Whether you are in the process of starting your own business or you are merely thinking about it, the process can be a little daunting if you aren’t sure where to start. Nothing feels worse than having no clue what the next step should be or the best route to take, but with the right market and people, you can get back on track and keep pushing forward. Read this checklist for starting your own business to make sure you start off on the right foot.

Find Your Market

When starting out, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is finding a niche market and sticking to it, at least in the beginning. For example, a sporting goods store is a field, while golf equipment for children or sporting goods for the disabled is a niche. If you aren’t sure of your niche, start by making a list of the things you do best and skills you bring to the table to find an area of expertise that matches your interests and experience. However, the key is finding a market that is in demand and meets the needs and wants of potential customers or clients. If no one wants it, and there are five other businesses like it, you will find it difficult to stay afloat. Test the waters by conducting research.

As your research your market, keep in mind your goal. You need to determine if your prospective customers or clients will be willing to pay for what you are offering. To gather information, conduct your own research using interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups. These tools can help you pinpoint important information such as the importance of price and particular features, or the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Remember to keep an open mind when you are conducting market research, as the feedback you receive won’t always be what you want to hear. Rather than trashing your idea completely, make adjustments to meet customer’s demands.

Find the Right People

Surrounding yourself with the right team is just as important as finding your target market. The right employees can not only take some of the stress off of you, but accelerate the growth and success of your business or company. Hiring employees can increase efficiency and free you up to do other tasks, but it also brings a little more complexity to the table. Employees increase the number of government regulations you must comply with, and you must take into account payroll taxes to meet tax obligations. If payroll and taxes leave you throwing your hands up in frustration, consider purchasing helpful programs that take the guesswork out of it. For example, 1099 software quickly prepares important tax forms such as a 1099 and W-2, and takes the stress out of payroll by automatically calculating federal, state, and local tax withholdings. The benefit of being paperless could also ensure that you’ll never have to wonder where you put that document that is now buried under a pile of paper in the corner.

As you prepare to hire your very first employees, take it slow, as this is a commitment of time and money. Having to fire an employee will require you to devote more time and resources to finding a replacement. To start, determine what positions you need to fill. Starting out, strive to hire people who can get your product or service to market efficiently and effectively, and avoid hiring high-level executives until your business has seen substantial growth. Look to your network to find the best employees, seeking referrals from friends, family, and industry colleagues. Don’t be afraid to use your new hire as a way to link up with other potential hires. If an employee recommends someone, they are putting their own reputation on the line should the employee not work out, so the likelihood of success is greater. Other options for finding employees include utilizing job boards, newspapers, social media, or employment agencies.

In starting a business, you can’t expect everything to be a success. There will be setbacks and even failures, but by finding the right market and surrounding yourself with like-minded people, the chances of success are great.

by Jason Lewis