Starting a business entails understanding and dealing with many issues—legal, financing, sales and marketing, intellectual property protection, liability protection, human resources, and more. But interest in entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. And there have been spectacular success stories of early stage startups growing to be multi-billion-dollar companies, such as Uber, Facebook, WhatsApp, Airbnb, and many others.
He is a nationally recognized speaker and blogger on the topics of leadership, communications, decision-making, problem solving, and other critical business skills. An honor graduate from West Point, Mike served in the US Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Company, and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (www.onepieceofpaper.com), Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (www.leadinsidethebox.com), and The Elegant Pitch: Create a Compelling Recommendation, Build Broad Support, and Get it Approved (www.elegantpitch.com). Mike's blog and the programs he teaches can be found at www.thoughtleadersllc.com.
Keep in mind that your ability to negotiate an office lease is dependent on how much leverage you have. Do your homework. Are other companies vying for the same space? Has the space been vacant for a long time? Factors such as these may mean the difference between you calling the shots, or a landlord insisting on onerous terms throughout the lease process.
A lender is primarily concerned about the ability of the borrower to repay the loan. To the extent that a security interest can be given to the lender on company assets (company equipment, property, accounts receivable, etc.), the borrower should be able to increase its chances of getting a loan on favorable terms. Some lenders may insist upon the personal guarantee of the principal owner of the business. That is best avoided if possible as it puts the owner’s personal assets, and not just the business assets, at risk.
Patents. Patents are the best protection you can get for a new product. A patent gives its inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented subject matter described in the patent’s claims. The key issues in determining whether you can get a patent are: (1) Only the concrete embodiment of an idea, formula, or product is patentable; (2) the invention must be new or novel; (3) the invention must not have been patented or described in a printed publication previously; and (4) the invention must have some useful purpose. In the United States you obtain a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but this process can take several years and be complicated. You typically need a patent lawyer to draw up the patent application for you. The downside of patents is that they can be expensive to obtain and take several years,
Funds cannot be used for lines of credit, owner-occupied housing, projects involving over $1 million and include relocating at least 50 jobs or agricultural production. Funds also cannot be used to fund certain businesses including golf courses, casinos/racetracks, churches or church-controlled businesses, fraternal organizations or lending/investment companies.
Instead of spending hours playing with accounting software, dreaming up potential expense and income categories, and creating fancy reports with no data, spend that time generating revenue. As long as you record everything you do now, creating a more formal system later will be fairly easy. It will also be more fun, because then you'll have real data to enter.
Crystalynn Shelton is a CPA and staff writer at Fit Small Business, specializing in small business Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Taxes. She is also an Adjunct Instructor at UCLA Extension where she has taught hundreds of small business owners how to setup and manage their books using QuickBooks for 8 years. Prior to joining Fit Small Business, Crystalynn was a Senior Learning Specialist at Intuit for 3 years and also ran her own QuickBooks consulting and training business. When Crystalynn isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys rollerblading in Venice Beach and reading a good book.
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:
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.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
In most cases, franchise owners provide technical support, equipment, and other necessary materials to their franchisees. Also, fellow franchisees can merge and share best practices, business approaches, and marketing strategies to colleagues whose business acumen and management skills are still developing. Simply put, there are a lot of good reasons why starting a business by buying a franchise will be a success.
To start your application for a business loan, calculate how much money and what kind of loan you need. Then, gather the necessary documents, including a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, tax documents, and a detailed business plan. Once you have all of your information, approach lenders, such as the Small Business Administration, banks, and credit unions, and complete the application for the best loan for your needs. Finally, wait to hear back from the lender and be sure to thoroughly review the terms of your loan.
Use your retirement accounts (401(k) or IRA) to invest in your business without having to pay early withdrawal penalties or taxes. If you still need more money, this can be used in combination with a SBA loan. The investment into your business may be enough that no collateral is required. Even if collateral would normally be required, an alternative such as a payment reserve and be utilized. Learn more about 401K business financing.
Lenders prefer financial statements that have been audited by a certified public accountant (CPA). But many small businesses don’t want to incur the costs of an audit, so one alternative is to have the financial statements “reviewed” by a CPA (which is cheaper and faster). However, some lenders may not require either audited or reviewed statements.
Government loans are typically offered through banks and credit unions that partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a U.S. government body, with the motive of providing support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. For each loan authorized, a government-backed guarantee offers serious credibility, since the lender knows that even if you default, the government will pay off the balance. These loans can be applied to a number of uses, such as: