Small Business Success Guide
Section A: Assessing Your Business Needs
Are you ready to start your own business? Could you really do it? Should you? Will
There are myriad steps to accomplish on the road to starting a successful business. But first, ask yourself a few questions to decide if you are ready, willing and able to take on this exhilarating challenge:
Do I have a sound, well-thought idea for my business?
Do I have the necessary acumen about my chosen industry, or have access to the know-how?
- Do I have the energy and time to invest in my business goal?
- Do I have the desire to succeed and the willingness to make certain sacrifices to get my business dream off the ground?
- Do I have a realistic idea of what I can expect to invest — both time and money — to make my business a success? If you have answered a solid "Yes" to these questions, you at least owe it to yourself to give your business dream your best try. The checklist on the next pages should help start you on the right path. Don't overlook the many resources available in your community. The Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to helping small business members thrive through networking, training and counseling. It's an excellent place to start — and to check in along the way.
Naming Your Business
There is more to naming your business than just coming up with something that sounds good and you happen to like. Thought must be given to state and local requirements and making sure you don't infringe upon the rights of someone else's business name.
Legal Requirements and Implications
Picking a name for your business requires much more than just creativity and a working knowledge of your target market. First, you'll need to decide what business structure you will use, since each structure has its own peculiarities. For example, many states require a sole proprietor to use his or her own name as the business name unless another name, such as a trade name or fictitious name is formally filed.
Similarly, you will need to determine whether your trade name will be the same as the full legal name of your business. 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 do business.
Keep in mind that some businesses only file trademarks within their locality, so it's possible that the same name can be used elsewhere. For information on trademarks, visit www. Uspto.gov/web /offices /tac /tmfaq.htm.
Search and Registration
Trade names can be registered through Secretary of State offices at http: / /www.statelocalgov.net/ 50states-secretary-state.cfm, and for wider marketplace protection, through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto. gov/main/trademarks.htm. Businesses should first use the USPTO's online system to search all state and federal trademark registers to see if their proposed name is being used.
For many businesses that operate on the Web, trade names are synonymous with domain names, like Amazon.com and Monster.com. Domain names are not registered through state or local government; rather they can be obtained through numerous online businesses, most of which will allow you to conduct a name search prior to purchase to ensure your chosen name isn't taken.
Considering going into business? Make sure you start out on the right foot. Here are some of the things you will need to do to successfully launch your business:
- A fictitious name for your business
- A business license
- A retail sales tax number (if you are going to be selling a retail product)
- A seller's permit (if applicable)
- Tax identification numbers (IRS and State Tax Franchise Board)
- The required tax forms for your chosen form of proprietorship
- Health permit (for food-related industries)
- Contractor's license (if applicable)
- Partnership or incorporation contracts (depending on your chosen form of proprietorship)
- A business bank account
- Insurance (liability, fire, workers comp, etc)
- An accounting system
- A business plan
- A relationship with your local Chamber of Commerce
- An office facility