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
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.
___ 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.
Get Legal Help When Starting a Business
While entrepreneurs are used to taking on many tasks and responsibilities at once, it's always good to know where to look for help. If you are in the beginning stages of starting a business, you may benefit from the assistance of a business and commercial law attorney.