Ready to launch? Deborah Sweeney of MyCorporation.com offers some must-know tips.
For all entrepreneurs who are ready to make 2014 their year when it comes to starting their own business, I salute you. By now, you’ve put in the hours of research within your market to know what it is you’re selling, and who your target audience is, and you’re finally ready to open up a storefront and reel in the customers. But before you get ahead of yourself and your business, it’s important that every new-to-the-scene entrepreneur pays attention to these 10 items before starting a start-up.
1. Incorporate or form an LLC. Asset protection, saving money on taxes, reducing any auditing risks – all are good reasons why incorporating or forming an LLC for your business makes sense and should be done well before you officially open your doors. (Full disclosure, my company, MyCorporation.com, helps businesses do this — but I truly believe this is an important first step.) The other big benefit that comes with formalizing your business structure is that it helps to establish credibility with customers. If they notice that your brand name comes with an “LLC” or “Inc.” following it, they’re much more likely to trust you and be confident about your services.
2. Get a business license. Business licenses are provided by the local or state government and are permits that allow you to do business within that area. For nearly every business this is a basic requirement. In some cases — for example, if you own a retail clothing store, bookstore, restaurant or any business that sells a product — you must receive a permit before your doors can publicly open. Keep in mind, the licensing requirements themselves are also subject to change depending on what industry you’re in, your company size and your city of business.
3. Trademark your brand. Avoid infringement on the business you worked so hard to create and file for a trademark to maintain the exclusive rights to your business name, logo, and any other intellectual property you may have. For help with this, check out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or consult an attorney.
4. Get an EIN. I have written before on the importance of an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, for a business, but to recap briefly – if your company plans on hiring employees or opening a bank account, you’ll need a federal tax ID in place. Opting for an EIN over your social security number also helps to keep identity theft at bay.
5.) Have the appropriate business insurance in place. Depending on the type of business you’re running, the insurance plan you pick is bound to differ, but the overall message of protection will always remain the same. Your insurance policy should ensure that your business is protected from risks of all kinds, including employee lawsuits and natural disasters like tornadoes and fires.
6. Pay attention to ROI. This stands for “return on investment,” of course, and especially for entrepreneurs just starting out, every dollar counts. Don’t spend unless you know it’s toward something that is working to grow your business!
7. Have a business plan in place and stay focused. Plan ahead for at least five years and be sure to address everything a business plan requires from the executive summary to a thorough financial analysis. You’ll be able to rewrite the plan later on, too, so don’t worry too much about creating the perfect plan during the first go-round.
8. Put together a social-media plan. The early days of your business will be heavily reliant on word of mouth, so establishing a social-media presence should be a big part of your plan. Figure out what platforms are best for your business, get your website up and running, pull together a company blog, and be sure you’re easy to contact for more information or questions.
9. Don’t over-hire…even if you do experience a sudden surge in sales and foot traffic. Rather than over-hiring, or hiring too quickly, focus on recruiting great people and maintaining a closely knit team that is engaged in everything they do and are passionate about the success of the business.
10. Have fun! Take it from me; a company that you created but aren’t relishing isn’t worth it. It’s your business, and you’re the boss, so enjoy it!