20 Steps to Setting Up Your Own Small Business

In September 6, 2016 I officially decided to start my own executive search firm. I can’t say BAP EXECUTIVE SEARCH LLC has had the impact of Facebook or Google. But similar to Facebook and Google my company is legally set up. Now that my firms has been around for a couple of years maybe this article can help you start your own company.

When Peter Bell & Associates, LLC closed in April 2016, my choices were to look for a new job or start my own business. At first the idea, and initial research, of starting my own company unnerved me. After some initial job interviews, I began to realize that getting another job, with my niche skills could take a very long time. By mid-summer I concluded starting my own home-based executive search firm company was the way to go. So here is a list of things to do and to consider if you ever decide on that course. This is for New York State but, with some internet research, speaking to the Small Business Administration and speaking to some other people who have their own company you can set up one in your state.

*Make a Business Plan. Being that I had been doing something similar in a two person company, I already knew a lot about what I wanted to do. Do what you need to do to think your business through. But, if you’re not going for a business loan, no need to make this into a term paper.

*Decide if you want to set up an LLC, Partnership or Corporation. Since it’s just me, the LLC was the choice. An LLC separates the business assets and leaves alone your personal assets. I hope not to have to check this out anytime soon but hopefully I am OK. Many people freelance on their own and it works for them. I felt, with the advice of my former boss, that it makes my company look more official.

*Name your company. There are sites that will let you know if someone else is using your proposed company’s name.

*File Articles of Organization with New York. It’s a simple form and cost $200.

*Obtain an Employer Identification Number. You can do it online.

*Obtain a Certificate of Publication. This is the one thing that will make you scream. You must announce your business in two different newspapers, in New York, for four consecutive weeks. The cost is about $1,000. It must be done within four months of when you start your business. Go ahead and write a blog post on why this makes no sense. But this procedure has to be done.

*Choose a Registered Agent. Some people say you need this and some say you don’t need this. I was convinced that I don’t need this.

*Find out if you need a specific business license for what you do. I don’t need it.

*Looking into State Tax Registration. As an Executive Search Firm, I didn’t need it but find out if you do.

*Create an operating agreement if you work with more than one person. As a one person firm, I don’t need this.

*Once your business is worth something, you should get professional liability insurance. Some clients might insist you must have it to work with them. I priced it recently and it’s in the $1,500-$2,000 range.

*Legally set up your company. You can do it yourself or use online services such as LegalZoom. You can also ask a lawyer or CPA to do it for you. Since I did not want to risk a mistake, I got a CPA to do it for me.

*Once you have a list of specific questions, set up an appointment with the Small Business Administration. They’ll speak to you, in-person, for an hour, and it’s free. I met someone at East 25th Street in Manhattan at Baruch College. It was a pleasant experience.

*To set aside personal assets, you’ll need a bank account and a credit card in your company’s name. It can’t be set up until you have your Articles of Organization and Employer Identification Number back from New York State. The bank and your credit card company will work with you and they just need to make sure you are an honest person with an honest business. I found it more comfortable to set aside money for a couple of years into my corporate bank account. For me, the two biggest expenses were setting up my home page and paying the CPA for setting up my company.

*Using accounting software like QuickBooks or Quicken. As an ex-Accountant, who has forgotten 95% of what I used to know, I remember enough basic bookkeeping to do my financial on an Excel spreadsheet. My CPA says it is fine as long as I save my entire backup. So save your backup, scan it, save it your computer, back up, print it out, and for non-confidential things, save it in your email account.

*Get a P.O. Box. You probably don’t want to list your home address on your business’ contact information. My P.O. Box costs $96 a year.

*You might need a LinkedIn premium account. Prices range from $50+/month. As an Executive Recruiter, I must have LinkedIn for clients and candidates Many search firms need web-based resume tracking software but I have enough resources that I don’t require it.

*Setting up a Home Page. Some people are successful without a home page but it’s something I felt I needed. I was fortunate to find a good web designer. You must submit all written text and photos. A professional photo (costs about $150+) and stock footage (Shutterstock is 10 photos for $98) are recommended. The web designer designed my logo, bought my domain name, set up my email account and is hosting my server. It will take 4–6 weeks from the time you submit your information until your home page is online. If you don’t get back to the web designer on a timely basis, it will take a lot longer. Some people use WIX or Squarespace whose costs are minimal and I priced web designers who said it would cost $5,000. My web designer’s cost was in-between. I had them handle everything, except my professional photo, so I have one place to go with any potential problems. The web designer can put up a temporary home page which will have your contact information for the world to see and you can start using your business email.

*Get stationary and business cards. This was a top priority twenty years ago. Today it is one of the last things on your list. From the time I placed my order to the time I picked it up, it was one week.

*Tax filings. For my first year, I had my CPA prepare my additional tax form (Schedule C) which will flow into my personal 1040 and I filled out IT-204-LL which is due by March 15th. I have always done my own taxes but I want to make sure everything is correct so I paid my CPA, who handled my paperwork to prepare my return. I now prepare these forms myself.

I went to the CPA on September 6, 2016, the Articles of Organization were approved two days later on September 8, 2016. My website was launched on October 27, 2016. That’s the time frame.

So good luck and if you have a question, or I missed something, let me know. I’m not even close to an expert but maybe I can save you some time. And I can recommend a good CPA and a good web design firm.

BAP EXECUTIVE SEARCH LLC specializes in placing public relations, communications, investor relations, marketing and social media professionals in mid- to senior level professionals at corporations, public relations firms and non-profits across all industries in full-time positions.

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