Friday, November 22, 2013

Should You Start Your Own Business? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

In school, you used to daydream about becoming a writer... or a wedding planner... or a chef. Or fill in the blank, but you dreamed it. Maybe you still ponder the joys of setting your own schedule, being your own boss and making your own rules. But at some point, as the old saying goes, “Life got in the way.” You were practical. You found a job with benefits, something stable, something... boring.

If you’ve been thinking it might be time to revisit the idea of turning your passion into your own business, it’s time to do a little soul-searching. Start now by asking yourself these three questions:

1. Do You Hate Your Job?

It’s alright, a lot of people do. It’s really OK to admit it. If "hate" is too strong a word to describe your feelings for your current venture, ask yourself this: Do you feel dissatisfied, bored or empty when you’re at work? You deserve better. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), an average of 583,499 small businesses open each year in the U.S. If more than half a million people can go out on their own every year, so can you.

2. Do You Spend More Time on Your Hobby Than Anything Else in Your Spare Time?

Do you find yourself spending more time on your hobby or interest than you do on other leisure activities? While your friends are busy getting into fights on Facebook or browsing the Internet for nail design ideas, are you creating the next culinary masterpiece, crafting a work of literary genius or inventing a new product? If so, you might not even know it yet, but you’re already on your way to starting your own business.

3. Quite Simply, Is It Something You’ve Always Wanted to Do?

If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, now is the time to do it. Don't let life pass you by without doing what you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Get Going

If your "yes" answers mean the time is now, don't panic—starting your own small business doesn’t have to feel like a complicated and scary process. Some things to keep in mind at this stage of the game:

  • One of the first tangible items you need is a business card. They are still standard business practice, even in this digital age. Use a quality paper stock and a reliable printing service, as this piece of marketing collateral is often the first glimpse people (including potential investors) will get of your new venture.

  • Set aside some time to delve more deeply into your niche and the concerns that come along with your segment of the market. The National Federation of Independent Businesses has specific information about starting a business in your particular state as well as details about your chosen industry.

  • You are going to need the ability to make purchases. Government loans, bank loans and small business credit cards can supply you with capital—just make sure you explore all the funding options available. Visit to learn more.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Entrepreneurs: Get Your Ducks in a Row When Establishing Your Startup

Entrepreneurs: Get Your Ducks in a Row When Establishing Your Startup

The entrepreneurial spirit will take you far when starting your first business. That creative drive will get you through the process of writing a business plan, choosing and designing the new business location, and it may even land you the critical funding you need to realize your dream of owning your own business.

However, what many people with an entrepreneurial spirit lack, is the know-how to navigate all of the tedious paperwork involved with the multi-tiered local, state and federal registration processes. Here’s a quick guide to what you’ll need to finally get your business off the ground.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Of all the numbers you’ll need to get in the business registration process, the Employer Identification Number (EIN) is the most important. Think of it as a social security number for your business. Obtained through the IRS, an EIN is required before you hire your first employee. Most local and state registration numbers required you to have an EIN before you register with them as well. Your businesses EIN is the number you will use to identify your business in all dealings, including when filing taxes.

Register Locally
After getting the EIN for your business, you must register at your local and state level as well. Your city and/or state government may require you to register for a business permit, and you will need to apply for a Business Identification Number (BIN) with your state for the purpose of filing state taxes.

Withholding Tax Records System
Business records must be kept for a minimum of four years, so having a good tax records system in place is critical. It’s also a good way for you to keep tabs on the financial health of your business. The best record keeping systems allow you to keep track of expenses and receipts, as well as prepare tax returns and financial statements.
Form I-9
Familiarize yourself with the federal I-9 Form and system, and keep the information handy because within three days of hiring any employee, you will be required to confirm that employee’s employment eligibility in the United States. After reviewing employee-provided documentation and completing the I-9 form, you will be required to keep the paperwork on file for at least three years. Once the form is complete, simply transfer the information to the IRS and verify employment eligibility online.

New Hire Reporting Program
Within 20 days of a new hire date, you are required to report it to your state’s new hire directory. Just as with the I-9, this is a step that cannot be missed. So, keep the new hire directory contact information for your state close by.

Workers Compensation
Every business that plans on hiring employees is required to carry workers compensation insurance. This insurance provides benefits to your employees if they become injured on the job. The benefits not only help the employee financially, but they also cover medical costs associated with the injury.

Inform Yourself
Legal compliance is a must for any business owner. It will save you time, hassle and a lot of money in fines, fees and employee lawsuits. Inform yourself about the subject of employment and labor law. The more you know about the what the laws are regarding subjects, such as safety, wages, and workplace harassment, the better prepared you’ll be to identify and properly address issues.

Starting your own business is a dream come true for many people. When you take the time to set it up right the first time around, you can prevent that dream from becoming a nightmarish endeavor.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Making the Best Business Decisions When You Are the Only One Making Them

Making the Best Business Decisions When You Are the Only One Making Them
There are more than 22 million businesses solely-owned with no employees, according to the most recent U.S. Census small business data. If you are the only one making the key decisions for your business, then you need access to resources to make it easier to make the right decisions. These tips will give you some direction when you need a little support before making those big decisions.
Your Business Plan is Your Bible
Inc. states a poor business plan is a top reason for an unsuccessful small business. Your business plan is the roadmap you follow to make your business successful. You may be smart and a quick thinker, but you have many things to think about and your plan keeps you on track without worrying about missing something.
A good business plan lets you step back and review the big picture when you get bogged down by the details. It gives the bank and investors a clear picture of your business, where it’s going and how it will get there. It gives future partners a glimpse of your vision. The U.S. Small Business Administration has many resources on how to create a good business plan.
Creating an Honest and Genuine Team
When you begin hiring staff, you may consider doing background checks. This information normally comes from public records, available to you no matter how you retrieve it. There is other information not contained in public records, that you’d like to know before bringing on someone new. Some services will just do the research leg work for you. These resources could save you from making a serious mistake.
How much you can pay will also determine, to some extent, the talent you can recruit. You can research and calculate prevailing wages using various wage calculator tools online.
Capturing Your Business Niche
One of the top reasons a small business fails is the lack of market research, reports Forbes. You believe that you have a product or service that is in demand, but does the public feel the same way? To minimize the risk that you will be going live with a product or service that people really don’t want, you need to gauge the public’s opinion:
  • How important is it to people to solve this problem?
  • What value do people place on the ability to solve this problem?
  • How much would people be willing to pay to have this problem solved?
Let’s say you have a design for a running shoe that you want to market. The lacing on the shoe is off to the side instead of directly on top. You believe this is an easier way to tie shoes and that this design is more comfortable. Your in-depth market research should answer the above questions:
  • How big of a problem do people see with top-lacing running shoes?
  • How important is it to people to have a shoe that ties differently?
  • What is it worth to people to have running shoes that tie on the side?
  • How much would they pay for this design?
If the results show that the majority of people see the same problem and are willing to pay for your solution, then you may have a market winner. If they see this as no big deal, then you may be stuck with a warehouse full of running shoes that people won’t buy.