Starting a business can be time-consuming, costly and downright difficult – don’t make it any more difficult than it needs to be.
Go through this checklist, figure out what is essential. These are your barriers to entry – keep it as SIMPLE as possible.
You need to be passionate about the business. If your MO is to make money, most likely you won’t be successful – and if you are equitable, you’ll be stuck managing a business you don’t care for, which sounds horrible.
Most businesses aren’t unique, but they don’t need to be in order to be successful. You should at least have a basic understanding of what other businesses are doing in your competitive landscape to evaluate what’s been done and define your differentiators.
You should also uncover whether or not your product or service is legal and can operate within the confines of any platform needed to run your business. For example, I helped launch an NPO which was shutdown soon after launch. The NPO was called “Cache for a Cause” which operated on the official Geocaching website platform. Unfortunately, this was against the Geocaching platform bylaws and our geo-caches were removed from the database. We spent 5k launching our organization and it was dismembered the week it was launched because we didn’t do our research.
Learn more about geocaching (it’s really fun but I wouldn’t recommend starting a business using their platform!) https://www.geocaching.com/play
A mission statement
It doesn’t need to be grandiose, but you do need one. If you can’t explain what your business is, and how it will make money in 1 sentence, it’s probably too complicated.
A name for your business
Your business name should be 2-3 words TOPS and clearly explain what your business does. Google and Facebook can get away with ambiguous names because they poured billions into branding.
Whatever you do, don’t overthink this! Your logo is an integral part of your branding strategy, but it’s not the logo that defines a business – it’s the other way around. You do need a logo, it’s very important, but you don’t need a beautiful work of art. In many cases, a simple typeface and/or icon will do. You don’t need to trademark or copyright until there is a very legitimate risk of someone stealing your brand identity to act like they are operating as your business. NO one is going to steal your logo for your small business.
It isn’t necessary if there aren’t going to be any major purchases split between multiple people or risk liability. It is necessary if you have a business which could potentially harm someone or cause damages. If you build websites, the risk is pretty low because it’s pretty tough to sue someone over a website unless you royally mess up.
Location. Where will you operate?
Can you operate out of your home? If so, you should consider this before investing time in a storefront.
Here are a few examples of businesses that don’t require storefronts:
- Marketing agencies
- Real estate agents
Yes, you will need money to fund your business, unfortunately. Figure out how much your operating cost is – this is called your burn rate. Figure out how much you have saved up and how long you can survive with your funds and income – this is your runway. When the runway ends, your business ends.
Make a list of everything you need to start operating and cut out anything that isn’t completely necessary. Bootstrap everything and offload anything that you can’t master in a day if it’s worth it.
Here are a few examples of things you can do yourself but might want to consider delegating out:
- You can incorporate using TurboTax for about $50, or you can hire someone like Harvard Business Solutions for $160. For me, it was worth it to pay the extra $110 to have it done right and fast.
- Taxes can be a pain in the neck. Accountants can help you find tax write-offs which can ultimately pay for themselves. Paying someone to do your books will allow you to use your time building the business, not learning tax law.
- Setting up your website
- There are a ton of website builders out there, this is certainly something you can learn how to do but can take a lot of time. Additionally, if you website is the main driver of business, you’ll want it to look professional and be optimized for SEO – 2 things which can take years to master.
- Branding/Logo design
- People are going to see your logo on all your marketing materials such as your website, business cards, letterhead and other branded items. If your logo and branding do not look professional, your marketing will ultimately suffer which will cost more in the long run if your business image is perceived as cheap and/or if you need to rebrand to do it right.
- Photography is a big part of your brand. If you’re a realtor, you’ll want your clients properties to have high quality photos to drive more attention to your listings. You can definitely take photos with almost any cell phone nowadays, but the production value will most likely be less of that of a photographer. A good photographer can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, which is easy to yield a high ROI.
Licensing and permits
Find out if you need a license or permit, many don’t need them. Marketing and 3d printing don’t require them, but real estate does.
Other things that may not be necessary (in the beginning) but will be over time
If your business requires proposals and invoicing, you can create simple ones in google docs or Microsoft word. If you want to go the extra mile you can do this in a system like FreshBooks. More likely than not, you won’t need a fancy accountant.
If you’re a contractor who works on homes, you’ll want insurance In case something unexpected happens. If your a graphic designer, the liability is pretty minimal and won’t be necessary unless you’re pursuing government contracts.
In closing, starting a business is hard enough, don’t make it any harder or more expensive than it needs to be. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, feel free to drop me a line to discuss any of the topics in greater detail. Thanks for reading!