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Start-Up Businesses: A Timeline

Everyone has seen the start-up of a small business in movies or television. It all seems like a piece of cake, right? You take a great idea, find an abandoned location, declare that you're starting a business, and in a few weeks, your business is filled with products, people, and money. In reality, that is never going to happen (unless you're Uncle Jesse from Full House starting up the Smash Club).

Starting a business takes time, and lots of it. When you have a great idea, there's no time to lose. Start acting to launch your business is immediately. Most businesses average a 9-12 month planning and organizing process before opening its doors. Use the timeline below as a guide to track your progress on your start up business.

NOTE: This is a guideline. Every business is different. Use this as a basic template to see our recommendations on what to do for a start-up. Some businesses many not need all these steps. Some may need to delve deeper into certain aspects. Every start up business is unique.

8-12 Months Before Opening Your Doors

  1. Choose your business based on an idea, skills, and business focus
  2. Research your idea thoroughly
    • Target audiences
    • Possible locations
    • Various markets
    • Competition
  3. Brainstorm a name for your business; check to see its availability and register
  4. Apply for licenses from your city, county, state, and/or industry
  5. Find your key advisers
    • Bankers (set up budget and business plan)
    • Lawyers, attorney (legal purposes)
    • Insurance brokers (liabilities for employees)
  6. Choose your business location
    • Design a layout
    • Find out about zoning permits
    • Review leases with attorneys
  7. Look into business organizations for networking and advice
    • Chamber of Commerce
    • Industry associations
    • Small Business organizations
    • Main Street Groups
  8. Determine your business goals and mission statement

4-8 Months Before Opening Your Doors

  1. Revisit your business plan for revisions and to add to it
    • Marketing ideas
    • Advertising campaigns
    • Social media campaigns
  2. Decide on business type (Sole proprietor, Partnership, Corporation, etc)
  3. Revisit your banker
    • Discuss final budget
    • Set up payroll
    • Discuss financial obligations
  4. Create a petty cash fund for emergency
  5. Draft a "back up" plan

0-4 Months Before Opening Your Doors

  1. Double check business licenses and insurance
  2. Arrange movers, Internet installation, telephone installation
  3. Open business bank accounts
  4. Set up "Grand Opening" marketing and advertising campaigns
    • Throughout community
    • Chamber of Commerce meetings
    • Online announcements
  5. Draft employee handbook
  6. Hire employees
    • Write copy for job postings
    • Interview employees
  7. Contact IRS for Federal Employment ID Number
  8. Contact your state for State ID Number
  9. Apply for seller's permit
  10. Contact state for tax forms, employment requirements
  11. Contact state for mandatory posters in the office
    • Fair compensation
    • Sexual harassment
    • Safety
  12. Order supplies, office furniture, and equipment
  13. Determine business specifics (hours, email address, etc)
  14. Train employees
  15. Set up Website
  16. Set up Social Media
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • YouTube channel

As stated, every business is different. Take these general guidelines to heart when starting up your business. If you have any business suggestions for start-ups, feel free to comment or shoot me an email for my next start-up blog at

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