Guide

17 essentials to do before starting a business

Starting a business can be overwhelming. Our starting a business checklist includes all the tasks you need to get going.

A small business owner ticking off items on their starting a business checklist

17-point checklist for starting a business

All businesses start with an idea. But you'll need more than an idea to make your business dream a reality. Planning, skills, resources, time – and a little luck – are all important.

This list will guide you through the early stages of your business. Use it as a roadmap for building and running your new business.

Get your new business up and running with our 17-step checklist.

1. Define your unique selling point

You need a unique selling point (USP). It’s important that you define what makes your business different from the competition. Try to sum it up in two sentences – and memorize it. You'll use it every time you pitch to investors and potential customers.

2. Find a business mentor

Whether it's a business advisor or a financial guru, find someone who will give you honest feedback about your business. Contact small business associations or small business development centres.

3. Create a business plan

When you create a business plan, you’ll need to summarize your business as it is now, and map your vision for how it will be in the future.

4. Register web domains and trademarks

You'll need a website, so check for suitable domain names and register them. Think about trademarks too – talk to your lawyer about this.

5. Set up your business structure

Choose a legal structure that works best for you. An accountant can help you here.

6. Ensure that your business will eventually be profitable

Can you make a profit from your business? Use accounting software to run profit and loss forecasts. Ask an accountant or financial advisor for their opinion.

7. Set up a business bank account

Don't use your personal account, even if you're just starting out. It’s always wise to keep your business finances separate. A credit card and PayPal account could be useful too.

8. Arrange business insurance

Even the smallest companies need insurance. Talk to a broker to find the best package for you.

9. Register for taxes

Organize tax IDs and register with the tax office. It’s best to get this paperwork done right at the start.

10. List the items that can be tax deductible expenses

Office rent, equipment costs, internet costs – all of these may be offset against tax so make sure you talk to your accountant.

11. Create your website

Use the website domain name you've already registered if possible. Services like Squarespace, Wordpress, Moonfruit and Onepager will get you online quickly. You can always refresh and improve your site at a later date.

12. Create social network accounts

Different businesses have different social media needs. You might need a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile – or you may only need a Twitter account. Do some research on competitors or ask your mentor to see what will work for your business. Look at companies that you aspire to be like for inspiration.

13. Ask people to promote you online

Contact members of your social networks. Tell them about your new business and ask them to share the link to your website with the people in their networks.

14. Find the right employees

Hiring the right employees is important. While you may only be able to hire one or two employees to start with, it’s still vital that you hire well and choose the right ones.

15. Think about how you'll use technology

Nearly all companies use technology. Think about whether you need laptops, tablets, smartphones – or all of these. Talk to local IT firms if you're not sure.

16. Choose your business applications

Software is getting more powerful and intuitive. If possible, choose online applications for your work. These include Google Docs and Microsoft 365. That way you can access your valuable data online from anywhere at any time.

17. Keep your data safe

Companies that lose data also lose business. Use cloud-based software for peace of mind.

Keep challenging yourself

Successful entrepreneurs keep going when other people would give up. That inner drive is what defines a successful business owner. Your attitude will help determine whether your business succeeds or fails. So keep going and the hard work will pay off.

The steps in this starting a business checklist are all important. But they don't guarantee success. Only you can do that, with hard work, intelligent decisions and great employees. Stay nimble, be prepared for challenges – and go for it!

Get the ultimate guide to starting a business

Accountants, bookkeepers and business advisors have helped us put together a complete guide on starting a business. It includes beginner’s tips on things like testing ideas, writing business plans, doing forecasts and budgets, setting prices and more. Check out How to start a business.

Disclaimer: Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the provided content.

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