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Start-up Checklist

The Key Decisions

The most important decisions a new – or changing – business needs to make. The sooner the better!

Business Identity and Market

  • What specific group of people is your target market?
  • What is their specific need / want that you are able to meet?
  • Can you meet it at the right price?
  • Will that price and the likely number of potential customers provide a good annual profit?
  • Does your business logo generate positive feelings with your target people?
  • Does your business name generate positive feelings with those people?
  • Is your business name legal – especially if you are forming a limited company?
  • Is your website domain name available – if so, have you registered it?

Budget and Pricing Strategy

  • Have you got a clear, written pricing strategy?
  • Do you have a pricing model which can be flexed for different customers?
  • Does your average expected profit in this model tie in to your sales margin budget?
  • Have you identified all the overheads of the business?
  • For major items over 5% of sales, have you got quotes or agreed prices from suppliers?
  • Have you included a contingency budget of at least 5% of your sales?
  • Have you got a credit control policy for how quickly and when customers will pay?
  • Have you decided how your customers will pay you – cash, standing order, credit card etc?
  • Have you prepared a cash flow budget based on how quickly your customers will pay?
  • Does your cash flow budget also reflect how quickly you’ll need to pay suppliers?
  • Have you prepared a budgeted profit and loss which reconciles to your cash flow budget?
  • If you are borrowing externally, have you prepared a budgeted balance sheet?

Accounting, Banking and Trading Structure

  • Will you be a sole trader, limited company, partnership or other structure?
  • If you are forming a limited company, have you carefully considered the pros and cons?
  • Have you decided what date you’ll make up your accounts to?
  • Who will the key users of your accounts be?
  • What accounting system are you going to use?
  • Are you confident your system will meet the needs of all the key users?
  • What are the key controls in your accounting system?
  • Are you clear on what the maximum external funding need will be?
  • Have you obtained that, or at least are in the process of obtaining it?
  • Have you opened a bank account for the business?

Health & Safety, Pensions and Insurance

  • Is your plant & equipment safe?  Can this be demonstrated?
  • Are you putting enough money aside for your pension?
  • Have you registered your business with the HSE, data protection etc. if applicable?
  • Have you got insurance policies in place to meet the needs and obligations of the business and its owner?
  • Have you considered the safety issues for electrical equiment, chemicals, etc?

Your staff

If you are employing people in the business:

  • Have you got employers’ liability insurance?
  • Have your premises been checked out by relevant bodies e.g. fire service?
  • Have you set up an accident book?
  • Is your workplace a healthy environment not unduly hazardous to staff?
  • What sort of pension scheme are you offering staff?
  • Have you had legal advice on the employment contracts you are going to offer?
  • Have you set up a robust payroll system?

Your business premises

  • Do the premises meet the physical needs of the business?
  • Do the commercial terms – length of lease etc. – meet the needs of the business?
  • Do you fully understand how quickly you can exit the premises and stop paying the rent?
  • Have you told the local authority and had the rates assessed?
  • Are all the necessary utilities – gas, electric, photocopier, telephone etc. – connected?

VAT, legal and tax

  • Are you legally required to register for VAT?  If yes, do so when you get your first order.
  • Have you registered with HMRC by phone or online?
  • Have you chosen your accounting end date with tax in mind?
  • Are you going to use annual accounting, cash accounting or the flat rate scheme for VAT?
  • Have you registered for all of the VAT schemes you want to be part of?
  • If you have a limited company, have you complied with all the statutory obligations?
  • If you have a limited company, have you got a system to comply with ongoing obligations?
  • Are your records clearly separating private spending from business spending?