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Jean   Murray

I Want to Start a Business - What Do I Do First?

By November 16, 2009

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A phone call from a former student last week convinced me I needed to go back to the basics.  Her question was the #1 question I get asked all the time: "I want to start a business but I don't know where to start.  What do I do first?"

This week, I am focusing on essentials that all businesses need when they start. No matter how small or large the business you are creating, there are some basic tax and legal actions you must take when you first start your business.  I'll take you through my list of essentials over the next few days, and I will talk about them in the order they should be tackled.

Here is the first essential: a business name.

First, select a name for your business
It sounds easy, but it isn't.  Selecting a name can be a difficult task.   Before you finalize your selection, remember it will be on every business document, sign, and advertising piece for many years to come.  Consider these questions:

What are you selling?
Your business name should express the essential elements you are selling - products and services.

What are your competitors' names?
Consider the names of your competitors. You don't want to be accused of taking another business's name and you also don't want to confuse customers.

How does your business name sound and look?
Your name should be easy to remember, easy to pronounce, and easy to read on a sign or on stationery and brochures.

What image does your name bring to mind?
Ask people who don't know your business about your name. You may be surprised to find out what they think it means. You might need to change your name to remove these images.

After you have selected your business name
When you have selected your business name,  don't forget these other related tasks:

  • Do some research to make sure you are not using a name that is already being used.  Check local, state, and U.S. resources (read this article on Researching Business Names for suggestions on where and how to search).
  • If your legal business name is different from your trade name (the name you will present to the public), you must file a "fictitious name" (d/b/a) statement with your county. For example, if your corporation name is Dingle Enterprises, Inc. but you are selling products as "One in a Million Tools," you must let the public know who owns the company.
  • Register the name with your state or put your business name on your start-up documents.  If you set up a corporation, partnership, 0r limited liability company, the registration of your business name is part of this process.  But if you have a sole proprietorship, it is a good idea to contact your state secretary of state and file a business name registration form.

Consider trademarking your business name
If your name is unique and unusual, you may want to spend the time and money to trademark your business name, to keep others from using it.

Getting your business name set up is a big decision.  Take your time.  Search to be sure no one else has your name.  Then go through the processes described above to register your name.

For More Information
All About Business Names

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