Congrats! You’re starting a business!
In 2015, I made the decision to leave a high-paying job as a corporate attorney for The Hershey Company so that I could follow my entrepreneurial dream and start my own business. As an attorney, I focused on labor & employment law, and I spent countless hours over 10+ years coaching leaders on how to manage all kinds of difficult employee situations. Making the leap to a consulting practice focusing on human resources and leadership was a natural shift for me. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Over the past couple of years, I have received countless emails and calls from people like you. You might be on a journey similar to mine. You might want to start a business similar to mine. You might feel like it’s time to do something different, but you aren’t sure what to do or where to start. You’re looking for a little advice and mentoring. I totally get it. I’m so grateful to the people who were there for me when I had questions about all of this.
I spend a lot of time mentoring folks in person and virtually. Unfortunately, I can’t respond to every inquiry, but I still want to help. I thought I would put together some of the most common things that come up and share them with everyone! This is the first in a series of posts to come, so check back. I hope the tips help. You’ll also find some things that I wish I knew when I started my business. Better late than never, right?!
Let’s start with the practical things, like business names, logos, websites, business cards, office space, etc. Here’s what I did (or maybe didn’t do or maybe I’m still not doing it…):
Business Name: Go to GoDaddy and search domains to see if your business name is already being used as a domain name. Once you find a name that you like and that’s available, search your state’s “corporations bureau” (or whatever the state database of registered businesses is) to check for registered businesses in your state with the name you’ve chosen. These steps sent me back to the drawing board several times. Once you select a name, you need to register your business. I chose to register as an LLC. Talk to your accountant and attorney to understand your options. Register your domain name. I used GoDaddy, and it’s worked just fine.
Website: There are many different companies that can help create websites. GoDaddy is one of them. Do your research. I opted to use a professional but inexpensive web designer. I chose my WordPress theme, and then he gave me lots of ideas for the layout. Once I started earning a little money, I moved to a different website designer and resigned all of my websites. The key to starting a business is to get something going that’s good – not perfect. You will be in limboland if you have to have everything just so before you take the site live. Get moving. Then you can work on perfecting it. This might cost you anywhere from $1000 to $7000, so be sure to ask developers about the cost!
Business Cards: Moo has absolutely awesome business cards and other products at great prices! I designed my own cards, and it was super easy. I’ve referred others to Moo, and they love it, too. You can get creative and build a card that really stands out in a crowd. Moo does not pay me. I just feel that strongly about a great product when I see it.
Company Logo: If you aren’t designing your own logo, you can find great talent online at websites such as Fiverr or other freelance sites. That’s how I found the logo for The Human Zone. Back in the day (sounds so long ago – hahaha), I paid $300 to own it. You could also work with a media company (which I did initially for the frientorship® logo), but I was trying to keep my budget minimal to start. I later redesigned the frientorship® logo using a freelancer, and I was much happier with the outcome than I was with the fancy media company I used. Each experience is different, I suppose.
Liability Insurance: I pay about $2000/year or so for insurance. Speak to a reputable insurance agent to understand your market and the typical coverage for your business. You can always call my peeps at Gunn Mowery to get a quote! Matt Dishner is my contact, and he’s great. Do not go without insurance. You never know what might happen, and you need to protect yourself both professional and personally.
Office Space/Equipment: Don’t stress about finding office space if you’re consulting like I am. No one wants to meet at my office. Consultants go to meet clients at their places of business or in restaurants or coffee shops. A home office really does the trick and it cuts down on expenses. You can grow by adding virtual or remote help, or you can cross the office bridge when you get to it. If you have a relationship with a law firm or similar business, it’s nice to have a conference room to borrow if you need it. For equipment, I purchased my own computer. I got a Surface Pro 3 and love it, but I’ve never been a Mac girl. They now have the Surface Pro 6. You can probably get a few great years out of the Surface Pro 4 and save a few bucks when you’re in startup mode. monitor, printer, shredder – anything you can think of that you might use. You get a tax benefit, so use it!
Business Plan: I purchased a plan template and the corresponding market research from Growthink. I had to identify my competitors (which you should know – cold), but they did all of the legwork. I found the template super helpful, too. Admittedly, when I look back on my original business plan, it’s clear I had no idea what I was doing. But it at least forced me at the time to sit down and think about this methodically. If you’re going to borrow money to start your business, you will be required to present a good plan. Another great resource is The One Page Business Plan by Jim Horan. That’s now my go-to plan resource. Define your vision and mission and build realistic strategies and goals to get you going. Revisit the plan often (cough-cough – do as I say….not as I do).
Accounting: I absolutely *hate* this part, but as a solo, it’s a must. I purchased QuickBooks. My accountant had someone show me how to do everything I needed to do to run my business financials. Believe me…if I can do QuickBooks, anyone can. But I am not going to lie. I plan to outsource this function soon. You will find as you grow your business that you need to outsource certain functions so that you can actually do the work!
Social Media: Build phenomenal brands on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and . . . You get the point. I’m trying. It’s a work in progress. It’s hard at first, or at least it was for me. But you need a great social media presence to be the go-to expert, build a following and become an influencer. Don’t believe me? Check out Gary Vaynerchuk. Read Crush It! Then read Crushing It! You will be inspired to build your social media presence, because it’s a total game-changer in today’s economy.
More Book Recommendations: I highly recommend Entrepreneurial You by Dorie Clark. I wish I read it before I started my business. Dorie’s book is fullof lessons, suggestions and resources. I can’t say enough about what this book is doing for me, even more than three years into my business. There are also great tips in there for how to build relationships before you make “asks” of people. Just about everyone can benefit from that piece of the book. I learned a lot the hard way. The bottom line is that, like all things, relationships aren’t one piece of entrepreneurship. They’re the most important piece.
Accountability: Create your personal board of directors. Ask trusted friends and colleagues to serve on your personal board. Meet with them (quarterly, perhaps) for the gut checks you will need and to help keep you on track as a solo/entrepreneur. Consider joining a peer mentoring group of some kind. I joined Vistage. There are different levels of membership (CEOs, Small Business, Key groups, etc.). It may or may not be right for you, but it’s been a huge part of getting me to where I am now and finding a group of people who are both tough critics and dear friends. Find your people. You will need the feedback.
CRM: Yes. CRM. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a tool that will help you keep track of your business and client relationships, but you definitely need a tool. I made this mistake at first. I didn’t keep track of contacts, proposals or outcomes, so I didn’t have a good feel for what was working and what wasn’t. I finally got Pipedrive after a friend recommended it to me. Curious about all of the different options? Email me (my email is at the end of this post). I have a list of the top 40 CRMs, and I’m happy to share it with you.
Okay – that’s a lot! In upcoming posts, I will get into the more human side of starting a business, such as how to build and leverage a network, how to be unselfish in your approach to business, and how to brand yourself as a subject-matter expert. In the meantime, I think you have plenty of work to do!
Do you want to do a deeper dive into a professional mentoring/coaching relationship with me? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Caveat: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not, however, cause me to recommend anything that I don’t believe in or haven’t read, tried, or used as I say I have. For real.