When starting a business, the first thing you have to determine is the type of business you want to operate and what the business name will be. Think outside the box and be creative. Do market research to know what businesses are in what areas to ensure that your business stands out.
Once you determine the type of business you want to operate, the business name, and general location, make sure that your business name can be incorporated. The Georgia Secretary of State website is a useful tool that can help you with this. You should not file to incorporate your business yet, just make sure that your company name is available.
Your next step should be to determine what you want your website domain name to be. Your entire business name, a portion of it, or an abbreviation may be registered to identify your business online. Going one step further, you may even consider registering your domain as a .com and .net (and any others you find suitable) to ensure your business is easily found online. All of the additional extensions can be directed to your main website.
Determining your business structure affects your tax responsibility, liability, ability to raise money, and paperwork needed to get started. Common structures include:
Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Corporations (C, S, B, Close, and Nonprofit), and Cooperative.
Your business plan is the foundation of your business. This plan is a tool that you can use to show investors that investing in your company, or working with you, is a smart choice. Your business plan will also play a role in helping you secure funding from lenders.
Now it is time to incorporate your business! This can be done in one of three ways. You can hire a lawyer to submit the documentation for you, use an online incoporation company to perform the filing, or you can download the incorporation form (also known as Articles of Organization) from your state's corporation website and mail in the registration form along with the fee. Please make sure to follow the directions when choosing which method to file with. Using the online incorporation company will require you to transfer your registered agent to a local lawyer (or possibly yourself) within a year of your incorporation approval.
An EIN or Employee Identification Number is a nine-digit number assigned to an entity from the IRS for tax purposes.
Your business logo is very important as it will help the community, especially your customers, easily identify you. Having a graphic designer complete this for you will save you time and money in the long run and will be something you will not have to update regularly, if ever at all. Make sure to have multiple formats of your logo saved. Later on when you build a website, design tangible collateral, and develop your social media accounts, you will find that having various file formats of your logo will come in handy. Your graphic designer can work with you on the formats they think you will need. We encourage you to work on the next several steps while your logo is being creted as it may take some time for you to receive the finished product.
Once you’ve identified your business expenses and how much they’ll cost, you should organize your expenses into one-time expenses and monthly expenses.
One-time expenses are the initial costs needed to start the business. Buying major equipment, hiring a logo designer, and paying for permits, licenses, and fees are generally considered to be one-time expenses. You can typically deduct one-time expenses for tax purposes, which can save you money on the amount of taxes you’ll owe. Make sure to keep track of your expenses and talk to your accountant when it’s time to file your taxes.
Monthly expenses typically include things like salaries, rent, and utility bills. You’ll want to count at least one year of monthly expenses, but counting five years is ideal.
Add up your one-time and monthly expenses to get a good picture of how much capital you’ll need and when you’ll need it.
For labor rates, you should do research for the positions in which you are hiring to better understand what the starting hourly rate/salaries are for comparable positions. A good rule of thumb is to find around 10 similar positions and average the rates.
Your labor worksheet should also include: Salary (keep within industry average), Fringe (things such as tuition reimbursement, retirement plan contributions, health insurance, and other benefits), Overhead, and Hourly Base which is normally determined by the amount of time off you provide for vacations and holidays.
Budgeting is a process in which you estimate the income you expect your company to receive as well as the expenses you expect it to incur during any fixed period, typically for the year. This helps define your marketing and sales efforts and your spending habits for the coming year.
For new businesses, this can be extremely difficult because there is a lot of uncertainty, especially with no prior baseline to go by. Once you formulate a budget, you can deviate from it as you see fit, keeping in mind that the end goal is to stay on track for both income and expenses.
The first step in budgeting is to review your current financial position by listing your revenue and expenses for the year. Your accounting software can easily help you organize your financial data to help you with budgeting. For example, in QuickBooks, go to the Report Center for help.
Projecting revenues should be done diligently. This number is not something you are hoping for, just a general, honest number that you feel the most comfortable estimating. As the years progress, you will have a better idea of how to budget your projected revenues.
As is the case for projecting revenues, projecting your expenses should be a realistic estimating of what you feel your business will need to spend during the course of the year for operational purposes. Your expenses should be divided into "fixed" espenses and "variable" expenses.
Fixed expenses are those that will not vary throughout the year, even with an increase or decrease in sales. For instance, expenses such as rent, insurance premiums, and other contracted expenses typically will not change. Expenses such as inventory costs will likely vary and are tied to sales. Other expenses that will in fact change through the year, and can be considered semi-variable expenses, include wages (raises/cost of living increases/minimum wage increases), travel (gas/hotel rate increases), and marketing. Inflation and increases in interest rates affect budgets so that should be considered as well.
There are numerous organizations throughout the state that can help you build your budget either through generic or customized budget templates. Keep in mind that you do not want to work for free so make sure a profit is calculated on your sales and be sure to build in extra padding for the "unknown". You never know when gas prices will drastically rise which will affect travel expenses and in some cases, product shipping. You could find yourself with a plumbing/electrical issue or other unexpected form of maintenance requirement. Having this padding allows for such foresight and will ensure that your budget is not strained by such a disaster.
Earlier we talked about registering a domain name, ex. www.yourname.com. While relatively inexpensive, this ensured that when the time was right, you would have access to a domain name that truly reflects your business. Now it is time to build out a customized website. For small businesses, you may not want to immediately develop a website that provides full functionality and can run upwards of $10,000. Your website, starting off, should be a landing page where customers can learn more about your business along with the products and services you offer. Your website will generally be the first impression someone has on your business so you want it to look as clean and professional as possible.This can be done inexpensively, if done the right way. There are numerous web hosting companies and design companies that can create a professional, affordable website for you. As your business grows, you may want to allocate funding in your budget to enhance the functionality of your website.
When it comes to where your business will be located, there are certain things that you need to keep in mind. Will you be renting or buying property? Have you accounted for whichever method in your operating budget? Is the property you are interested in available; and if so, is it zoned for commercial/business use?
The Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Division is responsible for planning orderly growth and development while ensuring that development guidelines and regulations are followed in the establishment of subdivisions, commercial developments and zoning areas.
The Planning Department can help you determine what commercial spaces are available for purchase or rent and if you are planning to build your own facility, they can work with you on determining areas zoned for commercial development.
Marketing your business is an investment, not simply an expense. You want to ensure that you get the greatest return on your investment. Social media outlets can be a great way for you to promote your business and business activities at no-cost. You will also want to consider printing business cards and company letterhead. Additional materials such as informational sheets, envelopes, and folders with your logo may also be considered as you see fit. One thing to remember with your marketing materials is to stay consistent. Make sure to use the same language, logo, and colors throughout all of your materials so your customers will easily recognize you.
Before signing any paperwork to secure a location for your business, you should be aware of all associated fees related to state and local licenses and permits as well as costs associated with setting up utilities/sewage lines/etc. Sewage tap fees can run into the thousands of dollars so please do your research and ask questions before proceeding further in this guide.
Your Occupational Tax Certificate (business license) is acquired through the municipality in which your business operates. The Cities of Watkinsville, Bishop, Bogart, and the Town of North High Shoals all have a different process (and different fee structures) related to obtaining your business license, but all require the proper application and payment of associated fees. If your business does not fall within the jurisdiction of a city municipality, then you will need to apply for your license through the county. Please ask about associated fees before applying for a permit so that you have an idea how much obtaining the license will cost.
City of Watkinsville: City of Watkinsville: In order to be considered for an Occupational Tax Certificate from the City of Watkinsville, you must submit the three page application along with the cover sheet to city hall.
The deadline for paperwork is the first Monday of each month at noon in order for your packet to be presented at the city council meeting held on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. Your packet will be up for approval at this meeting and upon approval, a business license will be issued after the Occupational Tax has been paid. The Occupational Tax is based off of a fee schedule determined by the number of employees you will have.
City of Watkinsville Occupational Tax Fee (sample):
1 employee: $65.00, 10 employees: $149.00, 25 employees: $259.00, 50 employees: $409.00, 100 employees: $709.00
City of Bogart: In order to start a business in Bogart, you must complete the two page application and submit it back to city hall. The City of Bogart does not place business license applications on the agenda for the city council to approve unless there is a question about zoning or occupational use. Approval for a license upon submitting your application generally takes place within two to three business days.
Upon approval of a business license, you will need to remit an administrative flat fee of $50.00 and an additional fee for more than two employees with the exemption of two. A fee of $2 per full-time employee is to be added and a fee of $1 per part-time employee is to be added.
The total fee will be calculated by the city clerk and is payable at the time the business license is issued.
Town of Bishop: The Town of Bishop requires all applicants to submit a 3 page business license application as well as your sales tax number/ tax ID number/ SSI number (which ever number you use for reporting taxes), and your E-verify number (if you have more than 10 employees), and an Affidavit of Citizenship; you will not be issued a business license without this information. The administration fee is $20.00 and the total fee due will be based on the number of employees you have. The Town of Bishp can tell you what the total fee amount will be before submitting your application.
Georgia and Federal law requirements have changed in regards to specific affidavits that must be submitted with your business license application. These documents need to be renewed each year. These affidavits must be notarized; notary is available at Town Hall at no charge. The completed application must be returned in person to town hall.
Town of North High Shoals: The Town of North High Shoals requires that applications for new businesses be brought before the town council for review. These applications must be received on or before the Monday prior to the next scheduled council meeting (i.e., at least one week in advance) to be considered during that meeting. The applicant's presence at the council meeting is not required, but is encouraged to avoid any potential delay in the approval of the application. There is a $25 application fee.
Oconee County: Oconee County: In order to start a business in unincorporated Oconee County, you must complete the five page application and submit it to the Oconee County Code Enforcement Occupation Tax Division.
Upon approval of a business license, you will need to remit an administrative flat fee of $36.00 plus an additional fee based off of a fee schedule determined by the number of employees you will have.
Oconee County Occupational Tax Fee (sample):
1-3 employees: $60.00, 7 employees: $92.00, 25 employees: $226.00, 110 employees: $736.00
The next step in the process after securing all of your licenses and going through all of the required building/fire inspections is to establish a business bank account. Make sure to keep your business account separate from any personal account you have. Once you determine which bank you will use, you will need to bring in proper documentation to get the account start. This information includes a minimum deposit, your articles of incoporation, your EIN, and forms of personal identification.
If you are not an expert in business accounting and tax preparation, a good process would be to find an accountant to help you reconcile your bank statements and file your taxes while leaving you to run the day to day operations of the business. Having an accountant is also beneficial because he/she will be apprised of any changes regarding IRS rules and regulations. Having an accountant can be a crucial step in the success of your business and while you may not be at the point of selling a product or service just yet, you likely won't have any accounting expenses until you start bringing in revenue. Start forming relationships now so that when you officially open your doors for business you can hit the ground running.
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS, pronounced Nakes) was developed as the standard for use by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the collection, analysis, and publication of statistical data related to the business economy of the U.S.
This system is used by the United States, Canada, and Mexico to classify businesses by industry. Each business is classified into a six-digit NAICS code number based on the majority of activity at the business. The Census Bureau tabulates the data into summary totals at the two-digit down to six-digit NAICS levels.
Businesses are not given a code, however, they are allowed to "self-code". Getting a code (or codes since you can have more than one) allows you to compete for government purchase contracts and grants as well as potentially giving you an advantage when trying to secure a business loan. Small businesses also have the opportunity to become SBA-certified. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires NAICS codes for each veteran-owned small business wishing to become a VA-verified Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). These verifications allow small businesses to be eligible for VA contracts.
Business insurance is a must. Companies you do business with may not only require this, but may require minimum insurance requirements. It's best to do research on companies that provide policies relative to your business to determine the best pricing.
Your insurance provider will be able to help you determine what insurance your business needs. Typical business insurance includes: business liability, workers compensation, automobile liability, professional liability, and errors/omissions. Your insurance provider can quote you on what the total cost of your business insurance will be on an annual basis, however it would be wise to plan for around $5,000.
You are now at the point where you can begin work. Consult with the Oconee Chamber of Commerce on ways they can help you promote your business. They can also help network you with other area business leaders and help you with a ribbon cutting and open house to promote your business even further. At this time, you can determine internal policies and procedure, establish payroll/billing services, build out employee benefits, and hire employees.
Throughout the year, keep track of things your business excelled at and areas that need to be improved upon. Use this information as a guide to plan for the following year to ensure your business is as profitable as possible. This information can allow you to dig deeper into your business and formulate a strong budget that is more in line with your operations from your first year in business.
Be sure to provide employees with all relavent information as it pertains to each position within the business. If you are hiring employees, be sure to display in a prominent position in your business, usually a breakroom, all required state and federal postings.
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