Step 1: Truly Plan Your Business Idea
A big emphasis on strategy and planning near conception dramatically increases your odds of both follow through and better profit margins. Along with being required to secure funding, a professional business plan also supports growth, helps manage cash flow and distinguish fly-by-nights from the serious few.
And let's not forget how powerful the planning process is for business owners and their teams. They get a chance to really look at the specifics of their goals and milestones, define company culture and what drives it, the different brand-components and how they fit together, and other important stuff like that.
Take Action: Check out our 100% free Business Planning Guide designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide access to tons of other great tools along the way.
Don’t know what kind of business to start?
Our friends over at howtostartanllc.com have compiled a massive list of business ideas, ranging from personal styling to axe-throwing businesses.
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect business idea for you, we encourage you to check them out!
Step 2: Choose Business Structure & Incorporate
Your 2nd step covers a ton of ground. First, you pick your brand’s business entity, then through the registration process you’ll secure the name by filing with the state. Even more importantly, you'll be protecting your personal assets (house, car, etc).
Most entrepreneurs form an LLC because it has all the benefits of a Corporation without the disadvantages like double taxation, board of directors or corporate officers. However if you're trying to take your company public or raise substantial outside capital, you should probably form a Corporation.
Take Action: Since this step is so important and expensive if it's not done correctly, we highly recommend investing 10 minutes to go over your options through our business structure comparison guide. You'll get a better idea of the advantages and disadvantages of each while building a solid legal foundation for your business.
Step 3: Sync With The Iowa Tax Code
Along with a low cost of living, low crime rates, great traffic, excellent employment rates and more, it’s not hard to see why they’re warm to businesses. Expect plenty of tax incentives, credits and breaks from the great state of Iowa relative to your industry, type of business structure and location.
Take Action: Start by visiting the Iowa Dept. of Revenue website’s Starting a Business section that takes you through the steps and introduces you to Iowa-specific tax rules.
Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits
Ideally you should be working with the best 'dang' lawyer you can afford, or a professional filing service. But that's not to say it'll be rough, you may need only a simple business license to be compliant. It really depends on the what you're into, but for most startups going through the regulatory process is like calmly navigating the Missouri river in Sioux City!
- For DYI’ers head to the Iowa Business License Information page through IA Source Link which has all you need and ways to reach out for assistance if needed.
- For $99 you could get a Business License Package which is amazing! They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels for you, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.
Step 5: Separate Your Personal and Business Assets
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
Now that you’ve made it through registering and setting up taxes and licensing for your business, you’ll need to take steps to protect your personal assets and establish your business as an independent entity.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
You can go a long way in protecting your assets with these three steps:
- Open a business bank account.
A business bank account separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection. A designated business bank account also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
To open up a bank account for your business, you’ll need to obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number). You’ll use your EIN in place of your social security number so that this account is completely separate from your personal finances. After this, start doing your research on various business bank accounts. Local options and national banks, like Chase, both have their perks.
Get $200 when you open a business checking account with Chase. Learn more
- Get a business credit card.
A business credit card helps you separate personal and business expenses. A business credit card will also build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.
- Designate an authorized representative.
Make sure all documents are signed by a representative of your LLC and not by you (or other LLC members) directly. This will help separate you from liability incurred by the LLC.
- Keep your accounting and bookkeeping up to date
Make sure to sync up your banking and credit card accounts with an accounting software like QuickBooks as soon as you get the chance. It’s never too soon to start organizing your business’ finances!
Step 6: Pick A Stellar Iowa Location
Are you headed towards the corn capital, Cedar Rapids, or the biz-hub of Sioux City? Perhaps you’re more into the mid-size towns like Waterloo or Iowa City for its ISU-infused entertainment industry?
What really matters is how many assets you'll have at your disposal - business services, good local demographics/economy, an educated workforce, beneficial regulatory systems, etc. After that it's all about management. How much easier to run the business is it because of this town, or this suburb, etc.?
Take Action: Listen, we know picking a spot can be tough if it doesn’t somehow happen naturally through your personal/professional networks. If you’d like to brush up on everything that goes into making this decision, refer to our friendly guide on How to Choose the Perfect Location.
Step 7: Finance/Bootstrap Your Platform
Just because you build a great business doesn't mean, "they will come." Odds are they won't. Odds are your first couple years in business will be hard. Each sale will count and 80% of the initial revenue will come because you went out and got it!
That said, if funding or financing becomes an issue there's a vast network of resources in Iowa to help you out, not to mention all the potential online once you set up shop. It's just a matter of how resourceful you and your team choose to be.
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.
Step 8: Design & Publish A Business Website
No one’s saying you have to have a website that’s the internet equivalent of a large from Fong’s Pizza. It just needs to be functional, user-friendly (read: easy to use), and provide people with both a way to investigate and engage your brand.
Take Action: Unless you’re a 100% ecommerce company (in which case we’d recommend Shopify), check out a business website builder like Wix or Weebly. They are all extremely easy to use and out-of-the-box. At the end of the day you’ll have a professional business website without pulling any hair out.
Step 9: Market Your Business
We weren’t sure if we wanted to add this step or not because it’s such a big can of worms. But marketing, like having a website to help, isn’t optional and there’s no end to the budget-consuming complexity you can reach. It really comes down to people skills and the ability to serve your customer. Honestly.
Take Action: Half the wasted marketing money out there being thrown away by new businesses goes to flashy new methods that have no real user-base yet. Go where the people are, then find your niche and make your brand’s voice heard.
Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired
As you continue your entrepreneurial journey, please keep Startup Savant in mind as one of your reliable sources for fellow change-maker insight, motivation, as well as savvy new tools making waves in our community. We'd be thrilled to continue providing free tools to bring your idea to life!