Startup checklist: Basic tips for jump-starting your business

Chris Bennett (center) CEO and co-founder of Central.ly, discusses a business plan with Brett Welch, CEO of Switchcam, at the internet startup incubator space 500 Startups in Mountain View, California, Tuesday, November 15, 2011. Bennett is one of four African-American tech entrepreneurs behind Black Founders, a group that is trying to create opportunities for other African-Americans in the tech industry.
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So you’re ready to start turning your entrepreneurial dreams into reality, but are stumped on where to begin. Here are some quick and basic tips on how to build your organizational infrastructure and put your best foot forward out the gate.

DOMAIN NAME

When coming up with an idea for a business, a great place to start is by conducting a domain search to see if anyone else has thought of it first. Companies like 1&1Network Solutions, and Host Gator provide quality domain, web hosting and email services; they even offer frequent discounts on yearly domain packages, some as low as just $0.50. Once you’ve purchased your domain package, you’ll officially be able to receive emails to your new company address and, when the timing is right, start making plans for an official website. But before you do that, make sure you’ve also thought about your…

LOGO/BRAND ID

Your logo (also known as your Brand I.D.) is the ultimate visual representation for your company and the way for potential customers to get a good sense of what you’re all about – even before they’ve seen a single product or service. Think about all of the iconic logos you’ve seen throughout the years and what it was about them that stood out the most. Now consider what visual elements – i.e. color, size, shape, tag-line – would help your business stand out amongst the crowd and leave a lasting impression that will convert prospective buyers into returning customers.

BUSINESS CARDS

This seems like an obvious must-have for your business, but still an important point to emphasize nonetheless. Like the logo, your company business card will be a key visual representative of your company’s brand and help communicate to people the caliber of product and/or service they can expect. After all, nothing beats getting a business card that looks flimsy and amateurishly done. Sure there are tons of online do-it-yourself sites, but consider the long-term benefits that investing in quality, professionally-created business cards will yield for your company. We promise you the difference will be tremendous.

PAYMENT MERCHANT ACCOUNT

One of the most important business components for any entrepreneur, start-up or small business is determining exactly how you will collect payment from customers. While there are a lot of payment processing providers out there, it’s imperative to take your time in assessing their respective pros and cons, and select the service that is best suited for you and your business venture. In addition to Paypal (by far the most well-known) providers like Chase Quick PayAmazon Payments and Serve are effective options to consider for e-payment transactions, especially if you run an online business and don’t have time to wait for checks in the mail. Read our review of these merchant providers and others here.

BUSINESS PLAN 

What kind of venture do you want to have? Is there a particular audience or market you want to appeal to? What kind of resources and infrastructure (i.e. staff, budget) need to be implemented to achieve your desired objectives? These questions are extremely essential to laying the foundation for how your products or services will be presented, sold, and marketed in the most effective ways possible. Jumping right into starting a business venture without a strategic plan in place is like white water rafting without a paddle – you just shouldn’t do it. Having even just a skeletal outline in place to start will go far in helping to keep things focused and ensure that valuable time and resources don’t get exhausted before you’ve really begun.

What other areas have you found helpful in getting your business up and running? Share your tips with us in the comments.