Start-Up Checklist: Everything You Need to Start Your New Business

Let’s get practical! Do these ten things first


Once the initial excitement wears off at the idea of starting your own business, it soon becomes apparent that there's a lot to do to get things up and running. The following comprehensive checklist ensures you cover all of the bases to launch a successful company.

1. Write a Business Plan

A written plan of action for your business helps you work out the details and focus on your goals and vision. Such a guide also provides you with a roadmap for your journey as a small business owner. Include in the plan your company’s potential profit/loss and a cash flow analysis.

2. Determine Financing

Sufficient funds allow you to get your new business off to a strong start. If your personal savings isn’t enough to cover your necessary expenses and operating capital, consider loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), family and friends, investors, and banks and finance companies.

3. Decide on Your Company’s Legal Structure

Whether your company is a sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation or S corporation determines how much you pay in taxes, the type and amount of paperwork you must complete and the financial liability you face as a business owner. Given the far-reaching financial consequences of this decision, it’s often best to seek the advice of your accountant and attorney.

4. Choose and Register Your Business Name

Select a memorable, catchy moniker that reflects your product and service. Check with a corporate name search tool to make sure your desired business name isn’t already in use. Also secure a matching website domain for your business name, and register your company name with your local county clerk’s office as a fictitious business name.

5. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN identifies your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and is the number to use on all tax and financial paperwork.

6. Choose a Dedicated Workspace

Even if you will be setting up shop in your home, it’s important for tax purposes and productivity to carve out a location solely for business. If you will rent office space, determine your budget and required square footage prior to shopping around. When you find a space that seems ideal, make sure it is zoned for your business type prior to signing the lease.

7. Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

You will need a local business license and may require permits, depending on your business type and location. To sell retail goods, you must also get a seller's permit from your state.

8. Purchase Required Insurance

Insurances you may need include premises and product liability, health and disability and vehicle. If you rent an office, you will require business property insurance. Even if you are running the business out of your home, talk to an insurance agent about what type of business insurance coverage you’ll need. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may not cover your business liabilities so it’s important to talk with an expert to make sure you’ve got the right coverage.

9. Set Up Your Accounting System

Using small business accounting software or the help of a professional bookkeeper or accountant set up your recordkeeping system. Also choose a fiscal year and get familiar with the tax requirements and paperwork for your company’s legal structure.

10. Decide On a Schedule

Time blocks to work uninterrupted are crucial to getting your business off the ground. If you will be working out of a home office, inform family and friends of your schedule, and request that you aren’t bothered during business hours.

Follow these 10 steps to a smooth startup, and you’ll be well on your way to running the company of your dreams.  

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