When starting a new business, there are many important decisions to make and many rules and procedures that must be addressed. While there is no single source for every state, the following checklist and steps have been developed to assist you in starting your business.
Choose and Register A Business Name For some people business names come easily, for others finding the right one is a major challenge. I have listed the basic steps to follow in naming a business. There are multiple “rules-of-thumbs” that tend to be contradictory. Some insist that a business name should be descriptive of the business and others suggest that being unique in the best way to be remembered.
Keep in mind that your business name is an important part of your marketing effort. It is a major component of how customers; perceive your business. Your business image is based on this perception. So, it is critical that it reflect the image that you want your customers to have of your business.
My tendency is to go with what your inner voice (gut) says is right for you. You are the one who has to live with this business day and night for a long time to come. So choose something you feel good about. One test might be to think about the name being splashed across a major headline. How does it feel to see the name in print representing your business? If it feels good, go with it.
If all else fails, there are businesses available that will help you determine the right name. If you go this route, look for a good fit for you. You want this to reflect your concept, not someone else’s. Keep in mind this is one of the most important decisions you will make about your business.
As part of naming your business, you may also want to design a logo for your business. If creativity is not your strong suit, there are many businesses out there that can help you. While this may seem excessive, you will never regret the time you have spent on this part of setting up your business. This is the first and most critical part of marketing your business. Do it right and your future marketing will be much easier to plan and implement.
Legal Issues. Picking a name for your business requires much more than just creativity and a working knowledge of your target market. First you will need to decide which business structure you will use, since each structure has its own peculiarities.
Of equal importance, is finding out whether your name or a very similar name is being used by another business, and if so, what rights they may or may not have to use the name in the area where you want to do business. Keep in mind that some businesses only file trademarks within their locality, so it is possible that the same name can be used elsewhere.
Search and Registration. Trade names can be registered through the state Secretary of States offices, and for wider marketplace protection, through the US Patent and Trademark office. Businesses should first use the USPTO’s online system to search all state and federal trademark registers to see if the proposed name is being used.
Domain Names. For many businesses that operate on the Web, trade names are synonymous with domain names. There are many online services available to check if your proposed Domain name is available.
Select a Name and Legal Structure
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability corporation
Sole Proprietorship in general can be established with little or no formalities. However, it will generally be necessary to obtain one or more local business licenses from the cities and or counties in which you will operate, and in some cases, you might need a state license as well. If you make sales of tangible property at a retail level, you will be required to obtain a sales tax license for the collecting of sales tax.
No separate tax-form filing is required. You simply report that your business financial information on standard tax forms is available for sole proprietorship. Doing business as a sole proprietor is much simpler than operating as any other kind of business legal entity. If you have no employees, you are not required to pay or withhold any employment taxes, withhold any federal or state income tax from wages, or obtain workers’ compensation coverage for yourself.