You have decided to be an entrepreneur. You want to start a business because you want be your own boss, take risks and assume total responsibility. After a careful analysis of your skills and goals in life, you know that you have it in you to become a successful business owner, and you want to open your business.
You now have a business plan, funding, and you’re ready to roll. But wait; there are still a number of things to be done. Here are some tasks you need to do prior to putting that “Open for Business” sign:
1. Review local business orders.
You definitely do not want to start in hot legal water. Before you open your business, check your zoning ordinances. If you are starting a home business, you generally have nothing to worry about, unless you have employees wandering in and out, and generating traffic or parking problems in your neighborhood. Call your county’s clerk office or local chamber of commerce to get information on the proper board or commission to contact for zoning laws. Also run a quick and thorough check for potential infringements and if anyone else is using the business name. Do this before you spend any money on advertising, business cards or stationeries, or signs.
2. Get your business cards ready.
It is wise for a start-up to pay the lowest price to get the quality you need. It doesn’t mean buying the cheapest. Rather, it suggests that you look for the quality that fits your business needs. If you were selling Web design services, you would want a card that projects creativity, quality and professionalism so it is best for you to pay more for your cards. However, if your business is worm farming, you could probably use the cheapest cards you can find.
There are several resources on the Internet to help you create and purchase business cards:
- Vistaprint = offers free business cards and you need to pay only for the shipping cost. Quality is good with a number of design choices available.
- Kinko’s = the printer specialist allows you to customize perfectly matched business cards, letterheads and envelopes. Their LiveDesigner tool allows you to design your cards depending on the image that you want to project (e.g. contemporary vs. traditional). Prices range from $0.26 to $0.06 per card.
3. Line up suppliers.
Finding the right supplier is one of the important start-up decisions you will make for your new business. Establishing supplier relations is crucial to ensure efficient production and inventory management system, as well as smooth financial flow. Here are some tips on finding and working with the best suppliers:
- Seek advice from professionals. If you’re looking for computer equipment, ask a computer consultant where to get savings on software.
- Split your business between suppliers. This option often brings savings to new entrepreneurs. Try to get several suppliers for your different needs.
- Buy only what you need. Avoid being talked into buying extras that you do not really need.
- Always ask for a professional discount. Some suppliers do offer discounts, and you wouldn’t know until you ask.
- Use the Internet. You can get great savings from surplus auction shops, government auctions and liquidation stores on the Internet.
4. Get furniture and equipment.
As owner of a start-up venture, you do not need to spend money on designer furniture, top-of-the-line computer equipment your business does not really need, or a home office created by an expensive decorator. The goal in buying furniture and equipment is to make you and your clients feel comfortable in your place of work, allow you to save time and increase your productivity. Know the difference between “success spending” and “trappings of success spending.” Reward yourself with a high-end mahogany office system only after you had a really good year. Visit the following sites if you are buying furniture and equipment: Furniture Find, Staples, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.
5. Investigate the option of leasing.
The lease-versus-buy decision depends on your personal preferences – whether you are more comfortable owning or if you prefer to rent. Leasing can save you some dollars if:
- You need 100 percent financing.
- You live in a state with high taxes, as you do not pay sales taxes on something you lease.
- You really need to protect your cash, given that a typical lease only requires a month’s payment up front and no down payment.
- If you expect to upgrade your equipment quickly, leasing is the way to go.
- If you will be forced to depreciate your equipment, leasing allows you to write it off faster.
6. Obtain business license or permit.
Without the proper permit, you can run into trouble. More so if your business begins to annoy your neighbors, particularly if your business generates too much noise or pollution, and you store materials on your yard. The need to have a business license or permit varies from state to state and from location to location. Registration is required if your business is a partnership or corporation, while some occupations require a permit or license. Typical occupations that require a license or permit in your locality include beauticians and barbers, restaurant owners, employment agencies, pawnbrokers, florists, insurance agents, among others.
7. Get requisite identification number.
These include federal employer identification number, and state employer I.D. number (if applicable). For a home-based entrepreneur, you can opt to use your social security number as the federal ID number for your business. However, if you want to present a more professional image, you can get a separate employer identification number (even if you do not have employees). You will need to file Form SS-4 with the Internal Revenue Service.
8. Know federal and state tax requirements.
Learning about the tax laws that will affect your business before your launching date can save you a lot of headache before the tax deadline comes. Send for the tax forms and study how what taxes you need to pay, the supporting documents you need to have, and the tax deductions you possibly avail.
9. Join a professional organization.
The adage “No man is an island” applies to self-employment as it does in real life. Being part of an organization or group allows you to network, meet new contacts, expose your business, learn industry news, find a support group, or even find a mentor. For solo home business entrepreneurs, this is an important excuse to go out of the house and connect with others in your field. The money spent on joining professional organizations will be repaid in terms of better referrals, better contacts and better knowledge. Right from the very beginning, you need to plan how and what organizations you and your business could benefit from. Then sign up and be active!
10. Set a starting date.
You are now ready to rock and roll! Decide whether you want to start your business with a whimper, or with pomp and pageantry. Many businesses benefit from pre-selling it to the market. You can use word of mouth, starting with your own circle of friends then to your acquaintances, and requesting them to spread the word about your new business. Think of cost-effective marketing strategies to create awareness for your business. If you have a Web site or launching a new online business, you can announce your new business through the following:
- Press releases
- Publicity/media stories
- Advertising campaigns
Recommended Books on How to Open Your Business:
- The Six-Figure Second Income: How To Start and Grow A Successful Online Business Without Quitting Your Day Job
- Start Your Own Business, Fifth Edition: The Only Start-Up Book You’ll Ever Need
- Small Business For Dummies
- Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business that Works