Starting a Business
Have you had the dream of a business startup stirring in your thoughts for a while now? Perhaps you have a business model in mind, but you’ve been holding off until the stars align. There are many people blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, and they know they have a good product or service to offer, but they don’t feel confident in moving forward because they are unfamiliar with the necessary steps to take to actually start a business. Being knowledgeable of the process is important, especially considering all the various aspects that go into it.
If you’re serious about making your business dream a reality, we’ve gathered helpful information and talked with experts who have their hand in different areas of the business launching process, from the legalities to the commercial lease.
Do Your Research
The first step you need to take to springboard your business dream is to conduct market research. Is there a demand for the products or services you’re looking to provide? Is the market oversaturated? If there does seem to be some market saturation, is there an empty niche you can fill that can position you well in the industry?
These are important questions to consider in your initial planning phase. You want to determine the best way to brand and differentiate yourself from the competition so you become a vendor of choice for people in the market.
Each unique business will have different needs to consider. Being thorough in your research will help you cover your bases so you are ready to move forward. One important area to research is the costs of running your business as well as the best rates/prices to charge for the products and services you want to offer. Finding a happy balance in the prices you charge is important in ensuring you have a decent margin for your own returns but you aren’t charging too much to attract customers.
Make it Legal and Official
Once you have done research and you’re confident in your product/service, you will need to make it all official by choosing a legal structure, such as forming an LLC to protect your private assets. Then you will need to go through all the proper channels to fill out paperwork and comply with laws and regulations for getting registered. You will also need to get federal and state tax ID numbers; permits; any necessary licenses; and trademarks, copyrights, or patents, if applicable.
Though some of this may be simple enough to do on your own, the total volume of work may be overwhelming, and it’s always helpful to have the knowledge and expertise of a lawyer to ensure that you’ve covered your bases.
Partnering with a lawyer from the get-go can help protect you from future mishaps and expensive mistakes down the road. Berry Law Attorney Susan Napolitano can help ensure that you start your business on the right track.
“When somebody comes in with just an idea, I can teach them how to set up their practice or business as opposed to setting it up for them,” she shared. “That works great for small business owners. Then, as they get bigger, we work to avoid any kind of legal issues.”
Berry Law is well equipped to handle nearly all your business legal needs. Serving clients throughout Omaha and Lincoln, Berry Law can help anyone needing legal assistance at the outset of a new business venture. For business owners looking to take an idea from the germination stage to a working reality, partnering with Berry Law is a smart move that can give them the confidence and security of knowing they’re in good hands.
The legal needs of business owners vary widely by city and state, but in all cases there are a significant number of services that a local business attorney can provide to help business owners. There are DIY options to sidestep lawyers, but given the tremendous financial consequences of correct legal work it can sometimes be a costly mistake to avoid legal help.
Berry Law offers customized business law solutions for small, medium, and large businesses. Whether you are looking to start a new business, grow and safeguard your existing business, create a succession plan, or finally exit a venture, their business attorneys provide a variety of important services.
Make It Accessible
So, you’ve got most of the initial paperwork out of the way, but now it’s time to really make things official…launch a website. Everyone is online, and you want your business to be where everyone is. A website is important because it helps you establish credibility as a business, regardless of how big or small your operation is. Websites and social media pages allow your customers to reach you at all times.
A business website serves as a space to provide general information about your company such—the who, what, when, where, why, and how—in addition to being a direct platform for e-commerce if you plan to sell your goods online. Launching a website or even an app for your business is all a part of creating and presenting your brand.
Jon Weiss, founder of ShineForth, shared ways they help businesses find a fresh approach to presenting their business, particularly through website and other platform design.
“Our team has decades of experience working with clients from around the country,” Jon shared. “We love to code, develop our craft, and build solutions that help businesses grow. It’s our passion and what drives us each day. Whether you need a website, mobile app, enterprise platform, or a technology roadmap that works for your business, we want to be the partner that you trust.”
There are DIY website builders out there, but going that route could limit your design options based on your skill level. Many of us are not professional developers, and there are some of us who aren’t tech savvy in the slightest, which makes creating a website that works for a specific business a little challenging. We recommend partnering with an expert who can do what they do best so you can focus on doing what you do best.
“Innovation moves fast, technology can be complex, and getting it wrong can be an expensive setback to your business,” Jon stated. “What worked yesterday, or something that was built last year, may not be able to keep pace with the growth of your business. Having a firm grasp on the technology platforms that support your business is critical. Knowing where those platforms are going is even more important. For those reasons, it is more important than ever to have the right technology partner that can help you achieve your business growth goals with dependable technology solutions that are rock solid, secure, and scalable at the speed of business.”
Select Your Location
Once you’ve established an online presence, ask yourself if your business needs a storefront or a physical location to carry out operations. If so, finding the right location can make all the difference in attracting customers and also allowing you to function efficiently with optimum access to the resources you need to keep your business running.
To help you find the very best location, it is important to look to experts who know the current commercial real estate market and the best available offerings. Make sure to give you and your agent sufficient time to do your research and see your options long before you need to move into your space. It is recommended to begin actively looking for a location at least six months before you will need to move in, if not sooner, to give you adequate time for a careful search. You may even benefit from considering possible locations a year or more in advance.
Secure Good Partnerships
After finding the right location to set up shop, it is a good idea to secure partnerships with experts who can assist with specific aspects of your business while you focus on your primary area of expertise. One such area in which you may benefit from outsourcing professional help is IT.
Dave Koopmans, manager of solutions engineering at Scantron Technology Solutions, shared how technology is critical to the success of your business operations and ways Scantron can develop a technology infrastructure strategy for the starting of a business.
“For today’s businesses, data is everything, but we must take a hard look at what data you are going to produce, where it will reside, who needs it, and how it will be used. With answers to those questions, we can develop an infrastructure strategy that will determine if you need server(s) on premise or in the cloud, what security procedures and protocols will be needed to secure your data, and how users will access the data. With an infrastructure strategy in place, we can continue the process into business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR).”
Dave shared why disaster recovery and cybersecurity is so important for small businesses: “Many small businesses mistakenly think they can grow into these solutions on their own, but far too often fail to prepare for risks. This could mean the business does not recover from simple issues, and even a minor hardware failure can put a company out of business. Our disaster recovery services can help prevent this. Cybersecurity is also important, and it gets a lot of attention these days for good reasons. Cybersecurity should not be an add-on, but rather it should be an integral part of the overall strategy of the business that starts at the top by identifying the data needs and moving from there. Business owners don’t go into business to build network infrastructure so they really need a partner like Scantron Technology Solutions to ask the right questions, develop the right solutions, and manage the environment so that the business owners can focus on what they are good at.”
Dave explained the qualities business owners should look for in IT partners they’re considering working with: “When you’re choosing a managed IT partner, look for someone who primarily employs their technicians, rather than relying on contractors,” he said. “Employees are usually trained not only in their IT skillsets, but in customer service. Your customer experience will be smoother when you can rely on your partner to take your issues seriously. Also, look for a partner who takes a proactive approach. By heading off issues or addressing them when they are small, you can save a lot of time, effort, and money that is better spent running your core business.”
When deciding on who to partner with, think about the future of your company. An IT partner should be someone who can stay with you through the evolution of your business.
“Look for a partner who can grow with you,” Dave confirmed. “As you expand, you may need a partner with technicians and support staff in multiple locations, with a broad array of skills. What works well when you are a single location with only a few employees may not work as well when you have grown to multiple locations with many employees or need to support a remote workplace plan.”
Beyond IT services, other areas to outsource are workforce management and compliance. Heartland Payroll Solutions improves accuracy by automating and streamlining these activities to save you both time and money. We spoke with Joan Kurtenbach to learn more. She identified questions that frequently arise for new business owners in regards to workforce management and compliance.
“What platform should I use to hire? How do I know if my employees and I are filling out the I-9 correctly? Wait, we have a federal and a state W4 in Nebraska now?! How do I pay overtime to my non-exempt employees correctly? What forms do I need to fill out if I decide to do business in another state? Can I truly be paperless with my payroll services? These questions and similar ones are common in our industry and that compliance is what Heartland Payroll helps with,” Joan shared. “Heartland Payroll Solutions is a secure online platform that integrates your workforce management activities, including hiring, onboarding, payroll, time-tracking, HR, and integration.”
The benefits of partnering with Heartland Payroll are many. Heartland Payroll can help your business be:
- Scalable—Heartland will help you be unified and flexible in meeting your business requirements, now and as you grow
- Integrated—payroll, hiring, time tracking, and HR solutions will be connected to streamline back office operations. Heartland Payroll exchanges data with accounting services, worker’s comp, 401K, point of sale, and more
- Compliant—a personal service representative who understands your business serves as an extension of your team and your single point of contact for all your service needs. Additional services can include access to SHRM Certified HR professionals who can provide guidance on HR issues; labor laws; and compliance with federal, state, and industry regulations
- Protected—your data will be protected by industry-leading security technology, controls, and compliance to protect you from security breaches
The final result of a partnership with Heartland Payroll is improved efficiency and productivity with the added bonus of reducing back office expenses. Outsourcing a non-revenue generating activity can be imperative when you are starting a new business, so business owners would do well to budget accordingly.
If your business requires processing large ticket transactions, particularly in regards to credit card processing fees, CurrencyPay, a partner of Sandhills Global, has an innovative new solution. CurrencyPay helps you unlock your business potential as the first payment platform designed for buying and selling large-ticket items. With CurrencyPay’s payment processing system, you can optimize large-ticket transactions with ease through multiple payment options so your customers always have a way to pay for larger purchases. In addition to traditional payment methods such as credit, debit, and ACH, CurrencyPay allows you to offer your customers flexible financing at the point of sale. There are no long- term commitments with CurrencyPay—you can process payments on your terms so you can focus on growing your business. Finally, CurrencyPay provides exclusive inventory finance programs for you, allowing you to take advantage of a custom-tailored finance package based on your business goals, including 0% interest for 90 days and more.
Building Your Team
When you start a business, you’ll likely reach a point where you’ll have to start assembling a team to help you manage the launch and growth of your organization. There is a lot of pressure to get the right people for the job. As a business owner, you may consider working with a recruiting firm to help you narrow down your search to the best candidates while you’re still balancing a heavy startup workload. Concentric Corporation specializes in finding the right people to staff your business, and they’re passionate about it.
“Concentric Corporation helps companies grow in the most effective way,” said Andy Hawkins, founder/CEO. “Our 16 years of being in business has allowed the businesses we serve to gain the best talent possible with a great culture fit. This ensures retention in staff. We have helped businesses of any size, from startup to Fortune 500. The reason businesses choose Concentric is because we take the same quality and care in our process in finding the right all-around fit, regardless of business size. And, we are not cost prohibitive.”
Andy believes that being prepared for bumps and challenges ahead is essential for the new business owner. “Be prepared for the unexpected,” he said. “Now, more than ever, everything moves faster. Think on your feet, be flexible, adaptable, and enjoy the hectic. Your people make the company, so make sure you hire the right people who see the company vision and create the culture that wins. Choosing the right people and getting them in the right positions will only help you succeed!”
Once you have your team in place, you will want to establish a good team atmosphere and ensure your employees have access to necessary training and resources. ActionCOACH provides excellent resources for a variety of needs related to training and strengthening your team, as well as other tools specifically designed for new business owners. Jim Barger started ActionCOACH in Omaha over 10 years ago and has built and coached large businesses in Singapore, New Zealand, and all across the U.S. Jim has built a team of coaches and partners that will help any business achieve their dreams and strengthen their team. He shared his advice on what questions to consider when starting a new business.
“When you start a business, answer the question “When will it be finished?” This is tough, because you haven’t even started it yet! But the question makes you think about the ultimate aim or purpose of the business. When will it deliver its promise to you, the investor, the creator? ActionCOACH defines a finished business as one that conducts its daily work (sales, production, accounting) without the owner’s time. This is impossible in a startup, but is a worthy goal and the design of the new business can address these issues. A business that works without the owner is a cashflow asset that creates income and wealth. That’s why you start a business.”
Hiring the right employees will help make it possible for businesses owners to do as Jim suggests, and work toward a point where the business can run and function without the business owner’s constant attention. Jim is motivated by helping business owners find the best ways to success and efficiency, which is why he offers so many great resources.
“Every business owner ought to attend our free workshop, ‘5 Ways To Massive Profit,’ which presents the greatest secret in business and focuses the business owners on how to generate more cash flow,” Jim said. “The people who attend leave with a marketing plan they design for their business that they can go to work on the very next day. We meet on the second Friday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m.”
With your business up and running, it will become important to make continued connections in the community to spread awareness of your brand and build relationships that will grow your business. Connecting with other business owners through networking organizations is a great way to build relationships that could benefit you in your business in countless ways. Networking organizations offer the potential for forging connections that can open doors, connect you with helpful people and resources, and grow your client base.
Center Sphere is a great outlet in Omaha that provides excellent opportunities for networking and building relationships. Center Sphere is an established network that any business owner, manager, salesperson, account representative, etc. can join. New members are encouraged to visit a few different chapters to find a group, time, and location that works best for them. These chapters are made up of about 10–35 other professionals from different industries. Becoming involved in a chapter is a great way to get to know influential people and begin establishing yourself in the business community. You never know what opportunities may arise from a networking connection.
Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
While networking and making personal connections can’t be replaced, it’s impossible to get out and shake all the hands you want to shake while also running other major functions of your business. This is why it is important to invest in a marketing strategy that works for you. Find where your target audience is and put your name out there, where that be through print, social media, TV, radio, etc. Marketing is an important tool that every business should take advantage of in both the early days of business and beyond. Savvy business owners understand that marketing creates brand awareness and gets the business name out to the public. People may not even remember when or where they’ve seen your name, but if you utilize effective marketing and advertising, they’ll simply know they’ve heard of you, which puts your business in a good position.
We, of course, believe in the marketing power of Strictly Business. People often ask how running an ad in our magazine works or how to get an article published. There are so many different parts that make up Strictly Business. We run ads of all sizes as well as various editorial pieces. These pieces are then published in print and online, reaching a large local audience. Our goal is to present our clients as the expert in their field.
We get to know our clients and their needs so we can take a personal approach to spreading awareness of their business and the products/services they offer in a way that resonates.
Our community is filled with great people and resources to help new business owners get their business off the ground. Whatever your business dream may be, if you do your research and partner with the best, you can’t go wrong. Remember to reach out to the experts for assistance in helping your business grow and thrive!