The Business Builder Checklist is designed to help individuals interested in launching new businesses, products, or services. I’ve used this tool as a guide with my clients for years. It’s purpose is to help you begin thinking about the process of launching and gain insight into some of the critical decisions you will need to make along the way.
Start with section #1 and work your way down the list. Make sure to follow this ten-step process in order. Think of this sequence like building a house. Without the proper foundation, everything could collapse. When you are finished, you will have a very good sense of the key decisions you will need to make as you launch and grow your business. You will be in a much better position to eliminate blind spots, reduce your risk, and be in the best position to succeed! If you get stuck or have trouble with anything below, don’t worry! This is all a process and you’re on your way to building the business of your dreams!
GET YOUR PERSONAL HOUSE IN ORDER
How much capital are you willing to risk?
How much time can you dedicate to this project?
Do you have a good attorney in place to set up your business correctly?
Do you have a bookkeeper in place to set up your books from day one?
Have you discussed you plans with your spouse or significant other? Are you on the same page? Have you both agreed to how much money you can risk and how much time you can dedicate?
Do you have the right people around you? People who have already achieved what you are setting out to accomplish?
People who will pull you help and help guide you?
Does your environment breed success? Do you spend your time with people and organizations that push you and demand you get more out of yourself?
Is your personal brand a reflection of who you need to be to achieve the results you want? What do your daily habits tell others about you? Do they send the message you need to succeed?
CREATE YOUR PLAN
Have you built a financial model for your business? How much time and money will it take for your business to generate profits? Are you being overly optimistic in your assumptions?
What are all of your potential sources of income? Have you factored in your costs of sales? Have you accounted for all of expenses?
Have you used your financial model to create the framework for the rest of your business plan?
Have you summarized your business plan in a single page that highlights every key aspect of the business?
Have you shared this business plan with your investors, team members, consultants, partners, etc. to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and running in the same direction?
BUILD YOUR TEAM
What are your core strengths? What is the one thing you do really well? The one thing that you really excel at or have been working to become great at?
What are your weaknesses? What are the key areas in life and business that you have trouble with or simply don't enjoy doing?
Would you describe yourself as a visionary (someone with big ideas that likes to hand implementation to someone else), a manager (that likes to take a vision and implement it), or a sharpshooter (who excels at a specific skill like design, development, or sales)?
What is your plan for working your strengths and hiring your weaknesses? What is the best role for you in the company? The role where you can add the most value?
Have you considered taking on a business partner? If so, do you have complimentary temperaments, skill sets, networks, etc.?
Have you put a partner prenuptial agreement in place?
What is your plan for creating a winning culture? What are the key values that your business will stand for and have permeate through the business.
ACCUMULATE YOUR RESOURCES // RAISE CAPITAL
How much money do you need to get started? How can you scale down the first version of your business to get to market with the least amount of capital required?
Will you bootstrap, borrow, or raise outside capital? If bootstrapping, what do you have of value to offer offers? Who are your trading partners?
If you plan to raise outside capital, who is your target investor?
What is their area of expertise? What are their investment requirements? What stage must the company be in? How much is their average investment? How long before they want to see a return on capital?
What is your strategy for moving an investor along the sales cycle? Do you have your 30-second elevator pitch, one paragraph business summary, and a one-page overview in place?
What are the critical things you need to focus on during each meeting with an investor? What should you absolutely avoid doing or saying at all costs?
Will you be you selling equity in your business? Are you asking for a loan or convertible note? What are the terms?
What are you negotiating for? Are you trying to hold onto equity, limit preferences, retain control, have the power to make key decisions, etc.?
Have you made it easy for your team to do business? What tools do you use to communicate with others (email, contacts, calendars, video conferencing, document storage, etc.)?
Is every member of your team using the same tools and technologies?
CREATE YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE // GO TO MARKET
What is the one thing your business is great at? What are you going to do better than everyone else? What is different about what you have to offer? Why will you stand out?
Who is your target customer? Tell me 25 things about them?
Who are they? Where do they hang out? What communities are they a part of? What do they care about?
What is the one problem you are solving for this one target customer? Do they know the problem exists? Do they want the problem solved? Do they care?
What is the simplest form of this product you can build to solve your customer’s problem and get to market in 90 days or less?
How will you collect user feedback once launched?
How will you keep your team from suffering "shiny ball syndrome"? How do you keep them focused on delivering that one thing for that one target customer without adding a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles prior to launch?
PARTNERSHIPS // DISTRIBUTION
What businesses have target customers that are identical to yours?
What problems or issues do those businesses have, that you can help them solve? Who is your internal champion within each potential partner business? How can you make them look great?
How can you work together to cross promote one another and provide resources to help both sides grow further, faster, and with less capital required?
What is your strategy for getting your product or service in front of potential customers? Do you plan to distribute through retail channels or online?
Will you hire an internal team or outsource to third parties to help get distribution through your target channels and providers?
MARKETING, ADVERTISING, & PUBLIC RELATIONS
What is your strategy for marketing your new business, product, or service? Do you plan mass marketing? Do you plan to focus your initial effort on a region or local area?
Can you target your product to a very specific niche? If so, what is that niche? Why have you chosen it? Tell me everything you know about it and why your product solves a need in that area?
Do you plan to use social media? If so, what is your strategy?
Which social media networks will you place most of your effort (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). Where does your target customer spend their social networking time?
SELL! SELL! SELL!
What is most important to your target customer? When was the last time you asked? What systems or feedback loops do you have in place to help you better understand their unique needs?
What has to happen and how does your target customer know they are getting what they want? What are the rules they have set up either consciously or subconsciously to drive them toward a purchase decision?
How much are they willing to spend and believe they got real value for their money?
Are you going to hire an internal sales team or are you going to hire a third party? How will you find and qualify a third party sales group?
What is your plan for compensating the sales staff, developing your sales team, and retaining your best people?
LAST BUT NOT LEAST…
Are you part of an entrepreneur group or organization that provides mentoring, support, feedback, education, and community?