How To Launch A Business In 15 Steps

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Business planning can be tough. This simple guide will walk you through the basics.

How To Launch A Business In 15 Steps

You have probably found yourself here because of that brilliant business idea that hit you one day, and you wonder how you could turn it into reality. You might even have drafted a business plan by now, but still wonder how to go about the process of setting up your firm. Whether it is an online or offline business, the steps each founder goes through are closely similar. The hardest part is taking that first step. We are here to help you take it, and guide you on the way further.

This article will outline the foundational steps of setting up your business. Following the steps presented here will not only help you save your time, but also define your objectives clearly. The same goes for communicating what your business is about in front of your teammates, cofounders, and investors. As you move along the guide, try to be precise and specific. There is no need to be overly elaborate. The most important thing is to maintain focus on your core idea and your goals.. 

Some things to remember:

  • There are no rigid rules when it comes to creating a business. But some things are essential to laying a strong foundation.
  • The order of these steps can vary. It all depends on how formalized your business is at this stage, and whether you already have a team on board.
  • Do not rush into working on the actual product before getting to know your market. You might waste a lot of time and resources trying to develop something that the customers did not need in the first place.
  1. Define the problem

Every company exists to solve a particular problem. Define what is the one your business means to resolve, and, most importantly, who are the people encountering that problem. Once you begin unraveling the issue at hand, more problems may arise. Go ahead and list them! Remember though that you cannot fix them all at once and you need to narrow your focus down to max. three most burning issues.

Take Airbnb for example. This is how they defined the problems in the hospitality industry back in their early beginnings:

  • Price is an important concern for customers booking travel online
  • Hotels leave you disconnected from the city and its culture.
  • No easy way exists to book a room with a local or become a host

Only after identifying these key issues were they able to come up with a platform which would serve as a solution.

  1. Propose a solution

You cannot solve the problem just yet. Think of what the solution could be. Could it be a web platform connecting multiple users, a direct service, a manufactured product, or a digital application? 

Start simply by defining your core idea in simple terms. For example, if you are a dog owner and have a problem spending a lot of time looking for pet sitters in your area, a solution like “Airbnb for dogs” might sound appealing and communicate the idea easily. However, your business might begin to differ from anything that resembles Airbnb as you progress with building your company, so it might be smarter to describe it in more general terms – for example, “an online platform allowing dog-owners to find pet sitters on demand”. This leaves room for flexibility while designing your solution. At the same time, the core idea remains the same.

Examples of core ideas behind some famous firms:

  • Google –  use the Internet to organize world’s information
  • Uber – use mobile technology to match riders with rides
  • Twitter – allow sharing content quickly and easily

Remember that the proposed solution has to be straightforward. To test it, you can simply present the idea to your grandma, uncle, or nephew to check whether everyone can understand what you would like to create. You should be able to introduce your solution in one to two sentences. As you present, learn from your listeners’ comments and improve this short pitch to make it as comprehensible as possible.

  1. Choose your customer

Moving onto probably the most vital point of consideration while working on your solution – it is time to determine who is your customer! Although this step should be obvious, the key objective here is to validate the problem you found early onTo do this, you must prove that the problem exists and that there are people who are either desperate to find a solution or find the currently available options insufficient. 

The only way to learn more about the problem is to find people who experience it themselves – the more often it happens, the better for your research! Finding them and getting them to talk to you may be a challenge, but don’t get discouraged. First, you can reach out to your personal network, and then move on to exploring online communities that share the same interest in the problem (e.g. Facebook groups, Subreddits, Quora, message boards, etc.). Get engaged in conversations and ask them to describe what they struggle with. Listen to their pain points . You are likely to see a multitude of different opinions and views on the problem, which may stand in contrast with what you believe, but try to be open to any input and criticism. Focus on presenting the core idea. Once you gather a better understanding of the problem among these communities, you will have some foundation to build upon. Note down everything that people mention, along with their personal and contact information (if they are willing to share it with you), because, who knows, they might become your actual first customers very soon!

If these entry conversations went well, do everything you can to keep in touch with them. Try to contact them directly and dig deeper into discovering their needs and expectations regarding the solution. This process will help you develop your initial idea into something that meets actual customer demands. If it turns out that the solution you had in mind in the first place is far off from what people actually need – consider a pivot. Based on your research, your idea will evolve and may become better at targeting a particular niche or applying to a larger audience.

  1. Perform initial market research

Now that you know who your customer is, you can attempt to measure your target market. You need some tangible numbers to measure the size of your business opportunity. Following our “Airbnb for dogs” example, you could just hop into Google and look for the number of dog owners in your geographical area, or simply type in “Pet sitting market size in X” to find your answer. 

Some markets may serve a very small niche, so think directly about the group you just spoke to and find words to describe them. Alternatively, check how many people are currently using your competitors’ services. Some information on larger companies is publicly available online.

Now, ask yourself this question and use the numbers to provide an honest answer – is this market big enough to enter with a new business venture? Is it likely to generate substantial revenues? Try to be unbiased and remain realistic.

  1. Get to know your competition

Here is the fun part. You have some understanding of the market now, but you also have to learn about the businesses that serve it. Do some research on other companies that offer services or products that mirror your solution or at least target the same group of customers. Their offering might be different than yours, but if they serve the same market – they are indirect competitors. If there are a lot of them – great, this is another sign that there is a large market potential for your product. If you are not seeing any competition – you are probably not looking hard enough.

Exploring what other businesses in the industry have in their offer and trying out products will put you directly in the shoes of your target customer. Sign up to their platforms, visit their stores, and purchase anything to get a feel of what they do and how they do it. You can learn a lot from the process, so take notes. To get a broader view, look up their reviews online and see what other customers say.

If your competition seems to be doing great – remember that there is always a way to do it better. You might be inclined to mimic their actions, but avoid copying anything they do directly. Instead, see what works and what doesn’t. If you can, see how their offer evolved over the years and what mistakes they might have made along the way. Learning from their mistakes is much less painful than learning from your own, after all. 

  1. Document your idea on paper

There is no better way of organizing yourself than putting everything you have gathered so far into a document. A business plan is an obvious choice. As useful as this plan can be, there is no need to treat it as a defining, definite document. No business plan is static, and every one will need frequent updates in the future, so do not spend too much time crafting a perfect plan at this stage. It is mostly there to help you clarify your idea and describe all aspects of your business.

While you’re at it, ask yourself whether you want to introduce your idea to potential partners and investors. If the answer is yes, then a business plan won’t do on its own. You will need a pitch deck and a budget (a financial plan for a defined period). These documents are meant to be more concise than a lengthy business plan, and will help you prove the value of your business to external parties more efficiently. 

Every company has limited resources, which means that your original business plan could benefit from an attached roadmap. A roadmap is a long-term strategic plan, which defines your future goals and desired outcomes along a specific timeframe (up to 5 years). Instead of detailed activities and necessary actions, it describes general milestones that you want your company to achieve. 

  1. Assemble a team

Having it all written down feels good, doesn’t it? Now, it’s time to find people who could help bring your idea to life. Say hello to talented professionals on SUPlift and assemble a crew!

You know your strong suits and weak spots best, so you should also know what kind of people you need by your side to compensate for those. For example, if you are tech-savvy but you do not feel comfortable with handling sales – you will need to find a good salesman. Your co-founders and first employees are essential to get your venture off the ground, so you have to make sure that all pieces of the puzzle are present.

Working with people you have just met can be tricky at first. Before you dive right into business, you can do a mock project together to get to know each other. Our suggestion of how to do it can be found here. There is a high chance you will spend more time with your co-founder than with anybody else, so it is crucial to determine whether you speak the same language. 

Moreover, you and your team have to agree on terms of cooperation. You should be specific about what you can offer and what you require from every member of the crew. Afterwards, you can talk about compensation and equity. You have to decide whether you intend to divide company shares right away, use an ESOP or a cliff vesting option instead. More on these can be read here. Remember that it’s best to define these terms at the beginning of your journey together to avoid misunderstandings. 

  1. Pick a name and establish an online presence

What would be the best name for your business? Regardless of whether you brainstorm on your own or with your team, do yourself a favor and create a table with ideas and vote for the best. There are some tools online, such as Namelix, which can generate names for you in a few seconds. Just feed it with some keywords.

Below are a few factors we recommend taking into consideration during the process of choosing:

  • Web domain – check domain availability on (popular extensions, such as .com are best)
  • Social media – check handle availability on all major platforms (maintain consistency across all)
  • SEO – your name should be unique and avoid competition in search engines. Naming your business with a common word, e.g. boots, will make it harder to find.
  • Language – English names work best for international businesses. A catchy name could be a combination of a few words or a quirky, playful misspelling.
  • Comprehensibility – if you plan on operating across borders, the name should be easily understandable and pronounceable for all, regardless of which language they speak. Keep it short and easy to remember.
  • Coolness factor – lastly, ask yourself – does it sound good to you?

Once you decide on a name, don’t waste time and claim your domain and SoMe handles as soon as possible. A domain should not cost more than $100 / year. Most wanted domains can be more expensive, though, and in such cases – it is your decision to make, depending on how much you are willing to pay.

  1. Develop your product

As a founder, you must have a long-term vision of how you want your product to look like and perform in the future. However, limited resources at the early stages will force you to focus on what is most necessary to make it work. During product development, you can divide different product features into two categories: the must-haves and nice-to-haves

Undoubtedly, one hundred percent of your focus should land on the must-haves. Your goal should be to launch your product / service as soon as possible. This will allow you to get feedback from your first customers quicker, and use that information to improve what you have, pushing product development further into the right direction.

  1. Settle legal matters

Now, it’s time to set up a legal entity. Before you open the doors for customers, you need to have to sign a company agreement, register the firm with local authorities, open a bank account and, in the case of online business, draft terms of conditions and privacy policy. We suggest thinking global and opening a company wherever it is most beneficial for you, not necessarily exactly where you live. Look for countries and places that are most open towards new businesses. Sometimes, opening a business in certain regions may allow you to apply for certain aids, subsidies or donations. It is worth spending some time researching this, since you can actually save money on taxes or save time on bureaucracy in the future 

  1. Set your KPIs

Define your business objectives and figure out how to measure them. How many items of your product do you want to sell this year? How much will it cost to obtain one customer? You need to know how to measure all aspects of your activities, not just the sales. Knowing your numbers is essential to monitor the health of your business. Have a look at this introduction to KPIs here to find the measures that can apply to you best.

  1. Launch!

Even though this may sound like the most exciting step, it is rarely as grandiose as you would imagine. A big launch with fireworks and customers barging through the door is a myth. You are most likely familiar with Apple and Facebook, but does anyone really remember their first day of operation, apart from the founders? Treat this day like a milestone. You have quite a journey behind you and probably still have doubts, but think of it as a beginning of a new chapter. You can finally show your product to the world and see how people like it.

  1. Announce your presence

You have to let the world know that your company exists. You may have an amazing product, but if no one knows about it – it might as well be useless. Depending on what you sell and who is your customer – your marketing efforts may vary. There are many options to position yourself in the market and determine which channels are most effective for your business. Start with a good plan, using this guide, and then pick fitting marketing strategies. Some of these may be more effective than others, so the ideal sales funnel may take time to emerge. Test different strategies, measure results, and adjust your marketing plan the same way as you adjust your business plan.

  1. Find a product-market fit

Hopefully, after launching, you will gather more and more leads and clients, providing invaluable feedback on how your company can do better. You should adjust your product to fit the market and customer demands instead of fighting initial criticisms. The world can probably survive without your product, but your company will not survive without a customer. If one solution or version of the product does not meet customer needs – try another one. Maybe your business model has some gaps or you set the price too high / too low. Maybe the target group for your product was chosen incorrectly. Try to fit in the market and once you do it – you will know it.

  1. Perform a SWOT analysis

The last step is a well-known SWOT analysis. This should, in fact, be your most important recurring task. You have to analyze your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats all the time. It is not a one-time analysis to knock out before launch. As you will learn, it becomes even more useful when you grow. 

The most drastic examples of ignoring the need to perform SWOT frequently are stories about Google vs. Yahoo and Netflix vs. Blockbuster. Yahoo and Blockbuster were both first-movers in their respective industries. Eventually, they got so big that they ignored their threats – the emergence of the Internet (Blockbuster) or a superior technology (Yahoo). More interestingly, they were both once offered to cooperate with their smaller competitors back then, but they underestimated their potential and chose to ignore them.

At this point, we would also recommend you to ask your employees and co-founders to do it as well from time to time. They are likely to see things that you are not able to see from your perspective, and help you understand the competitive landscape even better.


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