Entrepreneurs are often visionaries, but taking a great idea and turning it into a company requires a lot of detail work. This is especially true if you are trying to launch your company quickly.
“The first 90 days of a startup is, unfortunately, spent on a lot of [activities] other than building your fantastic new product,” said Craig Walker, CEO of UberConference.
Trends such as the lean startup movement have placed an emphasis on getting to market as quickly as possibly and then iterating from there. While this philosophy might not work for every company, it is gaining momentum and is helping many startups get their ideas rolling. Plus, the lower cost of starting a company this way means that many companies are able to follow this model with minimal ill effects
Here are the top priorities you should consider if you want to launch your company quickly, and the tools that can help you do it.
Get your legal affairs in order
As a startup founder, staying on the right side of the law is essential. Making sure you have all your ducks in a row with the local, regional, and national government will ease the some of the tension you will inevitably face as an entrepreneur.
After you decide on a name, you need to incorporate your company. One of the most important decisions you will make is how you will incorporate your business. I usually recommend partnering with a known startup lawyer on something like this, but if time is short then there are a few online services you can use to get this done. Sites such as LegalZoom can walk you through the process. According to Hoyt David Morgan, co-founder & CEO of Nito, it’s about protecting yourself.
“You just need to put a legal layer of protection between yourself, so that you can follow your passion and you can take those risks,” Morgan said.
Pro tip: If you want to raise outside capital, avoid incorporating as an LLC. Instead, incorporate as a C Corp.
If you have multiple founders, make sure you work out the division of the company as early as possible. Create a founder prenup so you’ll know what each person’s responsibilities are. It’s important to have that metric so that you can measure performance across different parts of the company.
You’ll also want to think about the legal implications of the idea behind your business. Have you filed for a patent of the technology? Consider who has legal ownership of the intellectual property. If it is an individual, make sure to transfer ownership of the IP to the company itself so that person doesn’t feel tempted to take that IP with them if he or she leaves.
“As quickly as you possibly can make sure you own your idea, because these days patent laws are onerous. So, if you have a unique idea, first make sure that you own it; second, if you do own it, maybe file a patent,” said Mike Kelly, chairman of Colspace and Unruly Media.
Get your tech together
One of the most important parts of any startup is establishing a place for potential customers to go, usually a website. As soon as you have an idea, you should take steps to secure the branding you want. According to Walker, you should start with the URL.
“First and foremost it’s trying to figure out the URL. That’s the biggest, if you can come up with something that when people hear it they know how to find it. It’s not, ‘How do spell that?’ or ‘What exactly is that?,'” Walker said.
Set up a hosting and register with a domain registrar, and purchase the best URL you can for your company’s name. Be sure to check for other incorporated entities that share the same or a similar name to avoid stepping on toes. If you can’t find exactly what you want, try looking at variances. Walker mentioned that fact that Square’s site and social media handles are squareup.
Once you have your branding established, you can set up your site using quick tools like Squarespace or WordPress to get it out there. Squarespace is especially fast if you don’t have — or can’t afford to hire — a web designer. Or, if you have design skills you can knock it out quickly with WordPress and an inexpensive web host. For hosting, you can always default to GitHub pages if you are building a static site.
“If you’re a company that solves a real problem, make sure that it’s abundantly clear to, whoever is going to visit your site, the problem you solve and how you solve it,” Kelly said.
After you have your your website built, you will need to choose a backend platform to run your business on. Google Apps is cheap and easy, and an account can usually be established in a matter of minutes. There are other options, but Google’s push toward the enterprise means they will are welcoming to new business customers, especially small businesses.
Lastly, you will want to establish some sort of phone contact system. You can give your personal cell phone number out for your business if you want, or you can set up a third-party virtual system through a product such as Google Voice or Grasshopper.
Get your money right
Hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan famously proclaimed, “Cash rules everything around me.” While we might not use cash as frequently as we did in 1993, the idea remains the same. If you want your business to succeed, you’ve got to get paid.
You’ll want to start by opening a bank account in your business’s name. You can head to your local brick-and-mortar store if you trust them, or if they are especially efficient; or you can also simply open an online checking account through a company like Everbank.
If you are going with a major bank, check out PNC’s free business checking for a non-nonsense account with no minimum balance and no maintenance fee. An account like this is great for startups who might not have a steady revenue stream.
“Once you are going to start to actually transact you need a bank account that matches up with the tax ID, the EIN, for your LLC or whatever corporate entity you set up. Because, if you start to blur the lines between yourself as an individual and the company not only does that complicate things down the road if you bring in partners and investors, but it also introduces liability problems,” Morgan said.
If most of the transactions for your business will take place online, you’ll also need a way to take payments through your site. There are tons of ecommerce plugins freely available for WordPress and Squarespace sites, and for separately hosted sites as well. While these are not very difficult to implement, if you do not have experience as a developer some of these options can be frustrating, and end up being difficult for users to navigate. You can always just open a PayPal account tied to your business bank accounts and take payments that way.
Of course, if you have a physical product that you will be selling locally, or at trade shows, you will need a way to take payments on those products as well. The free Square readers, available through their site, usually take a little time to ship in the mail, but you can also pick one up at your local Apple store for about $10, with a $10 gift card inside. There are other options for card readers, including one made by Paypal that you can link with your Paypal account.
There are other tools like the ones mentioned in this article, but the main point here is that if you have a great idea and you’re ready to get rolling today then you can now use an excellent set of online tools to make it official and start pursuing your destiny.