The Great Big Checklist of Everything – Small Business

This checklist breaks down everything you must and should do when starting a business.

Small Business Requirements List

Mandatory tasks are required under the law in order to operate a valid and compliant business.

Recommended tasks, although not strictly required under the law, are tasks that should be undertaken in order to grow and protect a new business.

Ideation & Protecting Ideas


  • Pick a company name and check any potential trademark infringements on Trademark or KnowEm
  • Determine whether your business name needs to be trademarked, and if does Trademarkit at the USPTO
  • Protect your written works and code through the Copyright Office
  • If you are inventing or creating a product, understand patents and register for one at the USPTO.


  • Vet your idea with the idea checklist
  • Protect your ideas when sharing them with others by using an NDA
  • Search your state’s corporation and LLC name registration database to ensure your business name has not been taken
  • Check Google, Yellow Pages, and local directories to ensure your business name is not taken
  • Learn how to select a good business name.

Forming Your Entity


o Pick a structure (Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, S-Corp, LLC, Partnership, LP, LLP, Non-Profit) and ensure that you comply with business formation requirements

o Creating a corporation? File Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws with the Secretary of State’s Office

o Forming an LLC? File the Articles of Organization and an Operating Agreement with the Secretary of State’s Office

o Get the necessary licenses and permits to operate legally

o Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

o If you are incorporating, appoint a Board of Directors

o For a corporation and LCC, you must register a service agent


o Going into a Partnership? Create a Partnership Agreement

o Check your state government’s website for other state-specific registration, taxation and employment rules

o Get your DBA (Doing Business As) which allows a business to operate under a fictitious name (this is required for sole proprietorships that want to operate under any name other than the name of the business owner)

Open your company bank account

Identity and Branding


o Design a logo (99designs)

o Search for and register a unique online domain name (GoDaddy, 1and1, Register)

o Create your website (WordPress, Intuit, Weebly, Wix, SiteKreator, GoDaddy)

o Ensure your business name is available in a wide variety of social networking websites in order to develop consistent branding (KnowEm)

o Create and manage your social media presence

o Get business cards and other physical collateral (Vistaprint)

o List your business online with MerchantCircle, Manta, Yelp, and

Financing and Business Planning


o Prepare for and create a Business Plan (if you need one)

o Find sources of capital— friends & family, business bank loans, angel investment, venture capital, or even crowdfunding (Crowdfunder, Fundable)

o If seeking investors, create a business pitch deck

For those issuing stock to finance the company (corporations), use a Shareholder’s Agreement



o Find a retail space, set up a home-based office or find an office space on LoopNet, OfficeFinder, or ShowCase

o Choose a broker to help find an adequate business space on TheBrokerList

o For corporation, keep record of Meeting Minutes


o Set up an online phone system (Ring Central, Google Voice, Onebox) or set up a traditional landline (Verizon, AT&T)

o Set up your computer and network

o Pick an internal email system (Gmail, Outlook)

o Choose an email system to connect with customers (Constant Contact, MailChimp, Sendgrid)

Set up a collaboration method for business documents, spreadsheets, and presentations (GoogleApps)

Financial Planning & Accounting


o Choose a tax year

o Determine which type of federal business taxes you will be responsible for

o Determine state tax obligations

o Create and maintain the top 3 financial statements: income statement, balance sheet and cash flows on at least a quarterly basis


o Set up an accounting system (Quickbooks)

o Find the right accountant

o Set a budget for the coming year

o Create a sales forecasts and financial projections regularly

o Get a business credit card and

o Register with Dun & Bradstreet to build business credit and obtain a D-U-N-S Number to accurately gauge and share your creditworthiness

o If a corporation, decide whether to elect S Corporation tax status

Business Mentors


o Speak to entrepreneurs and leaders in your industry, consider asking them to be your mentor

o Ask mentors to join your Board of Advisors (for the overall benefit of the company)

Building a Team


o Determine the company founders and leadership (partnership, owners, CEO, etc.)

o Clarify who gets equity, and how much

o Conduct job interviews—look out for red flags


o Find team members through personal connections, recruiters or job boards (ZipRecruiter, Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, SimplyHired)

o Run a background check on new hires

o For one-off or task-based activities, use AmazonTurk or Odesk

Human Resources


o Make sure workers are properly classified (employee, independent contractor, part-time employee, intern, etc.)

o Have employees fill out Form I-9 and Form W-4

o Familiarize yourself with the Department of Labor laws and regulations regarding employment

o Put up the necessary labor law posters to meet federal and state requirements

o Familiarize yourself with federal discrimination laws and heed them

o Terminate employees properly to avoid discrimination claims


o Create job descriptions

o Understand the definition of an “At Will” employee

o Have workers sign the proper Employment Agreement

o Protect the inventions employees create for you with an Employee Non-Compete and Confidentiality Agreement

o Give all new employees an Employee Handbook

o Lay out the employee benefits you will provide (paid leave and holidays, health insurance, bonuses)

o Choose a payroll service (ADP, Trinet, Paychex)

o Set up a system for employee discipline



o Determine a pricing system for your product(s)

o Execute the 5 Step Sales Process

o Learn the art of persuasion

o Hire and train salespeople

o Use a sales management service (one that fits your business size, from smaller to larger companies)

o Pick a Customer Relationships Management System (CRM)

o Make a Customer Service Plan to standardize procedures for complaints and refunds

o Track which products perform better, and which have the best margins

o Decide on possible discounts, specials, and coupons to attract new customers

o List your products on online marketplaces

Marketing & PR


o Plan your marketing strategy

o Decide on a target market and conduct a market analysis

o Determine your Key Performance Indicators

o Get free online traffic

o Improve SEO

o Get paid online ads, such as Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising

o Master social media marketing

o Look into relevant trade shows and conventions to market your product

o Print flyers, brochures or catalogs

o Leverage current customers with email marketing

o Decide if you want to hire a PR Agency

o Go mobile and consider app development

o Reach out to relevant newspapers and press



o Decide which types of business insurance you need.

  • Common: workers’ compensation, unemployment, and disability insurance
  • Others: property, liability or business overhead insurance


o Check any potential insurance providers here



o Find an attorney you trust

o Use waivers and contracts to prevent litigation

o Prepare for when your company is sued


Service-Based Businesses


o Determine the price of your services


o Don’t forget to clarify the deliverable, deadline, and cost of your service agreement

Retail/Brick and Mortar Businesses


o Check zoning laws

o Secure a lease

o Decide on days and hours of operation

o Determine staffing needs (for prime hours, slower times, closing an inventory)

o Secure the correct permits and licenses for your city and state

o Set up lighting and utilities

o Acquire furniture, register, racks, tables and wall displays, a register, etc.

o Get a state-specific Seller’s Permit or Resale Permit to properly collect sales tax


o Choose a location with good foot traffic, size, and appearance

o Speak with a commercial realtor to get an idea of what to look for and what to expect

o Establish agreements with your manufacturer, distributor or wholesale supplier

o Set up inventory tracking (understand a Stock Keeping Unit)

o Set up your Yelp page


Online Business


o Purchase computers

o Find images for your website

o Set up your e-commerce or online store (Shopify, FlyingCart, Goodsie)

o Choose a shipping or delivery system (FedEx, UPS, USPS)

o Set up a system for payment processing (PayPal, Google Checkout)


o Track and improve traffic through Google Analytics

o Determine storage options, such as cloud computing (Box, DropBox)

o Set up a system for IT bugs and tickets (Jira)

o If outsourced development is needed, use Guru or Elance.

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