Business

Checklist for a Successful Start-up Business

Today, possibly more than ever before, there is an abundance of changing markets and potential opportunities. Ideas and methods have changed, many ideas are obsolete. With the tide of endings bring possibility. As an individual, it can be extremely advantageous to take a hold of this period of history and fill an existing or newly discovered niche. Taking an idea and turning it into a successful business is now simply achieved using the internet and the examples of those who’ve achieved the impossible beforehand. Following is a basic checklist that can lead you to a vital and healthy business.

  1. Refine the Idea into a Business Model
  2. Get Setup for Payment
  3. Legalities and Insurance
  4. Build out a Workforce
  5. Choose Vendors
  6. Promote Growth

Refine the Idea into a Business Model

Creating a proper business model is a multifaceted project. The concept is simple: one must have a workable idea, must lay out practical business practices over time, and have a detailed financial timeline that supports the chosen business practices. It is best to begin your plan at step zero, or where you are right now, and work past your endpoint, a successful, functioning business. As the business develops it is more than likely that even a great plan won’t coincide with the real world. Adjustments will be made on the fly. Yet, having a well written business plan is beneficial in many ways, especially when refining the direction and goals of a business.

There are many correct ways to develop a financial model, but the most important aspect is comprehensiveness. This should include as many aspects of financial planning as possible such as: costs, capital, return on investment, liability, legalities and taxes. As time moves on many people keep a working copy of this document available for updating and maintaining proper functioning of the business. As things start to pile up it is too easy to lose sight of important aspects or get buried under busy work without remembering the big picture.

Get Setup for Payment

Once an idea has been developed into a business model complete with a financial plan one can begin getting set-up for a functioning business. One of the first steps is getting an Employer Identification Number which separates a business from a personal identity and allows for that business to receive funding or open a banking account. In the United States, an EIN can be assigned from the IRS website for free.

Payment Processing Service

In order to conduct business online or receive credit card payments in person it is necessary to work with a credit card processing company. These companies can function as an intermediary between a merchant and the issuing bank of the customer’s credit card allowing for a quick, reliable transfer of funds for a service or good rendered. Choosing a company to partner with can be difficult because of the multitude of options but it is important to find a company that will benefit your business. Depending on your niche in the market, options may be very different from one another. According to Double Helix, a merchant account provider, whether you are in a  high or low risk industry can drastically affect the rates offered by credit card processing companies. Low risk industries have a wide availability of providers with generally good rates because low risk is favorable for processing companies. High risk industries generally have substantially higher prices because of the level of risk. There are companies that specialize in high risk merchant accounts, and because they are equipped to take on the risk one can avoid exorbitant pricing.

Legalities and Insurance

Once a proper plan and financial backbone are in place, the legalities and insurance must be completed before business can begin. Depending on industry and location there may be licenses or permits required before operations can commence. There are generally legal repercussions for operating without all legalities met.

Sometime during this process, the ownership status of the business must be determined. There are a few different ways to set it up as described below. The designation will determine how it will be classified by the government for tax purposes.

Sole proprietorship: A single person has complete ownership including total profit share and full liability.

Partnership: Two or more individuals share responsibility for decision-making, liabilities, and profits.

Corporation or S-Corporation: A multi- ownership designations with many ways to structure ownership.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): A designation that has aspects of a partnership and a corporation.

Insurance

Insurance seems like an item that can be easily set aside till there is more time. Far too often insurance is left unfinished, unremembered until something goes wrong and insurance is necessary.  By this point, it is too late. There are many unforeseen possibilities that you don’t even realize you need protection from until they occur. Purchasing the proper insurance before the official launch is of the utmost importance.

There are several types of coverage that may be applicable. The amount of insurance necessary depends on factors like location, industry, and number of employees. All businesses are unique, so it is important to take the time required to consider the types and amount of coverage needed.

Build out a workforce

In any situation, the results of a project are only as good as the people who performed the necessary work. The total is the sum of its parts. For our purposes, we must be aware that the work done creating a driven, cohesive team is just as important as the work done creating a good product or service. It is important to make sure that the divisions of labor, proper procedures, and means of communication will be effective for all members of the foundational team. Over time the investment in a good team will yield an astounding result.

Choosing Vendors

Although it is entirely possible to succeed running every small aspect of a business in-house, many companies choose to use third party vendors to cover essential but non-specialized tasks that are necessary but not specific to your industry. Using vendors for tasks like HR or business phone systems can benefit companies by allowing them to focus on their industry and remain unencumbered by non-specific tasks important for proper business functioning.

Printing Collateral

Your printing needs would include business cards, signage, banners, promotional items, menus. Your individual business will dictate specific requirements for startup, with more promotional marketing items needed over time. If your business is virtual or online, without a brick and mortar presence, you still will want to be prepared with some basic promotional items like pens if you are making sales calls, for example.  Find a reputable affordable promotional products distributor and peruse their catalog for ideas.

Promote Growth

In order to grow, the seeds need to be planted. An old saying but one that will always remain true. The seeds of growth are sown even before the doors open. Building a brand presence is a great way to ensure that the company will gain business and start to grow upon opening.

As the items above are being completed in preparation for opening the business, there are many tasks that should also be completed. In order to brand effectively there are many things to be considered. First, the target audience will determine how you format advertising, the logo, and digital assets. For example, a consulting firm working in one sector may choose a logo that is specific to the sector and memorable. Then the advertising done physically or online can be targeted to only potential clients. A restaurant with a broad target audience on the other hand may choose a logo unique to the restaurant’s style and choose advertising that is non-specific but targeted to their area.

Digital assets are a great investment and can also be catered to a target audience. Websites are the first stop for a customer deciding which goods or services to purchase. Having a website designed to bring a customer in the door or direct them to contact or leave contact information for a follow up is extremely valuable.

Finally, there is the option to work with others to promote your business. There are many ways to use today’s media landscape to assist the notoriety of a business. It is easy and effective to utilize social media influencers in a marketing strategy. It is possible to find influencers who may be willing to promote in exchange for a free product or service who also happen to be highly targeted in your area. Especially for small businesses this can vastly change the trajectory of a start-up.

Final Thoughts

After accomplishing the above, you will have learned many lessons along the way. Each issue helps you be better prepared for the next one to come. The financial plan created at the very beginning will look nothing like the version being followed after just a few months and that’s perfectly fine. The whole process is about adjustment and adaptation. A successful business will change as the situation changes and problems are solved. As long as the intentions of the plan are well laid out and problem-solving skills are being fully utilized, anything can be overcome.

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