Launching Your First Startup — A Checklist for Beginners (from my own experience)
You’ve formulated a great plan for a new startup. You’ve researched, planned, and done a ton of legwork. Now, you feel ready to hit the ground running and work towards launching your new venture. Before you take this life changing leap, ask yourself two questions.
1. Are you sure you are ready?
2. Do you know all of the tasks you must complete in order to guarantee the successful launch of your startup?
Nobody can answer the first question for you. However, I may be able to help with the second. I have put together a checklist for folks just like you. The contents of this list are born largely of my own painful, personal experiences when it comes to getting new businesses off the ground, and I hope that it helps save you from feeling some of your own pain.
Create a Business Plan
When I launched my first venture, I didn’t create a business plan. I assumed that the purpose of a business plan was to convince potential funding sources of the viability of a business idea. Since this startup was going to be completely self-funded, I did not see the usefulness of writing a business plan. This was a huge mistake, and very nearly sunk my venture before it got off the ground. A written business plan provides a map of sorts to follow, and it forces you to maintain focus. So, write a detailed business plan, even if you are the only person who ever reads it,
Register Your Domain Name Early
This is such a quick and easy task to complete, that many are tempted to put it off until the last minute. Don’t make this mistake. Nothing is more of a paperwork nightmare than completing all of the preliminary tasks of launching a startup, only to realize that your domain name is no longer available. One entrepreneur I know went as far as investing more than two thousand dollars in signage, marketing slicks, and business cards that included a domain name that he had failed to secure before someone else claimed it. That was a painfully expensive lesson.
Have a Clear Vision of Your Brand
When customers hear the name of your company, visit your website, see your logo, what do you want them to think? What do you want them to feel? What associations do you want them to make? If you cannot answer these questions, you aren’t ready for takeoff. Your branding will impact social media activity, sales and marketing strategy, packaging, and even product development. Make sure you have a clear picture in mind.
Take Care of the Tedious but Necessary Tasks
In an ideal world, launching a startup would be all about bringing out great ideas to fruition. Unfortunately, success means doing some grunt work. These tasks include registering for an EIN, choosing an accounting app, making sure that you can handle payroll, and ensuring that any needed permits, registrations, and licenses are in place. While you are getting all of this finished, it is also a good idea to open your business accounts.
Make sure that Your Product or Service is Ready for Public Consumption
Before you launch, make sure that you have gone through multiple iterations of testing, verifying, and improving. Ideally this will include the use of a focus audience, and a formal system of receiving and analyzing feedback. Nothing hurts a launch more than the exposure of an embarrassing flaw that should have been caught in the testing phases.
Make Sure that You have Utilized all Available Resources
Entrepreneurs who are seeking help in getting a startup off the ground have access to many free resources from organizations that are dedicated to helping fledgling business owners succeed. These resources include free classes for entrepreneurs, mentoring programs, and even one-on-one help sessions. The Small Business Administration, along with many local organizations, are great resources for this type of assistance.
Get Your Website Ready to Go
This means more than simply making sure that your website is accessible. It means load testing and otherwise making sure that you website works for all users, that it is safe from intruders, and that it can handle the volumes of orders and visitors that it needs to be able to handle.
Draw Up Clear Expectations
Before launching a startup, it is important that all of the people involved understand their roles and responsibilities. This prevents duplication of efforts and potential misunderstandings over the division of responsibilities. Don’t just limit this task to your employees. You and your partners also need a clear understanding of your roles too.
Have a Marketing Strategy in Place
To put it simply, how and where are you going to develop customer relationships and generate sales? Before you launch, make sure that you know where you are going to focus your initial marketing efforts.