Starting a small business typically involves a lot of moving parts. In fact, time management can quickly become a challenge for entrepreneurs who are digging into the business start-up process for the first time. I compiled a list of 10 of the most important steps involved in starting a business and broke them down into easy-to-follow tutorials. Use this guide to make sure you're focusing your attention on the most important stages of starting a business and find out what you need to know so you can streamline your work for each of those steps.
An investor looks for a more high-risk opportunity to get a higher reward and will put their money in established businesses that have the potential for high growth. Investors generally expect to be involved in the business in the form of a seat on the board of directors or some other role in which they have a say in how the business is managed. For the most part, investors want to get in on a company while it is in its early growth stage, and they get out once the business has reached a certain level of growth.
2. Get a website. In today’s technology-based world, the first thing a potential customer or employee does is Google your business. You need a website to show you’re real and to offer information about your business to potential customers. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and be sure to ask for search engine optimization. Use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website, but be leery of people who promise you top positions on search engines. While there are lots of things that can be done to increase your ranking on various search engines, unless the developer works for Google, I would be leery of a promise to get you to the top. Remember that you get what you pay for. There are a ton of do it yourself website services, but depending on the features you need on your site, some things are better left to the experts.
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If you do have people in your life who could invest in your business, getting a loan from friends and family is sometimes an option. Of course, for many entrepreneurs who are just starting out and in need of cash, this just isn’t a possibility. Either the amount they need is too high, or their circle of friends and family is small or possibly strapped for money themselves. It’s possible that your friends and family will think it’s too risky because of your bad credit as well.
An important step in forming a new business is to determine the type of business structure that you will use. There are several business structures to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company and limited liability partnership. Each has advantages and disadvantages as well as tax consequences of which you should be aware. You must decide which of these structures best suits your business objectives and needs. The Secretary of State cannot advise you on choosing a business structure. For help in making this decision, you may wish to consult a tax practitioner, accountant or attorney.
While they might not be as plentiful, businesses in rural areas are just as important as businesses in urban areas. The USDA’s Rural Development loan program is dedicated to helping businesses in rural areas get started and grow. Like the SBA, this loan program does not lend directly but rather guarantees loans, which allows entrepreneurs access to a larger line of credit than their personal credit would allow so they can successfully build their business.
4. You get tax benefits. Oh yes. This even applies to freelancers. Depending on the type of business you register as, you could write off a number of your expenses including travel, telephone bills, food, portions of repayments on things like cars, and so on. And, depending on the business you start, there may also be various government incentives. If you’re unsure about what to do and how to register, I strongly advise speaking with your accountant about the tax benefits you could be eligible for.
Never start a business as a “sole proprietorship,” which can result in your personal assets being at risk for the debts and liabilities of the business. You will almost always want to start the business as an S corporation (giving you favorable flow through tax treatment), a C corporation (which is what most venture capital investors expect to see), or a limited liability company (LLC). None of those are particularly expensive or difficult to set up. My personal preference is to start the business as an S corporation, which can then easily be converted to a C corporation as you bring in investors and issue multiple classes of stock.
Many business owners, however, are under the mistaken impression that they are completely protected from personal liability by filing a Certificate of Incorporation for a corporation. This is not true. The mere process of incorporating does not completely protect the business owners. To lessen the likelihood of such personal or shareholder liability, you should make sure to adhere to certain procedures:
As you consider financing options, make sure you get the best deal overall for your business. This means you'll need to compare interest rates, repayment terms, origination costs, and whether pre-payment penalties apply. By looking at the total cost of the loan, as well as whether monthly payments are affordable, you can secure financing that works for your organization.
Trademarks. A trademark right protects the symbolic value of a word, name, symbol, or device that the trademark owner uses to identify or distinguish its goods from those of others. Some well-known trademarks include the Coca-Cola trademark, American Express trademark, and IBM trademark. You obtain rights to a trademark by actually using the mark in commerce. You don’t need to register the mark to get rights to it, but federal registration does offer some advantages. You register a mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Approximately 75 to 100 franchisors are offering or working on offering creative financing programs for start-up franchise owners or those looking to expand. Programs range from zero-percent financing for a limited-term, lower license fees, reduced royalties and minority stake ownership by franchisors in multi-unit outlets. Each brand has its own offering, so down payments and collateral requirements will vary.
Paula is a New Jersey-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in Education. She spent nearly a decade working in education, primarily as the director of a college's service-learning and community outreach center. Her prior experience includes stints in corporate communications, publishing, and public relations for non-profits. Reach her by email.
I usually don’t provide referrals, but in this particular case it is definitely warranted. Karen jumped through hoops with multiple alternatives until we came up with a solution that provided what we needed. At one time i thought we were at a dead end, but learned that Karen continued to pound away until the right solution surfaced. If you need someone to assist up front with your SBA loan, Karen is a perfect choice.
Before you can get a traditional bank loan, you need to have collateral, generally in the form of your house although other assets including land, cars, watercraft, motorcycles and equipment that has a title of ownership can be used as collateral. Understand the risk involved with your business venture before you put up collateral–the bank will take your house, car or whatever else you put down if you default on your loan. Make sure you have an accurate assessment of what your collateral is worth before you apply for a loan so you don’t wind up unpleasantly surprised when your bank assumes it’s worth today’s market value, not the value that it was when you bought it. If you don’t have an asset to use as collateral or are uncomfortable with the idea, then you’ll want to seek out a source other than a bank for your business lending needs.
Some things we like about StreetShares include its excellent customer service, easy application, competitive rates, and speedy time-to-funding. You don’t even need to put up any business collateral for a StreetShares loan (though you will need a business guarantor who is willing to essentially “co-sign” your loan). Another thing that makes StreetShares special is that franchise owners who are also veterans and/or who have an interesting business backstory are preferred. See our StreetShares review to learn more about this alternative lending leader.
Hashtag – The right hashtags can provide a boost to the visuals on Instagram. Be creative when it comes to hashtags. Try to come up with something that your followers would want to share. It’s best to avoid using just the name of your business as a hashtag. Instead, consider using a word or a phrase that captures your brand. Sprout Social lists some examples of how some big brands have successfully used hashtags.
The good news is both traditional and alternative lenders are making more loans. A strong economy and record low unemployment rates in 2018 are making all this possible. But a good credit score still carries great value, and if your score happens to be on the low side, here are some lenders you can take a look at when it’s time for getting a small business loan.
“ApplePie Capital can accelerate the growth of franchisees because we start by spending time with the franchisee up front to assess their situation, and then identify the best financing options to reach their short and long term goals. Sometimes that will be SBA, and sometimes it will be other options that the local bank doesn’t offer. And unlike the local bank, ApplePie knows the brand metrics. We can underwrite the loan ourselves for our core product, or can educate our lender network on the brand so the franchisee doesn’t have to.”
Often times, a franchisee looking to open their first franchise will fit nicely into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan product. SBA loans are made by banks or other participating lenders - not the government. SBA loans allow the lenders to extend credit to borrowers, who they may not be able to lend on a conventional basis, by taking advantage of a guarantee that the SBA provides to the lender in the event of default. There are a few different options, but the Flagship SBA 7a product gives the bank a 75% guarantee if your loan defaults - so that the money that the bank lends to you is not entirely at risk. SBA loans are typically priced at Wall Street Journal Prime + 1 to 2.75%, for terms of 7 to 25 years, depending on the use of funds.
Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media -- all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand! Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:
This option is less likely to work out for those with bad credit because traditional lenders have limits on who they will finance. That said, it isn’t impossible. Your interest rate will however be higher than a standard rate and more collateral will probably be required of you than a traditional recipient. If you think you may still qualify, take a look at some of the loan options offered by the SBA.