Starting a Business in Omaha, NE 2017
Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying “The value of an idea lies in using it.” Those who are bold enough to start their own businesses are doing exactly that, and for every idea out there that’s been capitalized upon, there are many more that have yet to be acted upon but have the potential to be wildly successful.
For many entrepreneurs, taking a leap to start a business has resulted from a strong belief that the have an exceptional, marketable, and theoretically profitable idea that needs to be shared with the world, or alternatively, it’s been a longtime calling. For other savvy businesspeople, it comes about from an opportunity presenting itself that’s too hard to pass up, or finally finding the right fit. No matter how you’ve arrived at the point where you’re considering starting a business, it’s important to understand, at the very least, the basic steps necessary to make it happen.
The 10 Steps to Starting a Business, provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration, outline this very nicely. We’ll explore each, and consult with the local experts, many of whom have started their own successful enterprises, to provide insight on what we consider to be the fundamentals.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan (This written guide will help you map out how you will start and run your business successfully.)
Step 2: Get Business Assistance and Training (Take advantage of free training and counseling services.)
“Greater Omaha SCORE provides consulting, mentoring, and education to those thinking about or in the process of starting a business,” advises Pauline Stark of Greater Omaha SCORE. “We’ll help you evaluate your business idea, put your business plan together, connect with resources, or gain the education you need to make your business go and grow. We will also be there along the way so you have skilled experienced people helping you through the tough spots. Here are a few of the common inquiries as to what we offer at SCORE:
Do I have a good idea for a business? We provide tools to help clients evaluate their idea. If it is a brand new business idea, be sure to validate the idea with a Lean Canvas process. This will help you identify the 9 important questions to answer even before you complete a business plan. If you are entering a business market that already exists, make sure you have a solid business plan and understand the finances it will take to start up and operate for 6 months or a year as you build a revenue stream.
Can you write a business plan for me? SCORE provides different ways to support the development of a business plan. It is advised to write your business plan before you need the funding; don’t ask an investor to loan money without it.
Can you loan me money? SCORE helps those who are preparing to gain financing with a complete business plan, however, we do not make loans. We work with the SBA if they have questions on what type of lender or loan program they should have. As far as financing, be realistic about the amount of money that will be needed and the length of time it takes to get the company up and running. Also, your personal credit score needs to be in good shape, as it will be considered when getting a business loan. Your new business has no history so investors need a way to evaluate your money management history.
Our National SCORE Foundation has completed studies that show that businesses that are counseled by SCORE mentors are more likely to still be in business and successful within two years than businesses that did not work with SCORE. Stop by omaha.score.org and you can browse our upcoming workshops and resources for business owners or connect with a mentor, and you’re always welcome to contact us directly.”
Step 3: Choose a Business Location (Seek advice on how to select a customer-friendly location and comply with zoning laws.)
This might be a storefront, office, warehouse or manufacturing facility; many a great business has begun in a basement or garage too. It may require the construction of a new building, but for those starting out with limited resources, renting space is generally the most popular option. Today, there are more options than ever before, particularly for SMBs with office suites, coworking spaces, incubators, virtual office capabilities, and more.
“When you decide to start a business, it seems that way more money is leaving your bank account than going in,” says Michael Holroyd of Holroyd Investment Properties. “There is an endless list of startup costs that just can’t be avoided. Some of these costs require long-term commitments that a new business owner just isn’t ready for quite yet.
Taking advantage of office space with HIP OffiCenters is a very low-risk way of getting your business started. There are a wide range of lease terms to meet your commitment level. We offer a variety of office sizes and styles, and can even furnish it for you. Our clients are provided with a full-time receptionist, conference room, and modern office equipment. HIP OffiCenters is a great way to convey a professional image to your clients, from your very first day in business on, without the financial struggle of staffing an office.
Particularly for those in the Omaha area, this offers a great opportunity to establish a presence in Lincoln, and we have virtual office space available too. HIP OffiCenters is in the business of helping new businesses grow. We make the first step easy so that new companies can focus on reaching their goals.”
As was previously touched upon, for those who don’t pursue an option like the one we just presented, furnishing the place where you’ll be conducting business is an aspect of establishing a location for your new endeavor that you’ll likely need to fit into your budget. Since things can be tight in the first stages, finding quality items at bargain prices is the way to go. One of the best ways to do this is at auction!
“Auction Solutions Inc. liquidates most types of business equipment and restaurant fixtures/furnishings, with the goal of turning assets into cash for sellers in a short amount of time,” explains Shayne Fili of Auction Solutions Inc. “This presents a fantastic opportunity for buyers who are starting their own businesses. Many times we have live auctions at the location of the business. This is the optimal scenario because you can see the item in place, and most times plugged in and operational. But not always. It is then the buyer’s responsibility to remove the items they have purchased. The more you know about the items you need for your business, and the different processes involved with acquiring them, the better equipped you are as a buyer of new and used items.
When planning on opening a business, the prospective business owner should discuss with his/her lender the possibility of attending an auction to purchase some of the necessary items for the business. If you search auction sites, the item you seek may be 20-30 cents on the dollar. It may show signs of use, but it is affordable. Also, check the used marketplace. If you are borrowing several thousand dollars, you may be able to maximize those funds by purchasing used furniture and equipment. The end result is that you now have remaining funds to perhaps upgrade the one item you may have to buy new, or for that software or IT support package that was previously out of your price range.
Everyone loves to walk into a new office, business, or restaurant and see everything new. I do as well. Converse with your lender, the used furniture and equipment retailers, and design what you need initially around good used merchandise. As your business grows and prospers, you’ll then be in a better position to replace with newer or more stylish items. There are auctions online and live every day of the week featuring new and hardly-used items, from the common items to the highest-end items imaginable. Attending an auction is the fastest way to learn to buy smart.”
Step 4: Finance Your Business (Find government backed loans, venture capital, and research grants to help you get started.)
Along with financing the business to get it up and running in the first place, as was briefly discussed previously, there are other items involving your monetary resources that will need to be handled to support those efforts. Which is fitting, as we were just discussing the financing of items you’ll need for your business in the beginning.
This also includes, but is of course not limited to, payroll and taxes, HR, benefits, accounting and management of finances, etc. For all new business owners across the board, establishing strategic partnerships in areas that are outside of their expertise is well advised, particularly when these things are complex and affect the bottom line. Any errors with finances for a new business could prove to be too much of a blow to bear.
PAYCHEX is an excellent resource for businesses of all sizes, with a wide variety of offerings within the following categories: Payroll Services, HR Solutions, Retirement Services, and Insurance. They specialize in helping new business owners by simplifying the process of setting up the essentials and offer flexibility, coming alongside whenever and however they are needed. PAYCHEX clients have access to expert, one-to-one service and support that is focused and customized, making it perfect for those just starting out in the business world.
Step 5: Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business (Decide which form of ownership is best for you: sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, S corporation, nonprofit or cooperative.)
“An LLC or S corporation is structured so that your personal assets are protected, which can be major for small business owners,” says Jethro Hopkins of No Coast Business Advisors. “Using these two types of corporate entities for a new business venture is advised because of the risk involved with so many unknowns at play. There’s no guarantee of success, so instead of going into it with everything to lose, this is a way to mitigate that risk. Starting any business, there’s going to be a level of uncertainty about what the future holds, but more so when there are no projections to go off of based on past performance or outcomes. In light of that, don’t put the entirety of your personal life at risk at the same time more than need be to get your business operational.
If you’re setting up a sole proprietorship, you’ll be responsible all of the groundwork, as there won’t be any established systems in place or access to support and resources like you’d have if you were purchasing a franchise, and to a lesser-but-still-significant extent with an established business. There’s also no valuable lessons learned from trial and error…yet. Those can be costly. For those with a truly unique offering, it might be worth it. But for the most part, it’s very selectively recommended these days, especially with the prominence of the franchise system where the opportunities are abundant to purchase a business with systems in place that have already proven to be successful.
With partnerships, proceed with caution as well. From the very beginning, you’ll want to put your partnership agreement paperwork together assuming the worst, which can be a tricky way to start off a business relationship. Partnerships are just like marriages, there’s a high rate of failure involved, added to an already high rate of failure for just going into business period. Everything should be outlined in details and the agreement should be legally binding. Just consider this: If your business partner died, would you be comfortable going into business with their spouse, kids, parents, etc.? Or for added perspective, using the correlation to marriage again, if your spouse died, would you then just partner up with his or her sibling, or parents, and keep on keepin’ on? Probably not, which is where a buyout option built into a contract is important, and on a larger scale, why you need to have this part in place before all else.
If you’re considering starting your own business, again with the failure rate being as high as it is, structure will be a determining factor, as will simply understanding the commitment and the work it will require, along with the financial burden.
Taking over of an existing business that’s well-established and reasonably priced is really a great way to go into business for yourself, and if you’re interested in the opportunities that are available locally, feel free to contact me to learn more.”
Step 6: Register a Business Name (“Doing Business As” or DBA) (Register your business name with your state government. Learn which tax identification number you’ll need to obtain from the IRS and your state revenue agency.)
Step 7: Register for State and Local Taxes (Register with your state to obtain a tax identification number, workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance.)
Step 8: Obtain Business Licenses and Permits (Get a list of federal, state and local licenses and permits required for your business.)
Step 9: Understand Employer Responsibilities (Learn the legal steps you need to take to hire employees.)
Step 10: Find Local Assistance (For all of the previous steps, and for anything you encounter moving forward.)
That final step will come as no surprise to Strictly Business readers, because it’s exactly what we emphasize every month as we highlight resources in the area. For those who are looking to start a business of their own, within the outlined steps, here are more of our recommendations for finding local assistance!
Mentorship: Find a Trusted Advisor & Form a Support Network
For those without any prior experience with running a business, or who have never been in a leadership position, it’s important to seek guidance from a professional who has in order to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. Alternatively, even for seasoned businesspeople starting a new venture, it helps to have an outside perspective, especially in the early stages.
“We work with startups to minimize mistakes that are most often made by new and even experienced business owners,” explains Rose Mary Hefley of Achievement Unlimited, Inc. “Sometimes it is keeping them from getting involved with a partnership that could prove to be costly to them. We also work with them to set smart goals that will help maximize their resources. In the very beginning, we work with clients to quantify and qualify the prerequisites of organizational success, which are:
- A quality product or service. In the words of Warren Buffett, ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.’
- Proper timing of the introduction of the product or idea into the marketplace. Market acceptance and potential are critical.
- Determination of capitalization required for successful launch of new product or service and how to procure required capital.
- Identification, acquisition, and training of high-performance personnel to successfully manage the resources of the business and to mitigate risk.
- Identification and development of high-performance leadership, which is the key to success. The leadership will make or break the business. Without effective leadership skills, the business is doomed to needlessly struggle.
All told, achieving success is dependent on the quality of preparation and teamwork in execution of the business/product start-up.”
Ultimately, Hefley offers the following advice for those embarking on the journey of business ownership:
“Leadership is the foundation for the success of a business. Successful athletes, singers, actors all use a coach to stay at the top of their game. So do successful and profitable business owners.
It is usually what you don’t know about what you don’t know that adds cost and pain to a business. We can work with you to avoid those unknown costs. As such, consider investing in a successful business coach. Our team works with organizations that want to develop great leadership for today and assure a continuum of leadership for tomorrow.”
Technology: Find Trusted Providers & Build a Team
To compete in today’s marketplace, this is something you’ll need to do right from the jump. To be more accurate, it’s more a leap of faith for most who don’t know what they heck they’re doing. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved or a part of the discussion, just that you’d be best served by joining forces with experienced professionals in the tech space.
Infrastructure & IT Support
In the early stages, you’ll need to establish a strong foundation that supports the initial functions of conducting business.
“Five Nines has had a lot of experience with companies just getting started,” says Nick Bock of Five Nines. “We started our own successful business, and we have a number of clients who have done the same. Whether it’s starting a new legal practice, physician practice, or professional services business, it’s quite common for us to work with a new company. The great thing about that is we are almost always engaged in the planning stage, where we can really help them most effectively.
First and foremost, we can help new business owners realize the technology they can leverage to have an instant competitive advantage over those that may be stuck in some old technology ways. We can help them do everything from outfitting new office space to what software are they going to leverage and how. Cloud versus on-premise data storage? VOIP or traditional phone system? Those and many other decisions are ones that our team is used to answering for a new business. Most importantly, we help them align the right technologies to make them be successful long term.
There are constant changes in technology, and many of them have made it easier than ever to start a business. Ultimately anyone with a laptop can compete at a much higher level than they ever could before. Key changes in our industry that make it easier than ever are as follows: 1. Cloud technology that covers anything from email to hosted CRM (think Salesforce) to line of business applications – everything is a quick signup away; and 2. Mobility has made everything accessible from anywhere. Employees can work effectively from home, the coffee shop, and Hawaii. New businesses that focus on having high mobility make it easier than ever to be fully productive, regardless of whether you are at the office or not.”
Digital marketing isn’t just the wave of the future happening in select niche marketplaces; it’s everywhere, and it’s here to stay. Establishing a strong online presence is an important part of marketing a new business, and it’s not a matter of if a strategy should be implemented, but when and how. Again, you’ll want to be sure you’ve got the experts hard at work for you, because it’s not something that the average person would be able to accomplish without the help of a professional.
“Conducting market analysis is the first step to determining whether digital marketing is a good fit, and that process begins with analysis of the search volume within your geographic target region,” advises Tyler Horsley of Nuclear Networking. “Let’s just say that’s Lincoln, NE. We’ll find out how many people are searching for specific terms that are applicable to your business locally, and then we move on to competitive analysis. This covers how many people are already providing similar offerings, and of those, how many are currently engaging in effective digital marketing campaigns. We can even use our intelligence tools to tell our clients everything that their competition is doing in the digital space, and what they are paying to have it done.
At that point, we can definitively say whether digital marketing is a good fit or not, and if it is, we’ll put together a custom strategy. Our goal with this is to outperform the others and win you the coveted top spot on search engines and any other areas you’d need to dominate online to be successful.
You might find this hard to believe, but everything we’ve done up to this point is free for our clients. We need to do the research to understand the key factors that would determine success, and that’s a benefit we extend as a part of the consultative process when we’re establishing a working relationship.
We find that many of our clients are curious about digital marketing but don’t feel confident enough to pursue it without fear of the results justifying the investment. When dealing with intangibles, there’s a level of uncertainty that’s to be expected. The questions we are most often asked right out of the gate are as follows: “How much will it cost?” “What will be my return on investment?” “Will it work?” “What are my competitors doing?” As you can see, we’ve taken these into consideration with our process, which satisfies all three. Through the free inbound analysis and marketing audit, we’re able to present viable options backed by what we’ve uncovered during the research process.
Education is a priority for us, so we’re always finding out as much as we can from what’s out there, and from our clients personally. Our goal with this is to deliver hard facts, putting our findings in front of the client so that they learn how it works and feel confident in their decisions moving forward. We also have a vertical called Angel Insurance, and that network allows us to tap into unlimited amounts of funds and resources, which is especially advantageous for SMBs.
For new businesses, it’s important not to wait to get the ball rolling. Everything we present to you is free, so there’s no risk and very little time involved to learn, and to fully understand the possibilities.”
As far as how you’ll accept payment for your goods or services rendered, this also falls within the realm of technology, as it’s utilized for transactions by the vast majority of merchants.
“Businesses can no longer get by without accepting some form of plastic,” says Jim Barnes of American Payment Systems. “When opening a business, it is important to be prepared to accommodate your customers’ preferred payment types in order to make a good impression and build a positive repertoire to gain loyal business.
To new business owners, searching for the right credit card company can seem like a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be, though. That being said, in an industry that is full of scammers, it is important to find a company that you trust for your processing. Although we are joined by many others in our industry across the nation who value transparency and doing business the right way, it’s still all-too-easy to find yourself in contracts with hidden fees and high rates. In today’s day and age the plastic card industry is growing rapidly, and because of that, it is imperative for business owners to educate themselves. American Payment Systems offers free consulting, including analysis of any other quotes you’ve received or existing statements. Once merchants understand what they are paying for and where their money is going, they are in a better position to make an informed decision moving forward.
After a merchant has selected a processor, the next step is to decide what type of equipment is best for the business structure. There are hundreds of different types of equipment in the market – we’re always seeking out new partnerships with equipment providers in order to offer our merchants a wide variety of options from which to choose what best suits their company. There are sophisticated Point of Sales (POS) systems with inventory and employee scheduling features built in, on down the line to something as simple as accepting payments on your smartphone. The possibilities are vast, and APS is here to make accepting payments as simple and easy as possible for the merchant, at a price that won’t break the bank!”
If you’re starting a business, we applaud you and welcome you to the club! It will be an intense journey of ups and downs, and will require a lot of work, tenacity, and sacrifice. There will be many lessons learned, and some the hard way. However, if it’s your passion and you find this to be your calling, there are few things in life that are as amazing an accomplishment as being the owner of a successful business that you started. Connecting with the people who want you to succeed and will help you do just that will make all the difference.