Category Archives: Business Success

Nothing Like Entrepreneurship!

It is so encouraging to witness, serve and support individuals who come to our country legally, abide by our laws and make a contribution for our collective benefit.

One of my SCORE clients fits that bill to a T!

Here, we have an example of a self-starting woman from Canada, the wife of a veteran and mother of a young boy. She had the guts to quit her full-time career in micro-biology to launch her own business making handmade jewelry out of her home. And, upon doing so, has gained the attention of Vogue, Seventeen, Glamour and Redbook magazines, as well as celebrity endorsements. She now has employees and is looking to continue her expansion.

Instead of my recounting her story, you can learn more by clicking here. Doing so will take you to the page of the SCORE contest “What Makes Your Business Unique.” And, while there, please consider casting a vote for her to win “up to” $25k to support the continued expansion of her business and the creation of more jobs for the citizens of our country!

Interestingly enough, the contest allows the casting of up to 10 votes per hour (from each unique device) until February 20!

So, please take a moment to review her inspiring story and cast your 10 votes (only takes a few seconds).

Also know, you too can be an entrepreneur: in business for yourself and the creator of jobs!

If you have an idea for a service or product that will solve a problem, make life easier, more enjoyable or otherwise improve the human condition, please don’t cast it off as whimsical. Develop your idea, seek counsel from someone who has gone before you and see if you can give it a go.

Seeking a mentor (at SCORE) for example, is an extremely simple (and 100% free / no-cost) process.

To do so, visit SCORE.org, click on “Find A Mentor” provide your zip-code and fill out the form to share a few details about you. From there you will promptly be connected to a local SCORE chapter as the first step to receiving the guidance you seek.

In the words of my client…

There’s nothing like the freedom and possibilities of entrepreneurship!

~Lincey Viel – Arthlin Jewelry, LLC

Click here to go to the index of the series of posts on launching a business.

Startup Administrivia

In a prior post, I mentioned that I was in the process of becoming a certified SCORE mentor, providing guidance to others on launching or better managing their very own small business.

I am happy to report that it is official, and my profile is now online with SCORE (click here to view).

During the process of becoming certified I’ve had the opportunity to work with 17 clients, so far, and am now the “lead mentor” for 8.

I have to say, fanning the flame of someone’s dream to launch their own business as well as providing pragmatic advice on doing so, is EXTREMELY rewarding! As one of my fellow SCORE mentors stated: “This is more fulfilling than most jobs I’ve held.”

I couldn’t agree more!

The purpose of this post is to outline several basic / administrative steps that startups must take, which I’ve shared most frequently, with my SCORE clients to-date.

Here we go…And, the good news is that this isn’t rocket science…

Establish the business entity – The reason: to create a layer of protection should someone come after (file suit against) your business. Most of my clients have chosen to setup an LLC as it is the simplest corporate structure to create. And, you do NOT need to pay an attorney to do so!

There are other “types” of corporate structures, which I won’t cover here. If you aren’t sure which one to go with, click here to visit the Small Business Administration’s website which provides an overview of each.

The simple instructions for setting up an LLC can be found on SCORE Portland’s website by clicking here. Once there, you’ll see the topic: “General Instructions for Establishing a Corporation or LLC in Maine.” This document provides instructions for creating your LLC, checking the availability of your chosen name, and obtaining an employer identification number (EIN, a.k.a., a tax ID for the business) from the Internal Revenue Service.

Key Notes:

The fourth bullet under section 9 of the instructions refers to the option of using an attorney or paid website to create your operating agreement. While those are certainly options, SCORE has prepared a sample agreement you can complete yourself at no cost, and it is available by clicking here.

Click here for a direct link to the Certificate of formation for Maine.

Click here for a direct link to the Certificate of formation for NH.

When completing the Certificate of Formation you’ll notice a section which covers the topic of Registered Agent. For Maine, you’ll want to select “non-commercial” registered agent. And, in both cases (ME or NH) you can enter your own name and address.  It must, however, be a physical address (street and number), not a post office box.  There is no reason to pay someone else to serve as the registered agent.

Register Your Domain Name – Even if you don’t “immediately” plan on setting up a website (although this is a key marketing tool for every business) you’ll want to lock-in your address on the internet (a.k.a. domain name).

There are numerous ways of doing so. Assuming you plan on taking the next step of establishing a website (yourself), to support your marketing efforts, I’d recommend using WordPress. Alternatively, if you plan on selling products / services online, I’d recommend SquareSpace. With either solution you can register your domain name and setup a professional looking website for minimal cost. If you are even a “little” technically savvy and reasonably proficient with MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint, you should have little trouble getting yourself established online – in a matter of hours.

Subsequent posts in this series cover what to consider for the content on your website, so we won’t cover that here…

Setup a Bank Account for your Business – To keep things simple, the first bank to consider would be the one that holds your personal accounts. Note: prior to taking this step you’ll need to have established and show proof of your LLC and EIN.

Obtain Necessary Insurance Policies – Check with your commercial insurance broker to learn more, but this will typically include coverage for:

  • General / Professional Liability
  • Workers Compensation (if you have ANYONE working for you)

Note: There may be other factors to consider (permits and licensing) depending on the nature of your business. Doing a little research online will confirm if and/or how these may apply. And, if all else fails, pick up the phone and call the town and/or state office in the jurisdiction(s) you plan to operate.

Update 4/28/2016: If you are considering launching a business in the great state of Maine, there is an online resource to determine whether you need licensing or permits: www.maine.gov/businessanswers. I’d suspect something similar exists for other states as well.

Believe it or not, there are tons of resources at your fingertips (online) to help guide you in the process of launching your own business. That said, it “can” be overwhelming. If/when that becomes the case for you, feel free to reach out to a local SCORE chapter near you and seek a mentor. We are happy to help simplify the process. And, we do so for free!

How can you beat that?

In closing, we have now covered the administrative “basics” necessary to establish most small businesses. It is now getting time to put out your shingle, the topic of the next post in this series.

All the best!

Launching a Business – Running the Numbers

Building on a prior post related to mentoring SCORE clients on preparing for the potential launch of a business, one of the key activities is that of “running the numbers.”

Running the numbers includes estimating, to the best of our ability, the:

  • One-time start-up costs
  • Ongoing expenses – the basic / fixed overhead costs to keep the lights on as well as those that are variable (i.e., will fluctuate with the volume of business and/or decisions that we make)
  • Potential revenue we expect to receive. This step is based upon what we defined as our target market, which was covered in a prior post.

The obvious goal is to make sure that we are taking in WAY more revenue than the expenses we incur, so that we achieve a profit!

Now, let’s cover each of the above areas of “numbers” that we’ll want to run for a “service-related” business. This, as opposed to a manufacturing or distribution business, which have additional variables to consider.

Start-up Costs

These are the costs that will be incurred to get the business enterprise off the ground which can include, but are NOT limited to:

  • Incorporating
  • Training, certification and/or licensing
  • Tools, equipment and furniture
  • Establishing a website
  • Business cards
  • Professional services in the areas of legal, accounting and finance
  • Etc.

To be clear, we can pay as much or as little for ALL of the above as we want. Frugality is the key. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we go cheap. I’m simply reinforcing the fact that the above does NOT have to cost thousands upon thousands of dollars.

Ongoing Expenses

These are the costs that will be incurred on an ongoing basis. Some will be flat or incrementally grow with the business (and inflation) while others will be completely variable based upon the decisions we make and the volume of business we do. These costs can include, but are NOT limited to:

  • Insurance policies – professional liability, health and workers’ compensation
  • Facilities – be it your home office or rented space
  • Telecommunications – phone, internet
  • Office supplies – printer ink, paper, etc.
  • Travel-related – gas, parking, tolls, airline tickets, hotels, meals, etc.
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Labor – What we plan to pay ourselves and/or those we may employ or subcontract
  • Our state’s annual corporate filing fee
  • Taxes
  • Etc.

Potential Revenue

Here is where, based upon the anticipated market opportunity, we project how much we plan to “sell” each month, quarter and year for the next 2-3 years. In projecting revenue, it is highly advisable to be very conservative (actually, low ball it) during the first several months of the business. And, then BEAT those numbers.

The process of running the numbers need not be overly complex and can be done quite simply in an Excel spreadsheet. And, some may ask: Where will I find all these numbers? The answer: You will dig for them. The answers can be found online, by calling service providers and just plain shopping around.

run the numbers

Why do I use the phrase “run the numbers”? Because, this is a never-ending exercise: each day that passes and contact we make presents new information, challenges and opportunities that will serve to adjust the numbers. And, during each iteration (review by yourself and/or with a mentor) these numbers will be tuned up and down, as necessary, to make them increasingly accurate and realistic.

Doing so will provide a solid set of guidelines from which to operate your business. That is, you’ll want to stay well within the expense structure and strive to beat the revenue numbers. The result: a profitable business!

I know, I know, some of the more sophisticated readers will say this is pretty basic stuff Craig. Well, yes it is. However, I have now been involved in mentoring several new SCORE clients and NONE of them had yet taken the step to run the numbers.

As such, we need to be sure to cover the basics!

All the best!

Click here to view the next article in the series.