You want to start a business, and so does everyone else. To separate the wheat from the chaff, the clever entrepreneur gets organized. Things are sure to go awry, but there’s no better way to get back on track than to hold on to your plan. Make sure you go through this list early on in the startup—or even before launch.
- Determine practicality. What’s the idea? Of course you think it’s great or you wouldn’t pursue it, but what makes it so great? Would you buy your own product? Necessity is the mother of invention, so attack your idea to ensure that it passes this simple litmus test: do people need what you’re offering?
- Yes, the business plan. Now that you’ve determined your idea is practical, you’d better get to planning. When getting your business off the ground, you can’t afford to skip out on the particulars. Often, when you sit down to detail the business plan, you begin to realize small details that you would have otherwise missed. Make sure to include financial projections and revisit this plan often. It likely won’t look the same a year from now, but that’s fine. It will change as you do and as unexpected occurrences arise.
- Don’t forget personal expenses. Businesses do not grow and form overnight. You’re going to need more than a friend’s couch and cereal dust. Plan ahead for at least a year. Where will you be staying? How much will that cost? What do you have in savings that can go towards food? Your business can’t thrive if you don’t eat during the development period. Do you have loans? Perhaps a spouse that makes money to support you? Write out all your personal expenses on a separate sheet, but keep it as handy as your business plan.
- Foster connections. Business connections are great, but family and friends can also be helpful connections. They can be invaluable resources, the source of your first word-of-mouth referrals. Maybe they even have some good advice. More than that, they’ll know people. And people are the reason, presumably, that you’re creating this business. Ask around. Someone you know might actually have a wealth of information about your idea or about business that they can contribute.
- Cultivate a brand. More than just a business name, you have to create your business brand. Research other brands to make sure you’re not ripping someone else off. Your brand should be as original as your idea, and, on that note, it needs to fit your idea. If you’re starting a smoothie business, your logo should not be a wagon wheel. When you order business cards, make sure they’re professional. If you don’t yet have a lot of information, that’s all right. Keep it simple and eye-catching, and order a lot of them.
- Keep up with the times. In this day and age, a new business needs to have a business. People are too plugged in to check out the local paper, unless it’s on their phones. Free hosting sites might be tempting, but not the best; a url like mybusiness.freewebs.com does not lend credence to your business. Even if you don’t actually have a built product in your hands, it’s good marketing to let people check in on the progress. It’s also a good idea to plug into social media: Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or a Linkedin. Just make sure the platforms fit your brand and your target audience. Don’t pick silly handles—try to get it as close to the actual name of your business as possible.
- Account for the future. This means a business bank account and an accounting system. Start it early—few things are more frustrating than figures that later don’t add up. There are many services available that can help you with this. One of the easiest ways to keep up with all of your information is cloud accounting. Losing your data can be more than frustrating--it can be catastrophic. With cloud accounting, your accounting information is synced to multiple devices and backed up in the cloud so there's no danger of damaging your prospects.
- Relegate responsibility. If there are co-founders, make sure everyone knows, in writing, what their responsibilities are. If you don’t have co-founders, maybe get some help. It’s your idea, but everyone needs a shoulder to lean on sometimes. Trying to do everything yourself will only spell disaster. You already have a business to run. Let others help you with things like accounting or marketing if you have too much on your plate.