We’ve all been there: pulled over, discombobulated and anxiously shuffling through our purse, wallet or glove compartment to find the documents needed to answer the officer’s anticipated questions, outside of the infamous “Do you know why I pulled you over?” In business, we can often relate to this feeling as we find ourselves shuffling through the madness to figure out what we need. In this world of organized chaos, it’s easy to get caught up in working through business strategies and acquiring business coaching relationships to create the perfect mixture of team-building talents. No matter your business enterprise, the calm to your chaos can ultimately be found in your foundational documents. Looking for a quick hit of clarity in a consolidated space? I’m here to give you just that!
This strategic tool is a good starting point for actualizing your thoughts. According to the Forbes article, “10 Entrepreneurs Share Their Top Business Plan Writing Tips,” in business strategies and development, your business plan “acts as a map throughout the entire process.” From the traditional twenty-pagers comprised of dense mission, vision and financial stability statements to non-traditional slide decks, clarity, feasibility and contagiousness of the content are what matter. The longevity of any business plan rests on understanding that you are not locked in to what you see right now. Taking advantage of the opportunity to think big will secure long-term success. With growth and scalability as the common denominators for all business plan elements, you will find yourself solving the ultimate equation of accommodating and mastering an evolving market.
Do I need it?
A business plan is not a requirement, but it is highly recommended. From securing funding to capturing unpublished historical business ideas, strategies and reference points, a business plan has many practical uses and should not be overlooked.
Identifying and establishing your business structure is a key element to success. According to the Small Business Administration’s business guide, Choose a Business Structure, your structure “affects how much you pay in taxes, your ability to raise money, the paperwork you need to file, and your personal liability.”From Limited Liability Corporations (LLC) to sole proprietorships, here you will find common structures and their pros and cons.
- Sole Proprietorship (I have a great idea . . .)
- Pros: easiest to start, you possess complete control
- Cons: personal tax implications,full personal liability
- Partnership (We have a great idea . . .)
- Pros: simplest to form for co-ownership, multiple owners, liability options based on partnership structure
- Cons: self-employment/personal tax implications
- Limited Liability Corporation (I/We have a great idea . . .)
- Pros: carries the benefits of a corporation and a partnership, protection from most personal liability
- Cons: possible dissolution requirements based on time or change in ownership, self-employment/personal tax implications
- Corporation (I/We have a great idea . . .)
- Pros: separate entity from its owner(s), strongest protection from personal liability, survives ownership transitions, stock options
- Cons: most expensive to form, stronger operational/record-keeping/reporting requirements, potentially double taxed
- Non-Profit 501(c)(3) (I/We have a great public service idea . . .)
- Pros: protection from personal liability, tax-exempt
- Cons: profits cannot be distributed, expenditures governed by Internal Revenue Service guidelines
Do I need it?
Yes. Choosing a business structure is vital. Because your business structure is based on the unique characteristics of each business venture, the above is not an exhaustive list of possibilities but a compilation of commonalities. Seeking the advice of a qualified attorney and/or tax professional is highly recommended.
License and Registration
Complying with state and local requirements is a must. A proper license and registration will keep you operational, promote business engagements and ensure you abide by practices for your service area. Your business structure, activity and location will determine your local, state and federal licensing and registration needs. Reporting requirements, license and permit lifecycles and the need for foundational documents, such as Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws or agreements will arise at this point, and a solid business plan will guide you through compliance and execution.
Outside of federally regulated activities, such as firearms and alcoholic beverages, local licensing and registration requirements typically rest with and are governed by each locality.
Do I need it?
Yes. Having your business name, purpose, location and structure established will aid in this process.
When it comes to protection of your business, your brand or your product, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has you covered. According to the USPTO publication What is a trademark?, “A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or service. It’s how customers recognize you in the marketplace and distinguish you from your competitors.” Trademark protection with the USPTO provides nationwide legal protections for your business, brand or product. Creativity and uniqueness is rewarded here as they define strong trademarks, which are the easiest to protect. When that delicious pound cake sold at the local farmers’ market blooms into a thriving online store, this level of protection becomes necessary!
Do I need it?
Trademarking is not a requirement, but it is highly recommended. Ownership and rights start with business use, but broader nationwide rights and protections rests with the USPTO.
The entrepreneurial highway is exciting, and the view is great, but before you can proceed, you need to pull over to find the documents needed to answer anticipated questions. Being discombobulated with a side of anxiety is optional, and whether your operation is an LLC or a 501(c)(3) organization, having a solid foundation will leave you unshakable. I can help you get you there, let’s connect!