First Steps to Starting a Business

You can start a business with these simple steps; it's easier than you might think. This discussion assumes you know what type of business you want to start. Begin with the general type of business you want to start - retail, wholesale, products, services. Or maybe you want to start an internet business.

After you have your business idea, you will need a business name, because everything else depends on your name. Then decide on a location - home, leased space, purchased building - and go on to the legal and financial tasks.

Select and Register Your Business Name

Most business owners start out with a business name, but before you solidify that name by putting it in a logo, on business cards, and on your website. You also want to be sure the name is not being used by someone else.

Selecting a name, registering that name, and possibly trademarking the name mean that you have made a commitment to that name. Read this section before you select that business name.  

The most important thing to remember when you select a business name is to choose something that will work for you for many years. After all, who knew Amazon was going to be selling everything in the world?!

Find a Business Location

Unless you are working out of your home, you will need a location for your business. 

Or Start a Home-based Business

 If you want to start a business in your home, there are some special issues you will need to deal with.

Depending on your business type and the location of your home, you may need to get a zoning variance to run your home business. 

And it's not too soon to consider how your home business will file taxes, so you can begin collecting the records you need for your tax return. 

Select Your Business Legal Type

The types of tax and legal business types range from the simple to complex. 

  • sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business for one person. This business type doesn't need to be registered with your state. 

Other business types you can choose will need to register with your state: 

  • One person or several people can start a limited liability company (LLC) with just a registration and an operating agreement.
  • Several people owning a business could also start a partnership, which is a little more complicated.
  • The most complicated business type is a corporation 

.Here is a checklist to help you decide what type of business legal entity you will start.

Apply for Your Tax ID Number (Employer ID)

One of the first steps in business start-up, after you have a name and a business address and you know your legal form, is to fill out a tax identification application (sometimes called an employer ID.

This number acts as your unique business identifier on all types of registrations and documents, and most banks want you to have this number before you can set up a business checking account and apply for a loan.

Apply to Your State for a Sales Tax Permit (for Taxable Items, Services)

If you are selling any products or services that are subject to sales tax in your state, you must collect tax from customers and pay the state back that tax.  To begin this process, you'll need to apply for a seller's permit from your state taxing authority. 

You may also need to collect, report, and pay sales tax on sales over the internet. A recent Supreme Court decision has opened up the possibility for more states to require that online sellers collect sales taxes from buyers outside that state.

Get a Business Checking Account

After you have applied for your tax ID number, you can use that number to set up a business checking account.  

Yes, it's more expensive to have a separate business bank account, but it's a deductible expense and keeping business and personal checking accounts separate helps you avoid including personal expenses on your business tax reports (which is not allowed by the IRS).

A business checking account also makes your business look more respectable and gives you an edge when you want to apply for a business loan. 

Obtain Local Licenses and Permits

Learn about what local business licenses and permits you might need to apply for during the start-up of your business.

This includes applying for a "doing business as" (dba) or fictitious name license in your location, so everyone knows who owns your business and applying for a zoning permit if your business is in a location with different zoning. 

Create a Marketing Plan for Your Business

Before you can start selling your products or services, you will need to put together a plan detailing exactly what you are selling, who you are selling to, defining your competition, and defining exactly how you will advertise and promote your products/services during your first year of business and beyond.

Having a marketing plan in place will help a potential lender see that you are serious about selling and it will give you a plan of attack to work from as you get started.