If you want to escape the 9-to-5 work world, there’s no better time than now. Thanks to changes in technology and how we work, becoming your own boss is easier than ever before.
For new business owners, it can be tough to know exactly what you need to get your company off the ground. To help out, we’ve created this nine-step business startup checklist so you’ll know you’re on the right path.
1. Go Through a Self-Assessment Process
As exciting as it may sound to start a new business, there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge. It’s vital to go through a thorough self-assessment process before getting started. You’ll have to examine your skills, expertise, and possible obstacles headed your way.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your passions?
- Are you someone that likes to take risks?
- What is your current financial situation?
- How will starting a business impact your personal life?
Be honest with yourself as you consider these difficult questions. From there, you can move on to find the right business for you.
2. Find a Business Idea
Now it’s time to hunt for business ideas you’d like to start. As you begin planning, takes notes on each of the subjects below:
- Business structure: Think about the types of businesses available and which kind appeals to you. Do you want to open up a franchise? Or are you looking to start a company you can run from home?
- Previous experience: They say that experience is the best teacher. What skills do you have from previous work experience? Remember to include job-specific skills like finance or marketing as well as soft skills like leadership, communication and the ability to work with people.
- Interests: You should have identified your passions during the self-assessment process. Consider ways you might be able to turn what you love into a full-time business.
- Social media: Platforms such as Twitter and Instagram can be goldmines for business ideas. Explore what people are discussing online and learn how you can help with the right product or service.
3. Conduct Market Research
So you’ve brainstormed some ideas and know what type of business you want to start. Great! The next step is to research the market to know what you’re getting into.
Studying the market beforehand will not only help you figure out what’s viable now, but it will also come in handy for building a marketing plan down the road. Here’s what you’ll need to dig up:
- Is there an unmet need you can solve?
- Who’s your target market?
- What’s the size of the industry?
- How much money and effort will it take to launch your business?
- What’s your unique value proposition?
There are various ways to get answers to these questions. You may want to reach out to your professional network if you have colleagues in the industry you plan to join. It can be helpful to conduct informational interviews with entrepreneurs, even if they lead a slightly different type of business than the one you want to create. For example, if you plan to open a hardware store, talking to any retailer will give you helpful insight on storefront costs, pricing strategies, hiring employees, and more.
4. Choose a Business Location
Whether you’re looking at small towns or sprawling cities, the location you pick for your company can make or break your business. You need a site that's within your budget, accessible, and easy to find for potential customers.
Here’s what to consider when searching for the perfect business location:
- If the location is zoned for your business type
- How close your customer base will be to your business
- Safety and attractiveness of the area, especially if you’ll depend on foot traffic
- Competition in the neighborhood
- Business history in the area, including if businesses tend to be successful or close after a short period of time
If you’re running a home-based business working only with online buyers, you won’t have to worry about finding a location. And if you focus on a service-based business, you might be able to conduct most of your work where your customers need you, such as at their home or office, eliminating the need for you to purchase expensive real estate.
5. Find a Business Mentor
One of the best things you can do to skyrocket your growth is find a business mentor.
A mentor has already been in your shoes and knows what works. You can learn from their mistakes to avoid making them yourself — saving time and money in the long run.
Here are some places you can find your future mentor.
- Friends and family: Start with your own circle. Talk to extended family members and friends to see if anyone has applicable experience to help you on your journey. You’re least likely to get a “no” from this group.
- Look into extended contacts: Your friends might know someone in the industry you want to work in. Reach out to acquaintances and former coworkers. You’ll be surprised how far your network reaches.
- Go to networking events: Consider attending events where potential mentors might show up. Make sure to do your research on them before you make your introduction so you come prepared. It shows that you took enough interest in them to understand their work and background and makes it more likely you’ll further your acquaintance.
- Use LinkedIn: This business social networking tool created a way to connect users with mentors. Take advantage of Career Advice, a tool that shows you a list of potential mentors customized to the type of advice you're looking for.
- Pay for mentorship: The most direct way to find a mentor is to invest your own money. Many business specialists offer their expertise to help you out during your journey. The downside is that this can be expensive, and you’ll likely have several business expenses as you get up and running.
- Join a program where mentorship is included: Franchises help you out with training, but a network like Main Street pairs you with one-on-one coaches for personalized support. When you’re considering routes to starting your own business, look for a process that includes both training and mentorship.
6. Make Your Business Legal
As you launch your business, you want to make sure it’s set up properly. Failure to do can result in government fines or unnecessary personal liability.
Get ready for a lot of paperwork. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need to prepare to make your business legal.
- Business name: Make sure that your business name is legally available and not protected by someone else’s copyright.
- Register your business: You’ll need to create a legal business entity by registering your company as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation.
- Get the necessary license and permits: Certain states require you to get specific business licenses or permits to run your company.
- Get your federal and tax ID: You’ll have to declare taxes on your earnings. Make sure to get a federal and tax ID so that the IRS can identify your business.
- Open a business bank account: The final step is to open a bank account for your company to accept checks in your business name.
7. Set Up a Business Plan
A business plan is a written document that serves as a roadmap for your company’s future. It helps define strategies to get to your goals and is a must-have to qualify for funding.
According to the Small Business Administration, here’s what you’ll need to include in your business plan:
- Executive summary: Detail what your company is all about. Include information about your values and employees.
- Company description: Explain how your company solves the problems of your clients and why it will be successful.
- Market analysis: Who are your competitors, and what are they doing? How does your company do it better?
- Service or product line: Describe what you offer to clients and how they benefit from it.
- Funding request: If you need funding for your company, you can include your request here.
- Financial projections: Highlight how much your company expects to make to prove you’re following a reliable business model.
- Appendix: In this section, you can include other required materials, such as permits.
8. Hire Good Employees or Work With Subcontractors
Surrounding yourself with the right people is key to business success. Hiring unqualified employees can not only cost you time and money but damage your company's reputation as well.
We know it can be difficult to find top talent, which is why we’ll help guide you through the process of hiring subcontractors if you choose to launch a Main Street business. For any business, here are some steps to help you hire the right way.
- Make your job description clear: Take the effort to write a comprehensive job outline. Make sure to include any duties, preferably as bullet points a reader can skim, and any perks you might offer.
- Ask the right questions during the interview: Filter candidates based on their answers to your questions. For example, what made them apply for this position? What career project are they most proud of?
- Use social media: LinkedIn can be a great tool for finding prospective candidates. Look at their work history as well as any certifications or education they might have on their profile. You can often get a feel for the individual’s style by seeing what posts they’ve liked or shared.
- Learn management skills: To develop a quality team of people, you need to be a quality leader yourself. A good manager knows how to empower each employee so they reach their personal best.
9. Market and Grow Your Business
Now that you have everything set up for your business, it’s time to take action.
Here’s what you can do to grow your company and take it to the next level:
- Optimize your website: Make sure your website is optimized for conversion. You’ll need effective web design, compelling copy, and calls-to-action (CTAs) at the right places throughout your site.
- Use digital marketing tactics: You’ll need a solid online presence to stand out from the competition. A few ways to get yourself found online include blogging about your expertise, being active on social media, and advertising on Google.
- Continue to network: We can’t stress enough the importance of networking during your business journey. Even after you’ve started your business, you should remain active in your community. Put yourself out there and build relationships with other leaders in your industry — you never know where it may lead.
Finish Off That Checklist
As you can see, starting a business for the first time takes a lot of work. There are legal details to sort, research to do, and plenty more. It’s certainly not a list you can check off in one day. But if you believe you have what it takes to be a business owner — and you know this is something you want — don’t give up on your dream.
If you’re a motivated and hard-working future business owner, you could be a perfect candidate for owning your own Main Street painting business. We work with business owners every step of the way, from helping with necessary permits to investing in your company as you hit key milestones.
Shorten your checklist with just one to-do item for today. Take our owner quiz and find out if you qualify for collaboration.