We are all new to the online era of business and figuring out how to do it well comes with a lot of trial and error. I am offering my top 3 business tips to help your business thrive in internet culture.
1. Prepare as if your business will succeed. A lot of new business owners I know approach their businesses as though they don’t need something, because they’re “not there yet.” One example I would use is creating a formal business structure for your company. By the time you “need it,” your business is likely pretty far along, and changing the structure, setting up new bank accounts, getting your EIN changed over, are all things that take time and focus away from your business.
It’s like riding a bike and slamming on the brakes while you’re already riding down the hill. If it’s only you in your business, dissolving an entity is a pretty painless process. Plus, the added protection it provides you are pretty significant. I set myself up as a corporation not knowing whether I would be successful, or whether I could “afford it.” But, at the end of the day, I’d rather approach my business with success in mind rather than not doing something, because it “might” not work out. I would also add that caution when entering into a joint venture or partnership is also a huge component of your business’ overall success. Get something in writing if you’re going down that path. Immediately.
2. Number 1 leads into number 2. Budget for professional services early on. I know this may sound pretty self-serving, but I’m not talking about just lawyers. I mean accountants, financial planners, and other professional services you may need. Chances are, these people are not free, and you cannot do everything yourself. When figuring out how much capital you need to “start” your business, consider tacking on an additional 2-3k for professionals. This isn’t an ungodly sum, considering many websites cost twice as much. Also, start vetting professionals early on.
Many attorneys, accountants, and financial planners will meet with you for no charge. I offer a 30-minute no-cost consultation to any prospective client. That way, you can determine how a professional structures their fees, whether you like them, whether you feel like you can trust them, etc. Additionally, it ensures you have someone in your corner “when” the need arises, and trust me, the need always arises at some point. Whether you’re facing a legal problem, an audit, etc. It’s always less expensive to help a client with whom I’m already familiar with. Damage control is often more costly than spending the money up front to prevent something from happening.
3. Know your competition. As a branding and trademark attorney, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one. Hopefully, you’ll have an attorney on your side who understands your business and the brand you’re trying to build. Protecting that brand will become crucial to developing goodwill in your business, but it will be a real pain in the butt if you don’t know who else is out there doing something similar/identical to what you’re doing.
You’d feel pretty stupid if you decided to brand yourself as Facebook without knowing about Facebook. Not to mention, you’d wind up with a real headache from Facebook’s legal team. Before you start spending hard-earned dollars on branding, logos, business cards, and websites, hire someone to help you figure out whether you may run into issues with your proposed brand. Just because there isn’t a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear, either.