Step 1: Truly Plan Your Business Idea
Your first step is to take your idea seriously. The difference between big ideas that go nowhere and small ideas that change your world…is a solid plan. In this case we’re talking about a structured perspective that includes an executive summary, basic description/pitch, an outline of products/services, financials, development approach, etc.
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 & Register
With an initial plan built, it’s time to register your business with the state. Among many other benefits the process protects your personal assets and secures your brand name by filing it with the state. But before you can do all this, choose the business entity that serves you best.
For most entrepreneurs, it’s typically 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 North Dakota Tax Code
The good news is that North Dakota’s tax code is very friendly with plenty of potential credits, incentives, subsidies, and kick-backs to leverage. Whether you do this alone or with legal/professional help, don't go into business until you know for certain you're 100% compliant with all necessary taxes - state and federal.
Take Action: If you’re doing this on your own you’ll want to head on over to the ND Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) website and create an account, then bookmark their New Businesses section which will come in handy.
Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits
If you represent a startup natural gas or oil company that’s one thing, you’re going to have some serious regulatory hoops to jump through. For most other small businesses wanting to set up shop in the state it’s like a casual ride along the sweeping grassland sections of Maah Daah Hey trail. There's two options to choose from:
- For DYI’ers you’ll want to bookmark the New Business Registration Licensing Information page through ND.gov.
- 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 North Dakota Location
There are no massive metropolises in ND, with Fargo being the biggest at a smidgen over 113k (2013) despite sitting right on the border of Minnesota. Instead you’ve got a littering of small to medium-sized towns like Williston, cozy Mandan in western Bismark, Valley City, and gorgeous Minot. Tons of breathtaking land, all the amenities of a modernized state, and growing demographics, what more could you ask for?
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 Startup
Because of the oil boom and agriculture staying strong North Dakota’s economy has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the last decade. The point here is that you’ll gain access to tons of capital just waiting to be put into action locally, on the state/county-levels, through private investor/VC/angel networks, and through online platforms like CrowdFunding.
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like warm honey and ice fishing. 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 expects you to design a website the way Mezzaluna designs a dessert dish or spend a small fortune on a custom designer. However you do need to have a professional website to be taken as a serious business. There’s really no doubt about it anymore with the amount of mobile phone use.
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
Stepping back and looking at the entire subject of “marketing” all at once can be like witnessing sunset in the flatlands of North Dakota: awe inspiring and intimidating. At the end of the day though you can break it all down to the micro-interactions your ideal clients/customers/users have with your brand.
Take Action: How will they find you? What does it feel like to look at your logo? What kind of voicing do they hear in your emails or in your website copy? Don’t miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. You get the idea.
Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired
Speaking of motivation, please consider Startup Savant a powerful resource when starting a business in North Dakota. Around here we focus on guiding, on continued learning for fellow entrepreneurs, great insightful interviews, and introducing you to the savviest tools.