By Alyssa Gregory

Starting a business is an intricate process with many steps, sub-steps, and multi-part steps. Sometimes, you may feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole as you get deeper and deeper into the process. If you lose sight of what you need to do and why you’re doing it, take a step back and focus on the bare minimum that you need to accomplish to get your business off the ground. Once you have the essentials in place, you can go back and fill in the blanks to build out your launch plan.

Assuming you already have a viable business idea, here are three essential steps in starting a business that can provide a good starting point if you are feeling overwhelmed.

A Business Plan

The phrase “business plan” has been known to cause even the most determined entrepreneur to break out in a sweat. Let go of the assumption that your business plan has to be a long and formal document. Start with a functional plan that simply gets you to think about the most important areas. Consider these questions:

  • What is your vision/mission for your business?
  • What are your goals?
  • How much do you need to start your business and where is that money coming from?
  • What are your anticipated ongoing expenses?
  • What do you anticipate your business is capable of making in the fist six months, one year, two years, etc.?
  • Where do you see your business going? What’s your end game?

Start-Up Capital

We touched on some of the biggest money factors in the business plan, but now we need to flesh them out. It boils down to what it will cost to start the business, run the business going forward, and stay afloat financially while you get your footing.

Since there can be so many unknowns when it comes to finances, many entrepreneurs choose to start the business slowly to see if it has legs before letting go of secure full-time income. This allows them to maintain financial security for a little longer, reduce the number of mistakes, test out different operations and marketing strategies, and relieve some of the pressure that comes with starting a business. This approach might be worth considering as you flesh out money matters.

A Marketing Plan

Without a plan for marketing and promoting your business, you may be hearing crickets for a long time. You need to be proactive about getting the word out about your business. The good news is that you can do this inexpensively. You just need a plan. Some things your marketing plan should include are:

  • Your marketing strategy
  • Your target market
  • A competitive analysis
  • A unique selling proposition
  • Your promotion plan
  • A marketing budget
  • A plan for measuring results

This marketing plan tutorial can get you started.

Remember that you don’t have to create your end game vision when you first launch your business. Starting your business in stages with different goals for each phase will help you break down the process into bite-sized chunks. So knock these three essential start-up items off your list to get ready for a successful launch.

This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional small business tips, check out Progressive’s Small Business Big Dreams program.