In my everyday travels, I encounter countless advisors who do not make a move because they are afraid of what they don’t know.
For this installment of our educational series, I will provide advice on just how easy launching a business can be by giving guidelines to get you started. My hope is through these suggestions you will take a few giant steps forward and reduce the general fear of what you don’t know.
As a baseline for today, I will classify myself as a W-2, established company escapee. Therefore, as I embarked on starting Fusion, I knew I was jumping into the deep end of the pool of entrepreneurs — the land where many visionaries go to die, and few find success. I was crystal clear on the vision but did not know all the steps necessary to get going.
Boy did I learn a lot, and fast. One of the first calls I made [after my first six months out in the wilderness] was to the CFO at my former firm to wholly and sincerely apologize for being so difficult. After all, running a sales organization is often done so in stark contrast to how the accountants see things. Is it forecast revenue or accrual accounting you get to spend? Your guess as to which side of that field the sales team finds themselves on.
At any rate, I experienced so many essential aspects of business launch as a newly minted entrepreneur that I wish to share in hopes that it will help others with similar goals. If you have the right blueprint to follow, realizing your dreams of greater independence, ownership, and freedom may be closer than you ever thought possible.
Significant steps needed to launch a business:
- Decide on your purpose. Write it down. Why are you doing this? What does change mean to you? How does this improve your relationship with clients? Your vision is the foundation for every decision you make that follows. Think of it as your “north star.” Business owners that do not have their vision defined clear as crystal will find themselves meandering forward and will likely not fully harness their peak potential.
- Decide whether you want to work “in” the business or “on” the business. This orientation is critically important. Are you looking to form a lifestyle business or launch and grow an optimized business with the ambition to expand services, resources, people, and enhance enterprise value? Either choice is acceptable, as long as it matches with your purpose and goals for the NewCo.
- Find quality legal counsel and tax specialists. Bonus points if these two service providers have a track-record of working together. They will provide you with valuable guidance on corporate entity structure, ownership waterfall, state of incorporation, and important filing and business partnership documentation. Regardless of your political views, there are advantages to tax law changes that benefit business owners. Same applies to the state of incorporation and protections for owners – which makes the legal and tax team you assemble vitally important.
- Ask your business attorney to help you decide on your firm name and options to secure trademark protection. Something to consider that you can do in advance of speaking to the attorney is performing a free search of TESS (or Trademark Electronic Search Service) for your proposed name to see if someone has already registered it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Link here: http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=tess&state=4805:yunk97.1.1
- Check out web domain availability. Take your proposed firm name and search popular services such as GoDaddy.com or Domain.com to check if the domain is available. If it is, not a bad idea to secure the domain you want (e.g., buy it!) as soon as possible.
- Create your marketing brand assets. Marketing is typically the fun part of the business. If you don’t have a large budget available going the route of hiring a full-fledged marketing agency to create your company logo, you have some affordable options available to you. For example, from your living room sofa, you can engage a global network of hundreds of marketing professionals that participate in a “competition” to offer their best thinking for your NewCo logo. After you answer background questions (the type of company you are launching, colors you like, other brands you admire), you get to sit back and watch as hundreds of ideas come forward – all over a couple of days. From this data, in about a week you will likely have a hundred or more design ideas for your logo! Some of the companies that do this are logotournament.com and 99designs.com. We used logotournament.com for Fusion Financial Partners, offered $800 to the winner and were quite pleased with the results. It is fun, as you get to correspond with the designers while they are eager to work with you on a bespoke design according to your vision. Some things to ask for here from the winner are the logo in various graphics files (.eps, .jpeg, .tif) and both “color” and “reverse color” if you are printing on a white background or color background (brochures, shirts, hats, golf balls).
- Create a document called “brand asset guidelines.” Which is a fancy way of protecting your newly created marketing style…This important document will spell out how your logo appears in print, including the colors and fonts.
These seven steps will help you organize a business launch and provide you with:
- Vision – Who you are and what you want to be
- Your business goals
- Legal and tax support
- Firm name
- Web Presence
- Brand assets
- Brand assets guidelines
From this launch pad, you will be well on your way to launching the business you dreamed of – good luck!
Disclaimer: The above should not replace the importance of advice and counsel from lawyers or accountants, rather if meant to provide a roadmap toward achieving your goals of business ownership by creating a strong blueprint for success.