As we approach the month of December, I know some of you are reflecting on the year that was, as well as the promise of the year to come. Soon, we will be making resolutions (or as I like to do, set intentions) for what we will accomplish in 2016. Inevitably, we resolve to “get to the next level” — whether it be in a career, relationship, finances, or attaining some dream.
Here is the first in a series of posts designed to get you to the next level in your life. Yesterday was #SmallBusinessSaturday, to be followed by #CyberMonday. The push to support small and minority businesses is growing, especially with the #BuyBlack hashtag on the internet. I was honored to have guest blogger Robert Rogers, a business and immigration attorney in Coral Gables, Florida, share his expertise on how to start a small business of your own. If this has been your dream, or one of someone close to you, this one’s for you! Let’s make it happen!
How to Start a Business and Protect Yourself
Starting a new business is an exciting time, but it’s also one that you should approach with caution and ample preparation.
Follow these tips for your blossoming business and help protect yourself in weathering any storms.
Craft a Business Plan
Putting together a business plan is your way of creating a set of goals for the future and articulating the mission of your company. Logically creating a business plan will help you to prepare, plan and manage your business for the long run.
Select the Right Business Location
If you’re going to have an office location, it’s important to identify a location that’s ideal for customers, but also one that is in compliance with local zoning laws. You may want to consult with a specialist on zoning laws before moving forward with your business. Carefully consider whether your physical location will impact your business in a big way.
Your next step should be to study your business market carefully. You need to see how your products or services compare with what’s already available on the market, who your target customers are, and what licensing or government regulations may impact the set up or management of your business. Looking at demographic data can also tell you about how many of your target customers may already be in your physical area.
Establish a Brand Identity
You’ll need both a professional logo and a name for your business in order to bring legitimacy before the day of your launch. Although there are online tools that can help you with this, it’s strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney to protect all of your rights and ensure that you’re in compliance with any relevant regulations as well as industry best practices.
Consulting with an attorney can also help you figure out whether your logo is indeed unique or whether it might potentially cross a copyright infringement barrier. Knowing this ahead of time can save you significant headaches down the road. Be sure from the beginning and get a lawyer’s expertise sooner rather than later.
Consider Business Structure
The nature of your startup will determine how much help you’ll need as far as determining the process of incorporation or formalizing partnership agreements. It’s a vital decision to select what type of structure your business will be founded under. So it’s one you should consider carefully both with regard to your current and your future goals.
The business structure you select will also significantly impact your tax situation so it’s a good idea to bring in an accountant on board from the beginning so that you understand the various implications of your final decision.
As with all things business related, it’s better to work with an experienced attorney when handling any kind of complex legal matter. At the start of your business, the selection of your initial structure can be critical and therefore requires the inside of an outsider.
You also should consider getting a federal tax ID number as soon as possible. This is to help establish your business as a separate legal entity from you and may also be referred to as an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is issued by the IRS and allows the IRS to track any company transactions.
Bear in mind that a sole proprietor is not obligated to obtain a tax ID number but it may still be a good idea so that you don’t have to provide your private information like a social security number for business matters.
Review Potential Employee Laws
As soon as you establish a new company and hire your first employee, you have legal obligations as an employer. Make sure you’ve consulted with an employment law professional so that you understand these various obligations such as self-employment taxes, worker’s compensation rules, anti-discrimination laws, wage and hour requirements, unemployment insurance, withholding taxes, federal and state payroll, and safety regulations.
Obtain Necessary Permits and Trademarks
Depending on the physical location and the type of business, you may need to obtain one or more business permits or licenses from a state or local authority. This could include health department permits, sales, tax, licenses, or land use permits among others.
Although you’re not actually required by law to register a trademark, doing so can allow you to have common law rights as an owner. Trademark law is notoriously complex and should only be handled by an experienced attorney.
Venturing into your own business is a very responsible decision. Following an organized and well thought out plan is the first step to the pursuit of success and there are many professionals that will assist along the way.
Attorney Robert Rogers practices in small business and immigration law with an office in Miami, Florida. He has extensive experience helping internationals in United States business ventures along with helping foreigners with their immigration needs. Please feel free to visit his website at http://www.coralLaw.com. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin.