the small business resource center
How to Begin
Business Start-Up Checklist
There are a number of steps to consider before starting a small business in the River Region. Each step will be highlighted throughout this guide. The following checklist is a reference to help budding entrepreneurs plan the steps needed to successfully own and operate a small business.
c Assess your strengths & weaknesses
c Assess your financial resources
c Choose a name for your business
c Choose a legal structure
c Prepare a business plan with financial statements
c Obtain financing
c Retain an attorney, accountant and insurance agent
c Acquire necessary licenses and permits
c Obtain Federal Tax ID Number
c Send off for federal & state tax forms
c Select a location
c Inquire into zoning ordinances
c Arrange for utilities
c Get computers, phone, office furniture, etc.
c Choose a record-keeping system
c Choose method of inventory control
c Obtain business insurance
c Open banking accounts
c Start marketing
c Open your doors
Why do you want to be in business for yourself? You need to evaluate your reasons to determine why and what type of business is best for you. The following are a few factors to consider before embarking on business ownership.
- Primary reason for being in business
- Amount of capital required
- Your skills
- Your likes and dislikes
- Amount of time you are willing to devote
- Your financial goals
- Your business management, knowledge and experience
c Do you enjoy working long hours?
c Do you have self-discipline and willpower?
c Do you easily meet deadlines?
c Do you work well under pressure?
c Will you jeopardize your home?
c Do you have the necessary physical strength?
c Does your family support this venture?
c Do you have a back-up plan?
Experience & Skills
c Does your idea make use of your skills?
c Does your idea require skills you do not have?
c Can you find affordable experienced personnel?
c Are you experienced in this line of work?
c Do you have managerial experience?
c Are you able to interpret financial data?
c Are you familiar with tax regulations?
c Do you know bookkeeping and accounting?
Planning & Preparedness
c Have you written a formal business plan?
c What services/products will be offered?
c Do you know who your customers are?
c Have you arranged for a location?
c Do you have a list of potential suppliers?
c Do you know the competition?
c Have you arranged for insurance?
c Do you have a business license?
c Have you investigated advertising and cost?
c Have you hired a competent staff?
Requirements for Success
c Will your business meet unmet needs?
c Is there a similar business in the area?
c Will your business have a pricing or service benefit the competition
does not have?
Training & Experience
One of the most common mistakes made in starting a business is trying to do so without the necessary training and experience. Before you start a business, ask yourself whether you have the background, experience and training that is required. For example, a retailer would need some expertise in management, sales and buying. The management experience would need to include personnel, record keeping, marketing, and other skills.
If you do not have this experience, how do you get it? Generally, it is best to work for a time in a similar company. This gives you a closer look at what that type of business entails without risking your investment during the learning period. Another way is to study, study, study. The more research you do and the more information you acquire, the easier your decision will be to start your own business.
Another suggestion for gaining experience is to take courses at your local college or university. Most area schools offer both credit and continuing education courses throughout the year. Entrepreneurial training is also available through The Small Business Resource Center in Montgomery. One program, called Entrepreneurial University, is a 13-session course designed for would-be and existing entrepreneurs who want to expand their knowledge on how to develop a small business and the skills necessary to make it grow. The program runs twice a year with each session lasting two hours, one night a week, for 13 weeks. Entrepreneurial University begins the first week in February and August. Please contact The Small Business Resource Center for more information.
There are many publications designed to help provide insight into the day-to-day operations and problems that an entrepreneur may face. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a wide range of management and technical publications to assist you. Contact the SBA at (205) 290-7101 and request the SBA 115-A, Business Development Pamphlet or go to www.sba.gov. The Government Printing Office also publishes several useful books that are available at http://bookstore.gpo.gov. The Alabama Development Office has manuals helping business owners and managers understand the employment laws for the State of Alabama at www.ado.state.al.us.
Your local library and area bookstores can also provide relevant material. It is impossible to become an expert over night. Many businesses rely on the expertise of others such as a small business lawyer or a certified public accountant.