More than 220 firms went public in 2013, the highest amount since 2000 when 406 companies offered IPOs. A study by BDO USA LLP, however, predicts even more companies will go public in 2014.

The improving economy, of course, is a major factor in the growth of IPOs, but there are also other elements that drive a successful public offering. Here are four questions every entrepreneur should ask before starting the process to go public in 2014.

Why go public (and what does that even mean)?

There are two types of businesses: private and public. Private means the company received funding either from the management or a small group of investors. When you go public, you’re allowing the public to buy shares of ownership in your company.

Many companies go public to raise capital quickly, but it can also build your company’s credibility, attract new employees and business prospects and provide a market value of your company. At the same time, management must be prepared for more scrutiny and less control as it gives power to the public.

How do I know when I’m ready for an IPO?

The decision to go public is a difficult one and shouldn’t be made based on which of your competitors are offering IPOs. Going public before you’re ready can seriously impact a company’s reputation and bottom line.

The firms that tend to have the most prosperous public offerings are those that are growing faster than the industry average and will most likely continue to do so in the future. Another quality that can make or break an IPO is what you offer. Investors tend to look for products or services that have a distinct difference or advantage over competitors.

Finally, an indisputable condition for a successful IPO is a strong management team. It’s difficult to convince investors they’re going to get their money’s worth out of the shares they’re buying if the company’s management keeps making poor business decisions.

What changes if I go public?

In many cases, the day-to-day operations at a business that goes public don’t change too much, but there are some requirements you’ll have to meet. The main change is the quarterly and annual reports you’ll have to submit to the SEC, which must include disclosures on your revenue, expenses and salaries for management. In some cases, you might have to completely restructure your company.

There are also significant costs to consider before your IPO. Up to 15 percent of your total issue value can go to underwriting fees, and the listing and registration fees range from 1.5 to four percent of your issue. You’ll also be accountable for annual reporting and filing fees. Restructuring will also add to these costs.

How should I prepare for my IPO?

The process of going public can be quite lengthy, so it’s important to make sure it’s the best step for your company. Here’s a general idea of what to expect:

  • Get approval from your board of directors to initiate the process.
  • Hire a team, including an accounting firm and securities lawyer, to represent you.
  • Review and, if necessary, restate your financial records for the past five years to meet the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
  • Send a letter of intent to your selected investment bank to formalize the agreement.
  • Create the preliminary prospectus, a written document for investors that must disclose information ranging from a description of your business to information on how you will use the proceeds of the IPO.
  • Your accountants and investment bank will conduct a due diligence investigation to evaluate whether your company is strong enough to go public.
  • You’ll present your prospectus to the SEC and stock market regulators, who will take one to four weeks to review the document.
  • Your investment bank will reach out to other banks about selling portions of your offering to their investors, a process known as syndication.
  • Your management team will host a road show, or formal meetings with investors and analysts to disclose financial information.
  • You’ll revise and finalize the prospective prospectus based on the remarks from the SEC and stock market regulators.
  • Your investment bank will suggest the price per share and size of your IPO (you can offer up to 50 percent of your company’s shares in your first offering).
  • When everything is finalized, you’ll send your prospectus to a pre-chosen financial printer.

This, of course, is an extremely simplified version of events. If you’re one of the hundreds of entrepreneurs thinking about taking your company public in 2014, reach out to your accountant about the process.