This is a general guide for the first steps a business owner should take when first starting their business, specifically for solopreneurs and first-time business owners. The exact steps will depend on the business, legal structure, and owner preferences. We have found the following to be the most efficient / effective when getting set up. By the way, we aren’t compensated for recommending any of the following software 🙂

Our Recommended Technology Stack:

  • Quickbooks (ERP / Accounting)
  • Gusto (HR)
  • Mercury (Banking)

1. Apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

2. File for a business credit card

  • Ideally, use a credit card that uses a “points system” instead of a cash back system. A cash back
    card will reduce your business expenses (thereby increasing your taxable
    income), while a points card will allow you to take personal trips without
    recording the benefit generated from those to the IRS.
  • Our team uses the American Express Blue Business Plus credit card. Others, such as Chase Saphire,
    are solid for those who travel for business.
  • Use your EIN when applying.

3. Apply with your state’s Secretary of State office

  • For the state of North Carolina: North Carolina Secretary of State Business Registration Business Registration (sosnc.gov)
  • Submit Articles of Organization, which are $125. The application process will take you through this.
  • Use your new business credit card to pay for this expense.
  • Optional: Operating Agreement. If you’re running the business by yourself, you don’t have to have one. It will come in extremely handy if you have business partners now or plan on having them in the future.

4. Set up a business bank account

  • It’s critical to keep you personal and business finances separate. As such, I’d advise using a completely separate bank for your business.
  • Consider whether the bank is totally virtual, what financial products they have to offer, how good / easy their software / platform is, etc.
  • I use and recommend Mercury.

5. Set up an Enterprise Resource Planning (Accounting System)

  • Quickbooks is what most small businesses use. You will probably want the Solopreneur, Simple Start, or Essentials package.
  • Link your business credit cards and bank accounts to Quickbooks via Menu -> Transactions -> Bank Transactions. That way all of your transactions on those platforms will flow into Quickbooks automatically.
  • Set up your Chart of Accounts in Quickbooks. A Chart of Accounts is effectively the “buckets” you use to categorize revenue, expenses, assets, liabilities, etc.
  • You can also automate your expenses. Quickbooks has “rules” that will allow you to put certain expenses in certain buckets for you automatically. For example, if you
    have a monthly adobe subscription, you can tell Quickbooks to put all “Adobe” expenses into your “Software” expense bucket.
  • You will be able to do a lot with Quickbooks, including having specific vendors, customers, inventory items, service offerings, and more on the platform. As a financial advisor, it gives us a ton of visibility, as we know exactly how you make money, who you make it from, where you spend it, and how you can optimize your profitability / cash flow.
  • Costs are here. They frequently run specials, plus accountants  (like FinTeam) can get you 30% off for 12 months.

6. Set up HR platform (optional)

  • If you
    have 1099 contractors you regularly use, have employees, or are an S-Corp or C-Corp, it’s recommended to have an HR platform, such as Gusto.
  • If you’re a solopreneur running the LLC as a pass-through entity, you’ll pay yourself via distributions – from a tax perspective, all of your business’s taxable income (regardless of whether you pay yourself all of it) is what you owe for taxes (this is oversimplified, but it’s so you get the point). Thus, the additional overhead of an HR platform may not be required.
  • If you’re an S-Corp, C-Corp, or have employees, you should set up a formalized payroll system to withhold taxes, benefits, deductions, etc.
  • Gusto pricing is here. Accountants (like FinTeam) can get you a 20% discount.  

7. Let it rip

  • Start kicking butt, taking names, and generating some serious cash flow.
  • On a periodic basis (monthly is recommended) go in and check in on your finances, software, and integrations to make sure everything is flowing through correctly. During this time, I’ll run payroll, do distributions, make credit
    card payments, categorize transactions, reconcile my books, and other finance
    related tasks.
  • After this, you’ll have to start setting up insurance, estimated tax payments, website, and some other admin-related items.