The Small Startup Checklist: 7 Key Steps for Running a Smarter Business

Reality check: not every business owner wants to start an empire.

While the idea of being “the next big thing” might be enticing to some prospective business owners, others would be more than satisfied with simply having a profitable business to call their own.

And hey, if that sounds like you, then your head is probably in the right place in terms of running a company.

Think about it. When you’re rooted in reality and aren’t worried about lofty goals or making billions, it’s much easier to get down to business and take action.

And who knows? Perhaps bigger aspirations will come in time.

But for now, what should someone interested in running a small, swift startup be worried about? What are the initial building blocks that need to be addressed to get your company off the ground?

We’re glad you asked! Below is a seven-point checklist highlighting what you’ll need to get up and running in today’s competitive startup space regardless of your industry.

Get Your Creative Assets Together

From imagery to site copy, there are tons of creative assets required to give your business the presentation it deserves. Everything from team photos, company logos to product description and services pages are all make-or-break when it comes to putting out the proper message.

Although coming up with these creatives is indeed daunting, bear in mind that they can always be fine-tuned down the line. Likewise, you always have the option of consulting a designer or copywriter to ensure that your creatives are in line with the best practices of your industry.

Sort Out Your SEO

Don’t listen to the rumblings that SEO is dead. Content creation and link-building are top priorities for any startup. Whether you do it in-house or outsource is up to you, but bear in mind that it may take months or years to see your efforts pay off. When in doubt, it’s not a bad idea to start with an initial “push” or content auditing your site for SEO purposes regularly.

Also, keep the seemingly minor elements of SEO in mind when it comes to ranking.

While the jury might still be out on the impact of social media, for example, consider how small touches like image optimization can help you rank. According to FlashMarks, Google is now showing image thumbnails in 45% of search results. This is a huge boost compared to the past and signals how a bit of optimization can go a long way.

Look at Your Existing Relationships

For the sake of keeping costs down and expanding reach, looking at who you know before hiring or consulting externally is a smart move.

Even if your closest business relationships aren’t in your space, think about how they might be able to connect you with new hires, consulting firms, freelancers and other resources during your early days. This sort of networking can help save you major time and headaches when it comes to talent as you rely on people who already have a track record.

Hire with Extreme Care

On a related note, strive to keep your company as “small” as possible payroll-wise. Full-time hires should only be made on an as-needed basis, especially considering the wealth of freelance and contract talent out there. Outsourcing tasks is a good idea, but keeping your startup down to just “you” for as long as possible is a smart move for saving.

Figure Out Your Funding Situation

You can’t have a startup if you don’t have capital.

Whether you’re bankrolling your own business or have outside investors, make sure that you pay yourself a reasonable amount and budget like crazy during your early phases. As soon as you start bringing in new blood and investors, keep in mind the fine details of splitting equity in your startup so there are no snags or legal snafus waiting around the corner.

Watch Your Competition

As a quick aside, it always pays to have a pulse on what competitors in your space are up to. Ideally, you can enter a market that hasn’t been totally saturated so that business ultimately flocks to you. On the flip side, those in more competitive niches might need to nail down an extremely specific unique selling proposition to truly stand out.

Keep Your Health in Check

Finally, remember that while your business may indeed be your livelihood, it doesn’t have to be your life. Business leaders should care about mental health for the sake of themselves and companies at large, which means taking time for self-care when appropriate. It might sound cliche, but your company will never be 100% if you’re struggling on a personal level.

Small startups can be just as strong as the “big boys” in your industry, especially if you’d prefer to run a simple, swifter business where you have control. If you can tick off all the boxes on this checklist, chances are you have the chops to start a company that totally crushes it.