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Checklist for Starting a Business in the US

All big businesses started with an idea, but alone is not enough. You need more than an idea to make your business dream a reality. Yes, you need research, strategic planning, develop certain skills, have access to resources, time and most importantly the desire learn new things.

Thanks to the technology and the government policies, starting a business in the US is way to easy now. However, starting a business for the first time can be little overwhelming and of course you do not want to miss just anything.

Even if this is not your first time, it can be difficult to keep track of everything as starting a new business involves lots of thinking. A checklist is extremely useful in that case; it can provide the basic steps you should follow to start a business. For example, hereby, you can find step-by-step guidance on how to start your business in Indiana.

Starting a business involves a long list of tasks. To make it convenient for you to move step by step, the process can be divided into two phases, i.e. planning and business setup.

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This article will provide you with the checklist items for each phase of starting a new business in the US. If you have been looking for answers in any of the following areas, the article will surely answer all your question:

  • Starting a business checklist
  • Small business startup checklist template
  • How to start a business checklist
  • Business plan checklist
  • How to start a business from scratch

Let’s start:

Phase 1: Planning

Planning is the most crucial stage of starting a business and it requires most of your energies to think big as well as to consider the smallest details. It requires parallel time too, so don’t get overwhelmed about planning a business overnight; you can’t simply do that. Remember, the better business plan you have, the best outcome you should see, so take your time for the business planning process.

Here’s the checklist you should use to make sure that the planning phase is entirely covered:

1- Conduct a Personal Evaluation;

Begin by asking yourself;

  • Why do you want to start a business? Is it money, freedom and flexibility, to solve a problem, or some other reason?
  • What are your skills?
  • How much capital do you have to risk?
  • If you don’t have enough funds, how will you raise capital?
  • Will it be a full-time or a part-time venture?

2- Have a Business Plan;

Well, it is easy to convince yourself that you may not need a business plan, because you have one of the best business ideas for the US market, but in fact you do need one even if you want to start a home based business.

A good business plan contains strategies and an action plan to achieve business goals, budgeting and financial projections, marketing and growth plan.

It takes time to develop a foolproof business plan and this article should guide you through the step by step process for writing a business plan for a startup.

3- Find a Business Mentor;

it can be anyone, i.e. a startup advisor or a financial guru. Look for someone who will give you honest feedback about your business plan and will also help you in the right direction. You may want to know why you need a business advisor, so here it is!

4- Figure out the Money;

As a fact of the matter, your business will not be profitable right after incorporation, so it is crucial to know where your living expenses (at least for the first year) will come from, i.e. savings, a job, spouse’s income, etc.

You may also need additional finances for the business sooner or later. So ideally you should start investigating about the possible funding options right in the beginning.

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5- Make a work schedule;

This may sound weird, but actually you need to strictly follow a schedule in order to get things done, especially when you aim to start a business while being on a full time job.

You need to allocate specific hours of the day to your business. Also, make sure your immediate family ‘buy into’ your startup; it will be great help as a series of challenges is ahead and you will need their support.

By the time, you have checked all the five items above, your planning process should be nicely done. The next phase is setting up your business. It is going to be challenging, but will be more interesting too, as it is going to be your way to deal the real world problems.

Phase 2: Setting up a Business

Setting up a business in the US is relatively complex process, i.e. you cannot generalize the process as the local laws differ state to state. So, this list should not be construed as all-inclusive for the legal part. To find state level legal information for setting up a business please, refer to the pages below:

Alabama – AlaskaArizona – ArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareDistrict of ColumbiaFloridaGeorgia  – Hawaii  – Idaho  – IllinoisIndiana  – Iowa  – KansasKentucky  – Louisiana  – MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichigan –  MinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontana  – Nebraska  –  Nevada  –  New Hampshire –  New Jersey  –  New MexicoNew York –  North CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaOregonPennsylvaniaRhode Island  –  South Carolina  –  South Dakota  –  Tennessee  –  Texas  –  Utah  –  Vermont  –  Virginia  –  Washington  –  West VirginiaWisconsin  –  Wyoming

Let’s have a look at the most important points when setting up a business anywhere in the US:

1- Choose a Business Name;

You can come up with any exciting brandable business name, but it must not already be taken by another company. Use this corporate name search tool to see if the name you have in mind is unique.

2- Figure out the Legal Structure and Incorporate Business;

You can consider a sole proprietorship, a corporation, LLC, etc. Though you can do it yourself, ideally, you should get it done through an attorney to save time and avoid any complications.

Regardless of where you are located, if you choose to incorporate LLC, you can do so in any state. Your native state, though, is going to be your best bet in most cases. Although you may consider doing a quick research on LLC filing fees by state to avoid any extra charges.

3- Register a Domain Name;

make sure to register a matching or relevant domain to your business name right after incorporation. Do it even if you do not plan to set up a website for now.

4- Apply for an EIN;

You will require an EIN if you plan to incorporate your business or open a business bank account.  It is free and you can apply online here.

5- Apply for business licenses;

You may need one or several, business licenses for your startup, depending on your business model and the industry. Most licenses are issued by the local and state authorities, but in some cases you may require a federal license as well. A local SBA office or your attorney should provide you with the complete details.

6- Finalize Location;

You may start a business from your home, but do check the local zoning laws. Moreover, if you’ve got a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll need to sort this out early as your license if subjected to an inspection. And yes, if it is a restaurant or a retail outlet, do consider the foot traffic, accessibility, and other factors that may affect your sales.

7- Open a Business Bank Account;

It is as simple as opening a personal bank account.

8- Set up Your Accounting System;

Right after your business bank account is active, select and accounting software and set it up. It is very important to implement an accounting software right from the beginning as it will streamline and optimize all the procedures which in turn will increase efficiency and productivity.

9- Hire and Assign Responsibilities to the Team;

If you are one man company you would surely not need this one at the moment. But sooner or later you do need a highly productive startup team to take your business to the next level. So, even if you are not hiring right now, consider the hiring process in future and get yourself ready for it right from now.

10- Get Insurance;

Every business is prone to risks and so you must have relevant type of insurance, i.e. basic health insurance for all the employees is a must. Moreover, if you have business vehicles or expensive machinery, you should get it insured too. And yes, in some cases you do need liability insurance as well.

11- Get your Business Cards;

Business cards still play vital role in marketing your business. Many people who are into online selling may not agree, but even if you have an online business, the business cards serve as a marketing tool for your business. You do not necessarily need them only in trade shows and networking events, but can also distribute them in casual meetups.

12- Get the Website set up;

Get your website up and running as soon as possible, even if your product is not yet available for the public, do have a fully functional business website, where your potential customers can get engaged, find relevant information and be able to contact you. In today’s hyperdigital world, everyone checks the business website before planning to visit them in person.

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13- Get Hands on Social Media;

Register social media profiles; getting this done earlier will make your marketing process a lot easier later. Also, it’s important to reserve your brand as a profile name.

Creating social media profiles means just reserving your brand name there. You need a complete Social Media Marketing Strategy to take your business to the next level. You must know that this is quite a complex domain and you must be done by a dedicated person or a team. Outsourcing social media marketing in the beginning can be a wise move.

The Bottom Line:

Your checklist might be longer than this, but the above list will give you an ides on organizing things well. Organizing what needs to be done before you launch and what you should do after launching your business makes it easier to prioritize your tasks.

You may also be interested in few other relevant reads:

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Get the latest news, resources and tips to help you and your small business succeed.