The Essentials For Starting A Business

I am trying to come up with a list of essentials that I need in order to officially start my business. I need to keep in mind that I will be doing "as-desired" consulting in addition to producing my own ideas; thus I will (hopefully) be bringing in some money even if my own ideas do not become fruitful. In fact, I am doing some consulting work right now. Below is my list thus far. A couple of caveats: (1) The categories here are relatively generic that can be applied to most any business. I did not include specific software development essentials (that is for a future blog post) (2) It reflects, for the time being, a one person business that will either be a sole-proprietor or LLC:

  • A good business idea: :-) 
  • Accounting Software: QuickBooks Simple Start 2008 (FREE) -  I will at least need to create invoices for my consulting jobs and hopefully have other uses for when my own ideas come to fruition
  • Tax Software: Turbo Tax Home and Business - Right now, I don't have an accountant, and I plan to do my own taxes (as I have always done). I figured as a sole proprietor or an LLC, the taxes won't be overly more complicated than they are for me without the business.
  • Task Management Software: Master List Professional - Just to keep your business life in order
  • Company and Tax Information Resources: Surprisingly Simple: Independent Contractor, Sole Proprietor, and LLC Taxes Explained in 100 Pages or Less (and for me specifically as well, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality)
  • Health Insurance:I will probably go with a high deductible insurance plan (with HSA) for me an my family. Maybe from Blue Cross Blue Shield.
  • Legal Help and Advice: LegalZoom.com - This can help me create my LLC, get my trademark, etc. The question is, do I really need an attorney?
  • Computer Backup Software: Right now, I backup my laptop up to an external hard drive. I think I will also start creating a regular DVD backup that I place outside my home (maybe in a P.O. box or something). Does anyone recommend online backup services? The thing that concerns me there is privacy.
  • Domain name: Nowadays, this is a given and a must for any successful business, even for brick and mortar type businesses.
  • Web site: I am going to have a web site. I may develop it myself, but I also may hire someone to do it for me. If you have any recommendations of a good site developer and/or you are one yourself, let me know in the comments or at constantflux(at)joelmarcey.com
  • Web host: I have tried HostGator. It is OK. But after trying it, I think I want a Windows-based host, since I am quite familiar with the Windows platform. Or at least a host that offers both Linux and Windows hosting. Any recommendations?
  • Business Credit Card: Can anyone tell me what the best one is?
  • Business Bank Account

What else needs to be added to, deleted from, or changed in this list? For example, are business, disability, life insurances essentials? What about belonging to a self-employed organization like an the NASE (National Association for the Self-Employed)?

 Also, in the list, are there better products to use for each category than I came up with?

The 10 Steps To Open For Business

I am using StartupNation's 10 Steps To Open For Business to get my business started. Here are the 10 steps:

  1. Create a Life Plan

  2. Choosing a Business Model

  3. Create a Business Plan

  4. Select a Business Structure

  5. Create Key Business Assets

  6. Find the Funding

  7. Organize Logistics

  8. Find Great People

  9. Establish a Brand

  10. Market and Sell

 I am in the middle of step 3, but I update my life plan as necessary. It is a living document.

The big question I have around these 10 steps is if they are applicable to all types of businesses, particularly, in my case, a Micro-ISV. It looks like the steps are generic enough to be able to apply, but I would like to hear from any software entrepreneurs who have used this methodology successfully (and also unsuccessfully).

There is also school of thought that says "Just Do It" (sorry, Nike), which basically means develop your product first and foremost, because doing anything else is just fluff if you don't have a developed and marketable product.

What attracted me to these 10 steps is the organization of them. It is a nice cheat sheet to ensure you are covering your basis. I tend to think the 10 steps and the "Just Do It" philosophy are not actually mutually exclusive.

What are some other methodologies?

My next post will talk a little bit about the Life Plan and how it specifically relates to starting my business.

How To Go About Getting a Micro-ISV or Software Company Started

I posted this on the Business of Software Forum today: <Update: One of the replies to my post was that I was to the effect of me looking for free work while I sat back lazily and rake in the profits. My reply was basically that is ridiculous. I am taking a huge risk here, so why would I even think of running the business from the sidelines. I am a software engineer at heart, so I will be deeply involved in that and all aspects of the business. It would be a horrible mistake on my part to even think of running my business with the "Someone does all the work while I make 1/2 the money model" --- the business would die a fast death.>

Hello,

A little background. Next Friday is my last "cubicle" day. I needed to end the madness. I am going out on my own. I believe I have a temporary contract lined up in the next couple of weeks where I can work part time for a few months while I get my business started. I am super excited (and nervous).

So, I have some software ideas. 40-50 maybe. From really tiny components, to full-fledged, I would need a server farm type of app. Some are surely non-starters, some might have legs. Some could beget future ideas and products. That is what brainstorming is all about. I even have the beginnings of a business plan -- it needs a lot of work.

Now, I consider myself knowledgeable in many areas (an advanced jack of all trades, if you will). However, while I can hold my own for sure, I don't consider myself the best programmer in the world. And I surely would prefer to work with somebody in starting a business and doing development. While others have proven otherwise and will disagree, I believe having the right partners and team can only be a benefit in any business.

I want a partner or two. I want some people that have ideas like I do, where we can choose the best one or two to go after and sell.

I am all about sweat for equity here. I couldn't afford to pay anybody, nor would I expect to be paid.

So how do I go about finding a partner or two? I have a couple of colleagues that I have pinged, but it hasn't really gotten off the ground.

I sort of wish there was this virtual place where aspiring software/micro-isv entrepreneur's could get together and try to form a business. I have not found that place. Maybe this is that place. Or maybe such a virtual place is an idea all of its own.

What are your thoughts? If you really had the itch to start a micro-isv/software company, had some ideas to bring to the table, wanted to work sweat for equity, but wanted to partner up with some folks who also may want to start a micro-isv/software company, who you could bounce ideas off of and also listen to their ideas --- how would you go about it?

Anyway, this is my thought for a Saturday morning.

Joel

P.S. I do have a meeting next week with an old acquaintance of mine where we are going to discuss partnering up, but, like anything, nothing is for sure.

So what type of business am I going to go into?

Let me just answer the question first. Here is the short list:

  • Micro-ISV
  • Software Consultant/Contractor
  • Partnerhip 

So, the first question on *your* mind should be "You are quitting your day job, and you don't know what you business is going to be yet?!?"

Well, the answer to that question is yes and no -- very decisive ;-)

I am following the 10 steps to open for business from StartupNation

With the exception of maybe step #1, it is a good idea to know what type of business you want to start.

At this point, I am going to be doing something in software. My first inclination is a Micro-ISV. (This term was coined by Eric Sink and talked about by folks like Michael Lehman and Bob Walsh) I do have some ideas. However, this requires a lot of decision making. Will I have a partner or two? Will I fund it myself? Can my ideas sell? All that stuff. But they are questions, I know I can answer.

I am also looking into partnering with someone who is also venturing out on his own. My primary lead is with someone I have worked with before and have a good rapport with -- a key ingredient; no, *the* key ingredient in any partnership.

 And, I am looking into contracting and consulting as well -- this could be done in conjunction with being a Micro-ISV.

Now to answer what should have been *your* first question. I do have some stop gaps in place to ensure that me and my family can be fed during this transition making process. I am the type of person who wants to concentrate fully on starting my business and not have another full time job to worry about.

A lot of answers will be provided in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.