Getting Started in Business Checklist

To ensure the success of your business, you should anticipate and provide for its financial needs and ensure that it will satisfy all legal requirements. The following checklist sets out a series of guidelines that will prevent yours from becoming one of the hundreds of businesses that fail each and every week. You can determine which steps are applicable to your business by reading the chapters from The Upstart Small Business Legal Guide cited in the checklist.

  • Decide whether to buy an existing business (Chapter 5, “Checklist for the Purchase of a Corporation or Its Assets”), start a new business or buy a franchise (Chapter 6).
  • Decide on the form of business: general partnership, corporation, limited liability company, limited liability partnership or sole proprietorship (Chapter 3). Prepare a business plan. (See “The Business Plan Outline” in Chapter 2.)
  • Estimate how much cash you will need to start your business–advertising, fixtures, decorating, inventory, fees, working capital, etc.–and estimate your monthly expenses. (See worksheets in Chapter 2.)
  • If the business will be incorporated, select the state of incorporation. (Compare the features of corporation laws, organization fees and taxes of other states.) (Chapter 3)
  • If you will form a partnership, draft the partnership agreement. (Chapter 3)
  • Check local ordinances regarding zoning (Chapter 14) and licenses your business may require.
  • File a business certificate. (Chapter 3)
  • Determine whether to file for “S” Corporation status. (Chapter 4)
  • Schedule incorporation to obtain maximum state tax savings.
  • Check federal securities requirements.
  • Check “blue sky” law requirements.
  • Check costs of qualification in foreign states.
  • Obtain a minute book, corporate seal and stock certificates.
  • Conduct a market analysis to determine the viability of your enterprise.
  • Select and reserve a company name (first and second choices).
  • Select officers, directors and managers (names, addresses and Social Security numbers).
  • Develop marketing, advertising and public relations plans.
  • Develop a capitalization/borrowing/credit/debt service plan and cash flow plan.
  • Develop income projections.
  • Develop a reimbursement plan for expenses and time worked by officers and consultants prior to incorporation.
  • Select a date and place for the annual meeting of shareholders/directors.
  • Establish banking procedures and check-signing authority.
  • Identify all patents, trademarks, service marks or copyrights your business will have to register or purchase. (Chapter 10)
  • Retain an attorney. (Chapter 1)
  • If you have to borrow money, review potential sources of collateral and prepare a loan package and business plan.
  • Shop around for the best interest rate and terms on a loan.
  • Find an accountant, preferably a certified public accountant (CPA) familiar with tax requirements, and have him or her set up record- keeping, payroll and tax-withholding accounts (Chapter 7). Your CPA should help you prepare cash flow and financial statements for your business plan.
  • Obtain all necessary government forms, such as Workers’ Compensation and Immigration and Naturalization Service forms. (Chapter 11)
  • Identify product suppliers, the mechanics of delivery of supplies to your business, delivery time and risk of loss. (Chapter 9)
  • Lease (See “How To Negotiate Commercial Leases” in Chapter 15) or buy real estate (See “Need Help in Purchasing Real Estate?” in Chapter 14) to house your business.
  • If walk-in trade is important, check vehicular or pedestrian traffic patters at the site you have selected.
  • Draft necessary employment contracts. (Chapter 11, “Employment Agreement”)
  • Prepare covenants forbidding employees and/or consultants from revealing your trade secrets, trade lists or other confidential information and from competing with you after they leave your employ. (Chapter 11)
  • Prepare an employment application and job descriptions. (Chapter 11, “Is Your Employment Application a Danger Spot?”, and “Employment Application” form)
  • Set up a record-keeping system including payroll records. (Chapter 7)
  • Ensure that your will and/or living trust provides for the equity in your business. (Chapter 13)
  • Draw up a buy-sell agreement for stock. (Chapter 13)
  • Apply for an employer identification number. (Chapter 7)
  • Establish credit procedures. (Chapter 18, “Are Debtors Getting Away With Murder?”, and “Application for Credit” form)
  • Establish check-cashing procedures and safeguards. (Chapter 18)
  • Lease or buy equipment. (Chapter 15, “Lease It and Save!”)
  • Establish an employee compensation and benefits package. (Chapter 8, “Fringe Benefits”)
  • Prepare an employee manual. (Chapter 11, “Beware of Your Employee Manual,” and “Employee Manual” form)
  • Decide whether to hire employees, independent contractors and/or utilize a special service firm for various bookkeeping and payroll functions. (Chapter 11)
  • If you are buying used equipment, check with your state department of taxation to determine whether there are any liens for unpaid sales tax against the equipment; check with the county and state to determine whether there are any UCC filings or chattel mortgages; and obtain a bill of sale from the seller containing an affidavit that he or she has full right to sell and transfer the equipment and that it is free and clear of any and all liens, mortgages, debts and other encumbrances or claims of any kind. (Chapter 5)
  • Have an independent appraiser calculate the replacement value of your property to determine how much insurance you need.
  • Find a competent insurance broker and obtain the following insurance (Chapter 16): workers’ compensation, disability, liability, fire, business interruption, life, automobile, crime, group health, delayed profits, rental value and flood. Compare premium prices among agents.