How to Start a Business

You're taking the plunge!

Although starting a new business is an exciting and often fun venture, there are many things to consider that can easily be overlooked.  You must pay attention to all the details from the beginning in order to save yourself from headaches down the road.  Below is a list of item to consider as you start out on your new venture.  This should not be viewed as an all inclusive list.  Every business is unique and each economic sector may require that specific steps be taken in a specific order.  You really need to do your research before taking the plunge.

Additional resources from trained professional are available (see Technical Resources), but this should get you started.

  1. Write a Business Plan. Writing a business plan is a great first step. It will help you think through the details, identify the next steps and help you determine your course of action. A business plan will also allow you to assess feasibility. Just because you have a great idea does not mean that you should start a business or that now is the right time. Be realistic with your business plan and allow it to guide you as you move forward with your dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
  2. Get Business Training and Assistance. Your business plan should help you identify weak points in your business. Maybe you need help with sales. Maybe you are great at production but need some direction with the back office. Whatever your weaknesses are, they are opportunities to learn and strengthen your skills in those areas. Take advantage of free and/or inexpensive trainings and educational opportunities like webinars, mentoring, business counseling and electronic resources.
  3. Choose a Location. In writing your business plan, you should have already determined the general location of your business. Will you work from home? Do you need storefront space or is a warehouse best for you? Now you need to start drilling down and working towards a specific geographic space. Also, speak to the local code enforcement officer before you sign a lease or a purchase contract. You need to make sure that your business is a permitted use given the zoning. You should also have a good understanding of the building code requirements. Just because the building was recently occupied does not mean that it will pass inspection for your businesses. Do not take the owner’s word for it. Do your homework!
  4. Select a Legal Structure. There are many options for selecting a legal structure for your business. It is best to discuss this with your attorney and accountant, as each legal structure will have different implications related to liability and taxes.
  5. The Nitty Gritty of Organizing. In addition to legal structure, there are numerous other important administrative tasks that need to be addressed. As noted above, there is no one path for every business, but here are some of the important administrative issues to address:
    a) File the paperwork to legally organize as mentioned above.
    b) Obtain your federal employer identification number (EIN). This is also sometimes referred to as a Tax Identification Number (TIN). Think of this as the social security number for your businesses. Just as it is almost impossible for you to do the business of your life without your social security number, so too is it impossible to function as a business without your EIN. You can apply for your federal EIN online HERE.
    c) Register with New York State for all applicable taxes and file reports. These could include unemployment insurance, wage reporting, tax withholdings, corporate taxes, sales and use taxes, income taxes, franchise taxes among others. For more information, review the New York State Guide for New Businesses.
  6. Licenses and Registrations. What licenses and registrations are necessary for your businesses? New York State has an online tool to help you figure that out. But don’t stop there! Depending of the type of business you are starting and its location, you may need approval from the County, Town and/or village. Make sure you also speak with your local code enforcement officer to ensure that what you have in mind is a permitted use on that property.