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Business Start-Up Checklist

Trying to start up a business can easily overwhelm a new entrepreneur, and even seasoned entrepreneurs are not guaranteed success in their endeavors. With a little organization and planning, however, running a start-up -- while challenging -- can be both financially and personally rewarding.There is much to consider, such as choosing a legal structure (LLC? Sole proprietorship?), determining your industry niche, and finding adequate sources for funding. You can find location-specific information by checking out State Resources: Starting a Business.

The following checklist will help new business owners organize their start-up activities and put them on the road to success. FindLaw's Starting a Business section has links to additional articles and resources to help you get started.

Testing the Waters

___ Use a break-even analysis to see when and how your business idea can generate profit.

___ Establish a business plan.

___ Create a marketing plan.

___ Locate financing, whether from equity investors, banks or family and friends.

Pick a Name

___ Brainstorm until you have several names that fit your business.

___ Check to see if your ideas are available as domain names.

___ 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.

___ If you are structuring your business as a corporation or LLC, check with your Secretary of State to see if any of your proposed names are not available.

___ Choose a name!

Consider Your Legal Structure

___ Investigate the different types of business structures:

___ Count how many owners the business will have.

___ Assess your business risk.

___ Determine the best tax structure for the business.

___ Decide if you'd like to sell stock in the business.

___ Consult an attorney or other business expert for advice on business structures.

Make Your Business Name Official

___ Register for your domain name.

___ If required, register your name as a fictitious business name with your county clerk.

___ File for federal and/or state trademark protection, if necessary.

Create Your Business Paperwork

___ Partnership:

___ LLC:

___ Corporations:

___ Non-Profit

Pick a Place

___ Make a list of the features that your business space will require.

___ Figure out the maximum rent you can pay.

___ Research neighborhoods and determine which one is the best fit.

___ Check the zoning laws for the areas you're considering.

___ Negotiate the terms of your lease.

Buy Insurance

___ Call an agent to get more information.

___ Compare quotes from different companies and for different levels of coverage.

___ If your business uses vehicles, be sure to get liability insurance.

___ Consider getting health insurance, disability and/or life insurance for you and your employees.

___ Get liability insurance for your business space if customers or clients will visit.

___ If your business manufactures dangerous products, buy product liability insurance.

Obtain the Necessary Permits and Licenses

___ For partnerships, corporations and LLCs with employees, file for a federal employment identification number.

___ If you plan on selling retail goods, get a seller's permit from your state.

___ Research and obtain any necessary state licenses.

___ Get a business license.

___ Research any local permits or licenses.

Establish an Accounting System

___ 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.


___ Examine the basic tax scheme for your type of business.

___ Learn the difference between capital and current expenses, and figure out which ones apply to you.

As you can see, there are quite a few moving parts involved in starting a new business. Getting organized now will help you avoid problems and confusion in the future.

Starting a New Business? Get Legal Help

As you can see, there's a lot to do when starting a business. It's a great idea to reach out to a local business organizations 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.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified business attorney to help you navigate the process of starting a business.

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