New Start-ups Checklist

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If you’re starting a new business, there’s a lot to think about. The first few weeks can be overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start. To help you get your new venture up and running smoothly, we’ve put together this handy checklist of 10 important steps for any new business.

To succeed in business you’ll need to be as prudent as you are determined. So before you take the plunge and invest precious time and money – or ask anyone else to – it’s vital that you take a solid reality check. That means doing your research, making calculations and creating two essential documents that will show you exactly how viable your idea is.

  • A business plan lays out in detail how you’re going to commercialise your idea. Gather as much information as possible about your market and competitors, your suppliers and your target customers, so you’ll have a realistic and complete picture of the opportunities and obstacles you’ll face.
  • A budget will reveal the true costs of running your business and how much of your product or service you will need to sell to break even. Don’t forget to include the costs of licence fees and taxes, your initial outlay for equipment and ongoing costs like marketing, rent, utilities and insurance.

There are many ways you can set up your business, depending on the size of your operations and the kind of work you want to do. You can operate as a sole trader or partnership, or establish a legal company. There are different legal requirements and tax implications for each type of business, so it’s wise to seek advice from an accountant or business advisor before you decide.

Even with the most simple business structure there are some formalities you’ll have to complete before you can start trading. You’ll need to register with the Australian Business Register and get an Australian Business Number (ABN), which is a unique number the tax office and other businesses will use when dealing with you. If you want to register a company there are more complex procedures to follow, which can take some time to complete.

Depending on your industry, you may also need licences, permits or membership of a professional body in order to operate legally.

If you are planning to borrow money to start your business you’ll need a detailed business plan and financial projections. Bear in mind that it could take weeks or even months to get funding in place. If you are planning to apply for government or community grants to help with your funding, these could take even longer to secure.

Once you have your funds, whether from a loan or your own savings, you’ll need to set up bank accounts for your business. Australian anti-money laundering laws mean the bank will need to make identity checks as part of the application process, so it could be some weeks before you can use the new accounts.

You’ll need somewhere to run your business from. Unless you are planning to work from home, you’ll need to buy or hire a suitable office or retail outlet. You’ll need to think about safety, security, and maintenance and make any necessary improvements before you can start work.

You’ll also have to rent or buy all the equipment you need to run your business, such as telecoms and IT, office furniture, vehicles, tools and stock – plus somewhere secure to store it all if it won’t fit in your main workspace.

As soon as you’ve started investing in equipment or a premises, your business is at risk. A simple equipment breakdown could cost you a week’s profits, while a fire or break-in could wipe out everything you’ve built. And the moment you start doing business, you could be at risk from a public or product liability claim that could send you bankrupt.

There are several types of insurance to protect you against the risks of something happening to your business property, interruptions to your operations and claims against your business by customers or members of the public. Traditionally, finding an insurance package could be a lengthy process as you’d have to speak to a broker and wait for quotes from insurance providers. However, our online package for small businesses now offers you protection against all these major risks.

If you’re looking for more specialised business insurance, or business life insurance to protect your income if something happens to you, our experienced advisors can help you to find the right package.

If you are planning to hire people to work with you, there are lots of additional regulations to consider. You’ll need to make sure your premises are suitable and comply with work health and safety rules, and set up workers’ compensation arrangements in case one of your employees gets hurt.

You’ll also need to create procedures to ensure that everyone is treated fairly, and make arrangements to pay their salaries, tax and superannuation contributions on time.

If customers are going to buy from you, they need to know who and where you are. As a minimum you’ll need a name, a number and a listing in some business directories.

Since more and more people are turning to search engines when they want something, a website, however basic, is essential for most modern businesses. If you want to stand out then you might want to invest in some branding advice and get a logo, some stationery and some marketing collateral (like fliers or brochures) to support your identity.

Your reputation depends on the experience your customers have when they deal with you. Any successful business needs systems and processes to make sure you never miss a deadline, forget an order or invoice the wrong amount. Information is as valuable as time in a business, so you also need to make sure you can get quick access to up to date, reliable data whenever you need it.

The systems you need will depend on the type and scale of your business. At a minimum, you’ll need accurate accounting and invoicing records for your tax statements, and reliable communications so customers can contact you. You may also want to set up a customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep track of all your dealings with clients, so you can contact them again to offer more services.

At some point you’re going to need professional advice, so make sure you know where to turn. The easiest way to find an experienced accountant, lawyer or tax advisor is to ask other business owners for a referral.

You might want to enlist professional help to put together your business and marketing plans, especially if you’re planning to seek loan or grant funding for your business. You could also seek advice from your professional body or take advantage of local business mentoring opportunities.

The best business in the world will only succeed if people know about it, so you need to get out and spread the word. These days marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune – with care and effort you can reach customers in almost any sector using free online channels such as social media. There are some pitfalls though, so it’s worth investing in some professional marketing advice if you’re not sure how to get started.

Don’t forget traditional channels too – mail drops, posters, fliers and a listing in the old fashioned Yellow Pages can still bring in lots of customers.

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