Posted on Apr 10, 2018

A Comprehensive To-Do List for New Small Business Owners

Starting a new small business is overwhelming. For everyone. The paperwork needs to be filed. Meetings have to be set up. The website must be launched. During this multifaceted, all-hours-of-the-day-and-night process, it is easy to forget a step, or to neglect a step entirely, because you have too much going on.

Don’t stay awake in the middle of the night, wondering what you accidentally skipped. Follow our comprehensive to-do list for new small business owners, and check every box.

1. Make Sure Your Business and Its Services Are Solving a Problem

In the late 1920s, a Mormon missionary named John Willard Marriott started a root beer stand in Washington, DC. Marriott thought his audience needed cold drinks in the sweltering Mid-Atlantic summer. For thirty years, he sold food and beverages throughout the greater DC area. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Marriott opened his first hotel, pivoted to the hospitality industry, and started an empire. 

What’s the lesson? Many businesses end up offering radically different services than they did during their startup phase. The citizens of northern Virginia and Washington, DC needed a business-class hotel chain more than they needed root beer. Don’t wait 30 years to figure out what problem your business solves. Do your due diligence now.

2. Pick a Business Name

Don’t overthink your business name. Brainstorm options that match your brand and fit the kind of industry you’re in. Once you’ve created a list, research your area to ensure there are no similar names or duplicate names nearby. There are firms that will perform extensive copyright searches to find you appropriate business names, but they can be very costly.

3. File for a Business License and Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Choose a name and register it with your state business office. Depending on which state you live in, this registration can take between two days and two weeks. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. This is a critical step for incorporating your business and, later, opening up a business bank account.

Before you file for a business license, determine if it’s best for your business to be a limited liability corporation (LLC) or an S Corporation. LLCs are easy to incorporate and maintain. They allow for an unlimited number of owners. An S Corporation is a better choice for small business owners who are seeking funding from external sources or who are anticipating taking the company public.

4. Register a Domain Name

During this process, double-check to see if your business name’s URL is available. Often small business owners have to get crafty about their domain names, using abbreviations or variations on their business name. Settle on a domain name and register it with a reputable web hosting company. Remember to purchase at least a year of hosting.

5. Build Your Business Website

In the modern era, it’s more important to have a website than a storefront. As soon as you have a business registration and a URL, put up an Coming Soon page.

Next, begin planning the stages of your website development. Think about how many pages you want to have across the Navigation Menu and sketch a basic Information Architecture for the site. Your visitors should be able to easily navigate your site, and the user experience should be intuitive.

Scrutinize different website templates, and choose which design is most appropriate for your industry, and your business’ personality. Before you decide on a particular design, test its demo pages. Typically, you can get a good feel for the site by checking out each page of the template.

Make sure that you are comfortable uploading and editing content to the template you choose. You’ll be spending a lot of time adding texts, photos, and graphics to the site. You don’t want it to be too complicated for your design background.

6. Start Your Business Social Media Channels

Have you ever Googled a business, only to discover it had only a Facebook page? Social media informs your audience in ways that a website cannot. Specifically, it gives you and your staff the opportunity to connect with current and prospective customers, respond to their questions and concerns, and build rapport and brand awareness.

Social media connects your business with billions of people worldwide. The potential it offers is limitless. Create business accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Later on, when you’re implementing your marketing strategy, you will use these channels to publish and curate relevant content and to engage with followers.

7. Figure Out Your Pricing Structure

The U.S. Small Business Administration operates development centers throughout the country and employs small business advisors. Use these well-informed resources to help you determine what your business’ overhead will be, what current industry rates are, and what you should charge for your services. Make an appointment at one of the centers to obtain market research, get reasonably priced business advice, develop a business plan, and set competitive prices.

8. Decide Whether or Not Your Business Needs Funding

A broader picture of your business’ financial needs will help you decide if you need to take out a loan or seek outside investors.

Funding always comes with strings attached. Loan applications are extensive and thorough. You will need to have your financial documents prepared in advance of the application process. Investors will often be very direct, even insistent, about their ROI expectations. You should expect to field their phone calls and respond to their emails about the business’ progress. 

Before you pursue any type of funding, write a business plan with a section that includes a financial overview.

Complete Your To-Do List: Schedule a Consultation with a Marketing Expert

Learn digital marketing best practices from the industry experts at iPage. We’re excited to help new small business owners jumpstart their ventures, build a strong web presence, and effectively market their products and services in multiple channels. To get started with your business’ new marketing campaign, schedule a consultation with our team today.