Ready, Set, Start A Business

Image of Paperwork for Starting a BusinessEarlier this week we discussed motivation (or lack thereof) that we sometimes encounter along our way.

It’s okay – we’re human.

But we need to shake off the rust and get back on track. With any luck you’ve found some inspiration this week and are ready to channel that energy into a project or starting a business.

Have you officially started a business yet?

Starting A Business

You should start with your Why.

Why are you going into business for yourself or with someone else? If your only focus and motivation is profit then I challenge you to search deeper.

If anything, the people or companies you serve should be the focus. But why you do it is important. It’ll mean the difference between burning out and abandoning your project or pushing through your darkest hour because your “why” is too deeply-rooted within you to give up.

As Janet Callaway helped point out to me recently, you have to make the distinction between your “why” and your “what.”

For example, what you’re doing is developing driverless cars to improve highway safety. Why you’re doing it, could be because you’re on a crusade to save lives since you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident.

Commitment

Consider the amount of time and commitment required to see your business through to its first dollar of revenue. Will you flake out when it takes you several months to make a single sale? Will you accept helpful criticism or will you take it personally and quit?

When your day job requires you to work overtime or the kids get sick and you just want to go to bed and pull the covers over your head: will you find the strength to keep stepping toward your goals?

EXPECT that your business will require consistency and perseverance otherwise you’re going to learn it the hard way.

Business and Legal

This isn’t a course on how to legally structure your business (and I’m not certified to teach one) but you’ll want to give this some thought. If you’re earning money through your online dealings then you’re going to report that income to the IRS (if you’re in the United States).

The type of business you form will impact the taxes you pay, level of liability you assume, and the wonderful paperwork you fill out.

Will you form a Limited Liability Company/Partnership? Perhaps you’re going this alone and feel a Sole Proprietorship is all you need. You might be venturing with someone else and considering a Partnership.

Whatever the case, here are some informative resources to get you going (links below apply to U.S. businesses only):

Business Types:

IRS – Business Types

State Government Resources (listed by State – pick yours from this page)

IRS – State Links

You’ll also need a business entity name. If you already own a business and name then, depending where you live, you could register to “Do Business As” or pay for a trade name under the umbrella of your main business.

Whether you self-brand with your own name (harder to sell off) or choose some clever one, give it thought. While you’re at it, see if a domain with your business name is available.

Business Development

How will you know if you’re headed in the right direction with your business? Who can you trust to lead the way and are you familiar with the drawbacks? Consider hiring a coach or consultant to help you get up to speed.

Better yet, find someone that is already doing what you want to do. This person or company should exemplify what you plan to do and what you stand for in your chosen industry.

Warm up to your potential mentor. Show up online where they are. Comment on their corporate site or blog; friend them on the usual social media channels and add to the conversations around them. Or visit them at their place of business (gasp! Real world meeting) or offer to meet them for coffee.

Be bold with your approach. Interview them or ask questions by email (after identifying the point of contact) about the industry. Ask them what you should expect as a newcomer to the field.

Learning from an experienced person will help fill in the gaps you didn’t even know you had in your plan. You may find just a few words from them will give you all the push you need in the right direction (or they’ll send you running for the hills).

Go

If you haven’t started your business yet, what are you waiting for?

Do you have any questions or a “heads up” for newcomers? Share your input in the comments.

 

Photo: qwrrty


30 Responses to Ready, Set, Start A Business
  1. Usman@FirstHosting
    April 14, 2011 | 7:13 am

    I must be agreed on the point that if you’re fond to get success then you need to search much deeper and need to find out what you can really do and how to as well..

    Nice tips mate.

    • Jon
      April 14, 2011 | 10:15 pm

      Thank you and yes, it does require deep search and then knocking it out of the park (with a helping of over delivery).

  2. Hector Avellaneda
    April 14, 2011 | 12:37 pm

    Jon

    One of the things most often overlooked especially when starting an Internet Business is the legal stuff – it’s so easy to overlook but actually can be one of the most costly things to overlook.

    As you mentioned forming an entity is one of the very first things an internet entrepreneur (in the U.S) needs to do be recognized as a business. Everyone situation is different and not everyone falls under one specific entity category. Im not an expert by any means and this, obviously is not legal advise, but personally I have an Limited Liability Company and have elected to be taxed as an S-Corporation. The reason I elected this entity type is because of the liability that others carry into personal assets.

    For example, If, god forbid, hurt someone in a car accident and I was to personally get sued for medical expenses, the courts systems cannot, by law, acquire any of my business assets as forms of repayment. Of course, you risk the integrity of the “corporate veil” if you dont operate like an business. This means that you have to hold yearly minutes (my lawyer takes care of this for me), elections, have a business plan, profit and expense report, etc. But other entities such as sole-proprietorships and partnerships dont carry the same level of protection and incur too much liability in my opinion.

    Forming an LLC is not just about forming it and forgetting about it. This doesn’t work like that conventional oven you see on advertised on TV – You can’t just “set it and forget it” in this case.

    I’ve heard of people who took thousands of dollars in tax savings their first few years in business because they were in in those first crucial year sof business where they had to spend way more than they made and got audited by the IRS. Most people would say nothing to worry about just provide all the proof that you are a business, have all the proper documentation and that you can prove your expenses and income, right? DEAD WRONG!

    The IRS ruled that they were not a real business because they did not have a 5 year business plan therefore were not operating like a real business.. they disallowed all of the taxes they had saved in their forst few years in business and had to repay that money.

    Thats probably the worst nightmare for an entrepreneur! The point is, don’t overlook this issue of business entities.

    I’ll be writing a post on this very soon on IEC!

    • Sarah Russell
      April 14, 2011 | 1:21 pm

      Hector – Interesting stuff!

      I wrote a little bit on this topic earlier in the week, and argued more in favor of sole proprietorships for beginning entrepreneurs and freelance writers. Easy, simple to set up and still provide a formal enough business structure.

      I know LLCs confer some liability advantage, although I wasn’t aware it was to that extent – that they protected your business assets from being seized in a personal case (I assumed the major advantage was protecting you from business lawsuits).

      Good things to think about – especially since it’s much more difficult to switch a sole proprietorship to an LLC than to just start out with one in the first place.

      • Jon
        April 14, 2011 | 10:14 pm

        Sarah,

        Hector brought up some great points and I do remember you mentioning this in regard to your former article writing agency. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Hector Avellaneda
        April 14, 2011 | 11:50 pm

        Hi Sarah

        Definitely. I went back to read your article. I think the entity you decide to go with depends on the level of income that yo expect to earn and the level of liability that you;re willing to take on.

        When I started my LLC I knew that there was a lot of paperwork and that there were a lot of legalities that needed to be in place before the LLC could be registered in my home state of Texas. I knew that I wanted to do it right the first time so that in the event of a lawsuit (business or personal) I was protected – they call this the “corporate veil”.

        So I hired a lawyer that specialized in the home based business industry to take care of all of this for me and in 2 weeks I was recognized by the state as a business. Of course as I mentioned above I still had to conduct myself as business to be considered a real business and not a hobby by the IRS in the even of an audit.

        There is a lot more to actually maintaining the integrity of your business structure than most people think but it;s not hard to do and if you have a good lawyer that can give you some direction when you need it, even better!

        Like I mentioned in above, I’ll be writing an article about this topic soon so I hope to share more of what I’ve learned and expose some examples of people who were effected negatively by not maintaining their business entity.

        Thanks for your comment Sarah!

    • Jon
      April 14, 2011 | 10:12 pm

      Hector,

      I was wondering if you’d chime in! Thank you for extremely valuable insight and sharing your experience. You’ve added a lot here.

      Interesting how most of us are led to believe it’s just a matter of signing on the dotted line, slipping that form in the mail, and being done with it. You have your ducks in a row, my friend, I look forward to your follow-up post on this topic.

      • Hector Avellaneda
        April 14, 2011 | 11:07 pm

        Absolutely Jon. It’s my pleasure to add as much of my experience to the conversation as possible. That’s what were all hear for. To mastermind and contribute to each others success. :)

        It definitely does not work the way, Jon. I heard a statistic recently that 8 lawsuits are filed every hour in our country. Some people make a living out of frivolous lawsuits and I’ve heard that some states and cities are making it easier to file a lawsuit by simply doing it online! How crazy is that?

        You definitely want to protect not only your personal assets but your business assets as well. I’ll definitely keep you posted and let you know when my article on this topic goes live.

        • Jon
          April 15, 2011 | 11:02 pm

          My goodness – people and their litigation over just about anything! I like and support your thoughts on mastermind sharing and contributing to each others success.

  3. Janet @ The Natural Networker
    April 14, 2011 | 8:57 pm

    Jon, aloha. Thx so much for the mention in this article. That driverless car is taking us all on quite a journey, isn’t it?

    As you always do, Jon, this post provides solid actionable steps for people. After determining their Why, people need to plan, take action, keep taking action and then be patient for results.

    Along the way, it is key that they ask for advice; ideally find a mentor. Also, they need to make course corrections because it is highly unlikely that everything will go as they originally thought.

    In other words, they should not attempt to make a “bad” decision right rather they should say “oops, better fix or tweak this.” Fail Forward Fast.

    Having recently finished Sir Richard Branson’s book “Business Stripped Bare,” one of the qualities that I appreciate about both him and his companies is the speed of their responses–both in anticipating future situations and in correcting things that have gone awry. They take prompt action; they don’t agonize over adjusting an earlier decision.

    Thx once again, Jon, for so freely sharing your advice. Until next time, Jon, take good care. Aloha. Janet

    • Jon
      April 14, 2011 | 10:09 pm

      Janet,

      Not everything goes as planned, that’s for sure. But I’m glad you agree about a mentor. Sometimes it’s just what we need. If more people would take the time to perform their due diligence in their chosen field it would save them headaches. In some cases, I’m betting they wouldn’t start at all depending what an experienced business owner would tell them.

      Thank you for the book reference; I have to make that my next purchase. I’m a Branson fan! See you soon.

  4. Oliver Tausend
    April 15, 2011 | 7:20 am

    Hi Jon,

    I second you on your idea of starting with one’s why, with a mission. With a strong enough WHY, the HOW becomes easy. Without a strong enough WHY, we tend always tend to look for a easier HOW to even if the HOW to in front of us is already easy.

    A wealth of information, thanks for sharing.

    Take care

    Oliver

    • Jon
      April 15, 2011 | 10:54 pm

      Hey Oliver,

      Starting with your mission in mind – yes! I agree that with a well-defined WHY the HOW becomes a lot easier. Great input and thank you for stopping by.

  5. Allie
    April 15, 2011 | 6:06 pm

    Jon-

    It is so true. In almost any aspect of life you should lean on and get advice from a trustful, experienced person. Online business should be no different.

    I have forgotten this part of business. You’re always told that you are not alone and you have choices but it never sinks into my stubborn head to pick the brain of an experienced business person.

    Thank you. I really learned something today.

    Great follow up on the “why” post. http://www.jonalford.com/google-driverless-car-inspires-business

    ~Allie

    • Jon
      April 15, 2011 | 10:56 pm

      Allie,

      Hey it can’t hurt to ask some questions, right? What’s the worst that can happen; you don’t get an email reply? They aren’t reachable by phone at the time? They just don’t care to answer? Big deal, move on. The information is out there you just have to be brave enough to discover it.

      Aw, I really appreciate you paying attention and referencing my other post. You’re awesome, Allie, thank you for sticking around and being you :)

  6. Samantha Bangayan
    April 15, 2011 | 9:27 pm

    What a thorough post, Jon!

    I kind of fell into having my own business as I started freelance writing. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about all the legal stuff (yet) because I’m in Peru. I have to admit that it’s intimidating. =P

    I did really vibe with the “Business Development” section of your post. I’ve met some great mentors through blogging, but I may not have fully taken advantage of their expertise. You also bring up a great point that it’s not just about sharing information, it’s also about encouragement and motivation. It really helps to know others who succeeded when times get tough.

    Thanks for the wealth of information, Jon! =)

    • Jon
      April 15, 2011 | 10:58 pm

      Samantha,

      Well aren’t you just the lucky one in Peru :) I look forward to your posts because you have such interesting tales that you share of other people down there. So intriguing.

      Right, it’s about sharing information but it’s also great to reach out to mentors for the motivation. You don’t have to conquer the world by yourself.

      You’re welcome and thank you as well.

  7. Devesh
    April 15, 2011 | 10:44 pm

    Hi Jon,

    I’ve already read your post about driverless cars and Janet’s What & why post. Both were awesome articles and video. You and janet did great work.

    I second on what Hector had said – Legal stuff is something that most often overlooked by bloggers & internet marketers.

    Thanks for sharing this great article.

    have a great weekend.

    • Jon
      April 15, 2011 | 11:00 pm

      Devesh,

      I appreciate you remembering our (Janet included) work, Devesh. That’s great. Yes, Hector made some great points and he is a bright guy worth keeping an eye on in the coming months.

      Enjoy your weekend as well, thank you.

  8. Jayne Kopp
    April 16, 2011 | 5:37 pm

    Jon, what a great post. I believe in my Why, that’s why I don’t pull the covers over my head when the kids or myself are feeling a little less than optimal!

    REgarding the legal stuff, wow, I find that astounding that there are so many lawsuits launched daily.

    I am in Canada, so the US situation might not affect me quite as much, but I am a firm believer in having everything in place. My offline business was a Limited Company for liability purposes as well as I carried a hefty liability insurance on top of.

    People don’t think about it as much online as off, but it’s still very important. there are some Gurus who have had a real battle and lost everything. One was Perry Belcher, and he lost everything right down to the kids bikes!

    He quit this biz a while back to follow other passions but I am sure he makes sure he’s protected no matter what he does!

    Thanks for the valuable information and suggestions!

    Jayne

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 5:37 pm

      Jayne,

      Good for you! I’m glad you don’t have the “covers pulled over the head” problem :) People don’t take online business as serious as they should; many treat it like a hobby even though they may be earning revenue. Glad to know you plan ahead!

  9. Marcus Baker
    April 17, 2011 | 5:44 am

    Hi Jon,

    A good reminder to everybody starting an Internet business that they are starting an actual business not a hobby.

    If you don’t treat is as such, like giving thought to and actioning the legalitites right from the start, then there is every chance you won’t treat it seriously enough going forward. And then what’s the point?

    I have never understood no matter what the project,why people opt not to take responsibility for setting themselves up for success, rather leaving things to chance.

    The other point I think is pertinent to starting a business is that if you are desperate for money or in a hurry to make some, then starting a business is the wrong place to be. You would be much better off getting a job!

    ~Marcus

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 5:39 pm

      Marcus,

      That’s funny you mentioned that because I just wrote it to Jayne (stop calling it a hobby if you plan to profit).

      I’m with you 100%, if you aren’t going to take it seriously and grow it then why dabble? Haha, good point about getting a job. It usually is the faster buck.

  10. Danny @ Firepole Marketing
    April 17, 2011 | 8:21 pm

    Hey Jon,

    I think the most important thing you wrote here was right at the top – start with Why.

    The rest is details (don’t get me wrong – very important details!), but the Why is really the core.

    You reminded me of a video that I saw a while back – have you seen this?

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

    If you haven’t, I think you’ll find it relevant. :)

    Cheers, Jon,

    Danny

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 5:43 pm

      Thanks for your input, Danny.

      “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” Great quote from that video, thanks man!

  11. Josh Garcia
    April 18, 2011 | 4:49 pm

    Hi Jon,

    I owned several businesses. Every day, I look at my why do I do what I do.

    Having my ‘WHY’ in front of me keeps me focus and not to mention motivated to keep going and going.

    When starting a business, you must have a big ‘WHY’ to keep you going when obstacles come your way.

    Have a great day…
    Josh

    • Jon
      April 18, 2011 | 5:45 pm

      Josh,

      You know the score. Good job man, I’m happy that you focus on what’s important. You focus on the element that sets you apart as a leader instead of yet another marketer / salesperson, etc..

  12. Mavis Nong
    April 19, 2011 | 3:03 am

    Hey Jon,

    Great tips you’re sharing here. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    It’s important know your “Why”, so that you can stay inspired, focused, driven and committed to build your business.

    You need to get connected to your ‘WHY’ and keep reminding yourself WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.

    This is your vision, misson and driving force. If your ‘WHY’ is big enough, then you’ll figure out the ‘HOW’.

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Jon.

    All the best,
    Mavis

    • Jon
      April 22, 2011 | 10:03 pm

      Mavis,

      It’s great to see you here again. I couldn’t have said it better. A big, strong and well-defined “why” will open the door to the proper “how.” Consistently reminding ourselves what our “why” is helps to keep us on the ball.

      “Vision, mission, and driving force.” – I like it!

      Thank you for your insight.

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