Starting your own company is an exciting decision that can give you lots of joy, interesting opportunities beyond belief and the chance of turning your venture into something truly large sooner or later. However, with the excitement comes a lot of responsibility and this can lead to some heavy work related stress. The ideal way to deal with this right from the get-go is by creating a basic to-do checklist of main things to consider. With this you can run through all the startup start up basics you’ll need to consider in an organized way and avoid plenty of trouble both immediately and down the road.

With something as simple as a well thought out to-do list, your business will increase its chances of a solid beginning immensely, simply because you won’t so easily forget all the key steps that need to be taken as startup foundations. That said, let’s go over some key aspects of startup planning that you should consider before starting off.

1. Planning the Direction of your Business

We kick off the list with the most basic question any business should be asking itself and a surprisingly large number don’t bother answering before they get started. You’ve just started your business, you’ve got your product or service organized and ready, and you’re about to start spending some money; you need to know what direction your business should go in. This doesn’t mean that you need to plan out every last detail of the next 10 years, but it does suggest that you should at least know if you want to create a self administered business that grows or keep things to the level of a simple services company with just a few employees or even a couple. Try to consider these in advance so you can better plan your legal structure, finances, spending and location.

2. Picking a Business Location (Or Not)

Having an idea of where your business should be going in terms of growth, plan for where you can locate your startup. At first this might be a room in your own home, a converted garage (like Google, Apple) or you might decide to splurge and rent out a complete office right from the start. Since most startups are tech or service based and don’t require manufacturing facilities, you probably won’t need a large office even if you do grow by a fair bit. Either way, have a place set out in advance so that you’re completely ready once the orders start flowing.

Or, you might decide to go totally office free and run your business as a decentralized web of communications between partners, clients and employees over the web, each working from their own home. The feasibility of this depends on the type of startup you’ll be running, but it is totally possible as an option for some purely service oriented ventures -and can cut space rental or leasing costs incredibly.

3. Small Business Legal Issues

Sort out your legal details right at the start of your startup’s life. First of all, this means deciding on what sort of legal structure you want your company to have; should it be a sole proprietorship, a partnership or should you incorporate? Have an accountant or lawyer go over the choices with you if you’re working on starting anything more than a very simple one or two man startup.

Secondly, legal issues also involve partner and employee contracts. You and your cofounders (if there are any) need to sort out how you’ll divide management, share ownership, responsibility and any profits that you all earn. Furthermore, the same has to be taken care of for employees, with compensation structures sorted out and also a contract that decides rights to intellectual property and patents of any kind.

4. Know your Competition

This step in planning your startup isn’t quite as vital as some business experts claim; ultimately your business should price based on quality, compete most against itself and stick to more niche oriented markets that have lower competition to begin with, instead of racing to the bottom against other companies. However, it is a good idea to at least know what kinds of services, product features, extras and prices your competitors are offering to their clients. Remember, don’t worry too much about one-upping or undercutting your competitors, but at least know their position.

5. Organize your Finances

Keeping a strong awareness of your budget and financial situation from the very beginning will probably save you from disaster later on. Make sure that your startup’s initial budget is clearly delineated right from day one. Have an idea of how much you will spend on equipment, marketing, employees, office space and incidentals. From there onwards, set out a cashflow/profit management plan that tracks how many dollars out of every sale go to expenses and how many stay in your pocket; this is crucial!

Bonus: Spread the Word about your Startup

If you’re sure that you’re going to getting your startup off the ground right away, start spreading the word in advance so that you already have at least a few customers lined up. This means networking with any contacts you have in your target market, advertising online, marketing, working on your websites SEO position and spreading news about what you’ll be providing via word of mouth or even press releases. If you can manage to have paying customers waiting for you before you’ve even officially opened, you’re already ahead in the business game; you’ll at least know that you’ve got a viable market on your hands.

About the author: Thomas is an accomplished freelance writer with many years of experience under his belt. When he’s not busy writing award winning articles, you can find him reviewing sales jobs in Chicago or training for his upcoming marathon.