9 Tips and Tools for Starting a Business

August 25, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

Today’s economy is one of the most challenging the United States has seen in decades, and many capable people have been out of work for one, two or even three years or more. American entrepreneurialism may be the only saving grace. When jobs simply aren’t available, sometimes you need to create your own.

Having been at the core of creating four separate companies, I’ve learned a few things that I wish I had known about in the beginning.

  1. Fill an existing need, and do it better and more effectively than your competitors. Keep your focus on what you can do to alleviate someone else’s very real pain points. Success will go to the vendor who scratches the itch, not the one trying to convince the customer he has an itch.
  2. Avoid debt. Beginning a new business is a time of incredible hope and excitement. It’s easy to believe anything is possible, and perhaps it is. Just don’t bet the farm on it. Check USA.gov for start-up grants that may be available, but understand that seed capital is scarce. Do your best to make do on a shoestring budget until your business generates some cash.
  3. Consult with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to determine the best organizational structure for your business. Frequently the initial meeting is free.
  4. Name your business strategically. Choosing a name for your business is not about you. It’s about your customers, and it’s also about Google. Prospective customers, even local ones, search for businesses online. If they cannot find you, you will be effectively eliminated by a vast portion of your market. Give both your business and your website a name that: is frequently searched on Google, not overrun with competition from others, and accurately reflects your business’s product and services. Micro Niche Finder is a piece of software that can turn hours or days of research into minutes. After you download and install the program, key in a short phrase that is representative of your company and click the search button. The tool will return dozens of related phrases with important details about each one. Look for the highest search count with the lowest Strength of Competition (SOC). In addition to helping name your business, Micro Niche Finder is a powerful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tool that will also help with marketing needs down the road.
  5. Before making a final decision on what to name your business, make sure the.com,.net, or.org domain is available. You can discover this by clicking a button in Micro Niche finder or by searching the phrase in GoDaddy.com or on other domain vendor sites. Purchase your domain through BustaName.com. It’s a free site that offers a nice discount on two year.com domains.
  6. Definitely build a website. Hostgator.com is user-friendly, cost-efficient hosting service. Perhaps its strongest selling point is the capacity to host multiple domains on one account, at no additional charge. WordPress.com is a free, easy-to-use site-building platform. If offers simple templates for newbies, yet can expand to accommodate highly complex and sophisticated websites.
  7. Claim your free Google Places listing. This is an absolutely free easy-to-use service provided by Google for businesses, and it can fast track your business to a page one search engine ranking.
  8. Armed with this knowledge, establish your business as a corporation. This defines your business as a separate legal entity by assigning and Employer Identification Number (EIN), the equivalent of a Social Security Number (SSN) for individuals. This does not mean you must hire employees, only that you could. Despite the fact that most professionals charge $300 and up to provide this service, all you really need to do is file an SS-4 Form with the IRS. It takes about ten minutes and is free.
  9. Depending on the state in which you live, you may also need to apply for a Tax Identification Number (TIN) or a business license. Check with your state’s Attorney General to learn about particular requirements within your state.

Karen Y Larkin is the Vice President of Operations at Marathon Publications, Inc.

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