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start your business

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Chapter 4
Start Your Business

By Christina Sherrod

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There are several steps you must consider when starting a business. Be sure to meet with a good accountant and attorney early on. This will help prevent problems down the road. Refer to Chapter 5.

Visit your local book store for books on starting and running a successful small business.

See our Resource Links at the end of this book.

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Choose A Name For Your Business

Before getting attached to a name, check to be sure it is not taken. Call your state's Department of Revenue and ask about the business name and whether it is in use in your state. If you will be incorporated, you can check with the Secretary of State to see if the name is in use. If there is a question about the name, seek the advise of an attorney.

Go to: United States Patent & Trademark Office  for information on trademarks, copyrights and patents.

Obtain Licenses

In Washington State, only one department must be contacted; all licensing is handled from the one department. It is a convenient, efficient system. If retail selling, and you are in a state that collects sales tax, you will need to be licensed in your state as a retailer, and you might also be required to obtain a license with your city. If you are a service business, you might still need to be licensed. Laws vary by state, so check with your own state's licensing laws. See Chapter Three: Government Agencies.

Choose The Right Location

Refer to your business plan (Chapter Six). How much did you budget? Where are your customers? What is the visibility of this location? What is the history of this location (success or failure for previous businesses)? A store that sells dolls would do better near a school than it would near a men's athletic club.

Business Checking Account

If you have an actual business name and business account, the IRS is more likely to see your enterprise as a "real business" rather than as a hobby (if it is a hobby, you cannot deduct expenses). Your customers will see you as more legitimate as well. Just as important, your business financial data will be separate from your personal data. This makes bookkeeping much easier. Personal expenses should never run through your business checking account. Mixing personal and business expenses creates a sloppy, time consuming system.

Start up Supplies and Costs

Refer to the Business Plan (Chapter Six). Remember to keep these costs to a minimum. Having a fancy office might be nice, but not if it causes a deficit in cash, which has been the doom of many businesses. Be sure supplies, equipment and inventory are fully considered. Make a list of inventory, office supplies, office structures (fabric holders, cutting tables, supply racks etc.), office equipment (computer, software, desks etc.) and anything else needed for daily business activities.

Professional Appearance

One thing to keep in mind - always look professional and successful! There are several ways to do this.

1. Be on time!This is the most important. Never keep a client or customer waiting. Always return calls and keep your client informed on the status of any on-going projects. Some of my clients were excellent craftsmen but their businesses suffered horribly because they did not get back to clients in a timely manner, or did not show up on time (or at all!). If clients are treated in such a manner, they will not view the business as professional and will take their business elsewhere.

2. Install an answering machine if a receptionist is not available to take calls (and use one after hours if you do have a receiptionist). A customer took the time to call you once, and does not want to have to remember to call again. Not having an answering machine is the same as saying to the customer that their time is not important. Remember, this could be their first (and only) impression of you and your business.

3. Always leave a business card. A brochure is excellent also. A brochure is nice because it can be informational in some way, which catches the customer's attention and advertises for you. Cards and brochures need not be expensive. I have always made mine on my own computer, with the use of interesting card stock and graphics.

4. Be careful with your appearance and hygiene. Do not smell like cigarettes, alcohol or perfume. I know this is obvious to most people, but I am still amazed by how many people I have come across who wanted my business but did not get it because I was literally allergic to the person!

Time Line

Refer to the Time Planning section in Chapter Six. Make a list of duties needed to be accomplished and list them on a realistic time line. The Planning Tools section explains this process. Project out into the future. This exercise will help you organize yourself and ensure that all important tasks are completed in a timely manner. If a client pays with a check written out to your business name, a business checking account should already be in place.

Index & Table of Contents  Chapter 1  Chapter 2   Chapter 3
Chapter 4  Chapter 5   Chapter 6   Chapter 7  Chapter 8
Resource Links

Holiday Patterns
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