You’ve got a brilliant idea for a business. You’re excited about it. You should be, of course. Launching a startup is exciting stuff! It’s also a lot of work. You know that and you’re willing to put in the time to make this a successful business. Excellent.
Before you go too far, however, grab a fresh sheet of paper and take notes. A successful launch is going to require completing the following must-have startup to-do list.
Ask the Tough Questions
Brilliance is subjective and success can be relative. Before you invest – and by invest, we mean your money, the money you raise or borrow, your time, and your passion – make sure you’ve done your due diligence.
Your gut instincts may be saying “This is a great idea,” but don’t just go with your gut. Is this a product or service you would buy? What would you be willing to pay for this product or service and better yet, can you make a profit at that price point? (Don’t forget to include your time to the overall cost when you figure out your profit margins!) Does this great idea of yours solve a problem? Is it something people need or desire enough to pay for? Who else is doing this? What sets you apart from the competition? And, if no one else is doing this, why? Is there a hungry market after all?
Make a Game Plan
Having an idea for a viable product or service is just step one. If you’ve answered those tough questions above (aka: step 2) and you’re still excited to proceed with this, it’s time to create a game plan.
Do you have enough funds to cover your living expenses for the first year and if not, how will you earn them? Your new venture is unlikely to be profitable right out of the gate, after all. How will you devote the time you need to this launch if you’re not bringing in enough to draw a livable wage? How will you finance your new venture? Will you need to secure grants, loans or other financing?
What will you call this new business? Is your idea memorable, clear, and not already trademarked? (And if it’s not already trademarked, start that process now so you can own it!) What does the name convey to your potential customers? Can you register the domain name most easily associated with the company name you’ve chosen? Will you incorporate or establish a sole proprietorship? Are you going to pursue an LLC or an S Corp? What permits or licensing will be needed for your business?
Marketing & Promotion
Things are moving along. Excellent. You’ve got a great idea. You’ve answered the hard questions. You’ve made a plan. You’re getting ready to launch. How will your potential customers know about your product or service? Great question. You’ve got to start talking about it.
First thing first, jump on today’s social media platforms and establish a business page on each using the company name you’ve selected. Sure, you might not be ready to start publishing brilliant short-form videos on TikTok and Instagram, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to grab hold of your space on those platforms as soon as possible!
If you’re not the resident marketing and design guru, contract with one to help you design a rocking logo and identify brand elements. Build out your website. Order some business cards. Start talking about your big idea on your personal social media pages and invite folks to follow you on the channels you are ready to get social on today. Identify where you’ll work and how people can contact you there. Put your launch plan into motion. When can people start buying from you and how will they do it? Let them know.
Being an entrepreneur, even one that has established a sole proprietorship, doesn’t mean you’re the expert in all the things you need to know to run your business, nor that you have the bandwidth to do all the things you need to do to run your business.
Whether you bring someone (or multiple people) on staff to help manage the tasks you can’t or you outsource to others who offer business support services, delegate the things you don’t have the skills or time to tackle yourself. Hire a bookkeeper or contract with an accounting service. Bring on an agency or staff member to manage your social media and website.
Get your other ducks in order – open a business bank account. Begin to establish (and document!) processes and best practices.
Revisit, Review, Revise
This isn’t a one-and-done list. This is the start of your new venture and it’s a list you should consider revisiting from time to time as your business grows. Each time you add a new product or service, or dip a toe in a new market, or approach a new profit milestone, take the time to ask those tough questions, review (and revise!) your game plan, and update your marketing strategy to match your expanding business.