How to Start A Business in Tennessee Checklist

By Justin Griffin: September 26, 2016: Blog


Below is a checklist for starting a business in Tennessee.


1. Have a plan. Try to think of everything you will need for starting a business. Think about where you will locate the business, who your customers will be, how much supplies will cost, will you need employees, how you will advertise, and the many other things that will go with starting a business. Write out your plan and then run it by others. Do what you can to speak with future potential customers before spending a dime on your idea. Make sure you will be selling something people will want to buy. 

2. Pick a name. The name you choose must be unique in Tennessee. The Secretary of State must be able to distinguish your business from all the other businesses in the state on your name alone. Also check to see if your domain name is available before making your final decision. 

3. Choose a business structure. Will you be an LLC or a corporation? Will you need an attorney or can you prepare the necessary documents yourself? Research the best fit for your business and make sure you take the proper steps to legally establish your business as an entity separate from yourself. I personally believe the LLC to be the best choice for small business because of its simplicity in operation, liability protections, and ease of creation. 

4. Legally Form Your Business. Create your business by filing the appropriate documents with the Secretary of State. You will need some form of Articles and Bylaws/Operating Agreement. Check out our guide to legally forming a business in Tennessee here. 

5. Get your Tax ID numbers. You will need a Federal Employment Identification Number (EIN), and you will also need Tennessee tax registration. You can file for your EIN with the IRS, and register at the state level with the Tennessee Department of Revenue. Getting these numbers is completely free and not time consuming. You should NEVER pay someone to get these numbers for you. 

6. Get a business license. In Tennessee this is done through your locality. Check with the government where the business is physically located (and this includes home based businesses). As a part of this you should also confirm the location you have chosen for the business is properly zoned for your business. The locality will often check your zoning as a part of the business license process, but you should always confirm zoning before selecting a property. 

7. Get a business checking account. Some common documents the bank will want to see include, proof of your EIN, a business license, and the certificate given to you when your business is formed with the SOS.

8. Get Insurance. It is a good idea to investigate liability insurance for your business. Most leases will require you to have some sort of insurance, and in Tennessee if you have more than 5 employees (full or part-time, and the number is less for some industries) you will have to have Workers' Compensation insurance.

9. Research regulations. Some businesses will be more regulated than others. Make sure you know all the laws and regulations that apply to your business. 


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