Practical Tips for Setting Up a Business

practical-tips-for-opening-a-businessOne of the great things about today’s business environment is that you can start a new business with a scalable infrastructure with very little money in a short time period.  While you can set up everything very quickly, how can you set up your business so that is built with a solid foundation for growth that immediately appears professional and viable in the marketplace?  Here’s a few tips on setting up a business we’ve learned over the years:

  • Select the proper entity type and hire a lawyer.  Selecting the proper entity type is very important.  You’ll likely want to setup a LLC or S-Corporation.  However, there are many legal and tax consequences to each entity type.  We highly recommend you hire a lawyer and accountant to help you select the right entity for your business model and let them put the paperwork together.  This will be the majority of your start-up expenses, but it will be well worth it.  Avoid using LegalZoom (there’s nothing wrong with LegalZoom – you can just get yourself into trouble due to ignorance) or some other generic legal service.  You can pay now to do it right, or pay way more later to fix the issues you’ll cause by not setting up your organization correctly.  You want to build a viable, professional organization, so do it right from the beginning.  Plan on spending anywhere from $300 to $1,500 depending on the complexity of your organization.
  • Select a great company and domain name.  Company name is important and so is your domain name.  Start by searching GoDaddy.com to find a great domain name.  This will be hard, but don’t settle on a less than optimal name.  You’ll have to live with it for many years to come.  We recommend you only use a  .com domain name as everything else doesn’t come off as professional.  You’re creating a word-class business, so pick a great name with a memorable domain name.  Be sure and secure your social media accounts with your company name as well.
  • Build a great website.  Use WordPress and host it yourself using a inexpensive service like DreamHost.  If you aren’t technical, outsource it to someone locally or use Upwork.  If you are technical, pick a good template from ThemeForest and customize it to meet your needs.  Keep your site simple, yet professional.  Make sure you setup Google Analytics so you can monitor traffic.
  • Create a great logo.  Use 99Designs or Upwork to create a professional logo.  99Designs is a great service.  Hundreds of designers across the globe will compete for your business.  It’ll be hard to choose which one you like the best.  We recommend the $299 option.
  • Order business cards.  Use your new logo and design a memorable business card using Vistaprint or Overnight Prints.  Pay a little extra to get something that stands out.
  • Setup a professional phone system.  Start out with Grasshopper and setup a professional phone tree.  Create options for sales, support, and the operator.  Callers don’t have to know that everything will ring to your cell phone.  Pay $25 to $50 on Upwork to get someone to record professional phone prompts for you.  I’d also get them to record your personal voicemail greeting to make you look even more professional.  We paid $25 for our phone prompts – call 866-917-8833 to listen.
  • Setup Google Apps for Business to manage your email.  Standardize on Google Apps for Business for your organization.  You’ll get all the great Google services with the ability to control access and features for all of your employees.
  • Digitize everything.  Store everything in digital format in the cloud.  We recommend Dropbox or Google Drive.  The key is to keep everything well organized and in digital format.  By everything, we mean everything.  Don’t have any paper in your office that’s not scanned and uploaded to the cloud.  Make sure whatever service you use allows you to share information with your employees and is permission-based.
  • Setup a bank account and don’t use your personal accounts for the business.  Hopefully, you have a trusted banker you can use to setup a business checking account.  If not, call in a favor with a trusted business person in your area.  Banking partners are critical, but remember that it is a highly competitive market so you should get a lot of nice features and services from your bank for little to no cost.  They need you more than you need them.  For checks, order them from Walmart (that’s right – Walmart!).
  • Get a company credit card.  There are a million cards to choose from.  Go to BankRate.com and select the best deal.  Don’t pay any fees and make sure you pay it off each month in full.  Using a credit card should earn you a little extra money due to the reward offers.  Make sure all transactions flow through your business checking account or credit card.  Stop using your personal accounts.
  • Bookkeeping and accounting.  QuickBooks Online is the way to go.  Almost every accountant in the world knows how to use QuickBooks.  There are some good alternatives (like Less Accounting).  However, using QuickBooks will reduce your long-term accounting fees.  If accounting and bookkeeping aren’t your forte, outsource it to a reputable firm.  However, as a business owner, it is imperative you track every dollar early on.  You must be on top of the financials until you have a trusted team that can handle it for you.  As Andy Stanley (one of my favorite authors) says, “you better be knowing, where your money is going.”
  • Use a payroll company.  If you plan to have W2 employees, use a payroll company.  Don’t do it yourself.  There’s too much risk in messing up and not paying payroll taxes correctly.  The government doesn’t mess around with companies that don’t pay payroll taxes.  Most local firms will handle everything for you and assume the liability of paying payroll taxes on your behalf. 
  • Other recommendations: Basecamp for project management, Toggl for time tracking, MileIQ for auto mileage management and tracking, Trello for task management and other organizational processes, and Balsamiq for user-interface prototyping.

These simple tips will get you started on the right foot so you can focus on growing your business and generating revenue.  As you grow, you’ll be setup to add team members, outsource key functions to professionals, and refine your processes and tools.