Starting your own business may sound like an undertaking of epic proportions. The truth is, it’s not.
Yes, you’re going to have to work hard, and commit to working on it at all hours of the day, but actually getting set up is simply down to making sure you’ve “checked all the boxes,” which is exactly what this business startup checklist aims to help you do.
I’ve broken the tasks down into manageable categories and included links that will help you complete each stage of getting started.
1. Find a good business idea
A good business idea isn’t just one that turns a profit. It’s one that’s a good fit for you personally, for your target market, and for your location. You’re going to be in business for the long haul, so you really should pick something you can live and breathe.
• Identify your strengths and weaknesses
• Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself
What is a SWOT analysis?
SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. As the name implies, it is an organized list of your business’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
The purpose of a SWOT analysis is to help you develop a strong business strategy by making sure you’ve identified and considered all of your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats it faces in the marketplace. We’ve created a downloadable, SWOT analysis guide that will help you plan and grow your business better.
• Come up with a business idea that caters to your strengths
• How to start inventing things (or how to find something to invent)
• Define what success looks like for you
• Do your research: What are popular businesses today?
2. Test your business idea and do market research*
The adage goes, “ideas are a dime a dozen”—but what about good ideas? How do you really know you’ve hit upon something that’s going to work on all levels?
We use the lean planning methodology to figure this out. Of course, you may also want to start by getting out and talking to real people—do they really want a fancy Basque restaurant in their neighborhood or is another donut shop going to be more to their taste?
• Summarize the “solution” your business offers
• How urgently do people need what you are selling?
• Will your business continue to be relevant as time passes? How will you adapt?
• What’s your market size?
• How easy is it to acquire a customer, and how much will it cost?
• Figure out the best place to set up shop
• What advantages does your solution have over your competitors?
• How much money and effort will it cost to deliver value?
• Outline the team that will help you execute your idea
• What key responsibilities will each team member have?
• Will team members share ownership of the business?
• Create a basic financial plan
• What up-front investment will you need before you can begin?
• Map out business milestones or goals and when you plan to achieve them
• How long will it take to get to market?
• Interview potential customers to ensure that they have the problem you are trying to solve
• Interview potential customers to validate that your solution is something your customers will pay for
• Determine if your initial price points will work for your customers
* While we advise students and new entrepreneurs to do market research before they start, we’d like to clarify that you should not let “doing market research” hold you up if you already know your market. The reality is, the vast majority of real startups are driven by people who know their market from experience and who are ready to bet the farm on it! Market research does not have to be a part of the business planning process.“If you know your market, move on!”