Starting a business is a thrilling adventure. Whether you’re looking to start a side hustle to pay for college, create a passive income stream to save up for retirement, or build a large enterprise to provide generational wealth for your family, going into business is a life-changing journey.
But, it’s also not for the faint of heart. In fact, starting a business is a lot like bringing a new baby into the world. You lose sleep when things are out of your control. You feel plagued by imposter syndrome or a constant fear of making a mistake. And your to-do list looks like it’s never going to end. That’s why it’s pivotal to set yourself up for success before you strike out on your own.
If you need a master checklist to help you stay proactive and on track before you bring your dreams to life, you’ve come to the right spot. In today’s article, we’re reviewing five important tasks you need to have under your belt before starting a business. Let’s take a look.
1. Brainstorm and research your business idea, then outline your vision
Start by brainstorming and researching your business idea. Do you want to start an eco-friendly online clothing store? Would you like to start selling coaching services? Are you looking to create a new project management app? List your idea as clearly as possible, and then:
- Collect market and audience insights
- Run a competitor analysis
- Conduct a pricing analysis breakdown
- Review the demand for your chosen product or service
The goal? You want to make sure your idea is ambitious but still viable. After you’ve reviewed the data and solidified your idea, break it all down in an overview doc. In your overview, answer the following questions:
- What’s the premise of your business?
- Where will you be doing business? I.e., Brick and mortar location, remote setup, or hybrid framework
- Why does your idea matter and why should people care?
- Why did you choose this business idea over others?
- What kind of marketing strategy would best serve this type of business and why?
Next, outline your business vision, mission, and goals.
- Where do you see your business in two, five, and 10 years?
- What do you hope to achieve short-term vs long-term?
- What kind of impact would you like your business to have on the world?
Finally, solidify your branding. What colors, visual cues, and fonts would you like people to associate with your business? Choose a logo, hue palette, and images that align with your vision.
Pro-Tip: If possible, meet with a business consultant or coach to review and substantiate your idea and a marketing strategist to develop a custom marketing approach for you. For branding, use simple tools like Canva and an online photo editor, or reach out to a graphic designer for support.
2. Register your business
Do you know how to pay taxes, cut yourself a paycheck, and allocate funds to pay employees or freelancers? Without a business entity in place, the answer would be “no”. Your business entity determines how you’re expected to manage your personal and business financials as well as your tax responsibilities.
Before you can plan a business budget and organize your financials, you’ll need to meet with a registered agent to go over your legal structure options. A registered agent can help you understand when and how you’ll be expected to pay taxes, how to manage movement between your personal and business checking accounts, and how to pay your team.
3. Consider the financials
Before starting your business, get clear on your financials. Let’s go through them together now.
After you’ve chosen your legal structure, consider the costs associated with the business formation, along with other startup costs. These might include one-time fees, such as contracting a web developer to design a custom website, hiring and onboarding employees, buying expensive equipment, or anything else you need to get going.
The Cost of Doing Business (CODB)
Depending on the type of business you’ve chosen, your routine fees will vary, but some may include:
- Website hosting fees
- Marketing platform subscriptions
- Work OS hosting fees
- Brick-and-mortar rental payments
- Physical hardware rentals
- Tech stack subscriptions
- Manufacturing costs
- Labor costs
Tally up these amounts until you have a final number, otherwise known as your “cost of doing business” figure or your CODB.
Next, sum up all of your business credits. For instance, you might have one or some of the following:
- Emergency savings
- A business savings account
- A business checking account
- Real estate
Add these up until you have a final figure, otherwise known as your business assets.
You’ll also need to factor in your liabilities, such as any open lines of credit, business loans, credit cards, vendor fees, and tax payments. If you hire a team, unpaid wages will also fall into this category.
By factoring in your startup costs, CODB, business assets, and liabilities, you can get a clear idea of what your true working capital is. In other words, you’ll understand how much money you have at your disposal for daily operations and upfront costs. And you’ll also understand how much debt you’ll need to pay off.
Our best advice? Meet with an experienced accountant who can review your financials and help you design a healthy business budget and financial growth goals.
4. Have a firm grasp on your audience
Who did you start your business for? What problems are you planning on helping them solve? What are their pain points, needs, and preferences? How can you help solve their problems, meet their needs, and give them what they want?
In this step, get clear on your audience by creating mock customer profiles, otherwise known as “buyer personas”. If it’s not applicable to your industry, you don’t have to niche down too specifically. But at the very least, you should understand your audience’s core problems, where they live online, and how to prove to them that you can solve their problems better than your competitors.
5. Outline your operational strategy, create accompanying processes, and choose tools with efficient workflows
How will your new business operate on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis? What “departments” will you have and how do you envision them running? Break it all down now.
For instance, if you’re starting a small content marketing agency, your daily operations might look something like this:
- Check social channels and respond to comments with four or more words in question form
- Post a relatable Story on social channels
- Respond to newsletter subscriber comments and questions
- Review ad results and respond to interested prospects
Sales and outreach operations
- Respond to emails from cold pitches
- Respond to sales call inquiries and schedule accordingly
- Cold pitch to 20 aligned leads via email
- Call leads who signed up for scheduled sales calls
- Agree on a follow-up plan with leads that signed up for sales calls
Content production operations
- Process client content orders
- Schedule content orders
- Batch content outlines
- Plan, research, write, and edit blog articles
- Perform project quality analysis and make corrections if needed
Client management operations
- Check the calendar to see if there are any meetings today
- Attend meetings (if any)
- Respond to all client emails
- Submit projects that are due
- Add follow-up notes where applicable
- Schedule check-in calls where applicable
Next, look for cloud-based tools that can help you run your business and automate redundant tasks. At the very least, get your hands on reliable hybrid work software or task management software that can help you take care of most of the operations on your list. Your go-to software tool needs to have features that allow you to create efficient workflows and collaborate with others no matter where they’re located.
You can then use a tool like Zapier to integrate other necessary apps into your main tool so you can create an all-in-one workflow management suite.
If you’re not sure how any of this works, reach out to a process specialist, operations advisor, or virtual assistant with process experience. They can help you set everything up and coach you on how each workflow … well … works.
Pro-Tip: Make a tool list that outlines the software you’ll be using, how to access these tools, quick descriptions of what you’ll use them for, and how they work.
Grab the information from the tasks you completed above, and use it to document your business plan. Next, set up your website, blog, and social channels, and, if needed, hire or outsource your team. And now … guess what? You can officially start running your business.