3 Weeks to Startup, Week 3 0

This is the third of three parts. The first part appeared here a month ago, and the second here two weeks ago. All three were published first on Entrepreneur.com and are based on the book 3 Weeks to Startup, which I co-authored with Sabrina Parsons. That book, published by Entrepreneur Press, came out in the autumn of 2008. It’s built on the idea that most how-to-start books fall back on the older, pre-web ways to get things done; and that today, because of the tools available, three weeks is still credible.

Day 15: Think about your location.

Most people know they’re either going to work out of their home or they know where their office will be. They’re considering the right location, how it should look, where it should be, what else is nearby and so on.

Even if it’s a home office, you’ve probably been thinking about it. Now’s the time to make sure you’re set up. Desk, computer, telephone, internet, quiet if you need it, view or not, the whole nine yards.

For a retail shop, workshop or office space, if you haven’t done so already, start looking. It’s almost time to make a decision.

There are brokers to help, and they won’t charge you because they get their commission from the landlords (which you should keep in mind as you deal with them because it’s always good to remember who’s paying). Find a broker who’ll work with you; one who listens to you about what you want and don’t want.

Today take steps to establish the location, whether it’s simply adding desks and phones in your home office or making calls to revamp a restaurant or manufacturing plant. For some people and businesses, this takes more than three weeks. Sometimes you can’t even lock in the location you want in that time. But start planning the office space in which you want to work, as this can create the most lag time.

Day 16: Set up your accounts.

With some good accounting software, you can keep track of every transaction–every check, each invoice you receive and those you send out. Keep careful track of spending and invoice categories, and before you know it, you’re doing the bookkeeping. The best way to choose your new accounting software is to check with your bank so your system and theirs will be compatible. That will save you endless frustration with inputting records.

Day 17: Create the legal documents.

Way back in Week 1, you got together with the others involved and wrote down your agreements on who is supposed to own how much of the business, who does what and who is putting in how much money. And you started looking at possible names for the business. Today, get it locked in by creating the legal entity online, talking to an attorney, or both.

Do yourself a favor, though, before you start the attorney’s meter running: Make sure you understand the basic tradeoffs, so you can spend the billable attorney time making the right choices, rather than just understanding the options. We don’t recommend setting up your business without an attorney (online or not), but if you get informed first, you’ll reduce the expense.

Day 18: Start hiring.
You’re nearing the end of your three-week startup. Just three days left, so if you’re going to have employees, it’s time to hire them or at least begin hiring. You started the recruiting process last week, so you should have some people in mind.

Don’t do job interviews without first going over a simple review of what you can and can’t say. A lot of what would at first glance seem like common sense is technically illegal. For example, you’re not supposed to ask someone his or her age or marital status because that information can lead to the appearance or suspicion of discrimination.

Day 19: Get funding.

This is another one that depends on the details. It can be as easy as deciding to spend a few thousand dollars you already have or as hard as raising millions of dollars from professional investors.

Your simple startup, involving a home office and a computer, might need nothing more than what you can get at Office Depot in an afternoon.

If you have to raise more money than you have, you need to write a detailed business plan, find potential investors and do a lot more work. If you’re looking for professional investment, you almost certainly won’t get that in three weeks (although there are some rare exceptions). You can still get your business going with the money you can get quickly. That way you look much more attractive to investors.

Day 20: Think about opening day.

This should be fun: Imagine the big party, the searchlights beaming into the sky, a brass band. Well, maybe not all that, but opening day is a good event to start your business marketing right.

Plan your opening day, and make sure everyone knows about it. This is the chance to write a press release, talk to local or trade reporters and generally let people know about your business. You want to build buzz so that when you open, people are aware of you.

Day 21: Start your business.

You’re up and running, and in three weeks, just as we had hoped. That makes today the first day of the rest of your business.

Today you’ll want to take another day to make the sale.

Focus today and see how many customers you can get in the door, figuratively or literally, depending on your business.

On your first day, remember to observe what’s going right, what’s going wrong and to note what could be better.

Your business will quickly become different from what you expected, and that’s OK. The key is to record what’s different and why, and make course corrections. In the real world, your planning should become management. So review your plan vs. actual frequently, and run your business better.

About the Author Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry. Follow Tim on Google+ Read more »

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