Small Business Startup Checklist & Tips

May 15, 2023 11:31 PM By Will Andre

Starting a small business can be an exciting and fulfilling venture, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges and risks. To help you navigate the path to success, here's a really quick checklist of good things to know and plan as you start out. By ensuring you have these essentials in place, you can mitigate potential risks and set the stage for growth and maybe even a little fun. Additionally, we'll provide you with some growth hacks to help your new business stand out and succeed quickly–we do some of these here at NodCards, so you know they're good. 

Small business startup strategy

1. Clear Business Plan:
A well-thought-out business plan serves as the foundation for your small business. It outlines your goals, target market, competition, and strategies for growth. Without a solid plan, you risk operating blindly and making costly mistakes that could hamper your progress. REAL TALK: Sometimes the easiest way to make a business plan is to copy someone else's–and that's okay. For example, if you know you make the best lemonade in the world, you don't really need to lay out your target market, you just need to get selling. You should know in broad strokes what your growth strategy will be: start with a stand, offer to-go jugs, go to a farmers market, open an online store, get into retail, get acquired by Nestle and boom–you're a self-made lemonade scion! Don't get hung up on your plan. Point yourself in a direction and just start right now.

2. Legal and Regulatory Compliance:
Ensuring that your business complies with all applicable laws and regulations is important. Failure to comply can result in fines, penalties, or even legal action. This includes obtaining the necessary licenses, permits, and registrations specific to your industry and location. If you have a little bit of startup capital this is one place where you might want to spend it, but it's not why you might think. Yes, it makes sense to have a professional service like a lawyer or account help you set up the necessary paperwork. That's partly why they exist. The other reason to use them is because lots of other people use them, too, and they can make referrals to you for your new business. PRO TIP: Lawyers and accountants are some of the best-connected people on the planet. You should absolutely use them if you can.  

3. Financial Management:
Effective financial management is key to the success of any business. You need to establish a system for tracking income and expenses, creating budgets, and projecting cash flow. Without proper financial management, you may encounter difficulties in meeting your financial obligations or identifying opportunities for growth. Make sure you know your unit economics. If you're selling physical products, know what they cost to make, ship, store and deliver. If you're a service provider selling time for money, make sure you know not just your hourly rate, but your cost of living per hour, too. Since you probably don't want to work 24 hours per day, you need to bring in well over three times your cost per hour to account for taxes and other hits to your net income if you want to work an eight hour day. (Good luck with that, but it'll be fun.)

4. Branding and Marketing Strategy:
Developing a strong brand identity and marketing strategy is essential for standing out in today's competitive marketplace. Failing to establish a recognizable brand and communicate your value proposition can make it challenging to attract customers and differentiate yourself from competitors. Not only do you need a strong brand, you also need to build trust. We touched on this in the Three Goliaths of Small Business Marketing post which you should definitely go and read (after this one, of course). Trust is one of the hardest things to earn and convey as a small business and particularly as a new business. Small business branding is more than a logo, but it doesn't have to be hard. Consistency is better than complexity every time.

5. Online Presence:
In the digital age, having a robust online presence is non-negotiable. At a minimum, you'll probably want to set up social media profiles, and explore digital marketing channels to reach your target audience. Ignoring the online world will limit your visibility and hinder your growth potential, but you don't need to go all-in on a website when you're starting out. In fact, in many cases you probably don't need a website at all to grow your business. These days, your business can be up and running online in a few minutes with a free email address like Gmail, a few payment options like PayPal or Venmo, and a mobile phone. That's it. That's all you need. There's never been a more exciting time to be a small business owner. 

By focusing on these five points, your startup or small business will be well on its way to success. It's also important to remember that these are foundational concepts that will evolve over time. You absolutely should NOT have your entire marketing strategy fleshed out by the time you're ready to sell your first dance session or land your first accounting client. There's plenty you don't know yet, so don't waste time on planning with insufficient data.  

Small business growth hacks

1. Embrace Social Media:
Leverage the power of social media platforms to connect with your target audience, build relationships, and promote your products or services. Engage with customers, respond to their queries, and share valuable content that showcases your expertise. Pay special attention to new features that social media platforms roll out. The early adopters of these are often (quietly) rewarded with increased reach and distribution of their content in exchange for the creator's adoption. 

2. Develop Strategic Partnerships:
Identify complementary businesses or industry influencers with whom you can collaborate. Strategic partnerships can provide access to new markets, extend your reach, and enhance your credibility. Partnerships are all about getting reach and building trust. You don't need to have a big audience, you just need to know who does and how to best engage and enable that influencer to vouch for you to their patrons.

3. Offer Exceptional Customer Service:
Deliver outstanding customer service from the start. Word of mouth recommendations can be a powerful tool for small businesses. By going above and beyond to satisfy your customers, you can foster loyalty and gain a competitive edge. This is such an underrated growth hack for small businesses because it's hard to measure word of mouth, but if you seek to make every interaction a positive experience for your customers, you will absolutely get more business. And, don't forget, repeat business is how empires are built. Make them want to come back to you, and make it easy for them to do so.  

4. Leverage Customer Feedback:
Actively seek and listen to customer feedback. Use it to improve your products, services, and overall customer experience. Engaging with customers and implementing their suggestions demonstrates that you value their opinions. When the feedback is good, don't forget to ask for a recommendation or a referral. This is a key step in the sales and follow-up process that many small business leaders forget about. Positive reviews market your business for you. This is the power of a strong small business brand. 

5. Implement Agile Marketing Strategies:
Stay flexible and adapt your marketing strategies based on real-time data and market trends. Experiment with different approaches and monitor the results to optimize your marketing and maximize the impact. Agility is a superpower of small business. Did the Lakers just win the NBA championship? Offer a Lakers fan discount for calling you right now. This topical relevance will reward you with new customers who appreciate your currency in the market. The fastest and most effective way to capitalize on agility is on social media and in email. These offer direct response and the ability for you to grow your business at the click of a button. This is how you win.

Final thoughts

Starting a small business requires careful planning and execution. By following this checklist we've provided, you can mitigate some risks and set a solid foundation for success. Moreover, by incorporating growth hacks such as embracing social media, focusing on exceptional customer service, and adapting agile marketing strategies, you can quickly stand out from the crowd and propel your business towards growth and prosperity. Remember, success is a journey, and with the right tools and strategies, your small business can achieve remarkable things.

One final thought: don't overthink any of this stuff. It's easy to get buried in the sheer number of things that need to get done, but you can't do everything, so why try? Just get going right away and get better every day. That's your best strategy. 

Turn your small business into a BIG BRAND with NodCards

Whether you are just starting out or already established with great customers, NodCards unifies your small business brand across web, mobile, email, search and social. Build instant trust with customers, get seen on search and social media, and turn your emails into slick sales pitches – all from one platform!