Starting a Business Checklist – 12 Steps To Officially Launching Your Business
Think > Plan > Act! Most startups get the “act” part right, but it is the thinking and planning part that they get wrong. This session is your official starting a business checklist; we’re here to help you get on track and stay on point!
Did you know that most people who start businesses do so by omitting the most critical steps?
Those missteps are one reason a high percentage of companies fail. If you get these steps in order, your business has a much greater chance of not just making it but succeeding and excelling.
Step #1: Conduct Market Research
This is the very first step you must take; failure to take this step can set your business aspirations up for a stunning disappointment. Market research combines economic trends with consumer behavior to substantiate and then improve your business aspirations.
It is imperative to understand your customer base from the get-go; conducting market research before you launch helps minimize risks while identifying opportunities.
You want to collect demographic insights and information; this allows you to understand opportunities and limitations for reaching consumers. The questions you want to ask and answer are:
The answers to those questions gear you up for your second step, which is equally important.
Step #2: Prepare Your Business Plan & Call SWOT
Before you file your incorporation papers with the Secretary of State, before you acquire any licenses, you must have your business plan in hand. Your business plan is the cornerstone, the foundation, and the road map for your company.
SWOT + Business Plan = Success
SWOT empowers you to become strategic and tactical with marketing, sales, and customer service. SWOT helps you to see and take advantage of opportunities and identify and protect your company from threats.
What is a Business Plan?
There are several ways you can acquire a business plan for your company. If you can afford it, you can hire a professional to write one. Hiring a pro will cost you between $1,500 and $60,000 based on the level of depth and detail required.
You can write your plan yourself; this option works great if you have a finance degree, business administration, accounting, statistics, analysis, mathematics, project management, or related fields.
The other option is using a business plan template. If you choose the right template software, you could write a business plan that looks as though it was written by a $60k professional. But more importantly, your business plan will have all the data sets, visuals, information, analysis, compelling insights, and qualities to get you funded!
We looked at several business plan templates, and after careful evaluation, the top two came down to LivePlan and Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template. You can read our reviews here.
If you want to know, we use LivePlan! We were somewhat torn about the decision but ultimately went with LivePlan because it’s cloud-based versus Growthink, being desktop-based. Perform your due diligence before making your decision.
Step #3: Fund Your Business
Starting and running a business costs money. Consequently, adequately funding your company will prevent you from slipping into the dreaded red, and from there into the business bankruptcy corridors. With your business plan in hand, you have funding options beyond your wildest dreams.
CAVEAT: Every day, businesses go belly up – even though they provided an excellent product or fantastic service. One of the prime reasons for their failure is being under-funded; this is classified as financial mismanagement.
A business plan will help you avoid making costly financial decisions. Additionally, it will enable you to acquire the funds you need for today and funds for the future. See Small Business Funding.
Step #4: Choose Your Location
Where you locate your business involves variables such as zoning laws, required permits, licensing, and local, state, and federal laws.
The other variables are if your business fall into any of these categories:
Those are some of the variables; still, there are many others. It would be best to ensure that you are aligned with all the local, state, and federal laws concerning your location choice.
Step #5: Determine Your Business Legal Structure
The business structure you choose has a bearing on your level of personal liability, the rate of taxes you pay, the paperwork you need to file, and your ability to attract investors and raise funds.
In reference to the various forms of business organization, many Entrepreneurs seem to choose the LLC by default. They never consider a C-Corp, S-Corp, Holding Companies. This is unfortunate because selecting the wrong formation may result in an involuntary dissolution, serious tax consequences, and various restrictions amidst other complications.
The best way to make this monumental decision is to consult with an attorney specializing in business formation and an accountant, and do not forget turning to your business mentor.
Step #6: Establish Your Business Name
Decades ago, you could choose a business name and legally establish it with ease. That is not the case in today’s fiercely competitive market.
Today, you must be creative to come up with the right name.
For starters, you must determine if a name you want is not already in use, or if a company or a person is (legally) name squatting; meaning, you will have to purchase the name from them. After you decide on an available name, you MUST legally protect it on several levels as noted here:
The first three defense levels are an absolute requirement if you want legal protection for your name and brand.
REMEMBER: Each level of legal protection is separate from the other; consequently, you must complete each of them.
Step #7: Legally Register Your Business
It is now time to take the next step and legally register your business and name. That means filing your paperwork with the appropriate Secretary of State, registering your domain name, and then trademark your name with the United States Patent and Trademark office.
Once you have established your corporation, registered your domain name, and set the trademarking in place, you’re ready to take the next step.
Step #8: Obtain EIN & State Tax ID
You will need to obtain your EIN Employer Identification Number from the IRS Internal Revenue Service.
See: get your EIN Number for more info.
Next, check with your state to determine if you need a state tax ID number.
REMEMBER: Each state has different tax laws; it is your responsibility to know the rules and regulations specific to your state and abide by them.
Step #9: Obtain Licenses And Permits
Depending on the business, specific companies may need a combination of licenses and permits on the local, state, and federal levels. In each instance, the city, state, and federal requirements will vary; this step cannot be skipped because you want to be sure that your firm operates per city, state, and federal laws.
TO BE CRYSTAL CLEAR; it is incumbent upon you to research the laws pertaining to your business. If you are not sure, visit your state’s website; if you do not get the answers you need, call them and, if necessary, make an appointment to see them.
Step #10: Obtain Bank Accounts
Thus far, you have cleared some of the toughest hurdles, but you have two more steps to go.
The next step is opening your business bank accounts.
Step #11: Acquire Business Insurance
It should go without saying that you need business insurance to protect your company from the unexpected. Various circumstances and issues can derail your dream; insurance is your safety net of protection.
What type of insurance do you need? Do you need insurance if you have an LLC? What types of insurance are they for businesses? How much insurance coverage do I need? To answer those questions and more, follow this link; we cover it all at Business Insurance.
Step #12: Launch Your Business
You’ve crossed every “T” and dotted every “I” now it’s time to take the final step and LAUNCH! Step out into the deep; be fearless, relentless, intuitive, and disciplined. Open your doors, launch your website, start PPC advertising and get out there and promote! When things get tough, get tougher! Brainstorm with the best business minds.
Using this starting a business checklist together with a Business Plan, you’ll be able to obtain funding and make all of your dreams come true.