Business Start-Up Checklist
Starting a new business can feel overwhelming, even for seasoned entrepreneurs. Fortunately, with organization and planning, running a start-up is often both financially and personally rewarding, even if the level of success can't be guaranteed.
There are hundreds of details that need to be addressed before you open to the public. It's a good idea to create a business startup checklist to ensure you haven't forgotten anything. Below you will find a template for a business startup checklist. Refine it to meet the needs of your specific type of business and the legal requirements of your industry.
FindLaw's Starting a Business section has links to additional articles and resources to help new business owners get started. You can find location-specific information by checking out State Resources: Starting a Business.
Test the Waters
Creating a business plan is a good first step when it comes to testing the feasibility of a business idea.
___ Read up on how to write a business plan
___ Review the business plan outline and begin your research
- Identify potential customers
- Conduct a market analysis
- Conduct a competitor analysis
- Create a marketing plan and a social media plan
___ Create or gather all of the financial documents you will need to demonstrate that your business is financially viable.
- A cash flow analysis
- Start-up costs
- A break-even analysis to see when your business will likely generate profit
___ Identify sources of financing and craft a sales pitch. Seed money often comes from family and friends, but you may also be looking to banks or equity investors.
Pick a Name
___ Brainstorm until you have several names that fit your business.
___ Check to see if your ideas are available as domain names.
___ See if your prospective business names are available.
- Conduct a trademark search at the federal and state levels. If the name you want is already a trademark, determine if your use of the name would cause consumer confusion.
- Ask your county clerk's office if anyone has already registered any of the names on your list as a fictitious business name ("doing business as," or dba).
- If you are structuring your business as a corporation or limited liability company, check with your Secretary of State to see if any of your proposed names are not available.
___ Register your business name!
Consider Your Legal Structure
Investigate the different types of business structures. It may be helpful to talk with a small business attorney or the local office of your Small Business Administration (SBA). Ensure that you have considered the pros and cons of each type of business structure. If you choose the wrong type of business entity, you may have to close the business and re-open under another name in order to change it. It's worth it to ensure you make the right decision the first time.
___ Research business structures:
___ Determine how many owners the business will have.
___ Assess your business risks.
___ Determine the best tax structure for the business.
___ Decide if you'd like to sell stock in the business in the future.
Make Your Business Name Official
___ File for federal and/or state trademark protection, if necessary.
___ Register for your domain name.
___ If required, register your name as a fictitious business name with your county clerk.
Create Your Business Paperwork
Secure a Business Location
Your first decision will be whether to rent, buy, or build a business location.
___ What is the maximum rent you can pay?
___ Research geographic locations and determine which one is the best fit.
___ Check the zoning laws for the locations you are considering.
___ Negotiate the terms of a lease or purchase agreement.
Buy Business Insurance
___ Call an agent and explain the insurance needs of your new business. Tell them the type of business, the types of products, the business location, the kinds of liability your business might face, and the numbers and types of employees you will have.
___ Compare quotes from different companies and for different levels of coverage.
___ If your business uses vehicles, be sure to get business auto insurance liability coverage.
___ Consider getting health insurance, disability, and/or life insurance for you and your employees.
___ If your business manufactures dangerous products, buy product liability insurance.
Obtain Business Permits and Licenses
___ For businesses with employees, file for a federal employer identification number (a tax ID number)
___ Register with your state for workers' compensation insurance.
___ If you plan on selling retail goods, get a seller's permit from your state.
___ Get a business license.
Set Up Your Accounting System and Business Finances
___ Buy small business accounting software.
___ Choose whether to run your books based on the cash or accrual method.
___ If your business cycle doesn't follow a normal calendar year, pick a fiscal year if permitted.
___ Create a system to monitor accounts payable and receivable.
___ Think about hiring an individual or a firm to help with the books.
___ Set up a business bank account.
___ Get a business credit card.
___ Examine the basic tax scheme for your type of business.
___ Set up an IRS account so you can pay taxes.
___ Set up an account with your state Department of Revenue so you can pay state business taxes and forward any sales tax that your company collects.
___ Learn the difference between capital and current expenses, and figure out which ones apply to you.
Be Prepared to Market Your Business
___ Get business cards.
___ Set up any social media accounts you will use. Don't forget LinkedIn. It's one of the most useful sites to hire employees.
Starting a New Business? Get Legal Help
As you can see, there are quite a few moving parts involved in starting a new business. It's a great idea to reach out to a local business organization attorney to ensure that you're in compliance with applicable laws and regulations as you get your business off the ground. It could end up saving you a lot of time and worry down the road.
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