Tag Archives: Pre Launch

Finding the Right Business Lawyer for Your Startup Business

How to Find a Lawyer from The Startup Garage

Finding the Right Business Lawyer for Your Startup Business

Every small startup business needs the support of experienced professionals. Without a doubt the relationship that your company has with a business lawyer is one that is very important. Before you spend enormous amounts of funds, time and energy it is essential that you make sure that your legal foundation is solid and that your business is protected. Here are a few advices on how, when and where to choose a business attorney.

When do you need an attorney for your startup business? The best answer to this question is now, even if you havent started your business venture yet. If your business needs to go to court and you dont have a lawyer, you might already be a step behind. Approach an attorney as soon as you are committed to starting your business. A good startup attorney can ease the process of starting a business, choose the right kind of legal formation for your business, obtain the necessary licenses and permits, get you through your hiring practice and create some day to day rules for you as a preventative approach. If you plan on seeking funding from venture or angel investors legal aid is essential as your business needs a clear documentation on the expectations from both sides of the deal. If you have partners, a business lawyer can help you define the exact agreement on your equity splits. In this blog we had previously talked about the importance of having well defined exit strategy for both you and your partners as the future might hold some uncertainties even for the best partnerships out there. After all you might be the next Mark Zuckerberg and it wouldnt hurt to have a solid lawyer to back your case from the start.

Go local when selecting your business attorney. From time to time it is OK (and it is free) to seek advice from your college buddy that lives on the opposite coast and is a successful business lawyer. When it comes to your business you will need someone who is reliable and close enough for you to get in touch with when needed. Going local with your law firm choice has a few added benefits. A local business lawyer will help you spread the word about your business, might help you tap into some founding sources, invite you to local networking events and introduce you to other neighboring businesses and valuable resources. Also, by choosing local attorney you preserve the opportunity to know your business attorney socially and to receive that priceless professional business advice as from a friend, off the clock. The better you know your lawyer and the better he/she knows your business, the better advice you will receive.

Choose the right sized law firm. If your startup works with a big law firm you might find yourself struggling for attention, fighting to get your small business problems noticed as they are representing their titan clients. Despite the big firm reputation you may not get their A player but an inexperienced new lawyer and even then your business will not be their personal or professional priority. One thing is for sure, generally speaking big law firm has a bigger overhead and therefore higher hourly rates. On the other hand, going with a law firm that is too small or too specialized can turn out to be the wrong choice as well as you need to assume that your business would be developing and growing and you might need legal help on a wider scale.

Local lawyers focused on startups are easy to find online or through your professional network if you are about to launch a business it would be worth it that you look them up. Remember that your goal is to find a lawyer that will get to know your business well since he/she must not only protect it but also foresee the future threats and provide you with valuable preventive options.

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Whether you have a question about Finding the Right Business Lawyer for Your Startup Business, or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 2)

Your Personal Foundation is Your Backbone from the Startup Garage

Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 2)

Now that we have summarized the Personal Foundation and what it is all about in Part 1 of this blog lets talk about how to actually set up your own Personal Foundation.

Create a worksheet, or use our template that can be found in the first book in our FREE Startup Toolkit e-book series The Startup Roadmap. If you still dont have The Startup Toolkit Series then sign up on the right hand side of this page.

 

Using the worksheet, there are some very basic, yet pertinent questions that you need to ask yourself.

  1. What is/was the primary reason for starting your business?
  2. How many hours do you envision working on average per week?
  3. How many weeks do you envision taking for vacation each year?
  4. What resources are you willing to contribute to the business?
  5. What goals would need to be accomplished in your personal life to consider your business successful?
  6. How would your business need to impact the world for you to be successful?
  7. What are your expectations for the business?

After you have answered those questions about personal goals, it is then time to look at what your financial goals for your business are. This part is important in order to determine if your business idea can meet your financial goals. These questions include but are not limited to:

  1. How much money do you envision yourself taking in salary and/or distributions out of the business to live the lifestyle you would like living? (Create a fake budget to help, if needed.)
  2. When would you envision working zero hours?
  3. What exit strategy do you envision? (Sale, Succession, No Exit, Other)

Now that you have a really solid idea of what you want from your business both personally and financially you can plan out your business accordingly, never losing sight of your personal and financial goals.
For Part 1 of this blog post, click here.
 

Whether you have a question about your personal foundation or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Business Partnerships: Good, Bad, or Both?

Partnership: Good, Bad, or Both? from the Startup Garage

Business Partnerships: Good, Bad, or Both?

Partnerships are commonplace in business, however many people do not have a complete understanding of what a partnership truly is, how it should function, and what to expect once they have entered into one. In the most frequent instance, a partnership is formed between one or more businesses or partners (owners) that will work together to achieve success, to share profits or losses. Partnerships have widely varying results and can present partners with special challenges. Levels of give-and-take, areas of responsibility, lines of authority, and overarching goals of the partnership must all be negotiated.

Partnerships can be very beneficial to startups and existing companies alike. In general, a partnership is formed between two or more people (or companies) that have differing skill sets. For example, someone who is very technically inclined will partner with someone who has strengths in management. This provides the opportunity for each partner to focus on the area of the business that they are most knowledgeable, which will let the business grow faster and more efficiently. That being said, there is a lot that can be gained from a business partnership, however it is extremely important to understand how the partnership will work prior to committing to the partnership.

One of the most overlooked facets of entering into a partnership is the exit strategy. Most people are so excited to start their venture that they forget to plan for the future, or what will happen when individual goals and visions change over time. Most partnerships will not last forever, and this should be taken into consideration ahead of time. This is particularly true in a lifestyle business. Each partner has his/her own ideas about what they ultimately want to get out of the business. This can refer to anything from the amount of hours each person is willing to put into the business in the future, or what the target returns should be, regardless of how much time and resources are poured into the business. In time, people change, and with this change comes shifts in ideals and lifestyles. What will you do if your partner wants to raise new capital and grow the business but you are happy where it currently is and do not want to invest anymore capital into the venture? These are all things to think about before entering into a partnership, as you will be prepared to go different directions, or make a compromise to continue the partnership.

Partnerships have always been, and will continue to be beneficial to many companies. It is very important to know that in all likelihood, the partnership will not last forever. As long as the partnership is well thought out and planned out thoroughly from the very beginning, then nobody will be caught off guard when it is time to go in different directions.

 

Whether you have a question about business partnerships or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 1)

Your Personal Foundation is Your Backbone from the Startup Garage

Your Personal Foundation Is Your Backbone (Part 1)

Starting a business requires one to compose a variety of different elements, and combine them all into a business plan, and then execute the plan according to the strategy laid out in the plan. At the very core of all of this information is YOU, the business owner. An often overlooked part of starting a business is properly setting up your Personal Foundation. After all, your business will be an extension of you, so taking a look in the mirror and deciding exactly what you want from your business is a great idea.

The Personal Foundation is for you to learn more about yourself, your goals and what you want out of your company. This is a place for you to be honest and realize if your goals, strengths, resources, and desired lifestyle all fit together. In order to do this effectively, give yourself at least a solid one hour time slot in which you are completely free from distraction and have the ability to get introspective. During this time you will ask yourself a series of questions that will outline your personal foundation. We will go into these questions in part 2 of this blog.

After you have answered the questions and completed that part of the exercise, you need to analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as come up with a commitment statement that you write to yourself that outlines what you want out of your business in relation to what you are willing to put in.

Once you have completed this you will be able to accurately identify whether or not your business idea aligns with your goals both personally and professionally. If they clearly do not align, then you do not need to waste any more time on that idea. If they do align, then you have just given yourself the green light to get your entrepreneurial gloves on and get to work. Great success!
For Part 2 of this blog post, click here.

 

Whether you have a question about your personal foundation or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Building the Support Team

Building the Support Team from the Startup Garage

Building the Support Team

Although it is your idea, your intellectual property, and your business plan, success is not achieved alone. Even the greatest entrepreneurs in history had help, and they needed it to get to the top, trust me. The quality of the people involved in your business also determines the success of your business. Many ventures ultimately fail because the proper talent has not been assembled. Individuals with strong technical backgrounds might ignore the importance of including management team people with the appropriate business background, and vice versa.

Outside of your management team (CEO, CFO, COO), which handles business operations on a daily basis, every business needs a support team. There are three main elements that will comprise your support team. These elements are a Board of Advisors, the Board of Directors, and Professional Service Providers. We will go into who makes up each group and what to look for when assembling your support team.

Board of Advisors

A board of advisors is normally a group of well trusted, respected and knowledgeable individuals. They may or may not be stake-holders in the business. A board of advisors usually includes an accountant, a legal representative, a retired professional or any other individual whose input is considered valuable and relevant to your industry.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors plays a significant role in a business. They are typically responsible for determining the overall direction and goals of an organization. Their job is to focus on long term planning and strategy rather than tactical operations and day-to-day management control. Depending on the size of the proposed business, the Board of Directors may consist of a single individual or an entire group of stakeholders.

Professional Service Providers

Few business owners hold all of the skills and abilities needed to run a successful operation. For that reason, a solid collection of pre-selected, outside consultants will reassure potential investors of a proposed business ability to achieve its goals. Examples of these include but are not limited to a law firm, from which you will seek all of your legal advice, as well as an accounting firm that will make sure your books are properly kept and up to date.

One of the most important parts of the business plan, and certainly the most important part of the personnel plan and organization section, is a presentation of the backgrounds of those individuals expected to play key roles in the initiation and operation of the venture. This will go a long way in establishing credibility in the eyes of investors.
Assembling a good team of experienced individuals is paramount to the success of your business, so choose your team wisely. If you can put together the right mix then you will greatly improve your chances for success.

Whether you have a question about building your team or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Mac vs. PC (Part 14 of 14)

Mac vs. PC from the Startup Garage

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Mac vs. PC (Part 14 of 14)

Mac vs. PC: The Great Debate
Since the dawn of time there have been hundreds of great rivalries: Thomas Becket vs. Henry II, Yankees vs. Red Sox, and Wile E. Coyote vs. Roadrunner (just to name a few). In terms of information technology, Macs and PCs have been carrying out an epic feud of their own for many years.

Now, you may have already chosen what camp you are in based on past experience. If you are setting up a new infrastructure, put your biases aside and re-evaluate whether a Mac or a PC is right for your small business.

A Breakdown of Each

Below is a rundown of Macs and PCs and how they fit into your startup:

Mac

  • Can run OS X and/or Windows
  • Simple to use
  • Less likely to get computer viruses (can still happen though)
  • Comes with the Apple Store support team
  • Trendsetting, well designed, and visually appealing
  • The majority of artists use Macs

PC

  • PCs are customizable and entrepreneurs can build their own
  • Tend to be less expensive
  • Many different PC companies to choose from (HP, Dell, IBM, etc.)
  • PCs have a larger support community
  • The majority of businesses use PCs

Pros and Cons of Using Macs and PCs for Your Startup

It should be noted that there really is no set rule when it comes to determining whether a Mac or PC is right for your startup. In the end, its really what you prefer in a computer that matters. Traditionally, Macs are usually used for creative people such as photographers, graphic designer, and film directors. They are generally easier to use and are less likely to contract a virus than a PC.

On the other hand, PCs are more widely used in the business world. They tend to be about half the price of Macs and have many more business applications available to them. There is also a wider variety of PCs than Macs, so it may be easier to find one that suits your small business needs.

Just to recap: the most important thing to keep in mind is what your startup is doing before you buy all your computing needs. Try to do some research before you make your purchase. Asking companies related to your industry what computers they use is a great way to avoid headaches in the future.

 

Whether you have a question about your business setup or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Your Startup’s Pre-Launch Checklist: Location (Part 13 of 14)

Location from the Startup Garage

Your Startup’s Pre-Launch Checklist: Location (Part 13 of 14)

Now that you have written your business plan, set up all of your legal groundwork, and put a marketing plan into place, you should start thinking about setting up your physical infrastructure. In this post, The Startup Garage will go over the dos and donts of picking the best location for your startup or small business.

What Questions Should I Ask Myself?

The first question that most entrepreneurs should answer before they select a location is quite simple: how much space do you really need? Here are five questions to ponder about before you start checking for For Rent signs:

  • How much space do you need?
  • How much can you afford to pay?
  • How important is location to your startup?
  • When does your new space need to be ready?
  • Have you thought about everything your small business may need (furniture, phones, fax, Internet access, etc.?)

Where Should I Start Looking?

Asking a Commercial Real Estate Agent is often a good starting point when you are searching for a location for your startup. These agents will generally focus on finding a place, negotiating a lease, and/or search for vendors to help you with the move. Most of these brokers are free to you, since they tend to receive a commission from the owner of the building.

Read Your Lease!

Make sure you understand what your lease says before you sign it. Landlords tend to skew lease agreements in their favor, so it may be a good idea to have an attorney that specializes in commercial real estate review the lease before you sign. You’ll be happy that you did!
 

Whether you have a question about your location or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Websites (Part 12 of 14)

Websites from the Startup Garage

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Websites (Part 12 of 14)

What Does a Great Website Look Like?

Now that you have created a stellar logo, you are going to need something to put it on. Once you’ve got a good handle on your brand and what you really want your customers to know about your company, its a good time to think about creating a website. Almost every new company has a website and it is your job as the founder of your startup to determine what yours will do for your business. You can create a website for multiple reasons:

  1. Provide information
  2. Sell your product or service
  3. Create brand awareness
  4. Get new leads
  5. Your website may also be the product or service itself (ex. social networks, Software as a Service, etc.)

What Does Your Website Need?

Once youve determined the core purpose for building your site, you can decide what to include to achieve that purpose. Here are some common pages and elements to consider when designing your website:

  • Key Components: Homepage, About Us, FAQ, Contact Forms, etc.
  • Photos and Videos: It may be clich, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Media content tends to grab a viewers attention more than text.
  • Social Media Integration: Link your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media sites your company has a presence in to drive traffic to your webpage.
  • E-Commerce: If you are selling your product or service on your website, it will be important to include items such as a shopping cart or online banking.

Get a Domain Name

Your startups domain name is the name of the address of your website. Keep in mind that acquiring your desired domain name is going to add to your startup expenses and let us be the first to warn you, getting the domain name you want can be a tough process. Sometimes it feels like all the good ones are taken, so you might want to hire a web development firm to get some advice on the subject if you get stuck. Here are some rules to live by when choosing your companys domain name:

  • If you plan on using internet marketing as a big part of your strategy, makes sure your company name is available as a domain.
  • Picking a domain name that is keyword rich is extremely helpful for Search Engine Marketing. Check out the Google Keywords tool for some help.

Get your Website Hosted

Think of web hosting as renting office space, you are paying someone to place your webpages on the internet so everyone can connect to them. Different websites have different hosting requirements, so again check with a web firm if you have hired one. In our experience, a good hosting company should be affordable and reliable, with fast connecting speeds.

How do I build my Website?

Most of the time, there are 3 options to building a website:

  1. Build it yourself
  2. Hire a freelancer
  3. Hire a firm

Firms will give you the highest quality, but are also the most expensive. Freelancers can give you a high quality site for less than a firm, but they can be unreliable. If you do hire a freelancer, be sure to get recommendations and see examples of their previous work.

Once you have completed all of these steps make sure you test your site thoroughly before you launch. You don’t want any snags or typos when you make your first impression on your future customers.

 

Whether you have a question about business websites or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Logo (Part 11 of 14)

Logo's from the Startup Garage

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Logo (Part 11 of 14)

How to Create a Killer Logo

Over the past few weeks we have gone over the important legal and financial preparations that your startup needs to take before it launches. Now were going to get into some fun stuff: marketing tools! We will cover logo design, websites, business cards, and fliers. Marketing can be an enjoyable and creative process, but you still are creating some extremely important aspects of your company, so take the process seriously! And remember, we at The Startup Garage do offer Marketing Plans that are specifically tailored to your company, so if you hit a snag do not be afraid to call us for a free consultation.

Why are Logos Important?

The first marketing need we will discuss will be creating a standout logo. If you have written a business plan, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your brand is, and the information you want to communicate. A logo is central to making this work! Your startups logo symbolizes what your company stands for, establishes your identity, helps build customer loyalty, and provides a professional look. There are three different types of logos:

  1. Font based logos
  2. Logos that illustrate what a company does
  3. Logos with abstract graphics that customers link to the company’s brand

How Do I Create a Logo?

Your first step is going to be to gather a brain trust to brainstorm what message you want your logo to send to your customers. Make sure that one person is designated to make the final decision. Here are some helpful things to consider while you and your team are chugging along:

  • See what the competitions logos look like
  • Focus on your message
  • Make sure its functional
  • Keep in mind how your business name will affect your design
  • Illustrate your businesss strengths in the design
  • Dont use clip art
  • Avoid fads

How Much Do Logos Cost?

After you have come up with what you want your startups logo to convey to your audience, the next step is to hire a designer. Keep in mind not to pick a designer solely based on what he or she charges. That will just lead to headaches. Instead, shop around and try to find a designer who understands what you want your logo to say. Most designers have a portfolio, so take a look at that to see if the look and feel of their work fits your brand well.

Things to keep in mind when getting your logo designed:

  • Make sure the logo is high resolution. 72 dpi is fine for the internet, but it should be higher for printing.
  • If your logo has words, know what the font is so you can match other marketing materials.
  • Check to see if your logo prints well in black and white.
  • Keep it simple. Your logo will not be able to convey everything about your brand and company.

Most designers take 20 – 40 hours to complete a project and there are two different types of design companies:

  • Online Logo Companies (Prices From $69 – $1,299)
  • Freelance Designers (Flat Rate of $40 – $3,000 or $15 – $150 per hour)
  • Crowdsourcing Options ($99)

You can start your search for designers by checking the American Association of Ad Agencies and remember, dont settle on a logo that you dont like. This emblem represents not only your company, but you as well, so make sure you are happy with what your designer creates.

Are you interested in working with The Startup Garage to design your logo? Visit the Logo Design Page for more information.

 

Whether you have a question about your logo or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Legal Entity (Part 10 of 14)

Legal Entity from the Startup Garage

Your Startups Pre-Launch Checklist: Legal Entity (Part 10 of 14)

What Legal Entity Fits Your Startup?

This blog post has been prepared by The Startup Garage for informational purposes only and does not constitute advertising, a solicitation, or legal advice. The information contained in this blog post is provided only as general information which may or may not reflect the most current legal developments; accordingly, information in this blog post is not promised or guaranteed to be correct or complete. The Startup Garage expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this blog post.

Before your business can get started, you as an entrepreneur have to pick your startup’s legal entity. There are multiple forms of business structures that you should consider when creating your startup. They are:

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)

When considering what legal business type to choose four things to consider are:

  • The amount of control you want in your company
  • The amount of liability you are responsible for
  • How you will file your taxes
  • Administrative requirements

What is a Sole Proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is one of the simplest and least regulated legal entities. In a sole proprietorship you, the entrepreneur, have total control of the business. The only problem with that is that with great control comes great responsibility. The sole proprietor is responsible and as a result all of his or her business and personal assets can be at risk.

When tax day rolls around, the sole proprietor files his or her business taxes with personal income tax forms.The entrepreneur may want to change the type of business entity as the startup grows because it will significantly reduce the amount of taxes he or she pays. Other than that, there are limited administrative requirements. Also, you still need to get your fictitious business name and local business licenses!

Partnerships: What is the difference between a General and Limited Partnership?

The difference between a general and limited partnership is based on liability. General partners are each liable for all debts while limited partners are only responsible for the amount of money the put into the startup. The amount of control each partner has in the company is determined by a Partnership Agreement. Partnerships are known as a pass-through entity, meaning that each partners profits are directly taxed. There are some administrative licenses that need to be obtained, but there are limited record-keeping or tax filing requirements.

What is a Corporation?

A corporation is a legal entity that is under the authority of state law and is separated from the people who own, manage and control the business. The shareholders buy stock in the company and elect the companys directors who govern general affairs and elect officers to run the day to day operations. One of the reasons to incorporate is to protect yourself from debts. Debts cannot be collected from the officers, directors or shareholders of the corporation, but shareholders can be asked to guarantee the payments of the corporation.

The main drawback of incorporating your startup is the amount of tax preparation and administrative work you need to do. For-profit C corporations are double taxed, once on the income earned by the company and once on the shareholders dividends. The startup can become an S corporation and the corporation is not taxed, but the income and losses are passed through to the shareholders. To be eligible to be an S corporation, a startup must:

  • Not have more than 100 shareholders
  • Shareholders cannot be non-resident aliens
  • Only have one class of stock

To learn more, you should visit the IRSs website. We have found that to incorporate a business attorneys charge $499 – $1,500 and each state charges a fee of $100 on average.

What is an LLC?

A LLC is a cross between a corporation and a partnership. It is owned by one or more interest holders, or members, who have management rights. Members can also assign certain managers to run the company who are not members and are only responsible for the amount of money they put in. LLC’s are taxed just like partnerships are, so earnings are given to owners and they are then taxed at their personal taxed rates.

Make sure you have an attorney advise you on what type of legal entity is best for your startup. This is a tough process for entrepreneurs to to by themselves, so we recommend that you get some advice from a legal expert.

That’s it for the legal portion of the Your Startup’s Pre-Launch Checklist series! Over the next few posts we will go over some of the marketing tools that you should have in place before your startup opens its doors. Tune in Thursday when The Startup Garage explains the importance of creating an all-star logo.

 

Whether you have a question about your legal entity or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!