Entrepreneurship is reaching record highs these days. A combination of people wanting to create their own destiny, people desiring a flexible schedule, and the unemployed that need to start working again fuels this entrepreneurship growth. If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, here are the top 10 things you need to do when starting a business.
- Create a Business Plan
Business plans are a great way to organize your ideas and put your dreams on paper. Business plans force you to evaluate every angle of your business, helping you decide whether or not your business ideas might work. Business plans help you research your competition, price your product, create a marketing strategy, generate a budget, and think about an exit strategy. They are also required if your business is going to need outside funding. Don’t get me wrong, a business plan will not guarantee success, but it will lead you in the right direction and will alert you to potential troubles once your business is up and running.
Tip: a good business plan grows and changes with your business. Once your business is up and running, make a habit of reviewing your business plan on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. See if you are on track to reach your initial goals and update areas where you business took a different direction.
- Decide on a Business Structure
You will need to decide the type of business entity you would like to create. Your business structure choices are: Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Partnership, Corporation, or an S Corporation. Choosing a business structure is not a task to be taken lightly. It is important that you understand the pros and cons to each structure. Some structures offer better tax benefits, while others are much more simpler to operate. Some structures are better for individuals while other structures offer better benefits for business partners. The IRS has lots of information on their website about the various business structures. Individual states also have their own requirements and conditions for business structures. I advise you to contact your CPA to assist in helping you decide on a business structure that best fits your specific and unique needs.
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Contact the IRS to obtain your EIN (Employer Identification Number). You will need to fill out Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number, which can easily be done at IRS.gov. Even if you plan to operate as a sole proprietor, I recommend obtaining an EIN so you don’t have to use your Social Security Number on your business transactions.
If you plan to hire employees, you will need to register with your state(s) to obtain an Employer Unemployment Insurance Tax ID and a state wage withholding ID. Check with your state’s Department of Labor and Department of Revenue for information about your state’s employer identification number requirements.
- Register Your Business with the State
Corporations, s corps, limited liability companies (LLC), partnerships, sole proprietors, and non-profits need to be registered with the state(s) you plan to operate in. You can register your Trade Name and Doing Business As (DBA) with your State’s Secretary of State’s office as well.
- Sales and Use Tax License
Businesses that sell products, goods, food, etc. need to apply for a sales tax license from the state(s) in which you plan to operate. Some states even tax services. You can check with the state’s Department of Revenue for specific information pertaining your individual business. Contrary to popular belief, internet businesses are required to collect and submit sales tax as well. With the state governments strapped for cash, many states are starting to enforce collection of sales tax on internet transactions. Sales tax can be a tricky subject and gets complicated quickly when nexus comes into place. I recommend you contact your CPA to help figuring out what state(s) your business is required to collect and submit sales tax.
Use Tax – Depending on the state(s) and county(s) in which you live and/or operate a business, consumer use tax can be required to be paid by businesses and residents on purchases that were not taxed when purchased. Some examples include Internet, mail, and/or phone orders. Check with your CPA or your state to determine whether you owe use tax.
- Local Business License and Permits
Many cities, towns, and counties require businesses to register and obtain general business licenses. In addition, building permits, liquor licenses, contractor licenses, professional licenses, home occupational licenses, special event permits, etc. may be required by your state, city, town, and/or county as well. Don’t forget to look into these additional licenses and permits to ensure your business is operating legally.
Business insurance is a necessity to help protect you and your assets. In general, you will want to carry a general business liability insurance policy. If you have employees or hire subcontractors, you will also be required to carry a Workman’s Compensation Insurance policy. An insurance broker is a great resource and can help you get your business insurance set up.
- Set Up a Bookkeeping System
As your business starts making and spending money, you will want to have a system in place to track your income, expenses, bills to be paid, receivables, loan payments, cash, etc. With today’s technology, there are several great and inexpensive bookkeeping software options available. Check out QuickBooks, Sage Peachtree, Outright, FreshBooks, and Wave Accounting.
Keep in mind this list of the top 8 things you need to do when starting a business is a general list. Every business is unique and has individual needs. Please consult with professional advisors regarding your individual business. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your entrepreneurial adventure!
Michelle is the owner of Trailhead Accounting Solutions CPA, LLC, an Erie, CO based CPA firm focused on providing small and mid-sized businesses with day-to-day accounting, bookkeeping, and business solutions. Michelle is a CFO turned consultant who loves working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. When she’s not crunching numbers, she can be found hiking, remote camping, gardening, quilting, and hanging out with her family.