So, you’ve come up with a great business idea, and you can’t wait to get started. There is much to do, and the process might seem overwhelming. We hope this business startup checklist helps you stay organized.
Plan Your Business
The one thing all successful businesses have in common is that they were well planned and thought out. The most important elements of your business to plan are as follows:
- The name: You must ensure the name of your business will resonate with customers but and comply with South Carolina’s rules for LLCs or corporations.
- Location: Location is one of the most important factors that will contribute to your success. Consider factors such as whether you will accept walk-ins, licensing and permits your business will need.
- Business plan: All businesses should have a plan that can help you stay organized. Your business plan should include ideas for product development, sales and marketing, people and partnerships, and financial planning.
Define Your Brand
The most successful businesses are built on a solid brand. When creating your brand, it is important to consider what your business stands for, the core values of your company, and the elements that will gain the trust of your customers. It is important to define your brand early so you can keep it in mind when planning for the rest of your business.
All businesses require capital, or funding, that can help get them off the ground. Some of the most common funding sources include:
- Bootstrapping: With this method, you use your own savings and income to start your business. Once your business starts making a profit, it is put back into the business.
- Family and friends: It is not uncommon for business owners to turn to family members and friends for help. When doing so, however, it is important to treat it as a loan and to get any agreement in writing.
- Small business grants: Grants are a great way to fund your business, because you do not have to pay them back.
- Small business loans: Banks and other lending institutions often have a number of small business loans that can help you get started.
Choose a Business Structure
There are several different business structures you may choose for your business, including:
- Sole proprietorship: With this structure, you are the sole owner and your business is not a separate entity from you.
- Partnership: Partnerships are also unincorporated just like sole proprietorships, but these businesses have multiple owners.
- LLCs: Limited liability companies (LLCs) brings much flexibility, as you are not solely responsible for debts or liability the business incurs.
- Corporations: Corporations are also separate legal entities, but they are owned by shareholders.
Register Your Business
How you register your business will depend on what type of business structure you have chosen. In any case, there are some general steps to registering your business, which include:
- Name your business
- Choose a registered agent that will accept legal and tax documents on behalf of your business
- Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes
- File formation documents
Set Up Business Banking & Credit Card Accounts
It is important that any business owner separates their personal and business assets. If you mix your profits, your personal assets are at risk in the event someone sues your business. The most important separate accounts to open are as follows:
- Business bank accounts
- Business credit cards
- Business accounting system to track business performance and simplify annual tax filings
Your business may need many different types of insurance that act as protection. The most common types of business insurance include:
- General liability insurance
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Professional liability insurance
Obtain Licenses & Permits
Your business will need many different licenses and permits in order to operate legally. The licenses and permits you need will depend on the type of business you are opening. For example, a restaurant will need a signage permit, health permit, and alcohol license. To learn which permits and licenses you need, you can use the following resources:
- South Carolina’s licenses, permits, and registration page
- The U.S. Small Business Administration guide
- Your local county clerk
Unless you plan on being the only one to work within your business, you will need to hire employees. While it is important to advertise, interview, and check references to ensure you are finding the right people, you must also remain compliant with the requirements for legally hiring employees. After you have acquired a great team, you should also use a payroll service that can distribute paychecks, track time, and help during tax season.
Create a Business Website
Today, all businesses must have a website. Most customers go online to research a business before they actually buy from them. You should also create social media accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn so you can redirect people to your website—but these are supplemental to your site, not a replacement.
Promote Your Business
Once you have taken care of all the details above, you then need to start telling people about your business! Social media is a very effective way to do this. You can also use press releases to establish your brand. You should also list your business in several online directories—but start with the largest, Google My Business, so your business can be found by more customers.
Work with a South Carolina Business Lawyer
All business owners need a business lawyer who can help them plan their business and provide the protection necessary once the business is up and running. At Beth Santilli Law, LLC, our knowledgeable attorneys can advise on the most important elements of starting a business, help you draft agreements, and ensure you remain compliant with the law. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.