How to Start a Business Checklist

Resource Guide for Business Start-Up and Growth

The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to a thriving and prosperous business environment in Alexander City and the Lake Martin area.  We promote business and commerce for our region through volunteer community leadership in economic, political and social development.  We’re building a strong record of community involvement, contributions to the business economy, and helping improve the quality of life of citizens across the entire Tallapoosa County region.

 

The information contained in this package is designed to assist new and existing businesses understand the process for starting up or growing and identify the resources necessary to get started.  Before your business can open its doors to the public, it must meet a number of city, county, state and federal requirements.  The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce stands ready to assist you and your business understand those requirements and make the start up/growth process a positive one.

 

BEFORE you begin

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

 

Starting your own business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can offer numerous advantages such as being your own boss, setting your own schedule and making a living doing something you enjoy. But, becoming a successful entrepreneur requires thorough planning, creativity and hard work.

Startup Checklist

  • 1.  Prepare a written business plan complete with financial statements

    An ancient proverb says, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Having a business plan is considered an essential first step in evaluating the structure of a business and understanding how it will measure success. With a business idea in mind and the potential need for financial support from banks, venture capitalists, or investors, you’re sure to hear the question, “Do you have a business plan?” 

    Writing a sound business plan allows the entrepreneur to anticipate opportunities, costs, difficulties and requirements of starting a business and build the venture on paper first.  You’ll be forced to think about what must be done and how to do it, and your plan will provide creditors and investors with information and documentation to help them decide whether or not to finance you and your business idea.

     

    Click here for an explanation of what should be included in a business plan.
    Click here for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s step-by-step tool for building a business plan.

     

    Additionally, the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce has information and resources available to assist in helping write a business plan, such as staff consultation, books and templates.

  • 2. Establish a source of adequate and reliable financing

    Unless you plan to use personal finances to launch your business, you’ll need to explore other ways to make sure you have enough money to get going and operate until your business is bringing in the revenue required to sustain and grow.  Funding can come from a variety of places, such as loans from banks or lending organizations, venture capitalists, private investors, or startup funding programs.

     

  • 3. Determine legal structure of your business

    There are several different business structures to choose from.  Each has different legal and tax implications.  For expert advice on which business structure is right for you and what legal/tax implications each carries, it’s recommended to seek professional legal and accounting advice.

     

    • Sole Proprietorship – most basic structure; one owner responsible for all assets and liabilities
    • Limited Liability Company (LLC)  – provides limited liability features of a corporation and flexibility of a partnership
    • Corporation – more complex and generally suggested for larger, established companies with multiple employees
    • Partnership – a single business where two or more people share ownership
    • S Corporation – special type of corporation created through IRS tax election where the business avoids double taxation

     

    To learn more about the different business structures and which type might be best for you, read in-depth information about the pros and cons of each HERE.

     

    Click here for a list of Alexander City Chamber of Commerce member attorneys.

    Click here for a list of Alexander City Chamber of Commerce member accountants.

  • 4. Name and register your business

    Naming your business is an important early step in the process. You’ll need to name your business something that reflects your desired image and can last for the long term.  With today’s business world becoming increasingly digital, you should also consider whether or not the name is web ready and domain names are available.


    Businesses in Alabama are required to choose an available name with the Office of the Secretary of State.

     

    Click here to search available names using the Secretary of State’s Online database.

    Click here to register a new business name or download the Name Reservation Form.

  • 5. Select a location and check zoning ordinances

    A business location can be one of the most important factors in determining success.  Will you build on vacant land? Will you purchase a building? Will you lease? Or maybe you won’t have a physical location at all and just sell over the Internet.  Either way, you’ll need to have an idea if the location is suitable for a business of your type.  Important things to consider when scouting locations can include proximity of competition, local workforce, plans for future growth or expansion, proximity to suppliers, brand image, and zoning regulations.  Not all property is zoned for commercial use, so making sure that a business can operate on the property you have in mind is essential.

     

     

    Alexander City Chamber staff members can also offer guidance on site selection as we’re often aware of vacant buildings and property that is for sale.

  • 6. Get your federal, state tax ID numbers

    Federal Tax Info:
    The United States federal government requires employers to withhold federal income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes.  Click here for the IRS guide to business taxes or download the Employer’s Tax Guide.

     

    All businesses must have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or (Federal Tax Identification Number).  This is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS to identify the tax accounts of employers and certain others who have no employees.  The IRS uses EINs to identify taxpayers who are required to file various business tax returns.

    • Click here to apply for an EIN.
    • Applying for an EIN is a free service offered by the IRS. Beware of websites on the Internet that charge for this free service.

     

    Alabama Tax Info:

    All businesses in Alabama that hire employees and pays wages must file with the State of Alabama to obtain an Alabama income tax withholding number.

    • Click here to download the Alabama Income Tax Withholding form.

     

    All businesses in Alabama that sell personal property to a user and collect sales tax must have an Alabama Sales Tax Number.

    • Click here to register a new tax account with the Alabama Department of Revenue.

     

    The Alabama Department of Revenue’s ONE SPOT is the place where you can file and pay all city/county sales, use and rental taxes

  • 7. Acquire necessary licenses and permits

    Alexander City

    Business License & City Tax

    The Alexander City Business License and Tax Department collects the municipal business licenses and miscellaneous taxes (rental tax, lodging tax, tobacco tax, etc.) and coordinates the collection of sales and use taxes for the City.  All businesses within the city limits or police jurisdiction of the City of Alexander City are required to register with the City of Alexander City.

    • Click here for the Alexander City Business License Application
    • Contact Ward Sellers for assistance at (256) 329-6720

     

    Building Permits and Utilities

    The Alexander City Building Department regulates and controls construction, materials used, and utilization of all building and structures within the City limits.

     

    Tallapoosa County & State of Alabama

    All businesses in Tallapoosa County must obtain proper city and state/county licenses prior to beginning operation. A business operating outside city limits may only be required to purchase a state/county license.  In Tallapoosa County, the state/county license must be purchased at the Office of the Judge of Probate at Tallapoosa County.

    • Click here for Tallapoosa County business licenses

     

    Federal Permits

    If your business is involved in activities supervised or regulated by a federal agency – such as selling alcohol, firearms, commercial fishing, etc. – then you may need to obtain a federal license or permit.

    • Click here for a brief list of business activities that require federal permits