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100 Steps to Building a Company to $1MM in Sales
By: Ryan P. Allis

I am a big believer in the value of step-by-step guides and reviews. In this section, I’ll review the one hundred most important steps in building a company to $1 million in sales. Do note that the following steps may not be in the exact order and may not apply to every type of business. The steps are customized for the business that is developing a product that will sell initially directly to consumers or directly to businesses and do not have a lot of money initially to spend on paid advertising. The general order remains, however, and the majority of steps will likely apply to your business.
1. Come up with a business idea.
2. Determine what you will sell—your revenue models.
3. Use the MAR opportunity evaluation model to evaluate that idea.
4. Research suppliers of your product.
5. Complete market research and evaluate whether your idea will succeed in the marketplace.
6. Come up with a name for your company.
7. Write your business plan.
8. Complete your pro forma income statement.
9. Determine how much you’ll need to raise to get your business to cash flow positive—the point where you are making more than you are spending.
10. Get feedback on and improve your business plan. Go to your local chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives and review your plan with them.
11. Determine your financing strategy.
12. Determine who will own what percent of the company and discuss if you wish to use vesting (granting equity to initial founders over time based on how long they stay with the company and what they do).
13. File your articles or certificate of incorporation with your Secretary of State. Incorporate as an S or C corporation if in the United States. Incorporate as a C corporation if you wish to raise investment or sell the company one day. Incorporate online or through your law firm.
14. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service so you can open a bank account and hire employees.
15. File form 2553 with the Internal Revenue Service if you intend to be an S corporation.
16. Have your law firm create non-disclosure, non-compete, and confidentiality agreements and have all involved with your company sign them.
17. Hold your initial board meeting and sign the Organizational Consent document.
18. Decide if you want to have a stock options plan and create an options pool.
19. If you decide to do vesting, have your law firm write a stock restriction agreement, have all involved in your company sign a copy, and then have each person consider filing an 83(b) election if in the United States.
20. Issue your stock certificates.
21. Have your law firm draft consulting agreements for any independent contractors and employment agreements for any employees. Sign these agreements.
22. Open and fund a bank account and order checks.
23. If you decide you’ll need to raise money, look into the different sources of money, including debt capital from family, friends, or the bank or equity capital from accredited private investors or venture capital firms. If you think you can start out small, bootstrap, and grow organically from revenues, evaluate whether you wish to grow your company in this manner.
24. If you decide you’ll need to raise the money from private investors, have your law firm create a private placement memorandum and work with you to refine your business plan.
25. Raise the money you will need.
26. Purchase small business accounting software such as QuickBooks and keep track of all expenses and revenue, or hire an accounting firm to take care of this for you. You also may wish to outsource your payroll.
27. Come up with the name for your product(s).
28. Trademark the names of all your product(s).
29. Trademark the name of your company.
30. Develop your product(s), if you will be selling a product. Ask for quotes from different suppliers.
31. Have a logo created.
32. Either purchase or lease office space.
33. Furnish your office with desks, chairs, couches, filing cabinets, and light fixtures.
34. Purchase needed office supplies such as computers, laser printers, desk blotters, pens, paper cutters, shredders, staplers, staples, paper clips, pen holders, envelopes, and stamps.
35. Purchase any software you will need.
36. Call your phone company and have them install a phone line or purchase a VOIP system.
37. Purchase regular phones or install a digital phone system.
38. Obtain broadband internet access and a wireless router and set up a wireless office network.
39. Decide what roles you need additional help in and can afford to pay someone to fill, then hire those persons.
40. Obtain insurance for your business.
41. Have business cards made.
42. Have letterhead made.
43. Have a brochure made.
44. Design the packaging and labeling for your products.
45. Have your labeling reviewed by your lawyer.
46. Print enough labels and packaging for your initial production run.
47. Obtain a Universal Product Code (UPC) bar code if you will be selling your product in stores or to retailers.
48. Order an initial inventory of products.
49. Have professional pictures of your product(s) completed.
50. Register the domain name for your company site, product site(s), and informational site(s).
51. Obtain hosting for your web sites.
52. Establish a free account with a dynamic DNS service such as Sitelutions to make it quick to switch hosts in case a host goes down.
53. Design your company web site.
54. Make sure you have log analysis software installed on your site and check your visitor count and traffic details often.
55. Add sales copy to your web site that is written to first attract attention, generate interest, establish credibility, create desire, and provoke action.
56. Install a shopping cart on your web site.
57. Apply for a merchant account so you can accept credit cards on your web site and in your business or sign up with a service such as PayPal or ClickBank.
58. If you are a service based company, and will be paid via checks, there will be no need to apply for a merchant account. Start doing business right away, making sure to always leave extra business cards with clients in order to leverage word of mouth. You may also want to purchase an ad in the local phone book.
59. Sign up to an email list management service such as IntelliContact Pro and add a newsletter sign up form to your web site.
60. Sign up for an autoresponder service and add an eight day informational ecourse in order to generate leads, build trust with customers, and recommend your product.
61. If you sell a product nationally or internationally, and not just locally, build an informational web site at a domain with your target keywords separated by hyphens.
62. Add content to your informational web site. Ask others for permission to syndicate their content and write a few articles yourself to start to portray yourself as an expert in your industry.
63. Optimize the informational web site for the search engines.
64. Build a few hundred links to your informational web site.
65. Add a discussion forum to your informational site.
66. Wait 12 weeks for your informational site to be in the top of the search engines for your targeted keywords.
67. Once the merchant account is approved, obtain a gateway such as VeriSign or Authorize.Net and sync your shopping cart or point of sale terminal with it.
68. Install an autobill/continuity program and integrate it with your merchant account, shopping cart, and affiliate program. Decide on what type of incentive you will give to those who sign up for the autobill program.
69. Decide what your money back guarantee will be.
70. Decide what you will charge for shipping.
71. Start selling!
72. Sign up for a live person chat so customers on your site can chat with your customer support team.
73. Consider starting a contest/sweepstakes for your product in order to obtain additional prospect data and leads.
74. Investigate regulatory issues in other countries and determine which countries you can export your product to.
75. If you are selling a product, hire someone to fulfill orders or use a fulfillment house.
76. Establish relations with local media.
77. Write and mail out a press release to local newspaper, radio, and television media or hire a public relations firm to handle this for you.
78. While you are waiting for the search engines to update their rankings, purchase affiliate program software.
79. Install your affiliate program and decide what commissions you will pay on referred sales.
80. Go through the search engines and trade journals to find potential affiliates.
81. Contact the potential affiliates in person or via phone, mail, or email.
82. Build a few hundred affiliates that promote your product(s) for a percentage of each sale.
83. Start sending out a monthly email newsletter to those who signed up on your web site and to your customers.
84. Mail the commission checks to your affiliates each month.
85. Follow-up with your customers once per month to ask how they are doing with your product.
86. Ask for and add testimonials to your web site and marketing materials.
87. Look into upcoming trade shows and attend them.
88. Keep close watch on the search engines. As soon as your informational site is in the top position for your targeted keywords, add a popup to promote your ecourse and your newsletter. Add in recommendations for your product to bring persons over to your product/company site.
89. Once you have some data on your visitor to sale conversion rate and the amount affiliates are paid per visitor sent to your site, work on building joint ventures and strategic alliances with larger partners.
90. Consider establishing a wholesale price for your product and looking for distributors of it.
91. If you decide to offer your product via stores, design and create point of sale items such as a display case and print collateral.
92. Take a look at the operations of your company and see what areas you can make things more automated or more efficient.
93. Bring on a bookkeeper to handle your accounting work for you if you have not already.
94. You may wish to create an employee benefits program if you have not already, to ensure you retain your most valuable workers.
95. Write a company handbook and begin to establish formal systems and processes. Make things efficient and try not to overload workers with forms and red tape.
96. Once you become cash flow positive, look into paying for cost per click, newsletter co-registration, print, radio, or television advertising or advertising via direct mail. Keep a close watch on return on investment at all times.
97. Look into sponsoring athletes or related events or providing your product to high profile persons free of charge.
98. If your product(s) fit the proper criteria, look into creating an infomercial to promote them.
99. Allocate some funding for research and development and attempt to develop additional products.
100. Once you have obtained a top ranking in the search engines, built a solid team and efficient systems and processes, automated operations as much as possible, built a thousand or so affiliates who are incented to sell your product, opened your sales channel up to international markets, and started selling to larger and larger distributors you should be well on your way to one million dollars in sales. Congratulations!

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Ryan Allis is the author of from Zero to One Million, a book on how to build a company to one million dollars in sales based. Additional information on the book and an extensive entrepreneurship resource can be found at http://www.zeromillion.com. Ryan is also the CEO of Broadwick Corporation, a provider of permission-based email marketing and list management software IntelliContact Pro (www.intellicontact.com) and CEO of Virante, Inc. (www.virante.com) a Chapel Hill, North Carolina based web marketing consulting firm. Additional information on the author can be found at www.ryanallis.com.