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The Essential Checklist for the Successful Entrepreneur

Starting a business, as we say all the time, is very rewarding . . . but it can also be really difficult. It's especially tough to know what to do when you're just getting started; where should you dedicate your time? What should you focus on? What do you really need to set yourself up for success?

checklist for entrepreneurs

Answering these questions isn't easy, so we've put together a checklist that will help you make sure that you've established a great foundation for success as an entrepreneur. Work through these when you're getting started, but also keep them in mind throughout your career as a business owner; they'll help you through the entire process!

Item #1: Drive

If you're running your own business, you need to have a strong sense of drive and a serious amount of motivation. Just saying that you're a motivated person, however, isn't going to cut it. You also need to know why you're driven and motivated. What is it that keeps you going every day? Are you trying to make money? Help a certain group of people? Prove that you have what it takes? Revolutionize a field? Spend some time thinking about what keeps you motivated, and don't lose sight of it.

Item #2: Goals

Staying motivated through years of ups and downs is something that you'll have to do as an entrepreneur, and you'll probably need some help in doing it. Setting specific, measurable goals is a great way to do that. Whether your goals deal with earnings, personal growth, company growth, self-improvement, or anything else, keeping track of your progress on them will help show you how much you've progressed and give you an idea of where you're going. Don't underestimate their importance!

Item #3: Business Plan

We've talked about business plans before, but they're an easy thing to overlook. Sitting down and laying plans—from expenditures to marketing to networking to hiring—is a crucial step in making sure that you're identifying the right direction for your business. And when you have to make an important decision somewhere down the road, you'll always have your business plan to look back on and see how your options align with your plan.

Item #4: Connections

You don't necessarily need to start the process with connections, but if you don't have many, you'll need to work hard to develop some. Whether those connections are potential employees or colleagues, other businesses you can partner with, or possible customers, they're very valuable, and worth maintaining. Get out and do some networking: it's intimidating, but it can really pay off!

Item #5: Money

Like connections, you don't need to start with a lot of money, but you'll need to have it at some point. Which means you'll probably want to brush up on your fundraising skills. Starting a business has some significant financial costs, and even though you can make them up, you'll still need capital to get started. Spend some time thinking about how you're going to deal with this, and you'll avoid a lot of stress down the line.

Item #6: Research

You may want to get started right away and hit the ground running, but without knowing what you're getting into, you're bound to run into difficulties. Spend time—a lot of it—getting to know your competitors, your customers, any legal ramifications of starting your business, the best practices for running a business in your field, any technologies that can help you be successful, and as many other things as possible. It's a lot of time spent in front of the computer, but it's well worth it.

Item #7: Support

This is something a lot of people overlook, but if you don't address it, you'll regret it later. While you certainly can run a small business without the support of your family and friends, it'll be a lot harder than if you have their backing. Even if it's just providing moral support and sending words of encouragement, it makes a huge difference in your ability to stay motivated and confident in what you're doing. Whether you get the support from your current group of friends or make new social connections through networking that will help you, make sure you keep those friends close. You'll need all the support you can get!

Now Get to Work!

While you can run a successful small business without these seven things, it'll be a lot harder than if you go out and pursue them beforehand. Many people find that they need to go back and address these things after they've kicked off their business, and it's a lot more difficult to do them retroactively. Spend some time on them today, and you'll be glad you did later!

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