Starting a Business Checklist
A comprehensive list to help entrepreneurs start off on the right foot!
Download: Starting a Business Checklist
Starting a Business Checklist
DECIDING ON A BUSINESS (Session 1)
The most common mistake made by entrepreneurs is not selecting the right business initially.
o Have you considered starting part time without quitting your job?
o Have you objectively compared your intended business with other possible opportunities?
o Have you prepared a "for" and "against" list to clarify your thinking?
o Have you worked for someone else in your intended business?
o Is your intended business something you will enjoy doing?
o Have you test marketed your product or service?
o Have you reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of starting with a partner?
o Are you focused on a specialized product or service?
o Have you considered operating as a family business?
o Have you talked to the most successful people in your intended business?
THE BUSINESS PLAN (Session 2)
Your business plan will become your road map in starting your business.
o Did you personally prepare your business plan?
o Did you use the My Own Business Institute template for your business plan?
o Does your business focus on short-term (one year) goals?
o Have you submitted your plan for review to appropriate experts?
o Are you prepared to change your plan frequently as conditions change?
o Does your business plan include a one-year cash flow projection?
HOME-BASED BUSINESSES (Session 3)
o Have you avoided any conflict of interest with your current employer?
o Do you have adequate knowledge of accounting?
o Have you selected a business that will not conflict with your current job?
o Are you able to delegate some of your business responsibilities to employees or partners?
o Have you set a limit on how much money you can risk?
o Do you have a disciplined and balanced lifestyle?
o Do you have a personally written, detailed business plan?
o Have you checked local laws and licensing requirements for home-based businesses?
FINANCING THE BUSINESS (Session 4)
Money will be the fuel to drive your business. You will need assurance that you have enough capital to operate your business for at least one year.
o Are you saving money to start your business?
o Are you willing to start small to minimize the capital required?
o Are you prepared to invest the equity of your own labor (sweat equity)?
o Do you have financing in place to support your cash flow projection?
o Do you have a clear understanding of the financial and legal obligations of using equity capital and of borrowing?
o Have you investigated the small business government loan guarantee programs?
o Have you considered using suppliers as sources of financing?
o Have you considered bartering as a source of financing?
o Have you asked your accountant and attorney for lending references?
o Are you prepared to live frugally to keep your living costs at a minimum?
o Does your one-year cash flow projection show adequate liquidity at the end of each month?
BUSINESS ORGANIZATION (Session 5)
o Have you selected a lawyer and an accountant?
o Did your lawyer and your accountant help you decide the best type of business organization for you?
o Do you have an appropriate and comprehensive set of employee benefits in place?
o If you have a partner, do you have a written buy-sell agreement in place?
o Have you joined a local business association such as the Chamber of Commerce?
LICENSES AND PERMITS (Session 6)
Most businesses need licenses, permits, or certifications from the local or federal government in order to operate.
o Seek a meeting with the government representative or agency responsible for licenses and permits.
o Keep notes, including the names of participants, for all you meetings.
o Is your location approved for the type of business you intend to operate?
o Is it legal to use your home for a home-based business?
o Do you have all the certifications and licenses required by the government?
o Do you have the special training, education, or equipment required by the government for your intended business?
o Will you operate your business in a location that is approved by the government?
o Do you have your business license?
o Do you know how to collect sales or value-added tax (VAT) on your transactions?
YOUR BUSINESS NAME AND YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
o Is the name you selected appropriate for the business, easy to remember, easy to spell, and does it create a visual image?
o Have you registered your name with the appropriate government agencies?
o Have you trademarked your business name?
o Have you secured copyright and patents for your goods and services as needed?
o Do you have a logo?
o Have you secured stationery, business cards and business forms?
BUSINESS INSURANCE (Session 7)
Check with an insurance agent for the coverage you will need for your type of business.
o Insurance agent in place
o Business property insurance
o Business liability insurance
o Worker's Compensation
o Fire insurance
o Employee medical insurance
o Are the limits on you insurance policies appropriate for the risk?
o Have you included the insurance premiums in your cash-flow projections?
COMMUNICATION TOOLS (Session 8)
Communications equipment needs to be installed and tested before you open. Are the following components in place?
o Telephones including Voice Mail service
o Computers with internet capability
o A data backup plan
o Mobile communications equipment including laptop and cell phone.
o Software purchased and installed.
o Letterhead and business cards printed
BUYING A BUSINESS OR FRANCHISE (Session 9)
Buying a business can become the single most important decision you will ever make.
o Will your business provide full- or part-time employment for you?
o Can you accurately predict the future earnings of the business?
o Is the business a good fit for your skills and preferences?
o Have you investigated the industry thoroughly?
o Has your lawyer and accountant advised you on all aspects of the transaction including approval of purchase agreement and leases?
o Have you evaluated the quality and size of the inventory?
o Are the payables verified and current?
o Are the receivables current and collectible?
o Is there an order backlog?
o Will the seller help finance the purchase of the business?
o How strong are customer relationships?
o Is the primary marketplace stable or changing?
o Does the business have all necessary government approvals and licenses?
o Is the seller motivated?
If you are considering a franchise, here are additional checklist items:
o Have you talked to other franchisees about the business?
o Have franchisees of your choice shared their profit and loss records?
o Do you have the financial statement of the franchisor?
o Are there outstanding lawsuits against the franchisor?
o Is it a business you will enjoy operating?
o Does the proposed location meet your site criteria for the business?
o Is the franchisor well established?
o Does the franchisor have a significant number of successful franchisees?
LOCATION AND LEASING (Session 10)
A wonderful business can fail because of a poor location or a faulty lease.
o Have you reviewed and established site criteria for your business?
o Does the location meet your site criteria?
o Have you reviewed the leasing checklist and points to consider before signing a lease?
o Have you asked for a short-term lease with options to renew?
o Has your lawyer reviewed your lease?
ACCOUNTING AND CASH FLOW (Session 11)
To succeed in business, you must know how to keep score. If you do not understand all aspects of accounting, enroll in an accounting course.
o Is your accounting software in place?
o Are you prepared to reconcile your bank account every month?
o Do you completely understand
o Balance sheets
o Profit and loss statements (also called an income statement)
o Cash flow control
o Have you projected your cash flow for three months and for one year?
o Will you be updating cash flow control every month?
o Are you planning to keep your own records when you start out?
o Have you set up an account with a service provider to handle payroll and benefits?
o Will you personally be signing all checks?
o Have you set up a business account at your bank?
o Do you know your tax liability?
o Have you established a good relationship with your banker?
o Is your business credit policy in place?
o Will you be matching up invoices with purchase orders?
o Do you have safeguards against employee dishonesty in place?
E-COMMERCE (Session 12)
o Is your business listed in the "local" function of search engines?
o Is your domain name registered and the website online? Submitted to top search engines?
o Is your home page designed to represent your business and brand? Is it easy to navigate?
o Do you have all necessary e-commerce tools in place?
o Is your website adequately tested to sell online?
OPENING AND MARKETING (Session 13)
Opening for business requires attention to a great many details to be accomplished and coordinated:
o Are the tenant improvements complete?
o Are all your signs installed?
o Are all licenses, permits and certificate of occupancy secured?
o Is your merchandised displayed attractively?
o Is the advertising and promotional material scheduled?
o Have you started developing an email and mail database?
o Do you know how and where your successful competitors advertise and market their products or services?
o Have you joined the trade association of your industry?
o Are you focused on selling a great product or service at a fair price?
DETAILED OPENING AND MARKETING TO-DO LISTS:
o Review each task in the "Before You Start" checklist.
o Check off each bullet point under "How to Buy Checklist".
o Does your name pass inspection for "A good name is"?
o Review each bullet point under "Most common mistakes made when opening a business."
MANAGING EMPLOYEES (Session 14)
o Does your hiring policy include
o Job descriptions
o Hourly rates
o Do your employees like what they do?
o Are your employees quick learners eager to expand their knowledge?
o Do employees project a pleasant and positive image?
o Do employees like people and relate well to them?
o Are employees helpful to customers as well as to associates?
o Are your employees completely trained?
o Do employees know the product, merchandise or the service provided?
o Have you established and communicated a work schedule?
EXPANDING AND HANDLING PROBLEMS (Session 15)
o Are you prepared to prove your business concept before expanding?
o Have you structured profit sharing plans to provide for the delegation of authority and responsibility to managers?
o Are your profit sharing plans in writing and simply stated?
o Is your incentive plan for managers tied to individual financial success?
o Have you created separate profit centers for each expansion unit?
o Have you compared your incentive plans to those of your best competitors?
o Have you identified the activities that you will not delegate responsibility? (For example, signing of check and major expenditures.)