Starting Your Small Business: A Checklist for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Steve Strauss, Inc. Magazine Small Business Columnist and Best-Selling Author

Got a business idea? Here’s a checklist to help get your small business started.

You know when you’ve caught the entrepreneurial bug. It won’t let you go no matter what you do or what tonic you take. Wanting to start a small business is exciting and challenging because once you have the proverbial entrepreneurial fire in your belly, the only way to relieve it is to start your dream business. 

Lucky you!

Becoming an entrepreneur is fun and exciting, but the smart entrepreneur is methodical. Here is a 10-step checklist to help you turn your business dream into a solid reality.

10 Steps to Get Your Small Business Started

1. Choose the right niche.

Every successful business starts with a unique offering. What makes your intended product or service different, better, or unique? No, you need not (and should not) reinvent the wheel, but you should have some sort of X-factor that will make your new business different and better. What are prospective customers looking for that you can deliver?

Also, consider your skill set. What do you bring to the party? Your business should take advantage of your best asset—you.

2. Do your homework.

Don’t be like the baker who throws ingredients together without a recipe. Instead, research your market, talk to potential customers, and see what the competition is up to. Come up with a sound strategy for success.

3. Determine how will you make money?

Will you sell to consumers or other businesses? Will you partner with businesses to sell your products or offer a subscription service? Figure out your revenue streams.

4. Write your small business plan.

A pilot would never fly from Los Angeles to New York without a flight plan. They need to know what direction to head in, how much fuel they’ll need, the weather forecast, and other factors. That’s what your business plan is: a flight plan for your business direction and a successful landing. The plan tells you how to get to where you want to go.

So, outline your goals, strategies, and financial projections. This plan will be your guiding light and help you secure funding, impress investors, and stay on track. You may want to read “Creating a Business Plan for Your Small Business.”

5. Get funded.

Launching a small business takes money. Whether you’re bootstrapping, seeking investors, or applying for SBA loans, you need to figure out how you will finance your dream. Check out my blog on how to find funding here.

6. Make it legal.

Research your local regulations, obtain the necessary permits, and keep your business squeaky clean, both literally and legally. Do an initial check-in with a lawyer and CPA to decide whether to run your business as a sole proprietorship, create a limited liability corporation (LLC), or incorporate. Remember, prevention is always better than a legal or tax headache. Check out “The ABCs of LLCs or watch this video for more information.

7. Embrace technology.

In today’s digital age, having the right tools is essential. Customers will expect it and employees will demand it, so you need to invest in technology to make your business leaner and better. 

For example, check out the Index app from our friends at Pinger. Index is a mobile phone app that can help you run your business more efficiently, communicate with customers more easily, and grow your business almost effortlessly.

8. Assemble your dream team.

Do you have the skills to code your company website, master social media, or balance the books? Identify the skills you have and the ones you need, and then build your team accordingly.

9. Market your business, and then market it some more.

The only way to get people to know about your new business is to market the heck out of it. Let them know you are out there! Embrace the power of social media, build a great website, and explore creative marketing channels to spread the word. Check out my short video on marketing for more ideas.

10. Think ahead.

Launching your business is just the beginning. Be prepared to adapt. Learn from your mistakes, and constantly improve your offerings. Keep your eyes on the prize, gather feedback, and keep experimenting.

And finally . . . throw that Grand Opening party. You earned it.

To learn more tips for running and growing your small business, visit the resource page at Index by Pinger.

steve strauss portrait

Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is often called “the country’s leading small business expert.” A best-selling author and an Inc. Magazine small business columnist, Steve is a thought leader, global speaker, spokesperson, content creator, and author of 18 books.

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