The Ultimate Checklist for People Wishing to Start a Business

First Steps:

___ Check Google, Crunchbase, and Product Hunt to see if your idea is already a business.

___ Assess your business risks and vulnerabilities.

___ Preform a viability test to ensure that your business has a reasonable chance for success.

___ Run a comprehensive break-even analysis of your idea.


Pick A Name:

___ Create a mind-map to compile a list of potential names OR run a name contest and crowd-source name ideas.

___ Scan the USPTO to make sure that the trademarks for the names on your list are available at the federal and state levels. If there is a mark already out on the name, figure out if your name would cause confusion to the consumer.

___ Ask your county clerk’s office to see if anyone has used any of the names on your list as a fictitious business name.

___ User test and ask for feedback on your name ideas from your target customer.

___ Narrow down your list to the name that you would like to go with

___ Wait a week to see if you still like the name.

___ Pick the name of your new company!

___ Purchase your website domain through a domain registrar.



___ Hire a designer OR run a contest on 99designs to get several logo designs to test.

___ Pick some of your favorites and conduct user testing to find which one resonates with your target consumers the most.

___ Once you have the logo, create a style sheet of primary and complementary colors, as well as fonts that you will use and themes and values of your design (flat vs. cubism, sleek and stylish vs. rustic and old).

___ Create guidelines for proper use of your logo and brand (when to use the full logo vs. an icon).



___ Determine how many owners the business will have, if you would like to sell stock as a business, and if you would like to take on investment from institutional investors (venture capital) down the line.

___ Explore the pros and cons of the various business structures that your company could incorporate as.

___ Explore the best tax structure for your business.


Register Your Business:

___ Register your business name.

___ Register your name as fictitious business name with your county clerk if necessary.

___ File for a federal and/or state trademark for your name and logo.

___ Apply for a federal tax ID number.


Find Your Business’s Home:

___ Determine the features that you need for your business.

___ Determine your maximum budget for rent.

___ Research neighborhoods and find the best fit for what you need for your business.

___ Make sure that your business practices would be following the zoning laws for the area that you’re looking at.

___ Determine whether your business needs permits to operate in that location by researching local and state-wide requirements.

___ File for any necessary permits.

___ Get a business license.

___ Negotiate the terms of your lease.


Operational Paperwork:

___ Determine which type of operational paperwork your business structure needs to operate.

___ Draft up the paperwork or hire an attorney to draft them for you.

___ If you run a website, make sure that you draft privacy policy and term of service agreements.

___ Have an attorney review your operational paperwork before incorporating them into your business.


Purchase Business Insurance:

___ Determine which types of insurance you would like to get for your company.

___ Call an insurance sales representative and get their insights as to which types of insurance you need to purchase.

___ Compare the pricing for separate plans versus getting a Business Owner’s Policy (basically an insurance bundle for business owners).

___ Purchase the plan that makes the most sense for your business.


Set Up Your Accounting System:

___ Purchase business accounting software, or hire an accounting consultant to assist you.

___ Identify which bank you would like to bank with and open a business account with that bank.

___ Determine whether you should run your books off of a cash or accrual method of accounting.

___ Determine whether you want to follow a normal calendar year or pick a fiscal year.

___ Establish a system to monitor accounts payable and accounts recievable


Get Your Taxes In Order:

___ Determine if your staff is considered contractors or full-time employees by the IRS.

___ Examine and familiarize yourself with the tax structure most commonly used for your type of business.

___ Learn the difference between capital and current expenses, and determine which one is most applicable to your business.

___ Consider purchasing a third party tax solution software to assist in your taxes.

___ Once you have the funds to pay for a professional tax consultant  (i.e. CPA), consider making this investment to remove any tax liability from the founders.



___ Determine which type of money/investment you would like to go for (i.e. bootstrap, angel investment, crowd funding or small business loan).

___ Reach out to investors that you would like to get involved 6 months before you plan on raising funding to meet up in person.

___ Soft-close the investor so that you know exactly what you need to achieve in order to receive investment.

___ Send these potential investors monthly updates showing your business’s progress.

___ Identify key investors that you would like to lead your round of funding.

___ Determine the valuation and total amount of funding you would like to raise.

___ Determine the type of round you would like to raise (equity or convertible debt note).

___ Draft up the investment paperwork (make sure that even if you don’t hire an attorney to draft the paperwork, that you get it reviewed by one).

___ Meet with the investors and close the deal.


Keep Your Business In Legal Compliance:

___ Brush up on employment law, and make sure that you’re following the law accordingly.

___ Make sure that your managers are aware of workplace discrimination and workplace harassment laws.

___ Brush up on contract law and ensure that all of your current and future contracts are legally-binding.

___ Keep an eye on the IRS tax calendar to be sure that you don’t miss any important tax deadlines.

___ Keep up-to-date with local zoning and permit laws regarding your business

___ Stay in touch with your local government on any changes to small business laws in your area.

Need advice?
Revised: April 12, 2016, 7:48 p.m.
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