The Start-Up Checklist
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
7 Things all start-ups need to know to launch a successful business
The thought of starting a company is exciting. Having an idea that could potentially make millions of dollars, change your lifestyle, support your family and change the lives of millions. Ideas are fun. Ideas are fueled by passion. Start-ups on the other hand, well, start-ups are hard. You will face roadblocks, doubters, self-doubt, writers block and likely quick 100 times.
But damn - the feeling of success from starting something - This feels good.
We are going to share some of the most important tips to launching a successful start-up. One of the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs run in to is trying to move to fast or skipping over a step because it doesn't have a direct impact (today). However, I use this metaphor often, and ill use it again. Lets think of your start-up like the construction of a home. Ready?
1. IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM - CREATE SOLUTION (YOUR BUSINESS)
The idea that you have now decided to turn in to a business should be a solution to a problem. This doesn't need to be a complex problem, it doesn't need to solve the worlds problems, but a simple use to clearly identify your solution is working through the Why, What, Who and How.
Why: This is your higher purpose. It should be short, sweet and doesn't even need to pertain directly to your business.
What: What is the product or service?
Who: Who will your target customer start with. Think demographic, age, gender geographic location, interest, income etc (this plays a major role in marketing strategy)
How: In a short couple sentences, describe how you plan to create your product and sell it (EX: partner with manufacturer, online services, amazon etc)
Simon Sinek gave a famous Ted Talk speech about 'WHY' and wrote a book called 'Start with Why'. He eloquently describes the importance of this phase and how to think about it. I highly recommend you read the book, or at the very least watch the video.
This can also help play a factor in to the beginnings of your mission statement. Think of this as the 'location scouting' phase of your home. Location is key.
2. CREATE THE BUSINESS
Once you have an idea of the direction you would like to go, you can begin the process of creating the business.
Business Name: Choose a name that suits some of your above answers. Make sure its relevant to your business and make sure a suitable website domain is available. I like to make sure a domain is no longer than 15-16 characters. I also like to check all social platforms and ensure handles are available.
Business Structure: Decide whether you are going to file as a sole proprietorship (s-corp), partnership, or limited liability corporation (LLC). Contact an attorney and your public accountant for guidance. See the differences here.
Once you've chosen a name and verified the properties are available, knock out these task to make it official.
Register the business entity
File for a Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Get federal and state tax ID's - each state has their own website
Apply with your city for business license or permits if applicable
Apply for trademarks, copyrights and patents (this is often overlooked but highly applicable
Contact your insurance agent to get basic coverage
We will call this the permitting phase of your home... still following?
3. PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
If you are developing a physical product the R&D phase can be very time consuming and I often say add 25% to the lead time for padding.
Identify a manufacturer that suites and understands your business needs and confirm they are familiar with your business model and product. Make sure you are transparent with the stage of your business and the expectations moving forward. For example, if you are not funding and relying on self-funding be sure to mention this so they don't share unreasonable minimum order quantities (MOQ's).
If you are developing a reseller business or brokering product or services, ensure that you have a contract that allows you to make a profit but not price yourself out of the market.
This will play a large role in the next phase of launching your start-up when developing your business plan. We consider this the general contractor relationship phase of your home, you are interviewing who the best candidate may be. Key to bringing your vision to life successfully.
4. BUSINESS PLAN
This is where the fun (or work) begins. A business plan is often over looked because people want to start transacting business. But this is your blue print. Consider this the architecting of your foundations.
By the end of your business plan you should be very clear on everything from your market size, product, competitors, sales channels, minimal viable market and operating plan. Including key hires needed to make it successful.
If you are going to SBA for a loan or raising money, they will ask for a business plan. Majority of the time these are 'wordy' documents with deep details, showing that you are prepared to run the business and aware of what's ahead. Use links to research, examples and metrics for easier understanding. I also recommend that you attach a financial projections document or 'pro forma' as well.
Here is a section checklist for starters:
Executive summary: think of this as your 5 minute elevator pitch
Description and Structure: Explain your business, the business model and what you are selling
Market research: clearly display the opportunity within the market and identify the problem you intend to solve
Strategies: Exercise your solution, share details of how you intend to gain market share
Management and personnel: Who is involved (including yourself), key hires, partners etc. Be descriptive and show validity
Financial Documents: Attach your pro forma summarize
You are officially off to the races
5. CREATE YOUR BRAND IDENTITY
This Is your chance to visually provide emotional feelings to the customers you intend to sell too. Do NOT move too quickly through this phase and ensure that you are doing it with passion and clarity.
If you are not a designer, get one. Choose someone that has a design style you like, not someone you need to tell how to design something you want. From my professional experience, designers work best when they exercise their talents. What you can expect in this phase is a brand guidelines document that will give you guidance through out the lifetime of your brand
Here your checklist:
Logo design - including how to use and how not to use
Marketing materials: sell sheets, business cards, etc
6. BUILD YOUR WEB PRESENCE
The world functions off of the internet at this stage. Your web presence will be the first place people go to learn about your business and this will be your chance to display all of your hard work. Additionally, we will use this for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and where all your organic and paid marketing and advertising will link to.
If you are not familiar with designing a website, there are easy to use tools that can help you get a basic site off the ground. If you want something elegant, please hire a professional. An experienced web designer will make your website more interactive, draw attention and make your business more compelling.
Majority of the major platforms offer e-commerce capabilities, including product pages, checkout optimization, plug-ins for all your needs and templates if needed. Do your own research to make sure it works for you.
Here are a few platforms and our experience with them.
WIX - Easy to use, highly customizable, well priced. Great for someone with a design background but doesn't want to start from scratch
Squarespace - Simple and great templates to choose from. Great for someone with no design skills that wants to just plug in content
Shopify - More expensive route but a slue of apps, plug-ins, resources and measurement. Full library of templates that make it easy to plug-n-play, but not a designers dream.
WooCommerce - The perfect e-commerce platform for someone with some design skills. More customizable than Shopify, but all the same apps and plug-ins.
WordPress - Fully customizable, great for blogs but also suitable for all your needs. We do recommend hiring a designer to maximize its capabilities.
I call this framing your home
Have any questions? Contact us
7. MARKET IT, GROW IT
Ready to start? Let's drive some revenue
Marketing is complex and we won't overwhelm you with details now, however, we will continue to show you marketing strategies and tactics to drive your business. First, what is marketing you may ask? The act of change through creation, exploring and deliverance of value.
At the beginning of every conversation I identify one very important statement originally shared by Seth Godin and explained in his booth This Is Marketing. Is your business going to be market-driven or marketing-driven? Lets look at the difference.
Market-Driven: A product, service or organization which is driven by what the market wants or needs
Marketing-Driven: A product, service or organization that is run by a marketing department.
Once this has been identified you can begin the process to creating your blue-print to growth. The number one reason we like to understand this approach first, is simply because it changes the tactics deployed in your marketing strategy. Market-driven takes more time, focuses more on education, informational and technical details. Whereas, marketing-driven is scaling brand awareness and driving a culture as fast a the business can support.
Marketing Strategy: This will be your high level playbook to use as guidelines. Each of the below elements are individual pieces to understand and implement.
Brand: Belief's, mission statement and purpose. Why we are doing this - we covered this above, now we are putting in to play
Who are you targeting. Each segment gets its own marketing plan
Where can you find them. Geographically, digitally etc..
What do they value. use this to grab attention
What do they need. Once you identify the problem, deliver your solution
Competitive Analysis/Market Analysis: Often times we recommend using a SWOT analysis to visually understand
S - Strengths: What do you do well? Uniqueness?
W - Weakness: What areas can you improve or what resources do you lack?
O - Opportunities: What are the business goals or what can you provide that consumers need?
T - Threats: What obstacles do you face? competitors, economy, manufacturing, supply-chain...
Unique Selling Proposition (USP's): Now identify what is going to make you different in the market. I like brand USP's then subset USP's for each segment audience. However, you should have your 1-3 brand USP's which are shared in your elevator pitch.
Promotion Channels: How will you begin to reach these target customers. This doesn't necessarily mean promotions as in discounted selling, but more promoting the brand through various channels. Once the audience is understood, you want to identify where your audience spends most of its time. Not everyone is on Instagram or shops a Walmart for example.
E-commerce or commerce partnerships
PR: public relations
Discounts and sales
Budgeting: Make sure you leave significant budget for your promotions. Not all dollars are spent on advertising. After all, advertising is just a subset of marketing. Look to create hi quality content, spend money on a great designer and maintain your brand integrity throughout.
Set budgets per campaign
Set clear objectives
Determine the channels you will use
Design your creatives or content
Determine Call to action
Make sure you set dates: for delivery, campaign deployment etc
Measure: Measure the results so you can optimize performance. Determining your ROI will require measurement and dat. There are a number of tools you can use, but a great free one is Googles Marketing Platform suite of tools. Make sure your website has all your pixels for tracking and measuring. If you sell offline, here are some offline tracking methods and tips.
ENJOY THE PROCESS
In conclusion, starting a business takes time and tenacity. There really is no right or wrong way to go about it and we all have access to the same tools and channels to reach customers. The most important part is to not overlook your identity, stay true to your goals and why you started the business in the first place. Don't chase shiny objects for money and build your home with a strong foundation.
If you would like to book a discovery call with me, I would love to hear from you. Let's build your home!