polished and ready to consult? If not, this is one of the first things you need to do besides knowing when you plan to open. A good business plan will go through every scenario of the business and can be up to 50 pages long. Too short of a business plan may not address every facet of the business -- leading to unexpected scenarios once you open your doors. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the business plan.
3) Get Funding
Here is the tricky part. Unless you have saved up the entire amount needed to start your small business, you’re going to need to find funding. How? You can go the route of a small business loan from a financial institution, or you can find investors. Some of the best place to start is your family. This is where your business plan comes into play. You can show potential investors your business plan and show them your success plan.
4) Build a Following
Once you know you're open date, you have a business plan, and you’ve started to get funding, start building a following. This is going to be one of your most important factors to a successful launch. Social media is the quickest way to build a following. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to start showing your future customers what is to come. It’s best to start a following as soon as you know you’re going to start the business -- that way, you have faithful followers to watch every step of the way until you open.
5) Choose a Business Name
Have you chosen a name yet? If so, have you gotten any feedback and ensured it’s not already registered? Remember this: You may think your name is the coolest thing since sliced bread, but what does everyone else think? Your business name should be intriguing, appropriate, and memorable. Additionally, get a logo to go with it. And just as you don’t want to skimp on a business plan, don’t skimp on a logo, either. Why? Your customers will see your logo everywhere and if it’s not memorable, well, they won’t remember it -- make your logo and name something to talk about. Once you have it, get it registered as soon as possible to ensure no one else gets to it before you do.
6) Apply for Your EIN
You Employer Identification Number (EIN) will help you separate yourself from your business. You’ll use it to incorporate your business or open a bank account. Additionally, you can use it to avoid giving your social security number.
7) Get Your Licenses
You can find out on your state and county’s websites what licenses you’re going to need exactly. Be sure to find out which licenses you will need before you start a business, rather than after. Depending on the industry, you may need a few licenses which take time to get. If you wait too long, it may prolong your opening date. You can use this helpful tool from the SBA to know which licenses you’ll need.
8) Start a Website and Blog
Social media will keep your fans up-to-date, but your website is where you can really shine. Think about it, potential customers will want to find out about you and your social media will lead them to your website. Make it appropriate and interesting, clean and organized. If you really want to people to find you, start a blog that you religiously post to a couple times a week. Doing so will help you be found by people who just happen to come across you while they surf the web.
9) Find Your Location
One of the most important things you’ll do is find the right location. Thankfully, nowadays location isn’t everything -- that’s why we have social media -- however, you want to find a location that is a great price, easy to find, and that will not have problems (plumbing, electrical, etc.).
10) Open an Account
You’ll need a business account for finances, payroll, and purchases. Many local banks or credit unions have free business accounts and only require that you bring in your EIN and business license to open an account. Keep close track of what’s going in or out of the account.
11) Order Swag
What’s swag? Stuff we all get. In other words, order hats, pens, t-shirts, stickers, business cards, water bottles, and whatever else you think your customers will love. It’s a way to advertise your business everywhere and all you have to do is give it to your customers. Easy as that.
12) Assign HR Responsibility
In order to keep your small business compliant, get payroll out, train new employees, and train your employees on their healthcare benefits, you’ll need an HR representative. The HR representative may be your or your office manager, but the important thing is that you have one. Don’t worry, there is plenty of software out there to help with payroll, healthcare benefits, and more to remain compliant.
13) Hire Your First Staff
You may only need anywhere from one to ten employees to start, but make sure you hire the right people the first time. This first staff is going to be crucial because you’re a start-up and each of them will need to share your vision for success. If not, it may be difficult to get off the ground.
14) Find Suppliers
Whatever the industry is you’ll be in, you’re going to need suppliers for your product. Start shopping around early, rather than later. Find the supplier with the best prices and most timely service to you.
15) Consult a Seasoned Small Business Owner
One of the most useful things you’ll do as you open your small business is consult someone who really knows what they are doing. It’s much easier to go to a mentor for advice than figure it out the hard way.
16) Prepare for Emergencies
You should never count out the worst case scenario. What if you run into legal problems? What if your business catches fire? Or what if your best employee leaves you one day? These are questions you must ask yourself so you have a backup plan to recover quickly. Write as many scenarios down as possible and the solution -- this way you can consult your answers in time of need.
Keep this in mind: starting a small business is a lot of work -- but it’s the most rewarding work you’ll ever accomplish. Why? You’re making your dream a reality. You’re sharing a product or service with the public to make them happy and better their lives! So, make it count. Use this checklist to stay on top of your small business game and hit this one out of the park.
What would you add to our small business checklist? Comment below, we’d love to hear your insight.