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When to Get Small Business Advice from the Pros

By plester, Former Contributor
Published: September 15, 2014

What you don’t know can hurt you. This is especially true for small business owners, who need to comply with a myriad of tax laws, government regulations and other requirements. Getting expert advice will help you avoid legal, financial and tax pitfalls – but hiring a lawyer can be expensive, costing you cash that could be used to grow your business. Since every business has its own set of unique challenges, it can be difficult to pinpoint which legal matters you can tackle by yourself and which ones require expert advice. Here are just a few general guidelines.

What you can do on your own:

  • File your “doing business as” name. Depending on the structure of your business, you may be required to file the fictitious name (the “doing business as” or DBA) of your business with local and state governments. Partnerships and sole proprietors typically must register DBAs, but rules are different for each state. Some states simply require businesses to place a notice in local newspapers; others ask for a small registration fee. Contact your state government’s business department to find out the requirements.
  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number. If you are starting a small business, you will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. IRS.gov has a free step-by-step tool that helps you quickly apply for an EIN with no extra paperwork. After completing the application and verification process, you will receive your EIN.
  • Create basic contracts and agreements. Simple contracts and agreements with customers and vendors all can be made either without a lawyer. For instance, SCORE offers a free non-disclosure agreement template, which can help keep your business’ proprietary private.

What you may need help with:

  • File a patent. Patenting a product can give you a leg up on the competition, but the process can be expensive and take several years. This may or may not be the best strategy for your business. Before you file, consult a patent attorney to evaluate if your product is worth patenting, find out what type of patent you should pursue and identify what rights you will or will not have as a result of the patent.
  • Form a corporation. Although forming a partnership, limited liability company or partnership can potentially be done without legal help, forming a corporation is a much more complicated matter. Incorporating involves a complex set of legal and tax requirements at both the state and federal level. If the requirements are not fulfilled, you could lose precious time and money. A business formation lawyer can help guide you through the incorporation process painlessly.
  • Deal with lawsuits. If you need to take legal action or if others are taking legal action against you, you will need to hire an attorney. Lawsuits can be related to copyright infringement, labor laws, health code violations, environmental damages or other matters. Hire an attorney that specializes in the topic you are dealing with.

To find an attorney, check the American Bar Association, local listings and simply ask friends, family or other small business owners for referrals. After you have narrowed down your search, make sure to interview the attorneys to see if they are the right fit for you. You can also get free and low-cost business advice through the Small Business Administration’s resources partners throughout the country. Find a SCORE chapter, Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Center near you.

About the Author:

Paul Lester

Former Contributor

I am an author for the the SBA.gov Community, writing about topics that matter to you as a small business owner. Our ongoing goal is to improve this site to meet your needs, so we're happy to receive your feedback and participation. Thanks for joining our online Community here at SBA.gov!

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Join GobiernoUSA.gov and SBA’s Live Spanish Hangout on Business Tips for Young Entrepreneurs

By CeceliaT, SBA Official
Published: September 11, 2014

Are you a young entrepreneur looking for tips on how to start a new business? The SBA and GobiernoUSA.gov will host a live Hangout in Spanish on September 25 to chat about SBA’s new online course for Young Entrepreneurs (Jóvenes Emprendedores), along with Sarah Farzam, owner of Bilingual Birdies. Farzam started the company in 2007 to help bridge the gap of cultural awareness for young children through language and music.

If you’re thinking going into business for yourself and you’re not sure of what it takes to start a small business, then this Hangout is for you. You can submit your questions before or during the live Hangout.

More on the Course
Young Entrepreneurs: An Essential Guide to Starting Your Own Business is a free, self-paced online course in Spanish that gives an overview of basic business principles and introduces resources available from the SBA. Course highlights include how to evaluate your business ideas, how to choose the best financing options and how to legally register your business.
The course also includes useful resources that will help at each step of your entrepreneurial journey.

The course is accessible from the SBA’s Learning Center under the banner “Starting a Business”, and is also available in English.  The Spanish version of the course includes a special video introduction.  Young Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs will receive a personal greeting from SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet when taking the course.

Who:
Sarah Farzam, owner of Bilingual Birdies

When: 
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Time: 
1:00 PM (ET)

Submit Your Questions to: 
learning@sba.gov

Hashtag:
#jovenesempresarios

To watch live and join the conversation, go to: https://plus.google.com/u/1/b/109740293027006618740/events/cb3oitffipifl4t42t9bd7uq0f4 No registration is needed to watch.

About the Author:

Cecelia Taylor

SBA Official

CeceliaT is a moderator for the SBA Community. We appreciate your participation and feedback on how we can continually improve the community to meet your small business needs.

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Participa en el Hangout en vivo de GobiernoUSA.gov y la SBA para jóvenes empresarios que quieren comenzar un negocio

By CeceliaT, SBA Official
Published: September 11, 2014 Updated: September 16, 2014

¿Eres un joven empresario en busca de consejos sobre cómo iniciar un nuevo negocio? La SBA y GobiernoUSA.gov te invitan a un Hangout en vivo y en español el 25 de septiembre para charlar sobre el nuevo curso en línea de la SBA para jóvenes empresarios. La charla tendrá como invitada especial a Sarah Farzam, dueña de Bilingual Birdies. Farzam fundó la compañía en 2007 para crear una conciencia cultural en los niños pequeños a través del lenguaje y la música.

Si estás pensando comenzar un negocio y no estás seguro por dónde empezar, entonces este Hangout es para ti. Puedes enviar tus preguntas antes o durante el Hangout en vivo.

Más información sobre el curso

El nuevo curso en línea de la SBA es gratis y en español y puedes tomarlo a tu propio ritmo. El mismo ofrece información general sobre los principios básicos de negocios y presenta los recursos disponibles de la SBA. Algunos de los temas importantes que encontrarás en el curso son cómo evaluar tus ideas para un negocio, cómo elegir las mejores opciones de financiamiento y cómo registrar legalmente tu negocio. El curso también incluye recursos útiles que te ayudarán en cada paso de tu viaje empresarial.

Puedes acceder al curso desde el Learning Center de la SBA bajo el tema "Starting a Business" (http://www.sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/training/j-venes-emprendedores-young-entrepreneurs-spanish). El curso también está disponible en inglés. La versión en español del curso incluye un saludo especial de la Administradora de la SBA, Maria Contreras-Sweet.

Quién:

Sarah Farzam, dueña de Bilingual Birdies

Cuándo:

Jueves, 25 de septiembre

Hora:

1:00 p.m. (EDT)

Envíanos tus preguntas a:

learning@sba.gov(link sends e-mail) o por Twitter

Hashtag:

#jovenesempresarios

Para ver el Hangout en vivo y participar en la conversación, visita:

https://plus.google.com/u/1/b/109740293027006618740/events/cb3oitffipifl4t42t9bd7uq0f4

No es necesario registrarse.

 

About the Author:

Cecelia Taylor

SBA Official

CeceliaT is a moderator for the SBA Community. We appreciate your participation and feedback on how we can continually improve the community to meet your small business needs.

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Small Business Logistics and Distribution Made Easy

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: September 4, 2014

One of the trickiest pieces of the startup puzzle can be to figure out, how will all of this actually work? The logistics, that is! You’ve got a great idea for a product or service, brilliant ideas for marketing it, but how exactly will everything actually get from point A (creation) to point B (your customer)?

A well-researched and thoughtful logistics and distribution plan will save you lots of time and stress in the long run. We’ve gathered a few fantastic resources for considering everything that goes into this type of planning to make it as easy and comprehensive as possible.

Distribution 101

Entrepreneur Zeynep Ilgaz says to consider all distribution options when starting out, including the choice to completely bypass a website or physical storefront in favor of distributors. This may be a great option for certain business types; she describes the upsides saying, “Distributors will buy in bulk from you (helping you generate more revenue) and help you market and promote your products. Mastering these relationships early on has the potential to jumpstart your small business’ success.”

Check out Zeynep’s article, “Distribution 101,” to learn more about how to secure a distributor and how to maintain a strong and fruitful relationship with them.

Consider the International Option

If you haven’t already considered the viability of doing business internationally, it may be high time. Dip your toes in the water with a fun and informative webinar titled “Going Global” presented by USA TODAY columnist and author of The Small Business Bible, Steve Strauss, and Amine Khechfe, general manager and co-founder of Endicia. Together they show you the possibilities for how to take your business global and discuss topics including:

  • Why this is the best — and easiest! – time ever to take your business global
  • What you need to do to get your business ready
  • What you need to do to get your website ready
  • International shipping made easy
  • Getting a handle on exporting regulations
  • 5 rules for creating a successful global business 

Export Expertise

If after careful consideration you determine that international is the best route for your business to spread its wings, you’ll want to check out these international logistical tips from Laurel Delaney, President of GlobeTrade.com, a company dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small businesses go global. Check out her 3 posts on the topic:

Whether your business expands overseas or stays on home soil, getting your logistics in place as early as possible will certainly pay off in the long run in quicker order fulfillments, less wasted employee time and happier customers. For one-on-one expert assistance in planning the logistics of your small business, reach out to a SCORE mentor. It’s completely free and you’ll avoid reinventing the wheel by gaining the insight of others who have tackled the logistics puzzle before.

About the Author:

Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

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