Five essential steps to starting a business.

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Starting a business is a big step – but should be an exciting time too. The key is in the planning. The better prepared you are ahead of your launch, the more likely it is to go smoothly. So take a read through these five essential steps and give yourself a strong foundation for a successful start.

1.    Choose your business structure

First things first, what type of business are you going to be? There are five main business structures – Sole Trader, Joint Venture, Company, Partnership & Trust – each with different rules and responsibilities. Understanding how these structures differ, and choosing the one that suits you best, is an important decision. There’s plenty of help available at business.gov.au including a tool to help you decide. Or, talk to a business adviser or accountant.

2.    Write your business plan

A business plan is a blueprint for how you want your business to run, and can provide valuable shape and direction when you’re starting out. Every business plan is unique, but most will include a business summary, a vision statement, an operations or management plan, marketing and financial information, business objectives and supporting documentation. If you’re not sure where to start, you can take advantage of the helpful templates and tools available at business.gov.au

3.    Apply for an Australian Business Number

In most cases, you will need to have an Australian Business Number – or ABN – before you can start trading. This 11-digit number identifies your business to the government and is used for various tax and business purposes. If you want to have an Australian website domain name, for instance, or claim GST credits, you will need to have one. The good news is that ABNs are free to obtain, and you can apply for one online in just a few minutes at business.gov.au

4.    Register your business name, website and trade mark

Once you’ve settled on a business name, you should register it. Your business name – or trading name – helps identify your enterprise to customers and can be an important business asset. If you want exclusive rights to use the name, you will also need to protect it with a trade mark. If you have plans to advertise or trade online, you should also consider registering a website domain name. You can learn more about Australian domains at auda.org.au 

5.    Register for the appropriate taxes and licences

Different business structures have different tax obligations, so it’s important to be clear on your liabilities. You can learn more about tax rules for different business types at ato.gov.au. Consulting a legal professional can help you understand the licences and permits you need in order to trade and ensure you’re compliant with relevant laws when you launch. 

While this checklist is by no means comprehensive, it should be a useful starting point. There’s also a wealth of information to be found at business.gov.au and ato.gov.au. Above all, talk to other business owners if you have the chance. There’s no substitute for good advice from people who have been there and done that. And when it comes to starting a business, you can never do too much preparation!