Opening a new business is always an exciting prospect. You spend months, if not years, thinking of all the fun things associated with a business, like calculating profits, being your own boss, and building the best team imaginable.
Before you earn a single dollar from your hard work, however, you need to make sure you have certain aspects squared away. As anyone who has gone through the process can attest to, the true essence of a startup is rolling up your sleeves to ensure the success of your business.
So, what does an entrepreneur need to do before cutting the proverbial ribbon on their new venture?
- Understanding Relevant Laws
Building a foundation of relevant legal knowledge isn’t the most exciting part of being an entrepreneur; in fact, it can be quite daunting. Regardless, you need to spend time creating a better-than-rudimentary understanding of the laws that will regulate your business with respect to employment, taxes and anything specifically related to your industry.
Consult with both a lawyer and an accountant to learn how to structure your business in a way that is compliant with relevant laws. When it comes to legal matters and protecting your business, details matter. Don’t be shy about asking questions, even if it costs a little more. It’ll be worth it in the long term.
- Own Your Business Name
You need to register your business name with the Canada Revenue Agency and, if possible, secure all pertinent internet domain names. Depending on your type of business, you could look to register it as a trademark. This will give you sole use of your business name for 15 years, at which point you’ll have to renew.
This is an important early step for every startup. It also reveals whether your business name is already in use, meaning you might have to come up with another clever moniker or pun, or shift to a slight variation on your original idea.
And don’t for a second think that by using your own name as your business name that you’re in the clear. Your name doesn’t have to be “Tommy Hilfiger” for it to already be in use.
- Figure Out Your Personal Finances
Launching a startup could mean living without a salary for a year or two. That’s the reality and you’ve probably already accepted it, which is great. But acceptance is only a small part of what you need to do.
While your business is still in the planning phase, make sure your personal finances are in order. Get your savings and investments as high as possible since there’s a good chance you’ll be dipping into them at some point relatively soon. Additionally, make a new household budget that includes what you can spend on non-essential business expenses like lunches or coffee.
You need to keep your non-work life operational and not fall into personal debt while your business ramps up. This will only compound stress, and there will certainly be enough of that in the early going.
- Develop a Marketing & Communications Plan
Business hours should be devoted to sales and operations, so the best advice is to have your marketing and communications plans in place and ready to be executed on day one. These plans need to be comprehensive and involve tactics that will impact the bottom line for both the short and long term.
These strategies should cover marketing and communications with respect to digital, print, experiential and community outreach. They should be constantly evolving as more opportunities present themselves. Taking your first year of operations to develop these plans could result in missing out on growing your customer base.
- Choose a Payroll System
Unless you’re the only one working and wearing every hat, you’ll need to pay your employees. The last thing you want is to be so overwhelmed that you miss a payday, which can result in disgruntled employees or even disruptions to your operations.
With the advent of digital payroll systems, your employees and vendors can be paid promptly and automatically. Before you launch your business – even if you’re the sole employee in those early days – choose a system and familiarize yourself with every aspect and feature.
Some of the more popular ones are Wave Accounting, Payment Evolution, Quickbooks, and SimplePay. Each is different, so you’d be wise to take advantage of demos or free trials to discover which best suits your needs.
- Hire an Advisor
Having an advisor can be invaluable. Ideally, this is an experienced person who understands your industry and knows how to navigate the challenges of running a startup. If you went through the early stages without a mentor or advisor, try to bring one or more onboard for your official launch.
This is someone to bounce ideas off, to seek advice from, and to also help you make connections when needed. If you have the capacity, an advisory board can be even more valuable, but make sure you vet every person and use contracts to establish roles, responsibilities, and legal parameters.
- Secure Financing
Opening your business with only one month of financing in your coffers could be problematic, especially when things get bleak around day five after you check your bank account.
The best advice is to have all your loans secured and all your numbers crunched before launching. You would be well advised to have enough money in the bank to run without interruption for at least a year. If the funds aren’t readily available, you’ll be spending all your time worrying and hustling when you should be selling and managing.
- Hire Your Core Team
It’s unrealistic to think you need to have every role at your company filled in the first week. What you do need is to have key hires ready to start immediately. During the pre-launch period, you should outline the roles that are most important for your daily operations and those that will enable growth. From there, start interviewing and get hiring. This is also a good time to create concrete hiring protocols.
The Keys to Startup Success
There’s nothing nobler than being an entrepreneur. Do everything in your power to give yourself the best chance at success so that your business – and you – can thrive. Even when things are tense prior to launch, keep pushing and making sure to take care of the small details. They matter.
Rob Shapiro | Contributing Writer