Writing a business plan is the first step you need to take toward turning your business idea into a reality. Through planning, you’ll be able to determine whether or not your idea has what it takes to thrive.
In the process of writing your business plan, you’ll be forced to think critically about all of these things, and much more. Of course, some of this stuff gets pretty complicated, and it’s important to make well-informed estimations – you can’t just pull numbers out of thin air. Unless you’ve got an MBA, odds are you could use a little help here.
If you’re totally unfamiliar with business planning, check out our definitive guide to writing a business plan to get the ball rolling. We outline everything you’ll need to keep in mind.
A business plan software is also a great solution if you need some help sorting out the details, getting organized and distilling big ideas. There are tons of services out there, several of which cost less per month than a few trips to the coffee shop. Take a look at the top 7 options to get information on our favorite providers!
The next big step is to get your business registered to protect yourself from business liability. However, before you can do that, you’ll need to figure out what structure your business is going to take: LLC, S Corp, C Corp, or Sole Proprietorship.
This is a super important step, and one that needs to be taken seriously to avoid legal and financial repercussions. If you’re not sure what structure your business should take, read through our business structure comparison guide for more detail on your options. Once you’ve figured out which will work best for your business, check out our guides on how to form an LLC or corporation in Alabama to get going!
Now that you’ve formed your business, it’s time to take care of any permits, licenses and special taxes your business type requires. It’s totally possible that all you need is a general business license. Regardless, you’ll have to check federal, state and local requirements to make sure you’re not missing anything your business needs to operate legally.
If you come to find that running your business is going to require a whole lot more permits and licenses than you expected, it might be worth investing in a business license service. Basically, these services do all the research for you, acquire all the necessary forms (federal, state and municipal), and provide instructions on how to fill them out. It’s not necessary for everyone, but depending on your circumstances it could save you a whole lot of time, stress, and even money.
If you were planning on running your business out of your personal bank account, consider this a wakeup call. It’s so important to start your business out on a solid financial foundation, and that requires opening a business bank account. Doing this will:
In order to open up a business bank account, you’ll need a Federal Tax ID (EIN) for your business. You’ll use this, instead of your social security number, to open up the account. If you didn’t obtain your EIN this during the business formation phase (step 2), you can still apply for one through the IRS website. You’ll also want to have your Articles of Incorporation/Organization handy to present to the bank.
Next, consider shopping around Alabama-based banks to find out what they have to offer small businesses. Local banks are usually small-business friendly, and it can be comforting to know you’re working with a local bank that has an office right down the road. That said, there are also some major perks to working with a national bank like Capital One or Bank of America. Do some research, compare features, and choose the option that presents the least risk and most reward for your business!
Opening a bank account is the first step toward organized finances — but definitely not the last. Managing your business financials is basically a never-ending responsibility. If you’re not currently in a place to hire an accountant, accounting software is a great alternative. Take a look at our comparison of the top 7 business accounting tools to find out what these programs have to offer!
More funding methods exist today than ever before. Crowdfunding, trade credit, microloans, angel investors — there are tons of valid options for financing your business. So which should you choose? It’s important to pick a primary funding method that’s compatible with your sales forecast, current level of financial security, the size of your business, and other important details.
First off, we highly recommend taking a look at our how to finance a business guide to start mulling over which funding option might work best for you. After that, check out the Alabama Small Business Development Center:
Now that your business is planned, formed, financed and legally compliant, it’s time to focus on building your brand. Having a professional, presentable brand image is a great way to gain credibility and build an enthusiastic customer base. There are a lot of factors that contribute to your brand image, but two of the main ones are your business logo and website.
Your logo shouldn’t just be a random symbol — it should capture the essence of your business, your product, your mission. Keep in mind:
To start generating ideas for your logo and where you can have one designed, read through our free guide on choosing the perfect logo for your business.
When it comes to crafting a beautiful website for your business, using a website builder is a great way to go. They allow for tons of customization so your brand can create and maintain a professional website without the headache, or massive expense, of building one from scratch. Check out our top 6 business website builders guide for prices and other information about our favorite services.
Now that you’ve got all the logistical tasks checked off your to-do list, it’s time to shift your attention to marketing your business. Marketing is an art, and unfortunately there are as many ways to do it poorly as there are to do it well. Here are a few tips to help you avoid making any major marketing mistakes:
Of course, you’ll need a lot more information than these four bullet points to launch a successful marketing campaign. Head over to our definitive guide for an in-depth discussion of marketing myths, approaches, and helpful tools!
Thanks for reading our guide to starting a business in Alabama! Is there anything we can do to make it more helpful? We’d love to hear your opinion through our Contact Page.