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.
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.