Plan: Think about what you want the website to do for your business. Write this down and do research to find out how you can set up your website to achieve your goals.
Budget: Set the amount you have to play with, most website developers will be happy to work to a 'staged' approach. Determine what is a 'must have' now but also what you think stage 2 or 3 might be.
Research: Take a good look around the internet at other web pages. Don't just look at your competitors look at other websites. Write a list of domain names with notes about what you liked / didn't like about the website.
Share: Once you have found a website designer share the above information with them. This will help them build a solution to fit your needs now, but with a vision of your long term needs.
Select: Choose a website developer that you can work with. Someone you feel you have a good communication with. website development can often be a collaborative process, find someone who can bring ideas to the table and shows an interest in what you do.
Secure: When you enter into an agreement with a website designer make sure that there is a document which includes a site map and a general statement about what the website is expected to do. Make sure any functional specifics are included such as online forms and database activities.
Rights: Make sure that the agreement you sign also has an Intellectual Property (IP) clause which makes it quite clear who owns what. IP can include rights to the website design, database and general website functionality.
Management: If you are also getting a Content Management System (CMS) with your website. FInd out what happens if you want to move to another website design company or website hosting company.
Investigate: If you are considering adding shopping carts and other web based applications to your website. Search the web, there are often good value solutions in the market that don't cost thousands of dollar to implement.
Review: Revisit your website monthly, quarterly, annually and make sure it is measuring your expectations.