Business Checklist

Starting a Business: The Great Big Checklist of Everything

By Docstoc Articles, Monday, April 29, 2013 | 7585 Views

This checklist (available downloadable here) breaks down everything you must and should do when starting a business.

Mandatory tasks are required under the law in order to operate a valid and compliant business.

Recommended tasks, although not strictly required under the law, are tasks that should be undertaken in order to grow and protect a new business.

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Ideation & Protecting Ideas

Mandatory

  • Pick a company name and check any potential trademark infringements on Trademarkia or KnowEm
  • Determine whether your business name needs to be trademarked, and if does Trademark it at the USPTO
  • Protect your written works and code through the Copyright Office
  • If you are inventing or creating a product, understand patents and register for one at the USPTO

Recommended

  • Test your idea with the idea checklist
  • Protect your ideas when sharing them with others by using a Non Disclosure Agreement NDA
  • Search your state’s corporation and LLC name registration database to ensure your business name has not been taken
  • Check Google, Yellow Pages, and local directories to ensure your business name is not taken
  • Learn how to select a good business name

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Forming Your Entity

Mandatory

  • Pick a structure (Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, S-Corp, LLC, Partnership, LP, LLP, Non-Profit) and ensure that you comply with business formation requirements
  • Creating a corporation? File Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws with the Secretary of State’s Office
  • Forming an LLC? File the Articles of Organization and an Operating Agreement with the Secretary of State’s Office
  • Get the necessary licenses and permits to operate legally
  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • If you are incorporating, appoint a Board of Directors
  • For a corporation and LCC, you must register a service agent

Recommended

  • Going into a Partnership? Create a Partnership Agreement
  • Check your state government’s website for other state-specific registration, taxation and employment rules
  • Get your DBA (Doing Business As) which allows a business to operate under a fictitious name (this is required for sole proprietorships that want to operate under any name other than the name of the business owner)
  • Open your company bank account

Identity and Branding

Recommended

  • Design a logo (99designs)
  • Search for and register a unique online domain name (GoDaddy, 1and1, Register)
  • Create your website (WordPress, Intuit, Weebly, Wix, SiteKreator) Ensure your business name is available on a wide variety of social networking websites in order to develop consistent branding (KnowEm)
  • Create and manage your social media presence
  • Get business cards and other physical collateral (Vistaprint)
  • List your business online with MerchantCircle, Manta, Yelp and DandB.com

Financing and Business Planning

Recommended

  • Prepare for and create a Business Plan (if you need one)
  • Find sources of capital— friends & family, business bank loans, angel investment, venture capital, or even crowdfunding (Crowdfunder, Fundable)
  • If seeking investors, create a business pitch deck

For those issuing stock to finance the company (corporations), use a Shareholder’s Agreement

Operations

Mandatory

  • Find a retail space, set up a home-based office or find an office space on LoopNet, OfficeFinder, or ShowCase
  • Choose a broker to help find an adequate business space on TheBrokerList
  • For corporation, keep record of Meeting Minutes

Recommended

  • Set up an online phone system (Ring Central, Google Voice, Onebox) or set up a traditional land line (Verizon, AT&T)
  • Set up your computer and network
  • Pick an internal email system (Gmail, Outlook)
  • Choose an email system to connect with customers (Constant Contact, MailChimp, Sendgrid)
  • Set up a collaboration method for business documents, spreadsheets and presentations (GoogleApps)

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Financial Planning & Accounting

Mandatory

  • Choose a tax year
  • Determine which type of federal business taxes you will be responsible for
  • Determine state tax obligations
  • Create and maintain the top 3 financial statements: income statement, balance sheet and cash flows on at least a quarterly basis

Recommended

  • Set up an accounting system (Quickbooks)
  • Find the right accountant
  • Set a budget for the coming year
  • Create a sales forecasts and financial projections regularly
  • Get a business credit card and
  • Register with Dun & Bradstreet to build business credit and obtain a D-U-N-S Number to accurately gauge and share your creditworthiness
  • If a corporation, decide whether to elect S Corporation tax status

Business Mentors

Recommended

  • Speak to entrepreneurs and leaders in your industry, consider asking them to be your mentor
  • Ask mentors to join your Board of Advisors (for the overall benefit of the company)

Building a Team

Mandatory

  • Determine the company founders and leadership (partnership, owners, CEO, etc.)
  • Clarify who gets equity, and how much
  • Conduct job interviews—look out for red flags

Recommended

  • Find team members through personal connections, recruiters or job boards (Ziprecruiter, Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, SimplyHired)
  • Run a background check on new hires
  • For one-off or task based activities, use AmazonTurk or Odesk

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Human Resources

Mandatory

  • Make sure workers are properly classified (employee, independent contractor, part-time employee, intern, etc.)
  • Have employees fill out Form I-9 and Form W-4
  • Familiarize yourself with the Department of Labor laws and regulations regarding employment
  • Put up the necessary labor law posters to meet federal and state requirements
  • Familiarize yourself with federal discrimination laws and heed them
  • Terminate employees properly to avoid discrimination claims

Recommended

  • Create job descriptions
  • Understand the definition of an “At Will” employee
  • Have workers sign the proper Employment Agreement
  • Protect the inventions employees create for you with an Employee Non-Compete and Confidentiality Agreement
  • Give all new employees an Employee Handbook
  • Lay out the employee benefits you will provide (paid leave and holidays, health insurance, bonuses)
  • Choose a payroll service (ADP, Trinet, Paychex)
  • Set up a system for employee discipline

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Sales

Recommended

  • Determine a pricing system for your product(s)
  • Execute the 5 Step Sales Process
  • Learn the art of persuasion
  • Hire and train salespeople
  • Use a sales management service (one that fits your business size, from smaller to larger companies)
  • Pick a Customer Relationships Management System (CRM)
  • Make a Customer Service Plan to standardize procedures for complaints and refunds
  • Track which products perform better, and which have the best margins
  • Decide on possible discounts, specials and coupons to attract new customers
  • List your products on online marketplaces

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Marketing & PR

Recommended

  • Plan your marketing strategy
  • Decide on a target market and conduct a market analysis
  • Determine your Key Performance Indicators
  • Get free online traffic
  • Improve SEO
  • Get paid online ads, such as Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising
  • Master social media marketing
  • Look into relevant trade shows and conventions to market your product
  • Print flyers, brochures or catalogs
  • Leverage current customers with email marketing
  • Decide if you want to hire a PR Agency
  • Go mobile and consider app development
  • Reach out to relevant newspapers and press

Insurance

Mandatory

  • Decide which types of business insurance you need.
  • Common: workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance
  • Others: property, liability or business overhead insurance

Recommended

  • Check any potential insurance providers here

Legal

Recommended

  • Find an attorney you trust
  • Use waivers and contracts to prevent litigation
  • Prepare for when your company is sued

CHECKLIST FOR YOUR SPECIFIC BUSINESS

Service-Based Businesses

Mandatory

  • Determine the price of your services

Recommended

  • Don’t forget to clarify the deliverable, deadline and cost in your service agreement

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Retail/Brick and Mortar Businesses

Mandatory

  • Check zoning laws
  • Secure a lease
  • Decide on days and hours of operation
  • Determine staffing needs (for prime hours, slower times, closing an inventory)
  • Secure the correct permits and licenses for your city and state
  • Set up lighting and utilities
  • Acquire furniture, register, racks, tables and wall displays, a register, etc.
  • Get a state-specific Seller’s Permit or Resale Permit to properly collect sales tax

Recommended

  • Choose a location with good foot traffic, size and appearance
  • Speak with a commercial realtor to get an idea of what to look for and what to expect
  • Establish agreements with your manufacturer, distributor or wholesale supplier
  • Set up inventory tracking (understand a Stock Keeping Unit)
  • Set up your Yelp page

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Online Business

Mandatory

  • Purchase computers
  • Find images for your website
  • Set up your e-commerce or online store (Shopify, FlyingCart, Goodsie)
  • Choose a shipping or delivery system (FedEx, UPS, USPS)
  • Set up a system for payment processing (PayPal, Google Checkout)

Recommended

  • Track and improve traffic through Google Analytics
  • Determine storage options, such as cloud computing (Box, DropBox)
  • Set up a system for IT bugs and tickets (Jira)
  • If outsourced development is needed, use Guru or Elance