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.

I Hit the 1000 Blog Visit Milestone!!

OK, it is not a defined milestone. I am sure that is not such a wonderful feat, and my hope is that 1/2 of those aren't my own visits ;-) , but according to my WordPress statistics, I have had 1002 visits to my blog. I am hoping the next 1000 comes much quicker. My blogging is going to change gears a bit from my previous topics about leaving my former company to now starting my own business. After a lot of thinking, and a couple of possible opportunity requests, I have made the decision to go it alone (for now) and try to become a Micro-ISV. I will continue to contract as good opportunities arise (I am currently doing one now), preferably part-time, but my main focus over the next 6 months is going to be getting my Micro-ISV started.

My next post(s), which I expect to today, will be about the methodology I am following to start the business.

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.

Things I Take For Granted in the Corporate World

Boy, the things you take for granted when working for a corporation:

  • Health insurance, maybe even dental, for you and family
  • A retirement plan set up for you
  • Business and personal liability insurance -- or lack thereof as it is hidden by the corporation
  • Known vacation days and holidays
  • Known work hours, in general (e.g. 8-5)
  • A business plan -- even when you don't necessarily agree with it
  • An office --- well, a cubicle at least
  • A steady paycheck, even when times are slow (unless you are laid off)

I know the above list isn't universal to all, but I believe it is true for many.

These are just a few of the things I am thinking about as I start to venture out on my own.

What are some other corporate items you take for granted??