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A Checklist for Starting a New Business

How Difficult is Starting a Business?

While it is tough to gauge just how difficult it is to start a new business, nobody denies that it is a daunting task. It is well known that the vast majority (up to 90%, according to some sources) of startup ventures fail. So what, then, is the secret of the successful 10%? Believe it or not, it isn’t luck, genius or predestination—it is hard work and solid organization.

Disorganization is the prudent entrepreneur’s worst enemy. A lack of a business plan can rent asunder even the most clever business ideas. Are you taking the right steps to starting a successful small business? Follow this business startup checklist and make sure that your startup will be among the 10% that succeed.

Small Business Startup Checklist

  1. Come up with an ideayour first job as an entrepreneur is to think of a small business idea that will attract consumers. While you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you do need to think of a business idea that approaches a market from a fresh angle. Pinpoint an industry that you know well and make a niche for yourself within it.
  2. Conduct market researchafter you’ve come up with a business idea, you need to do a bit of research to see if it will be lucrative. If you fear that your company-to-be won’t be able to attract customers, then you might need to rethink your plans—the plurality of all failed startups are grounded because there is no market need for their services or product. Understand the ins and outs of the market you are about to enter. What is the demand for your product or service nationally? What is the demand like in your city? What is the going rate for your product? To which demographic do you need to advertise? All of these are questions that you must answer in your market research.
  3. Do some brandinggive your business a look. While this part of the startup checklist may not seem like it’s a pressing matter to attend to, branding is essential to effective marketing. In this stage of the startup checklist, you will want to:
    • Name your business
    • Create a logo
    • Come up with a catch phrase
    • Start thinking of how your business will stand out from your competitors
    • Pick a color scheme
    • Consider uniforms for employees
  4. Make it official (and legal) Make sure that you file for all of the proper registrations, find an insurance plan and are all set with the law. This is the most technical—and arguably the most crucial—step of the startup incorporation checklist. At this juncture, you may will want to look into the following forms and paperwork:
    • A free Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
    • Articles of Incorporationdecide how you want your business structure to look, legally speaking. Most startups that look to avoid heavy taxation file as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), while those with multiple shareholders steer towards starting C-Corporations. Find out which route is better for you.
    • Intellectual Property (IP) Agreementsthis is the time to get your patents and other claims over your products.
    • Operating Agreementif you have multiple founders, be sure to divvy up the responsibilities of administration from the onset to avoid disputes in the future.
    • Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA)make a template for an NDA. When you start doing business, you will need one.
    • Contractssend offer letters to prospective employees, draw up employment contracts and take care of the leasing paperwork for your office and other assets.
    • To find which forms are requisite to your specific industry, visit the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website.
  5. Get onlineonce your business is official, don’t waste any time making yourself a sleek, shiny website that will draw in the customers. A healthy business must have an up-to-date online presence. If you aren’t an expert programmer or if you aren’t too savvy with Word Press, then make the investment and hire a tech company to do it for you. It is a worthwhile use of your money. While you are at it, make a company Facebook page, a Twitter profile and, if your social media game is particularly strong, play around with Snapchat and Instagram. If you are really short on funds, your company’s Facebook page can serve as a surrogate website for a few months. If you are flush on cash, consider getting in touch with Snapchat in order to advertise or create a filter for your grand opening.
  6. Find fundingdo you have the cash that you need to get your business started? Renting an office, purchasing an initial inventory and payroll all cost a pretty penny. If you need help with the costs of starting a business, you will have to either take out a loan or search for alternative financing options. Do keep in mind that bank loans and SBA loans can be next to impossible to secure, so don’t assume that you will get one.
  7. Spread the wordyou’ve got a website, a great idea and the cash to fund both of those. Tell the world! Come up with a startup advertising campaign and let your community know who you are. Go heavy on the social media, think about advertising in the local paper, and make sure that your website is active. The more people hear about your company, the better.
  8. Open your doorsafter you’ve gotten legal clearance, registered with the necessary entities, done some branding, created a website and spread the word, you are almost done with the new business startup checklist—it’s time to do business!
  9. Expand your businessonce things are up and running, don’t grow complacent. Always stay one step ahead of the game and look to take the next steps towards expansion.

Starting a business does not have to be some extra-difficult task. With the right planning and a methodical approach, your startup should be poised to join the 10% that succeed you are only nine steps away from being a small business owner.

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