Starting a business is an exciting and difficult endeavor, but one that can lead to happiness and satisfaction when done correctly. We like to think that coming up with a business idea is the easy part; perhaps you thought of something on your morning commute to work, or while making dinner, or running on the treadmill.
Nine times out of ten individuals don’t act on a business idea they thought of on a whim. When asked why they might say that it’s just too much effort to start a business. While startups can be difficult (over 50% of small businesses fail in the first four years) to maintain, if you have the right plan of action and checklist before you even begin down the path of entrepreneurship, then you are bound to succeed.
Below is an extensive business startup to do list if you’re looking to open up a business in the near future.
13 Must-Do Actions To Start Your Business
- Do market research. Before you even come up with a business name, the first thing you should do is hop online and do some research to determine what the competition is like for your industry. Do a few local searches online and take note of how many competitors show up, where they’re located, what their products or services are, and how long they’ve been in business. This research will give you an idea of how in-demand your business will be. If you live on Cape Cod and you are hoping to open an ice cream store in Hyannis, chances are there are 5 other competitors within minutes of each other. Ask yourself hard questions such as “Will I make a profit?” and “Would I pay money for this product or service?”
- Choose a business name and entity. After you’ve asked yourself the hard questions, now is the fun part — choosing a business name. When it comes to choosing a business name, think about your industry. If you’re in the tech industry, having a modern, obscure name isn’t out of the ordinary. However, this type of name might not work well for a coffee shop or boutique. Aim to keep your business name short, but try to avoid acronyms if you can. Having a memorable, short, yet descriptive business name will help benefit you when it comes time to choosing a domain name.Once you have a few business names in mind, we recommend checking to see if these names are already registered. By conducting a business name search, you are essentially looking to avoid any legal trouble down the road if someone believes you stole their brand name. Choosing a legal structure also determines what your business taxes will look like.Selecting a business entity may seem complicated, but as long as you do your research, it should be fairly clear which route you should take your company. Think about how you see your company growing over the next 5, 10, 20 or more years as this will help narrow down your options. There are a variety of different business entity names, including:
- Sole Proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company
- Corporation or S Corporation
- Create a business plan. When it comes to drafting up a business plan, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed – many of which may require a lawyer to be present. If you are opening a small business with a business partner, make sure it is clearly written how much revenue or ownership each partner acquires from the startup. The best-friends-turned-business-partner story rarely ends well if there is no clear understanding of how much stock each owns in the company.Don’t forget to also come up with a retirement strategy, how your employee payment structure will work, what your quarterly earnings and revenue goals are, and plans for expansion in the future. Think of your business plan as a road map for both yourself and future investors should you choose to seek assistance from private angel investors.
- Purchase your domain name. Remember that business name you came up with? Now is the time to put it to work. When you choose a domain name, you want to make it as close to your business name as possible. We recommend avoiding very general keywords, such as “www.lawnmower.com” – first of all, this domain is probably already taken, second, it can be difficult for users to understand that you’re a local business with a generic domain name such as this one.If your business name is short, try adding a keyword to the beginning or end of the domain name. For example, “www.morganslawnmower.com” or “laneslawnmowing.com” are more unique and are less likely to already be registered. Don’t forget that you should always look to purchase all alternative versions (.com, .net., .org., .us, etc.) of your domain name in order to protect your brand.
- Create (and trademark) a logo. Before you delve into the nitty gritty design work, take a step back and ask yourself what your budget is for your logo design. While many big-name corporations spend thousands of dollars to create a logo for their brand, most startups don’t have that kind of funding.If you’re looking to create a logo on your own, there are plenty of online options available – and you don’t need any design experience. Our logo maker tool, for instance, will help you narrow down your options and walk you through the customization process. Most online logo design apps will also provide their customers with a variety of image files, including PNG, JPG, and a Vector file, all of which you will need if you plan on marketing your brand both online and offline.Don’t want to go through the hassle of creating your own logo? There are other alternative logo design options available. Hiring a professional logo designer if one of the best ways to create a business logo. A graphic designer will design your logo from scratch, so you can guarantee that your branding will be totally unique from anyone else’s. While a logo designer may be more expensive than a DIY logo, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that most will cost anywhere from $99 to $250.
- Build a website. Once you have a business name, business plan, and logo – the next step would be to create a website. You can either create your own website or hire a web developer online. Again, what you choose should depend on what your budget is, what your expectations are regarding the finished design, and how much free time you have.First, you will need to purchase hosting for your domain name and website. All three components are important to getting your website online. Think of your hosting company as a garage: this garage stores your car. Your car is your website. While you can have a car without a garage, this won’t benefit the car. Same goes for your website. Without hosting, your website won’t have a home.After you purchase a hosting package, it’s time to decide what content management system you want to build your website on. The most popular CMS are: WordPress, Wix, Weebly, Drupal, Shopify, and HTML5. If you plan on selling goods online, then you should choose an ecommerce platform such as WordPress (with WooCommerce capabilities), Shopify, Magento, or any other platform that enables online transactions to take place. If you just need a simple website that explains your services, then WordPress, Wix, and Weebly will do. These are easy-to-use website builder platforms that allow you to create beautiful websites using drag and drop features. If you are more comfortable with web design and coding, then opting for a Drupal or HTML5 website may be more to your liking.
Whatever CMS you choose, make sure that your website includes your business name, logo, contact information, and a description of your services.
- Claim local listing profiles. Now that you have a website, you may be thinking that it should be easy for users to find your business online. No so fast! There are roughly 1.2 billion websites registered in the world – which could make finding yours a bit complicated. In order to help both search engines and users better find your website, there are online business listings. Online directories act like mini search engines; users will often go to these niche listing websites to search for a local business in their town or city.We recommend adding your company’s information to as many free directories as possible – just be sure to start off with the most popular business listings. Some of the most widely used local business directories include Google My Business, Yelp, YellowPages, FourSquare, Bing Local, CitySearch, EZLocal, Kudzu, Angie’s List, and a handful of others. Once you’ve finished adding your business to these major directories, then it’s time to search for those dedicated to your industry niche. For example, if you’re a home remodeler, electrician, plumber or other home improvement specialist, you should look to add your business to HomeAdvisor’s database.
- Open a company bank account. If you have already applied and received your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), then you can legally open a business bank account. A FEIN is what distinguishes you from your business. You are essentially telling the government that they should treat you and your business as two separate entities. This means that you will file both personal taxes and business taxes – and you can manage two different bank accounts.When it comes to choosing a business bank account, make sure to do your research. If you have friends or family members that own their own business, then ask them which bank they prefer. Some banks have very lax requirements, while others are quite strict when it comes to business accounts. Whichever bank you choose, know that you will be thanking yourself later for setting up a business account. Trying to untangle personal finances from business finances can get messy.
- Lease or purchase office space. This is one of the most tedious tasks on the startup to-do list. Finding office space can be extremely difficult depending on what type of industry you’re in, what your budget is, what your space and amenity requirements are, and of course where you plan on doing business. We cannot stress enough the importance of a great commercial realtor. Hiring one can end up saving you hundreds of hours of time sloughing through real estate databases and having to negotiate prices and terms with sellers. As a small business owner, you don’t want to have to learn Real estate on top of learning how to run your business.Before you begin the search, sit down and ask yourself whether or not you want to purchase or lease space. If you purchase, then you have the opportunity to customize the space as you see fit. If you lease, you will need to make sure that you have enough revenue coming in to pay rent. There are pros and cons to both, so do some research and ask a trusted friend for advice.
- Obtain licenses and permits. This is where things can get complicated. It’s essential to understand that your business may not be able to operate without a specific set of licenses and/or permits. There are licenses and permits on both the state and federal level. For instance, if you are opening a pharmacy, liquor store, vet clinic, or marijuana grow facility you will need to obtain licenses and permits.Don’t forget your sales tax permit and business license. A sales tax permit is needed if you sell goods or products within your state, while most states will also require a business license to operate (even if you run your business out of your home).
- Hire employees. Once you have your storefront established, you may want to hire your first employee or two. While most startups are made up of a business owner and one additional employee, keep in mind that if all goes well, you will want to bring on extra help. When hiring employees, look for candidates with previous industry experience as well as those who are eager to learn. You will want to make sure that you have a payroll system set up so that you can automatically pay your employees.Think about whether or not you want to hire employees full time or part time. If you have a boom and busy cycle business (seasonal), then you should also take this into consideration. Landscaping companies, for instance, may only have two or three full-time employees, while the rest are hired part-time from spring to fall.
- Order business cards and promotional items. It’s time to let the world know that you’re in business! Ordering business cards with your company information and logo displayed prominently on the card is a great item to have whenever you’re at a networking event. Business cards can be placed virtually anywhere throughout your storefront. If you have a sales team, make sure each sales rep has a stack of cards. If you plan on going to a trade show, bring a couple hundred to pass out. For such a low cost, business cards are one of the most affordable means to market your company.If you have the budget, we also recommend ordering custom promotional items. Promotional products such as t-shirts, button-downs, hats, pens, mugs, and tote bags can help make your business appear more professional. Not to mention, promotional items are always well-received by customers. Adding in a free hat or window decal with the purchase of an item will help build customer retention and trust in your brand.
- Set up social media accounts. Having an online presence is key to any business’ success these days. Social media can be a great way for businesses to interact with their customers on a more personal level than just having a website. Setting up a Facebook Business page, Instagram Business page, Twitter profile, and LinkedIn company page are all helpful when it comes to building an online audience.One of the lesser known benefits of having a social media presence is reputation management. Customers will often take to social media to complain about a product or experience they had, or they will try to contact a business via social media with a question. You want to make sure that you are readily available to both defend your brand, help the customer out, and provide accurate information to the community.