Starting a small business isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it. Moreover, if running a startup were easy, a much higher percentage of small businesses would succeed. The sad, and often discouraging, reality is that the majority of small businesses fail. Anyone who tries to tell you that there is a tried & true, guaranteed, step-by-step, fool-proof method to start a new business have obviously never done it. If you remember only one thing about starting a small business it is that there is no single “right” way to approach it. It is exciting. It is challenging. It is also frightening and often intimidating. The key is to never let fear or intimidation paralyze you.
Students of economics and business have studied the process of entrepreneurship for decades in an attempt to discover a single, universal formula that will guarantee success. That journey is as futile as attempting to figure out how to find a single genetic indicator or environmental factor to explain why some of us develop cancer while others don’t or why one twin struggles with life-long weight problems while the other twin doesn’t. As with health & wellness, there is no one formula that will guarantee success.
This fact is what truly appeals to an entrepreneur is the challenge of blazing your own trail and finding the formula that leads you down the road toward success and fulfillment. Most entrepreneurs are nonconformists at heart. They dismiss the notion that “it can’t be done…” or “it must be done this way…”. Entrepreneurs inherently want to do things their way. If you’ve been blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And while there are no turn-by-turn road maps to follow, there certainly are some helpful guidelines that can help to steer you in the right direction and avoid common pitfalls.
For instance, it is important to know that in order to open a business account with any bank, you must have first filed your incorporation or DBA paperwork. If you are going to open a brick & mortar store or office, common sense will tell you that you must decide on its location before you can have phones installed or Internet service set up. The following small business startup checklist will help you to get moving in the right direction and avoid some of the common mistakes that put new small business owners at a disadvantage from the start.
- Decide on a company name.
- Decide where your business will be located.
- Determine the best corporate structure for your business (consulting with an accountant can be very helpful).
- File the necessary incorporation paperwork (consulting with an attorney can be helpful, but there are also many more affordable options available today – like LegalZoom – which allow you to file the necessary paperwork yourself).
- Consider what trademarks and/or copyrights will be needed to protect the brand you are developing.
- Decide exactly what products and/or services your business will offer initially.
- Identify your target market and compile data on where to find them and how to communicate with them.
- Decide how many, if any, employees will be required to operate efficiently.
- Estimate the monthly expenses for the business and projected sales on a cash flow statement.
- Complete a break-even analysis to confirm the potential profitability of the venture.
- Set up a business bank account.
- Hire a graphic designer to create your business logo, as well as any printed and online marketing materials – like a website, business cards, flyers, etc.
- Develop a search marketing strategy – understand, or hire someone who understands, how to take full advantage of Internet and search marketing, search engine optimization, website usability, etc.
- Establish a means of communicating with your potential customers (this can include telephone line(s), VoIP service, Internet access, e-mail accounts, etc.)
- Buy any equipment necessary for the day-to-day operation of the business (this can include computer(s), fax machines, printers, manufacturing/production equipment, etc.)
For any new small business venture, there are a seemingly endless number of things to consider. The items above are just the tip of the iceberg, but they will certainly help you get off to a good start. As you move forward with the development of your small business, knowledge will be the key to your success. For additional information on a wide variety of topics that apply to small business development and entrepreneurship, check out the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation website.