Step 1: Truly Plan Your Business Idea
The magic of business planning only happens once you commit, just like anything else incredible in life. Sure, you can go through the motions and fill out a very well-structured business plan, but all that matters is your follow-through. Good news is ivy league studies prove the very process itself dramatically increases the odds you'll really tackle this thing.
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
The second big step is figuring out what kind of business “entity” you’re building in Massachusetts. This step is inevitable and protects your personal assets (house and car for example), so get it out of the way.
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 Massachusetts Tax Code
In this step you're going to figure out your business tax obligations. MA is sitting smack dab in the middle of the Tax Foundation’s Index ranking 25th. So across the board they’re middle of the road with some amazing advantages and not-so-great advantages.
Ideally you've got a lawyer or are working with a filing service who can sync you with all relevant local, municipal, state, and federal tax systems. Regardless, make sure you're compliant before opening your doors! It's about not only being professional but avoiding costly fines, extra fees, or even time in court.
Take Action: You’re going to want to head on over to MassTaxConnect which is the state’s electronic tax system for new business owners and business account holder needs. Also, here’s a list of Tax Types Available.
Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits
Again, Massachusetts has its ups and downs. On one side of the coin they’re modern and VERY startup-friendly in many respects/areas. On the other side, they've got an old regulatory system/government (claimed statehood in 1788). So take your time and be sure you're compliant on the local and municipal, as well as state and federal levels before going live.
A couple prudent moves aside from hiring the best lawyer you can afford would be:
- For DYI’ers head to Mass.gov and see if you can find what you need through their Licenses & Permits.
- For help finding the licenses you’ll need, a Business License Service is what we highly recommend looking into. They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels, 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 Massachusetts Location
Goodness gracious, with so many jaw-dropping options for your business to call home you might want to have a couple Sam Adams lagers handy to help smooth out research. The process of choosing a location for your business is worth taking time on because it impacts a number of important aspects.
The two things to focus on are: 1) how many assets you have 1-5 miles from your location's front door, and 2) how much the location impacts your ability to manage the business.
Take Action: 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 Business
To say you’ll have ample access to financing and funding would be an understatement, the only caveat is that it’s competitive! Well, everything is competitive in MA which is basically a sports nut paradise.
Whether we're talking bootstrap-resources galore, incubator programs happening throughout Boston, the many prominent schools, and overall startup culture, you've got to be pretty resourceful in Massachusetts. Start small, Get involved. Get your sleeves dirty and join the race.
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like sugar and Grandma’s Kitchen. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.
Step 8: Design & Publish A Business Website
A professional business website is a necessity and no longer optional. No one’s saying you need a complex digital storefront, but there needs to be something online in place where potential clients, users, or customers can investigate who you are and what you’re about using their mobile phones.
Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there are some great options out there. Head on over to our reviews of the top two in our book (Wix and Weebly) to get a head start if you don’t already have this in the bag.
Step 9: Market Your Business
Just dig in. All kidding aside, you can market ANYTHING in Massachusetts. The issue is that with so many options, so many programs and groups and funds and organizations and on and on…whew! Welcome to the 12th largest economy on earth (around $400 billion).
Take Action: Be laser-focused on what it is you’re setting out to do, who you’re setting out to reach, and where you want your company to fit in. As mentioned in Step 7, start small. And in Step 6 we mentioned the "assets" within 1-5 miles of your location's front door. List your marketing assets: universities, local demographics, access to helpful marketing services, target market segments, etc. Once you know who and where they are, leverage them!
Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired
Your final step is really never ending as an entrepreneur. What matters is who and where you turn for motivation and valuable insight that causes those growth spurts we all crave because so much impact is achieved. Consider subscribing to Startup Savant as a valuable free resource.