15 Step Checklist for Starting a Commercial Business


If you’re thinking of starting a commercial business premises, finding the right information prior to opening can help it become a success. This checklist will cover the basic issues you should know when starting a business. Businesses can come in all forms and sizes, so depending on your type of business, you may have to contact the relevant government agencies in your state or territory for more information.

1. Researching your business idea

Before starting, you need to ensure that there’s a market for your products and/or services. You can do this by:

    • Conducting a survey/market research
    • Analysing your competitors

2. Developing a business plan

A business plan is essential for any business, and it should cover the following:

  • Business goals
  • SWOT analysis
  • Industry research
  • Marketing plan
  • Operations/management plan
  • Financial plan.

Your business plan should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the success of your company.

3. Financing your business

The amount of money you will need to open your business depends on the type of business you are starting and how much you can currently afford or borrow. You need to consider establishment and operating expenses.

You can receive financing from your bank or other financial institution. You may also be eligible for government grants and assistance for operating your business.

For more information on business finances, visit Business.gov.au.

4. Choosing your business structure

There are four main business structures you can operate under:

  • Sole trader – The business has no separate legal existence from its owner. You can use a business name or your own name. As a sole trader, you’re responsible for the liabilities of your business
  • Partnership – A partnership involves two or more people starting a business who can legally share profits, risks, and losses according to the partnership agreement
  • Trust – A trust is where a business is transferred to a third party who then has legal control and a duty to run that business in order to benefit another party
  • Company (pty ltd) – A proprietary limited company (pty ltd) is the most common type of company used by small businesses. It has more regulatory requirements, and is a legal entity separate from its shareholders/owners.

In order to choose the right business structure, you should seek advice from a qualified business, financial, or legal advisor.

5. Registering your business

There are regulatory requirements for starting a business, in which you’ll need to register the following:

  • Business name – You can register your business name at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website
  • Business name as a trade mark – If you want to use your business name as a means to distinguish your products and/or services from that of other businesses, visit IP Australia to apply for a trade mark
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) – If you expect to have annual sales of more than $75,000, you have to register for GST
  • Australian Business Number (ABN) – If you register for GST, you also need to apply for an ABN
  • Tax File Number (TFN) – If you’re a sole trader, you can use your personal TFN. If you don’t already have one, apply here. A partnership, company, or trust should apply for a separate TFN.

6. Finding the right premises

When looking for a commercial business premise, you should consider the following:

  • Location – Do you need to be located close to your customers or suppliers?
  • Essential features – Look at size, street frontage, show rooms, parking, and so on
  • Lease or purchase – Do you plan on leasing or purchasing your premises? Maybe a shared office space is an option?
  • Security – Look at fencing, gates, lighting, entrances, and exits.

7. Setting up your business premises

It’s important that you get your business premises approved. All states and territories are responsible for different business licences and permits, so you’ll have to check with the appropriate state government body. You can search the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) website to check what planning or building licences/permits you need.

You also have to check with your local council to find out about:

  • Their planning permit process
  • Zoning and health regulations
  • If you need to lodge a Development or Building Application before your business can start (you must meet with a council planner prior to submitting your application).

When setting up your business premises, consider hiring a registered building surveyor and a registered builder/building practitioner in your area. When changing a leased premise, speak with your landlord as you may need to go through them first and get their approval before you can make any changes to the premises.

Finally, don’t forget to let your new neighbours know that you’ll be setting up your commercial business premises after you submit your application to your local council.

8. Insuring your business

You should make sure that you have the right insurance in place to protect your business. Depending on the type of business you’re running, you’ll need to consider the following insurance:

  • Fire/accident insurance
  • Theft insurance
  • Assets and revenue insurance
  • Public and/or product liability insurance
  • Workers’ compensation insurance
  • Compulsory third party (CTP) insurance
  • Business interruption/income insurance
  • Business vehicle insurance.

9. Securing the premises

It’s vitally important that you take steps to secure your business premises and prevent serious injuries, accidents and crimes.

Develop a security plan detailing security measures, such as:

  • Creating a safe building design and layout
  • Finding the hazards in your workplace, assessing the risks of these hazards, and then removing or controlling the risks
  • Ensuring the safety of your personnel, intellectual property (IP), stocks, and data and IT systems
  • Having an incident response plan and a business continuity plan
  • Reporting notifiable incidents, e.g. death, serious injury/illness, or a dangerous incident
  • Introducing a cash management system if your staff handle cash every day
  • Installing security devices, e.g. alarms, CCTV cameras, security gates, etc
  • Training staff on robbery response, cash handling and minimising theft
  • Taking staff through a work health and safety induction
  • Developing a code of conduct for your business.

10. Weatherproofing the business

The following areas of a building need to be waterproofed:

  • Flat roof
  • Balcony
  • Terrace
  • Podium deck
  • Retaining walls
  • Planter boxes
  • Basements
  • Lift pits
  • Cellars
  • Expansion joints
  • Water tanks
  • Ponds
  • Fountains
  • Swimming pools.

It’s important that you choose the right waterproofing products to ensure their effectiveness and to protect your business premises. Check out our ultimate guide for waterproofing a commercial building.

11. Marketing your business

There are many ways you can market your business and your products and/or services, which include:

  • Newspaper or magazine ads
  • Brochures
  • Media releases
  • Email marketing
  • Website ads
  • Social media
  • Search engine optimisation.

When developing your marketing plan, it should cover:

  • An analysis of your market
  • Business objectives and steps to achieving them
  • Key strategies
  • Proposed budget
  • Implementation plan.

12. Recordkeeping and accounting systems

You must keep accurate and current records to ensure business success. Accurate recordkeeping can help you to minimise your losses and manage your cash flow. It’s also required under taxation laws. You need to have cash flow statements, profit and loss statements, and balance sheets. If necessary, you can seek help from accountants and bookkeepers to manage your financial records/accounts.

13. Employing staff

Employees will be one of the greatest assets of your business, so be sure to spend the right amount of time and money to find good people. Depending on the kind staff you decide to hire, you should have an understanding of your obligations as an employer, which can cover:

  • Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding
  • Payroll tax
  • Fringe benefits tax (FBT)
  • Superannuation
  • Awards, pay rates, leave and employee entitlements
  • Employee hiring and termination
  • WorkCover insurance
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunities
  • Handling complaints and disputes.

You should also find out which of the following applies to your business structure:

  • Federal or state industrial relations system; or
  • National workplace relations system (if you’re a national system employer, e.g. Pty Ltd company).

For more information, visit:

14. Building your support team

One of the most important things you should do to get your business off the ground and running and ensure its success is to build a support team. You can do this by:

  • Getting an accountant – They can help with business direction and taxation
  • Getting a lawyer – They can help with business contracts and legal issues
  • Joining the relevant industry association/body – This way, you can gain support and a better understanding of starting and running a business
  • Joining relevant business networks – This will help spread the word about your business.

15. Where to find help for your business

The following government bodies can offer great assistance:

For State Government small business advisory services, click on your state or territory below: