Trusted Business Advisors
Supporting Michigan Businesses

This checklist is a good starting point for you as you begin your business. It is intended to assist you to make sure you are considering the main items when starting a business. Some of these steps may be different or may not apply to your business. Please consider that there may also be additional steps required by your businesses which are not mentioned below.

Choose a business idea, product or service

  1. Who do you trust for advice?
  2. Get your family and friends behind you from the get-go.
  3. Make sure your family and friends are fully understanding and supportive of your ideas to venture into small business start-up.
  4. Do they understand the level of commitment you will have to show for on-going and long term success?
  5. Prepare realistic and achievable goals and targets for your first and second year.
  6. Do not expect to conquer the world with your first or second year’s business returns.

Research the business industry

  1. What will you sell?
  2. Is it legal?
  3. Who will buy it? How often?
  4. Are you willing and able to do what it takes to sell your product?
  5. What will your product cost to produce, market, sell, and deliver?
  6. Research your competition.
  7. What compliance issues do you need to address?
  8. Can you make a profit?
  9. How long will it take for your business to make a profit?

Create a business plan

  1. Develop a marketing strategy.
  2. Research operational needs, staffing and support.
  3. Projected startup expenses.
  4. Created projected financial statements: cash flow, income statement and a balance sheet.
  5. Projected statements for the next 2-3 years.
  6. Projected 3 scenarios: worst case, realistic case and best case.
  7. Do you know whether your plan is realistic?
  8. Develop a product or service that the target market needs.
  9. Analyze your competition.
  10. Identify your business location.


  1. Register or reserve your federal trademark/service mark.
  2. Register copyrights.
  3. Apply for patent if you will be marketing an invention.
  4. Write a marketing plan.
  5. What will you name your business?
  6. Design a Logo
  7. Identify your market, its size and locations.
  8. Do you need to regularly attend networking functions and other events that put you in front of a captive audience?
  9. Determine the customer demand for your product/service.
  10. Determine the pricing strategy Determine the products/services offered.
  11. Determine how your product/service will be advertised and marketed.
  12. Research direct mail, publicity generation, “pay-per-click” advertising and print advertising.
  13. Have business cards and stationery printed.
  14. Have sales literature prepared.
  15. Listings: Consider Yellow Pages advertising, directories or on-line listings.
  16. Is your idea practical, and will it fill a need?
  17. What is your competition doing?
  18. What is your business advantage over existing firms?
  19. Can you deliver a better quality or service?
  20. Can you create a demand for your business?
  21. Set a launch date.
  22. Plan a grand opening event.
  23. Send announcements to everyone you know.
  24. Send press releases.
  25. Turn on the OPEN sign!
  26. Revisit your business plan and update often.
  27. Evaluate your marketing strategy often.
  28. Join your local chamber or chambers.
  29. Find networks that fit you company offer.

Website Related

  1. Find a Web site company that fits your needs.
  2. Have your Web site designed and set up.
  3. Write content for your site.
  4. Do you have images for your site?
  5. Make sure your website can grow with your business.
  6. Get an e-mail address.
  7. Register the domain name even if you aren’t ready to use it yet.


Explain how the business will be managed on a day-to-day basis. Discuss hiring and personnel procedures. Discuss insurance, lease or rent agreements, and issues pertinent to your business. Account for the equipment necessary to produce your products or services. Account for production and delivery of products and services.

Choose a location for the business

  1. Home office, lease space or buy.
  2. Check zoning laws.
  3. Have business phone or extra residential phone lines installed.
  4. Acquire appropriate property/review the lease with an attorney.
  5. Purchase equipment and/or supplies.
  6. Order inventory, signage, and fixtures.

File partnership, corporate, or limited liability company papers and related state or federal documents

  1. File state tax forms.
  2. Identify personal income tax implications and liability issues related to the business.
  3. Create and evaluate a legal business structure.
  4. Apply for a seller’s permit if necessary.
  5. Acquire a “Doing Business As” (DBA) certificate.
  6. Acquire an “Employer Identification Number” (EIN).

If it’s just you or if you will have employees:

  1. Apply for an employee identification number.
  2. Create a list of start-up supplies along with a detailed budget.
  3. Set up a system for accounting and payroll.
  4. Identify requirements for worker’s compensation insurance.
  5. Identify requirements for unemployment insurance.
  6. Contact the Internal Revenue Service for information on filing your federal tax schedules. See for more information.
  7. Investigate business insurance needs.
  8. Get tax information on withholding taxes.
  9. Identify requirements for necessary permits, zoning requirements, applicable local business taxes.
  10. Get tax information on hiring independent contractors.
  11. Identify requirements for federal self-employment taxes, Social Security, withholding for employees
  12. Create both an operations and employee manual.

Investigate business insurance needs

  1. Get adequate business insurance or a business rider to a homeowner’s policy.
  2. Get tax information such as record keeping requirements, facts about estimating taxes, forms of organizations, etc.

Financial Management

Explain your source and the amount of initial equity capital. Develop a monthly operating budget for the first year. Develop expected return on investment and monthly cash flow for the first year. Provide projected income statements and balance sheets for a two-year period. Discuss your break even point. Explain personal balance sheet and method of compensation. Discuss who will maintain accounting records and how they will be kept. Provide “what if” statements that address alternative approaches to any problem that may develop.

Bank account and your book keeping for the business

  1. Open the appropriate business accounts.
  2. Identify sources of capital (Equity, debt)
  3. Set up credit terms, relationships with suppliers.
  4. What financing will you need?
  5. What are your resources?
  6. How will you compensate yourself?