Our post this week coinsides with National Small Business week which is April 29th to May 5th. Before we get into the guide for starting a small business we want to share the valuable resource webinars hosted by the SCORE Association and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

As you will see in the list of webinar topics, this virtual conference will be worthwhile for seasoned businesses as well as startups. Speakers include representatives from Google, Paychex, Constant Contact, Vistaprint, Visa, Intuit, Square, OnDeck and more.

Free, 3-Day Virtual Small Business Conference
A Virtual Conference provides the best parts of an in-person conference without the hassle of traveling. Conference dates are Tuesday, May 1 – Thursday, May 3 between 12:30 pm ET – 6:30 pm ET each day. Registration is free and you can participate in all the webinars or pick and choose the topics you like. There will also be an opportunity to chat with industry experts and meet other business owners.

The virtual webinar topics include:

1) How Changing Consumer Behavior Impacts Your Business – May 1 at 1:00 PM ET/ 10:00 AM PT

2) Addressing Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace – May 1 at 2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT

3) Get New and Repeat Business On Autopilot with Email Marketing – May 1 at 4:00 PM ET / 1:00 PM PT

4) Creating and Sustaining a Strong Social Presence – May 1 at 5:30 PM ET / 2:30 PM PT

5) The U.S. Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Small Businesses – May 2 at 1:00 PM ET/ 10:00 AM PT

6) Managing Your Finances in the Cloud – May 2 at 2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT

7) Grow Your Business in 2018 – May 2 at 4:00 PM ET / 1:00 PM PT

8) Simple Steps to Choosing the Right Financing – May 2 at 5:30 PM ET / 2:30 PM PT

9) Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints & Keep Your Customers – May 3 at 1:00 PM ET / 10:00 AM PT

10) Sharing Your Story Through Video – May 3 at 2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT

11) Pop & Play: How Opening a Pop-Up Shop Can Help Launch Your Retail Brand – May 3 at 4:00 PM ET / 1:00 PM PT

12) Fusion Marketing: The Next Generation of Marketing – May 3 at 5:30 PM ET / 2:30 PM PT

View Virtual Conference details here.

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5 Steps To Starting A Small Business
There is a lot of latitude in the definition of a small business. While most small business companies are independently owned and operated they may be limited in size and revenue depending on the industry. Examples that demonstrate this spread are a local bakery that employs 10 people and a manufacturer that employees less than 500 people. Small businesses are subject to many of the same laws and regulations affecting other businesses along with the responsibility for compliance.

Pre-opening tasks
There’s a lot to do when you’re starting a business. Our simple checklist is only a start but it will help you ensure you’ve covered your bases early on. These steps will help steer you in the right direction and prevent mandatory tasks like filing the right licenses and permits from slipping through the cracks. Keep in mind, it isn’t necessary to tackle all of these steps in one weekend — take your time and build your business with care. Once you’ve built a solid business structure, you can add new tactics, like a business blog, and email marketing.

  1. Get organized.
  2. Business Insurance
  3. Prepare your financials.
  4. Branding basics.
  5. Business best practices.

Preparation is key to most success in life and that is especially true for starting a business so let’s look at what’s involved with each main step in our checklist.

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1. Get organized.
Assuming you have thought carefully about choosing your business you should be able to describe in detail the business you plan on establishing? Answering these questions will carry you through step one, getting organized.

• What will your service or product be?
• Is there a demand for your service or product?
• Have you identified the target market for your service or product?
• Do you have the expertise needed to successfully compete?

1a) Name your business and choose your business incorporation or entity option.
LLC (Limited Liability Company), C Corporation (C-Corp), S Corporation, and Sole Proprietorship are just a few business entity options. There are pros and cons to each so be sure to research them thoroughly. Google is a good place to start, but your accountant should be the final authority. If you need a good CPA we’d like to recommend Ron Weinbaum who we’ve trusted for many years. Ron’s email is: ron@infantecocpa.com.

As a Florida business you need to be familiar with Sunbiz.org, the State Department of Corporations. That is where you will register your business name and learn about the state tax requirements for your type of business.

An easy-to-use Incorporation Wizard
Incorporating is one of the most important decisions you can make and helps distinguish your personal assets from your business assets. To help you choose the corporate structure suitable for your business discover the pros and cons of each business type.
https://www.bizfilings.com/toolkit/tools/incorporation-wizard

1b) Write a business plan.
If you don’t have a written business plan your business will most likely fail. In it’s simplest form, a business plan is an outline your business goals, operating procedures and target market. The business plan should include your unique selling proposition. If you’re not sure how to identify a USP (unique selling proposition) an article on Entrepreneur.com can help.

Need help writing a business plan?
Here are 5 customizable business plan templates that offer structure and guidance.

1) U.S. Small Business Administration business plan.
2) Rocket Lawyer state-specific templates.
3) Score startup business plan template.
4) Microsoft business plan templates.
5) LawDepot free business plan depot.

Better then a DIY business plan template — hire an expert business coach.
Whether this is your first business or your third business, consider the resources of a business couch. A professional business couch can provide expert guidance to get you over the startup hump and put you in the right direction. A business coach can keep you on track and help you grow your business. Craig Huston is an advisor to owners and executives of all size companies. Learn what Craig can do for you and your business at Huston Consulting Group, LLC. then email him at: craig@hustoncg.com

1c) Obtain your federal and state tax identification number.
Your accountant can set up the federal employer identification number for you.

1d) Get your business license(s).
Research Sunbiz.org to determine current state licensing requirements for your type of business. Be sure to research and obtain local city licenses.

Another resource for licenses is BizFilings Business License Wizard to identify all of the business licenses your company needs to efficiently operate. Their site offers instant access to applications for your business licenses and permits unique to your very own business and locale. Regulations are complex so don’t take shortcuts.

1e) Decide on a business location.
Do you need to rent a brick and mortar location or will you be working from home? Depending on your business, it might be beneficial to have both an online and and offline presence.

business insurance image2) Business Insurance
Now that you have Step One under your belt, it is a good time to consider the insurance coverage you might need. A BOP (Business Owners Policy) is a single policy that includes multiple types of coverage, usually at a lower cost than buying each type of coverage individually. A BOP often includes business property, general liability coverage, and business interruption insurance.

If your business has one vehicle or a fleet of trucks you will want to secure commercial auto insurance. Our team at Brady Insurance Group works with thousands of different types of businesses. We love what we do so use our expertise to guide you through this process. We steer our customers in the right direction for each unique business.

Visit our website to learn more about business insurance and download a pdf for a quick business insurance overview. Call us at 866.764.1944 and we’ll compare rates so you don’t have to. You’ll need these costs to factor into the next step on our list — Financials.

3. Prepare your financials.
Once you have organized and completed the paperwork in Step #1, it’s time to start organizing your financials.

3a) Set up a business bank account.
Your personal finances need to be separate from your business so set up an account just for your business. This is where you will need the federal employer identification number you set up in Step 1.

3b) Apply for a business line of credit.
A line of credit can provide uninterrupted capital for with day-to-day expenses. This also helps establish a favorable credit history.

3c) Invest in QuickBooks bookkeeping software.
If you don’t want to do your own bookkeeping, a good bookkeeper like Yanetza Camacho from YZ & Associates would be the best way to keep your finances in order from the get-go. If you want to do your own bookkeeping, but need to learn how, Yani can also help you. For a free consultation, email Yani at yzassoc@gmail.com

3c) Get experts on your side.
DIY may save a little money, but in reality DIY is not good business in the long run. Access to expert advice will save you time and money.

3d) Determine how you will fund for your business.
Consider funding sources beyond your personal savings. A good place to start exploring funding opportunities and the funding process is the Small Business Development Center. This part of the SBA works with local partners to counsel, mentor and train small businesses. There are many centers throughout Florida.

In Fort Lauderdale the Small Business Development Center
111 E. Las Olas Blvd. HEC Building, Room 1010
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, Phone: 954-762-5235

4) Branding basics
Before you can welcome customers in the door, you’ll need to create a business identity that is unique and solid. Your strategy should be to build a consistent presence in both print and web marketing. This part of the new business development process is tempting to do yourself because it’s fun. But marketing is another area that would benefit by expert guidance.

A spouse or friend may have creative talent and great ideas, but have they come from experience or unguided inspiration. The following elements of your marketing journey are more likely to succeed when you work with a multi level marketing company like Imagine, Inc. This marketing company has worked with hundreds of types of businesses and can shorten your learning/launch/success curve. Email info@imagineinc-usa.com for a free consultation.

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4a) Create a marketing strategy.
This is a must for marketing success. If you can’t plan and execute your marketing you are guaranteed to stifle opportunities. A marketing strategy is similar to a business plan in that it is an outline for ways to take your products or services to market. It pays to understand the difference between a marketing strategy and tactics. A strategy is the what and tactics are the how. Imagine, Inc. has a blog post that illuminates the difference and describes how to create a marketing strategy. Imagine, Inc. can help you with your marketing strategy process.

 

4b) Get a logo.
A logo is a major part of brand identity. Your logo should appear on everything including business cards, letterhead, print materials and of course your website. Although there are many companies selling $25 logos, a professional design created just for your business will be most relevant.

4c) Launch a website.
No matter what your business, if it’s not on the web your business just doesn’t exist. Your website is where prospects find you and learn about your business. The web is where they research your service or product. It’s a digital world and every business has to be on the internet.

Building a website is another temptation for DIY. But, a website built by a professional resource like Imagine, Inc. will pay for itself many times over. Get your site off the ground fast, the right way.

4d) Set up a professional email address.
Along with a professional website, an email address that includes your domain name shows customers that you’re serious about your business. a professional email address strengthens your brand and establishes credibility.

4e) Register your company with Google My Business.
This is another marketing must. Google My Business listings appear in search results just under the paid advertising listings and before the organic search results listings. The more positive reviews your business has the more often you will appear.

4f) Set up your business’s social profiles.
Social platforms are where prospects hang out. They are where people are talking about products and services they like or don’t like. Social media is also needed to send traffic to your website. Social is an important part of SEO which effects your website placement in search results. Even if you’re not ready to start engaging on social media, setting up accounts for your business across multiple platforms needs to be part of your marketing strategy.

4g) Referral Marketing
Part of your marketing should include networking. We recommend you explore Business Networking International. BNI provides a positive, supportive, and structured environment for developing and exchanging quality business referrals. If you’d like to see how referral marketing can benefit your business join Pat Brady in a BNI Premier breakfast meeting. Call Pat at 954.764.1944 for his personal invitation.

5. Business best practices.
For your new startup to succeed, you’ll want to position your business as reliable and credible. To inspire trust consider these best business practices.

5a) Define business policies.
Use easy-to-understand language to clearly define any and all policies. Make sure these policies are visible on your site and easy for customers to find.

5b) Write sound contracts (if needed) for your business.
Both your business and your customers will benefit with straightforward guidelines and expectations.

5c) Make contact information easily accessible.
Contact information should be in your email signature as well as displayed readily across your website. Be sure to include your business hours of operation on your website.

5d) Offer social proof.
Ratings and reviews are great social proof. At the conclusion of each project or contract you should include a request for a Google review. This can be done in an email or personally with a pdf instruction sheet. Customer testimonials on your website are also social proof. Testimonials and reviews provide insight into your business products or services.

Some final tips and conclusions.
Be sure to research the background steps you need to take before starting a business. These include establishing business goals, determining the best location for your business, and assessing your financial situation. Good luck on your great business adventure.

Remember, Brady Insurance Group has advised hundreds of different types of businesses. We make buying insurance easy and understandable. Call us at 866.764.1944 and save. Download our Business Insurance Checklist now.