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Business Start-Up Checklist

So you’ve got this great idea and you want to take the leap into starting your own business. Well there’s a lot to think about before you’re open for business. Planning, skills, resources, time – and a little luck – are all important.

With all the excitement around a new business adventure, it can be hard to keep track of what you need to do and when. This 17-point Business Start-Up Checklist includes some of the most important tasks to help get you started.

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

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

Find a business mentor: Whether it's a business advisor or a financial expert, find someone who will give you honest feedback about your business. We have a lot of professional contacts at The Peak Partnership so we're a good sounding board to start with and most likely we can connect you with a business mentor that will match your personality, vision and business goals (even one of our advisors). Always make sure you seek out someone who is experienced in a wide range of business matters.

Create a business plan with a vision: When you create a business plan, you’ll need to summarise your business as it is now, and map your vision for how it will be in the future. Look five years ahead and document the steps and actions you’ll take to get there.

Make sure your plan addresses a realistic forecast of income and expenses and the initial capital needed to get up and running. You'll also need to determine how long the business can operate before you need to make a profit or raise more capital.

Register web domains and trademarks: You'll most likely need a website, so check for suitable domain names and register them. Think about trademarking your business name and logo (if you plan on having one) too – and remember, registering a business name does not give you trademark protection. Talk to your lawyer about this or we can connect you with an Intellectual Property Specialist Lawyer.

Set up your business structure: Choose a legal structure that works best for you. As accountants, we’re in the best position to advise you about your business structure option, taking into account asset protection, tax minimisation, owner obligations, the prospects of future business partners or any plans to raise external capital, and ultimately the sale of your business.

If you have business partners, it's wise to set up shareholder agreements that clearly define how the business and the structure will operate, and how major events in the business (like a business partner wanting out) will be dealt with.

We can also to help register your business name through ASIC.

Ensure that your business will eventually be profitable: It may sound silly, but can you make a profit from your business? Many SME start-ups are born out of one person’s passion, but fail the practical test of making money. The use of a proper online accounting software to run profit and loss forecasts can help you track your progress. Again, we have the accounting software expertise to set you up properly.

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

Arrange your business insurance: Even the smallest businesses need insurance – and there’s a range of insurances to consider, depending on what type of business you’re into. You might need cover for bricks and mortar property, stock and equipment, public liability, professional indemnity, income protection and more. We can connect you with experienced insurance brokers to find the best package for you.

Register for taxes: You’ll need an ABN (Australian Business Number) and TFN (Tax File Number) from the Australian Tax Office and then you’ll need to register for GST (if your annual turnover is $75,000 or greater) and PAYG.

Confirm the items that can be tax-deductible expenses for your business: Office rent, equipment costs, internet costs – all of these may be offset against tax so make sure you talk to us about all your business expenses that might be tax-deductible and what records you’ll need to keep.

Create your website: Use the domain name you've already registered for your website if possible. Services like Squarespace, Wordpress, Moonfruit and Onepager can get you online quickly – and you can find website themes at Wordpress or Theme Forest. You can always refresh and improve your site at a later date.

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 businesses that you aspire to be like for inspiration.

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. Ask satisfied customers or clients to review your business on Google with a five-star rating.

Find the right staff: If your business needs staff, 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 team. Staff costs is a whole different ballgame too – you’ll need to consider leave entitlements, superannuation and whether you’re going to engage people as employees or contractors.

Think about how you’ll use technology: Nearly all businesses use technology. Think about whether you need laptops, tablets, smartphones – or all of these. Talk to local IT firms if you're not sure. You also need to consider the 'soft' side of technology and whether you operate using cloud-based platforms, a dedicated server or a mix of both. Seek expert advice before making this decision - we can refer you to very capable tech specialists.

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 Office 365. That way you can access your valuable data online from anywhere at any time. There are also lots of apps that can help you save time and money in your business.

Keep your data safe: Companies that lose data also lose business. Using cloud-based software for data storage can give you peace of mind - but whether your systems that are cloud-based or server-based, you need to think about multiple data back-ups, have a back-up procedure and a recovery plan in the event something goes wrong. Remember that your business data is quite often your business value.

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 Business Start-Up Checklist are all important, but they don't guarantee success. Only you can do that, with hard work, intelligent decisions and getting great people around you. Stay nimble, be prepared for challenges – and go for it!

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