Q: I want to start a small business, where do I begin?
First, make an appointment to receive counseling, free of charge, from your local SBDC. Our advisors are adept at helping you write a business plan, the “roadmap” for your venture. If your business is located in Grayson or Fannin County contact the Grayson SBDC at 903-463-8787 or Click Here.
Q: Does the SBDC offer services to existing businesses, or are they just for startups?
A majority of SBDC services are geared specifically towards those challenges faced by existing businesses – management reorganization, expanding into Internet commerce, redesigning a business or marketing plan, financing an expansion, entering international markets… and many more.
Q: Where in Texas should I call for information on permits and licenses?
Resource list for New Entrepreneurs:
To incorporate, you need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Incorporation Office of the Secretary of State.
P.O. Box 13697
For information on all state and city regulatory agencies:
Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation
EO Thomas State Office Building
P.O. Box 12157
Austin TX 78711
Registering your business name in Texas:
Sales & Use Tax Permit:
Texas State Controller’s Office
111 West Sixth Street
Austin, Texas 78768-4843
512/463-4600 or 800-252-5555
Workman’s Compensation Information:
Worker’s Compensation Commission
P.O. Box 149092
Austin, TX 78714-9092
512-322-3490 or 800-252-7031
The Texas Dept. of Insurance
Austin TX 78701-7998
Texas Workforce Commission
101 E. 15th Street
Austin, TX 78778
Food and Inspection Permits:
Texas Department of State Health Services
P.O. Box 149347
Austin, TX 78714-9347
Texas Department of Health
Q: Do I need any special insurance?
Consider getting the following types of insurance.
- General liability insurance
- Personal property, fire, theft
- Vehicle insurance
- Business interruption insurance
Talk to an insurance agent about your needs. If you have employees you will need workers’ compensation insurance. You should carry a general business policy, which includes liability and other standard coverage. Your place of business, if you own it, should be insured; and if you rent, you still should have your own coverage, too. Don’t rely on the landlord’s insurance. Depending on your industry, you may need additional types of insurance (for example, food service requires product liability insurance). If you already have insurance coverage, start with your agent. Feel free to get quotes from several agencies, but be sure that you compare coverage as well as price.
Q: Are there resources that will help me once I identify a need for employees?
There are both Federal and State resources to help you understand employment requirements. One is the Workforce Security website for the Department of Labor (go to (http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov) which provides one-stop employment services and information on foreign labor. Another Department of Labor website has a Small Business Laws, Regulations and Technical Assistance Services – (go to http://www.dol.gov/compliance/). It offers help in finding qualified employees, a workforce tool kit, employer incentives, federal bonding information, policy information, and labor market guidance.
Q: What do I need to know about safety and health matters?
Worker safety and health is guided by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (go to http://www.osha.gov/index.html). Each state must interpret these Federal guidelines. Compliance involves proper use of safety equipment and worker training on safe procedures. Non-compliance can result in fines or, possibly, closure but preventing injuries or loss of life is the most important reason to understand the regulations.
Q: Does the SBDC make business loans?
No- the SBDC can help you assemble the paperwork needed to apply for a business loan. They can help you prepare a business plan if you don’t already have one. When they have helped you develop the whole loan package then you are ready to approach a bank for a loan.
Q: Is the SBDC the same as the SBA?
The SBDC is funded in part by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The two agencies work closely together to provide free business counseling to businesses. They also co-sponsor some of the training sessions that are available to businesses.
Q: Does the SBDC charge for its counseling services?
There is no charge for SBDC counseling. There may be minimal fees required for the training courses that are offered.
Q: Does the SBDC offer training courses?
Each local SBDC office offers training in the counties that they serve. Click here for the Grayson SBDC training schedule.
Q: Where can I get money for a small business?
Three out of four new business start-ups use only money from the owner or owners. Some start-ups can borrow from banks, but it is difficult. You must have a good equity investment in the business (usually 30% or more) and you must have a sound business plan. The Small Business Administration will guarantee a bank loan for a new start-up, but it also has requirements for equity and business plans.
Personal and business credit cards can provide money for a business, but it comes at a high cost. It is recommended that credit cards be used sparingly and only for short term needs.
Relatives and friends often can provide money. Care is suggested, however, for mixing business with relations and friendships can be risky. It is best to keep these money relationships as business-like as possible and not depend heavily on the personal relationship to make the transaction. Ask: “Would this deal stand up with a non-relative or non-friend?”
Mortgaging personal assets and borrowing against cash value life insurance can also be sources of money.
Local and state government agencies sometimes have money available for new businesses, but it is not common and it is usually restricted to very special circumstances. Nevertheless, it might pay to check around. Business counselors and agencies involved in economic development usually know about these programs.
Q: Can I get a grant?
Contrary to popular belief, grants of cash for business are virtually nonexistent. There are rare instances where a cash grant has been given for some highly specialized type of business or for some unusual situation, but for the great majority of business situations, there are no cash grants.
There are many government grants designed to assist business, but these usually don’t go directly to the business. Instead, they go to agencies and organizations that perform some service for business or benefit business in some way. The Small Business Development Centers throughout the United States operate partly on a grant from the federal government.
The books and late-night television infomercials that tout government grants for business are usually exercises in cleverly misleading entrepreneurship. Read the fine print carefully and “buyer beware.”
Q: How much money will I need to start?
You will need two pots of money. One pot will pay for the things you need just to get your new business started. The other pot is to pay your operating costs until your business reaches break-even – that point where you are taking in the same amount of money you are paying out.
To estimate the first pot of money, make a list of all the things you will need to just get open. This might include equipment, tools, inventory, fixtures, lease costs, office supplies, vehicles, signs, pre-opening advertising, fees and permits, and everything else you can think of. Opposite each of these items, put an estimated cost. If you don’t know the cost, find out. If you have uncertainties, estimate on the high side. Add up the amounts and you have the size of this first pot.
The second pot of money, to be used for operating expenses, involves estimating your cash outflow for all the things you will have to pay for after you start your business. This might include such things as rent, utility bills, gas for vehicles, supply replacement, payroll, payroll taxes, advertising, insurance and bookkeeping or legal fees. If you will estimate each of these items for one month, you can multiply the months’ totals by the number of months you think it will take you to reach cash break-even.
When you will reach cash break-even is a judgment call by you based on what you know about your business and like-type businesses. If you are going to err, err on the side of conservatism. It will be far better to have too big a pot of operating money than to run out of operating money.
The sum total of these two pots is the amount of money you will need to start your business. Do not start before you have this amount or know where it will be coming from.
Q: How long will it take to start a small business?
As long as it takes you to complete your feasibility study, prepare your business plan, gather together your money, buy what you need to buy, and arrange your business operation affairs. This could take a few weeks or many months. If you have difficulty with any of these items, the time to learn and solve problems must be added.
Each individual entering this process brings his or her unique set of skills, knowledge, confidence, and time. If you already know a lot, have good skills, feel confident of what you are getting into, and have time to do this work, you can be up and running in short order. If, on the other hand, you lack basic business knowledge, need development of some of your skills, do not feel confident of what you are doing, and/or have limited time to do the research and planning, your time frame will be longer – months or even years.
It is critical that you not allow your enthusiasm or need to hurry to push you into business before you are ready. Premature starts are a common reason for small business failure. You will know when you are ready. It is a gut feeling. Don’t go against this gut feeling.
Q: Where can I get help in starting a small business?
Go to the people who know about small business. This includes Small Business Development Centers. There are over 950 in the United States and their counseling services are free. S.C.O.R.E., which is staffed by retired business executives, is another free source of help. Colleges and universities often have specialists in small business and business topics. Private seminars, books and videos are readily available. Public libraries carry many books on small business.
Some CPA’s specialize in advising small businesses. The Small Business Administration has significant information available, as does the Internet. Type in “small business help” or “free business assistance” on any of the Internet search engines and you will get more information than you could ever read.
me banks have small business specialists and are glad to help. Chambers of commerce, economic development associations, and other community agencies offer information and contacts. Most states have agencies devoted to assisting small business. Private consultants in small business and business topics are everywhere. Check your phone book.
Finally, people who have been in small business or are presently in small business are excellent sources of information. Some will gladly help you learn and gather information.
Q: What business should I choose?
Choose a business activity that you will enjoy doing. Look at your interests, hobbies, and aptitudes. Don’t pick one that has an uncertain market. There are a lot of small business start-ups that are doomed from the beginning because there simply are not enough customers wanting that product or service. If you look in the back of some magazines you will find many products and services being offered as potential businesses for which there is very little market potential.
Avoid over-crowded areas of business. Many cities have far too many restaurants, retail stores or auto service centers for the population. The same is true in many smaller communities. One of the disadvantages of our free enterprise system is that too often businesses start in an overcrowded market area and consequently fail within a few years.
Study the businesses you think you might like. Satisfy yourself that they will fit your needs. There are so many alternatives available; you shouldn’t be too quick to choose. Understand that there are few inherently bad businesses or few that are inherently good. Just about any business can fail and any can succeed.
Be sure to do a quick feasibility study on any business you pick before making up your mind for certain. Remember, your choice needs to work for YOU, in YOUR situation, in YOUR location, in YOUR market, and given YOUR special set of circumstances. Your circumstance is unique. You should test it as a unique opportunity, unlike any other.
Q: What is a business plan and do I need one?
A business plan is an outline or road map for your new business. It tells what it is, where it is, how it will operate and whom it will serve. It includes information about your customers, your employees, and you. It explains something about the industry you will be a part of and briefly explains the market for your product or service. It expresses these things with both words and numbers.
The numbers of a business plan are especially important, for they translate the anticipated activities of the business into the language common to all business. If your business plan will be viewed by bankers or other financial types; income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements will take center stage. You will use them to paint a picture of the near term financial future of your business.
Yes, you need one. You need one for your own use and you may need one for others: partners, investors, bankers, relatives, employees and others. They are great tools for analysis and they help in communicating with others. Bankers usually insist on them when considering loan requests. Investors won’t work without them.
They take many forms and can be brief or lengthy, informal or formal, optimistic or pessimistic, and typed or hand written. The important thing is that they be.
Q: If I can’t find a job, should I start a business?
Probably not. Making the decision to start a business solely because you can’t find a job is usually not a good idea. Self-employment might be an alternative, but starting a business – no.
The differences between self-employment and business ownership are considerable. You don’t need to know near as much to work as a self-employed person as you do to successfully operate a small business. If your primary concern is making a living just for yourself, keep looking for a job or go the self-employed route.
Q: Can I operate a small business from my home?
The chances are you can, but you had better check with your local zoning authority to be sure. Many types of small businesses can be run from the home. With improving technology in communications and computers, many small business owners choose to avoid the expense of a separate business location.
Thought should be given to your neighbors in making this decision. If your business activity will bother them or be objected to because of noise, odors, parking, or other issues, perhaps you should not do it.
Your personal home situation should also be seriously considered. Can you effectively allocate your time between personal and business matters? Will family members object?
Home based businesses are becoming increasingly popular. For many new business start-ups, they are a good idea.
Q: Should I buy a franchised business to start?
You should consider it. There are some definite advantages to starting out with a franchised business. Of course, there are all different kinds of franchises. Some are good and some are not. Some offer fair value for what you pay and others are rip-offs.
Usually, the advice is to seriously consider a franchise if you are not very knowledgeable about business and don’t have any experience. A franchise can often get you off to a running start. The franchisor has done some of the market study and other start-up work for you. Depending on the franchise, you might be able to buy a turnkey business that will train you and put you in a good position to succeed.
It is smart to consider both a franchise and a start-up on your own without the franchise. The franchise will cost you, but you will receive some benefits. Evaluate whether the benefits are worth the costs to you. Also remember that a franchise is often an on-going relationship that is not always easy to break. You are not totally independent and cannot always do as you please. The franchisor usually has something to say about how you operate your business.
Research is essential. Investigate any franchise thoroughly. Talk with other franchisees. Study the franchise agreement and understand what it says. Get legal or business counseling advice. Look hard before you leap, but look. With something like 40 percent of present day retailing done through the franchise method, there must be something very good about it.
Q: Should I buy an existing business to start?
A good idea if you can make it fit. The advantage of buying an existing business is that it is already established in the market. It has customers and is carrying on business. You avoid the hassle and expense of starting from scratch. The trick is making it fit your desires and capabilities. Is it the kind of business you want? Can you afford it? Can you operate it?
Businesses that are offered for sale are offered for all kinds of reasons. Often the business is in less than good condition. That’s okay if you know it and the price reflects it – and you can fix it. Sometimes the owner is just tired of it and wants to retire. Knowing the real reasons for the sale helps in your evaluation.
Sound financial and business analysis is a key to buying an existing business. The business analysis is to determine if you want to buy it. The financial analysis is to determine how much you should pay for it. It may be a good business, but it costs too much. It may be cheap in price, but a failing business.
Q: Should I incorporate my new business?
You should definitely consider it. Incorporation gives you certain liability protection that you can’t get if unincorporated. It also can make it easier to borrow money because the business is a separate legal entity with its own assets and liabilities. It is independent of you, the owner, and has a life separate and apart from yours. It makes the business easier to sell and offers tax flexibility because of the two taxing entities (your and the corporation).
Incorporating does cost more and requires some ongoing added expenses for separate tax returns, but these expenses are not large.
Q: What is a sole proprietorship?
A sole proprietorship is an individual carrying a business activity without incorporating and without a partner. The business and the owner are one in the same. There is no legal distinction between them. The debts and obligations of the business are the debts and obligations of the owner. What is owned by the business is owned by the owner. If the business is sued, it is really the owner who is being sued. If judgments are awarded against the business, they are awarded against the owner. The life of the business is tied to the life of the owner. If the owner dies, the business dies.
Approximately 70% of all businesses in the United States are operated as sole proprietorships. They are easy and inexpensive to set up.
Q: What happens if a corporation and a sole proprietorship have the same name?
If both parties have properly registered their names, then either the parties need to work it out and come to some agreement – or the courts will decide in a lawsuit. Working it out between the parties with compromises is a much better alternative. Issues like who was using the name first often become important in court decisions.
Q: Must I file an assumed name certificate if I am only going to use the name I incorporated under?
No. When you incorporate with the Secretary of State in your state of incorporation, you may do business anywhere in the state without the need for any further filing.
Q: Why file an assumed name certificate?
Many states require businesses to file assumed name certificates if they are not incorporated. Even without this requirement, filing is a good business practice. It informs the public about the existence of the business and is often required by banks before they will open business checking accounts or grant business loans.
While this filing gives the business no state protection against other businesses or imparts any rights, it is an accepted business practice that gives your business legitimacy and credibility.
Q: How should I pick a name for my new business?
Business names are very individual and often personal. A good name is usually considered both descriptive of what the business does and consistent with the public image the business wants to project. “Bubba’s Savings and Loan Association” or “The First Capital Paint and Body Shop” are not real good names. They are confusing by sending mixed signals.
It is often suggested that a name be chosen by selecting three or four alternatives and testing these on friends, relatives and potential customers. Note the reactions and listen to the feedback. If you want to project a highly personal image, use your name in the business title. If you want a more formal, “business-like” image, don’t use your name.
Q: Can I use my own name as my business name?
Yes. Many people do.
Q: What should I do if the name I want to use is already being used by someone else?
Pick another name or some variation of the name that will not conflict.
Q: How different does my business name have to be?
It should be different enough to avoid confusion with other businesses. The reason you use a business name is to help customers identify you. If your name is similar to others, this identification is made difficult. Customers may hear or read your costly ads, but trade with a competitor because they are confused by the similarity of the names.
Picking a name that is similar to one already in use might trigger disputes or lawsuits. This benefits no one. Avoid trouble by picking a name that is unique and different enough not to be confused.
Q: What if I plan to do business in multiple countries?
If you are not incorporated, you need to file an assumed name certificate in each country you plan to do business. If incorporated, file an assumed name certificate in the country of the corporation’s registered office. If the registered office is different from your principle place of business, you should file a certificate in both countries.
Q: Should I form a partnership?
A partnership is a form of business organization used by two or more people who want to go into business, but do not want to form a corporation. Instead, they choose to operate like two sole proprietorships joined together in a partnership.
Often, this form of business organization is chosen by people who already have a personal or business relationship – as opposed to two or more people who don’t know one another. Because of this pre-existing relationship, they often do not define the activities and responsibilities of each partner. They deal with this only in general terms, such as, “We will split the profits down the middle and we will each do half of the work.”
This casual approach can lead to trouble. If one of the partners functions in a way unacceptable to the other partner(s), disputes can arise that are argued with “he said that” and “I said this” statements. With no written point of reference, these disputes are difficult to resolve.
To reduce this potential problem, a written partnership agreement laying out the duties and responsibilities of each partner is recommended.
Q: What is a Sub-chapter S Corporation?
This is a modification of a regular C corporation to permit taxes of the corporation to be treated in the same way as a sole proprietorship. It is a tax election. With this “Sub – S” election, profits are not taxed at the corporation level. Instead, profits flow through to the owners (shareholders) who include them on their personal tax returns. Without this election, the corporation pays taxes on its profits.
Q: Which form of business organization should I pick?
Pick the one best suited to your individual and business needs. No one form is best for everyone. Most small businesses start as sole proprietorships and stay that way. Some start with that form and change to corporations or sub-s corporations later. Groups of owners sometimes choose the corporate form and sometimes prefer partnerships.
The best advice is to learn about each form – the advantages and disadvantages – and match your personal situation to those alternatives for the best fit.
Q: Where do I get a tax number?
A federal tax identification number is obtained from the IRS. Call them (consult your local directory or the Internet) and request the forms needed to apply. This number is for a business what a social security number is for an individual.
Q: Do I need any permits?
Most small businesses do not need special permits. However, many do. To find out if you need one or more, consult local and state authorities having jurisdiction over your area of business and ask. People in your trade or industry can often tell you. SBDC counselors often know.
While not technically a permit, every business should be registered. A corporation is registered with a state agency via papers of incorporation and a sole proprietorship and partnership usually register with a local county courthouse by way of an “assumed name certificate.”
Q: What is a market analysis?
It is an organized study of customers and competition. It can be quite simple and include just a few facts about the population, an approximate count of people who fit your customer profile, and information about existing businesses now serving these customers. It can also be extensive and include all sorts of data about economic trends and conditions, demographics, psychographics, industry characteristics, pricing, demand trends, and other pertinent facts.
Any new business start-up should do some type of market analysis. More is better. It does not have to be expensive or sophisticated. It should, however, be thorough enough to provide an understanding of the nature and extent of local customers likely to trade with your business. A common mistake is to assume a market when no market exists – or such a small market exists that sustaining a business based on that market is impossible.
Q: What is a feasibility study?
This is a preliminary business plan used to answer the question, “Should I do that?” It includes facts and projections that outline what will happen IF something is done. It does all this before the fact. It allows a businessperson to look at probable results before anything is done to produce those results.
These studies can be brief or lengthy. They should fit the subject. A feasibility study to answer the question, “Should I buy or lease that piece of equipment?” is less involved than one aimed at answering, “Should I build a new restaurant?” On the question, “Should I start a new business,” the work should be extensive.
Q: What is equity?
Equity has two different, but related meanings. On the one hand it is the term applied to the money the owner puts into the business – money that is not borrowed or is borrowed from relatives without any requirement to pay it back.
Equity also means the same as “net worth,” which is the difference between the assets and liabilities of a business. It is the remaining cash that the owner would get if all of the assets were sold and all the liabilities were paid.
Equity is one of two sources of capital (money) for a business. The other is debt. Equity comes from the owner and debt comes from others, usually banks or other financing agencies.