Yeah, sure it’s easy, and of course, that title is a little tongue in cheek. It takes a lot of hard work to get a business off the ground. But, it’s worth every hour I’ve spent getting to where I am now.
When I decided to start my Insurance Agency, I tried hard to find a good startup guide. I couldn’t find any that had all the steps. So, I decided to write one.
So far, it’s mostly just the bare-bones outline (which is long enough as it is) you can see in this article. I’ll be adding to it every week or two, and writing more detailed articles on all the steps, so try to stop by and check it out from time to time. Let me know how I’m doing. Shoot off an email to me if I’ve forgotten something or you have questions.
Before you spend so much as a dollar, talk to a few experts. Go to the library, I like the Clinton Macomb Library, or get on the internet and research, research, research. Take a little time to make sure entrepreneurship is right for you.
Make a pros and cons list of business ownership and evaluate yourself honestly. How many characteristics do you have in common with successful entrepreneurs? Is your financial position strong enough? Do you have the necessary technical and management skills?
You’re not going to be the perfect entrepreneur. Nobody is. But in order to make yourself the best entrepreneur you can be, consider ways to compensate for any weaknesses you might have.
I’m from Michigan, so the government agencies I’ve mentioned in this guide are Michigan based, but really, it can be used by anyone. All you have to do, if you’re from somewhere other than Michigan, is find out where you need to find some of the things I’ll talk about.
Some of the steps might be slightly different, and you may not have to worry about things like DIFS for example, but I’m sure you’ll find this discussion helpful all the same.
These steps to starting a business are in reasonably good order, but you might find yourself varying from it under your particular circumstances. That really isn’t a big deal, as long as you get most of it done. There are some steps you’ll be able to skip as well, but please don’t skip any of the “big ones”, which I’m sure you’ll pretty much figure out from taking a look at the list.
So, assuming you’ve done your evaluation and you still want to start a business, take a deep breath, and let’s get started.
1. Conduct a feasibility study of your business. Describe your typical customer, your product and your competitors. Who will your suppliers be? What will you charge for your product? How will you market your product? These are just a few of the questions you need to answer.
2. Write a complete business plan for your company, using the information you gathered from your feasibility study. This vitally important, often overlooked step needs to include a description of your company, its goals, competitors, market, financial information, and of course, how you intend to meet your goals. If you need help with this go to your local Community College, Chamber of Commerce, or your state web site and look up programs. They might some programs that are low or no cost to a small business.
3. Get your financing in place. There are many ways to finance your business, from your own savings, to personal credit cards, to bank loans. If you need credit, know your business plan from front to back and maybe even sideways.
4. Decide what kind of structure your company will have. From a legal standpoint, there are three basic choices, sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company and incorporation, each with advantages and disadvantages.
Using a C.P.A. and a business lawyer to help you make this decision can payoff in the end. If you go into a bad partnership, or the wrong incorporation this can cost you a lot money in Taxes and or lawsuits.
5. Choose a name for your company and check on name availability. Naming your company is highly individual, but it’s the first thing associated with your business, so choose your name carefully. You’ll need to do a NUANS (Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search) report, which checks your name choices for uniqueness against a database of other business names.
A reserved name is valid for 90 days. With so much being done over the internet do a domain search at the same time, go to www.GoDaddy.com or any other domain hosting site any you can do this for free.
6. Decide whether you want to register federally or just in your state and register your company. If you register federally, you’ll also have to register in your state, which almost doubles the cost. You don’t have to have a lawyer process them for you, but it might be a good idea to at least consult with one.
You can get the forms from your local government office, have them faxed to you or download them. You can fax or email printed copies, or complete the forms online at a coast.
7. Apply for a Federal Tax ID#, and to register for, sales tax, payroll, and corporate income tax and import/export (if applicable). You can also go to www.irs.gov and your state web-site if you need general information about business taxes, but once again using a C.P.A. may coast a little in the beginning but saves you a lot in the end.
8. Determine whether there are special permits or licenses in your local city, county, state, or the Feds. At one time I would say it’s highly unlikely that your local city does not have special permits or licenses but times are changing.
These days most cities have zoning laws on where you may open a business. If you are looking into a home base business then look into your local zoning laws.
9. Develop the marketing materials you decided on in your business plan. They should include at least a company identity package, press kit and website. Your identity package is your logo, business card and letterhead. A press kit can include letters of introduction, biography sheets, press releases, articles and a brochure.
In today’s electronic age, printed materials aren’t enough. You need a website that looks professional, matches your printed material and has great copy. You’ll also want to make sure it’s optimized for search engines.
10. Set up your business bank account and record-keeping system. Your banker will need to see your incorporation documents, and you should probably set up more than one account so you can keep track of your finances better. Record-keeping is required, and can be done manually or with a computer program.
Ask you C.P.A. what computer programs the use the most for a business you size. This can save you time and money, most C.P.A.s don’t like doing a day to day book keeping and go program can be used by you track you sales and keep the day to day book keeping.
11. Purchase insurance. This is where I come in or your local independent insurance agent to help out. There are many different types of insurance, but most probably your company will need at least one.
For example, if you’re going to have employees, you need to contact the Worker’s Compensation Insurance. Depending on your type of business you are, you may need to be bonded, or have a liability policy that meets the needs of your Landlord, permits, and any contracts you may have.
You can get a free quote from us.
12. Contact potential creditors and set up credit terms. You should have researched suppliers when you were doing your feasibility study. Now is the time to contact them.
13. Decide where your business will be located. Lease your business’ space. Alternatively, you could choose to start your business from home if it’s feasible. There are advantages and disadvantages to starting your business from home. You have tax write-offs for example, but sometimes your image may suffer.
You can do a mix of both to fit your need as you Business grows. Do some research on office suits in you town. These are small office spaces that you can lease out to fit your needs, so if you only need a conference room once a month you can just pay for that.
14. Purchase supplies and office equipment. You’ll need too many things to list here, and of course, each business has different needs. You might need a fax machine and printer. You’ll probably need a computer. You’ll definitely need paper, pens, pencils and a calculator.
You Local Independent Agent can help in more than just insurance.
As an agent I work with small business owners just like you. So if you are working with us, or your own agent, ask for help and use us some of our connection. We work with C.P.A.s, Lawyers, backers, and other business that can help you out and help themselves at the same time.
Over the years my best clients and business partners came from referrals.