A Basic Checklist for Starting a Business

Pros and Cons of Different Sales Models
July 30, 2018

A Basic Checklist for Starting a Business

This article is not about coming up with the idea to start a business.  Hopefully you have already done that. This article isn’t about getting funding for your startup.  Again, your on your own for that. This article will address some of the more mundane details of starting a small business in Ventura County, California.

 

  • Pick a name for the business.  
    The business needs a name.  It can no longer be called ‘Jane’s business idea’, or ‘Hector’s problem solving solution’.  It needs it’s own identity. I prefer a business name that describes the actual business. One of my earlier entrepreneur endeavors was twenty five years ago when I was living in Charlotte, NC.  I had been transferred from Southern California by my employer. In my spare time I was involved with managing my finances; budgeting and investing my savings in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Most people I came in contact with did not have this skill set and did not know how to manage their money.  The only way to get help at that time was to hire a money manager who charged a percentage of your money to invest. If you had limited money, they wouldn’t be interested in helping you.

    My business idea was a standard fee based advisor.  The client would pay a modest fee to have someone review their finances and provide recommendations.  The client would pay only for what services they wanted. I called the business, Family Financial Checkup.  After a dismal market research study, I decided not to pursue and continued with my day job. However, I always liked the name because it described the business very concisely.
  • Buy a domain name for a website.
    No matter what type of business you will start, you will need a website at some point.  Try to use the name of your business for the website. Nowadays, this is getting very challenging as many people have started businesses, or purchased standard domain names to sell.  You may have to get creative in choosing a domain name, as I did with my recent consulting business.
    I wanted, salesandmarketingconsultant.com.  Very descriptive of my business.  However, it was taken or for sale.  Then I thought of salesandmarketingguru.com.  A fun sounding, friendlier version of consultant.  That was also taken. I didn’t want to use any of the new extensions like, .biz, .net, .guru.  I felt people can’t remember those as easy as .com. Then I thought, why not just shorten what I wanted to S and M guru.com (SandMguru.com). I liked that it was very easy to remember.  It wasn’t until after I purchased the domain from GoDaddy that I realized the obvious S & M reference…  Well, I could have fun with that; ‘ There is nothing kinky about the ideas I have for growing your business.’  ‘I will whip your organization into sales growth shape.’ ‘ I was going to emboss my cards on leather but…’.Domain names typically cost $10-20 per year from places like GoDaddy or Square Space.  Just go to their website, search your domain name preferences and see if they are available.  If they are, buy it. Don’t pay for any of the extra services like keeping your name private, email, etc.  This can all be done later via your web designer, unless you would prefer to do that by yourself.
  • Choose a business structure or legal organization.  
    This can be very simple for a one person web developer.  They can choose to be a sole proprietor and do not need to register with the State or pay any fees.  This is a classic pass through business, where income or loss is passed directly to the owner. This income or loss is then taxed one time on his or her income tax.  Federal tax is determined by filling out Form Schedule C, Profit or Loss from a Business.

    If you have partners that are not equal and not active, you will have to get more complicated and setup a Corporation, like a Limited Liability Corporation(LLC) or S Corp.  Both of these types of organizational structures allow the pass through of income for tax purposes. However, pay attention to the fees required by the State. LLC fees are based on total revenue, whereas a S Corp is based on income.  Both structures also require registration with the State and various organizational duties.
  • Obtain a fictitious business name(FBN) at your County government office.  
    Most businesses need a FBN.  The only exception would be naming your business to include your name and exactly what you do, for example John Roger Lawyer.  However, I would recommend that most businesses don’t use this naming system, see above, and that means getting a FBN. Most County governments have an online presence to register, however you will still need to visit in person and pay the fee.  Here is the link for Ventura County: (https://recorder.countyofventura.org/county-clerk/county-clerk/fictitious-business-name/ ) The cost for Ventura County is $53 and covers the name for 5 years.
    You will then need to publicize that you are using this name so that anyone else using the name can make a fuss.  This is done by contacting a local newspaper and publishing a FBN registration. Whereby you pay them to announce your registration for four consecutive weeks.  After this is complete, the paper contacts the County and you are official. This is a very common activity for the newspapers and costs from $40-60 depending on the paper.
  • Obtain a business license from the City where your business is based.  
    If you have a brick and mortar business, use the City where it is located.  For a home based business, you can use the City where you live. Most Cities have a simple link for obtaining a business license. Here is the link for Ventura, (https://www.cityofventura.ca.gov/1019/Business-License-and-Business-Related-Pe).  
    Fees are based on the type of business and gross receipts.  The minimum is usually $75 per year and can be much higher. Consider the other fees like fire inspection, typically from $95 to over $300 per year based on the square footage of your building.  Storm water permit fees for certain types of businesses that have ‘potential’ to contribute pollutants, pay this fee. Alcohol establishments, as my brewery I owned in Ventura, pay an Alcohol Establishment Use Permit fee.  These fees definitely add up and often are increased on a regular basis.

    Now that you have completed the details of starting a business, go focus on gaining customers and changing the world.

 

Bill Riegler MBA, is a Sales and Marketing Consultant and Volunteer Mentor and Speaker for SCORE Ventura County, Bill@SandMguru.com.