How to Start a Small Business: Your Pre-game Checklist

The Internet has changed the way SMBs must think about creating and positioning themselves before they even enter the market. Here’s a helpful a pre-game checklist of things to do – and things to think about – before you start a small business.

5. Gather your tools

how-to-start-a-small-business-3If you’re starting an online business, you may be able to begin with little more than a domain name, a hosting plan and a smile. Figure out the essential tools needed to get things moving, and calculate your bare bones startup costs.

Forget expensive marketing plans, the web design firm with a $20,000 minimum, or the Mercedes of email automation software. That will all come in time. In the beginning, stick to the basics – a solid landing page, a way to capture email addresses, and the ingredients needed to bake the world’s best muffins (or the snake needed to unclog the world’s gnarliest drain).

Focus on the tools that will allow you to provide the best service or create the best product possible – promoting your work can wait until later.

6. Start small

Few small business owners start a small business by getting an enormous loan or grant, quitting their day jobs and simply diving in. Don’t be afraid to start small and begin to grow your business while still working a full time job.

As you spend time meeting with a limited number of clients or shipping a few products here and there, you’ll be able to asses how much growth will need to happen before you can make the leap and quit your 9 to 5. You’ll also have a security blanket while making those inevitable first-year-in-business blunders.

7. Be flexible

When you start a small business, it’s easy to become attached to your game plan. After all, you’ve put in all this work defining your target market, creating your unique selling proposition, and gathering the tools of the trade, right?

But what if, after spending countless hours perfecting your organic lemon soap recipe, you find that your customers really prefer your blackberry hand lotion?

While it may be tempting to try and convince your customers of the many health benefits of organic lemons, the savvy SMB will scrap the soap and stick with the lotion every time. Listen to your customers, and take an objective look at what’s working and what’s not.

Successful small business owners happily ditch ideas that don’t work, because they know that doing so is the only way to make room for bigger,  better ideas.

8. Test, test, test!

What if you know something’s not working, but you can’t figure out why? The key to this common dilemma lies in split testing.

Whether it’s your website, an email blast, or the product itself, making small changes to your web copy, colors, fonts, and positioning can have a huge psychological impact on how your brand is perceived.

Determine exactly what changes need to be made by offering half of your customers Version A, and half of your customers Version B. The version with the most clicks and conversions wins, and can be implemented across all of your marketing materials for maximum effect.

9.  Get a mentor

Whether it’s a coach, competitor or friend, finding another small business owner to mentor you in your first year will help you through the inevitable ups and downs that occur when you start a small business.

Keep yourself accountable to your goals, gain insight from a seasoned pro, and give yourself a shoulder to cry on when the going gets tough. Hooking up with a stellar mentor can shave years off the SMB learning curve, so start looking now! You’ll be surprised at how eager others are to share their knowledge and help a newbie out.

10. Celebrate

Holy crap, you did it! Don’t forget to take a minute and celebrate your achievements, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time. It’s no small feat to start a small business; doing so takes buckets of courage, resourcefulness, and the ability to dust yourself off and try, try again.

What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known before starting your small business?

References:

1. The U.S. Small Business Administration

2. Eric’s Tips

Photo credits: microbusiness.vistaprint.com, www.interactivitymarketing.com, www.wesst.org

Author: Emily Farrar

At Shoeboxed, Emily focuses on keeping our users happy and engaged. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Public Relations and an avid Tar Heels fan. She enjoys traveling, staying active and spending time with her six-year-old Maltese, Madam.