What to do before you incorporate

 

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

Direct Incorporation might be your one-stop shop for incorporating your business, but what has to happen before you give us a call? There are a few steps to take before you decide to make that final leap and start the incorporation process:

1. Make sure you’re choosing something you love

As Real Estate Investor Brandon Turner says, “Don’t start something you won’t want to do in five years. Because if you are successful, you’ll still be doing this in five years.” That’s pretty self-explanatory. If you’re doing something you hate, it’s going to make you apathetic about the success of your business, and make every challenge that much harder to overcome.

2. Pick your business partner(s) if necessary

Unless you’re planning on operating solo (and there’s nothing wrong with that), make sure you find the right person or people to partner with for your business. You’re going to be working with them every day, and if you don’t mesh well, it could not only make your workweek worse, but your business worse as well.

3. Learn as much as possible

Creating a company takes a bit of research. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about starting a business, because in this Information Age we live in, there are literally thousands of ways you can teach yourself. The book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore has been referred to as “the bible for entrepreneurial marketing,” and there are some awesome online training tools for learning the necessary skills to start a business.

4. Choose a business location

Unless your business will be hosted completely online, finding a place to set up is not something to be taken lightly. It’s important to consider the marketability of your product in that location, the local competition, the potential for employees, the safety and the zoning regulations of the area, and the tax options around you. Some entrepreneurs choose to incorporate in Delaware because of its low incorporation and franchise fees; there’s also Nevada because it has no profit tax, personal income tax, or franchise tax. But there are many things to consider when deciding whether you want to incorporate out of state or not.

5. Start marketing

You want people to know about your business as soon as possible, or you’ll be spending valuable time waiting for people to find out about your business when you could be earning revenue. Starting out with social media sites is a fantastic way to spread brand awareness—and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to share your page. The worst case scenario is they’ll say no, but the best case scenario is an exponential increase in followers and potential clients. It’s important that you make yourself super available to your new Facebook/Twitter/Instagram “friends” (and you really should treat them as friends, because building relationships is essential for a small business), by responding frequently and personally to any questions they might have.

6. Get financing

Obviously, your business can’t function without some startup capital. You can get this in a plethora of ways: small business loans, startup incubators, crowdfunding campaigns, and more. Figure out the best way to fund your business, so that you’ll be ready to incorporate.

Once you’ve taken these steps, we’ll be able to help you with everything else, from deciding which type of corporation to set up, to trademarking, to website and logo design. You can get started by visiting directincorporation.com or calling 1-877-281-6496 today.

 

 

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Are entrepreneurs happier?

 

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

The notion has been repeated by countless news outlets and research studies in the past five years: Entrepreneurs are happier than non-entrepreneurs. Some reasons for this are autonomy and flexibility in their jobs, but one of the biggest reasons is the feeling of having a personal stake in one’s career. Jane Park, founder of Julep, writes, “For me, the most powerful thing about being an entrepreneur is my effort to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. I know for sure that I’m more engaged and connected.  And [feeling like I’m making a difference] is what makes it exciting to wake up everyday.”

According to Manta’s Small Business Wellness Index, 94% of small business owners say they are happy they are a business owner, and 93% say they are happy with their personal life. Also, 52% of small business owners work 40 or less hours a week, and 27% take 4 or more weeks of vacation per year.

According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Wharton grads running their own businesses “ranked themselves happier than all other professions, regardless of how much money they made,” and “Grads running their own businesses also rated themselves higher than any other profession when it came to work-life balance.” While some might think that the business graduates comfortably working six-figure jobs would be happier than those dealing with the process of lifting up their own companies from scratch, it appears that money was not, in fact the determining factor of happiness. Most of the entrepreneurial happiness actually stems from people feeling like they are choosing to do what they want to do, instead of being forced to work for a company that they don’t necessarily believe in.

Yet according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2016 Global Report, “On average, 42% of working-age adults in the [researched] economies see good opportunities around them for starting a business, more than half of the working-age population in the 60 economies feel they have the ability to start a business, but a little more than one-third of them would be constrained from starting a business due to fear of failure.”

The fear of failure is a fairly common reason for not starting a business, but entrepreneurs are incredibly important to the U.S. economy.  Small businesses employ 57% of the country’s private workforce, and also make up 99.7% of all companies in the U.S.  Approximately 68% of revenue from small businesses is reinvested in the community (as opposed to 33% from large corporations). Starting your own business could end up being the best thing you could do for both your community and for your own well-being.

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Client Spotlight: Ann Arbor Real Estate Associates

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Today, I had the pleasure of speaking with Caitlin Phillips, who recently incorporated Ann Arbor Real Estate Associates through Direct Incorporation. From the moment I walked into her office, I could tell why she was a successful real estate agent. She was so personable and open, and it was clear that she truly loved her job. She welcomed me in and we sat down to chat about her experience with Direct Incorporation, but first, she told me a little bit about herself.

Caitlin has been a real estate agent for years, but until earlier this year, she had never worked for herself. She wanted to incorporate on her own, but she wasn’t sure where to start. When she found Direct Incorporation, she said that the process could not have been easier.

“The [Direct Incorporation] website made it very easy for us to figure out how we should take our incorporation status, and which one would be best to fit our needs,” she told me. She then expanded on how Direct Incorporation’s ability to figure out whether her business name was available for use, so quickly and confidently, “was very important.”

“And then it was very easy because we could just finalize the process in the same transaction time…just in one sitting,” she continued, highlighting that our representatives were “personal, professional, and incredibly responsive.” She said that it was important to her that she was able to talk to a real person, rather than dealing with a recorded voice or computer, so that she could ask all the questions that she needed and get a quick, personal response.

“It’s very important that we have a firm that we can trust with all of our incorporation needs as we grow and expand. Having that kind of trust in that staff to take us through the process is really comforting.”

It was wonderful meeting with Caitlin, and if you ever need a real estate agent in Ann Arbor, I would highly recommend stopping by her office!

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Where Should You Incorporate Your Business?

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

If you’re thinking about starting a new business, but are wondering where you should file your Articles of Incorporation, here are some ideas to help you figure out what to do:

The Delaware Option

Thousands of startup companies choose to incorporate in Delaware each year, due to its low incorporation and franchise fees. Companies don’t actually have to operate in the state that they file their incorporation in, and incorporated companies that conduct business outside of Delaware aren’t required to pay Delaware’s state income tax. Also, legislation in Delaware allows for corporations with less than 30 shareholders to be managed directly by those shareholders.

Yet Delaware incorporation is the most beneficial to larger companies that intend to offer their shares to the public, and for this reason the majority of Fortune 500 companies and those in the NYSE are incorporated in Delaware.

If you incorporate in Delaware but operate in another state, you may have to go through additional processes to qualify to do business in your state of operation. You may also have to file annual reports and franchise taxes in both Delaware and your state of operation.

Also, if you incorporate but do not operate in Delaware, you will need to designate a resident agent with a physical street address in Delaware. The resident agent is someone designated to receive important legal and other documents on the company’s behalf, and is a legal requirement.

The Nevada Option

Nevada’s favorable corporate laws have made it an increasingly popular state of incorporation in recent year. Nevada has no corporate profit tax, personal income tax, or franchise tax. Nevada also has minimal reporting and disclosure requirements, such as not requiring shareholders to be listed publicly.

However, like the Delaware incorporation, it is larger corporations that have the most to gain from incorporating in Nevada. If you incorporate in Nevada and operate in another state, you again may have to qualify to do business in that other state, and deal with the reporting requirements of both states.

Your State

Incorporating in your home state or state of operation is the least costly and least complicated. Unlike in other cases, you won’t have to qualify to do business in your home state as a “foreign corporation,” or file annual reports and pay income and franchise tax in multiple states.

Also, when incorporating in your state of operation,  you or someone closely associated with your company can serve as your company’s resident agent, which ensures that you will personally receive important documents with no extra time, money, or extra communication required.

Happy Incorporating!

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Why You Should Incorporate Now

 

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

It’s time for shorts and sunscreen, barbecues and bonfires. School’s out, the sun’s out, and it’s the perfect time to do what you’ve been wishing you could do for the past nine months. The past nine years, maybe. That amazing business idea, that company you’d love to start. Maybe you’re unsure where to begin, or maybe you know exactly what you’re doing but haven’t set aside the time to do it. The summer tends to be the least busy time of year here at Direct Incorporation, but here are five reasons you should start making moves to incorporate your business before fall:

1. Less time processing your paperwork

The amount of time an individual state takes to process your Articles of Incorporation can vary widely depending on factors like the time of year, the state of the economy, and the particular state’s backlog and staffing. January through April is the busiest time of the year for processing incorporation applications at many Secretary of State offices, and so taking advantage of the less busy summer months is a good way to lower your wait time, which can be up to 40-60 days when filed during the busiest months.

2. You give yourself more wiggle room

Incorporating doesn’t always go smoothly–you could run into any number of roadblocks, such as issues leasing property, working out the perfect website, or just finalizing your business plan. Giving yourself extra time to work out the kinks is far less stressful than trying to finish everything at once.

3. Meeting with the necessary people

It’s likely you’ll have an easier time scheduling any necessary meetings–whether you’re discussing a business plan with your partner(s), meeting with investors, searching for talent, or meeting with a brand consultant, it’s likely you’ll both be able to find some free time in your schedule to meet up.

4. People have more time to listen

Summer is full of opportunities to spread awareness of your upcoming business. People are out and about, and word-of-mouth marketing is not to be overlooked. Alternately, people have more time to be active on social media, and so using the summer to pop up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more is imperative.

5. Ready for the holidays

If you incorporate now, you’ll be ready to tackle the busiest part of the year as an already established business. Once fall starts, numbers 1 through 4 just aren’t the same. Besides, it’s more likely that you’ll be stressed out too, and that’s the last thing you want when you’re getting your business off its feet.

It’s summertime, and it’s time to get started. You don’t even have to put down your lemonade.

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The Importance of Trademarking Your Business

 

 

Rachael, Direct Incorporation Staff

What even is a trademark?

When creating your own business, you can trademark a symbol, logo, word, slogan, or a name registered to your company. This protects your image, and ensures that other businesses don’t infringe on the intellectual property of your business. If you don’t register a trademark, you could lose the rights to your own idea, artwork, and all of the creative energy you have spent on your name, logo, or slogan.

Why run a trademark search?

A trademark search is incredibly important, because if you’re looking to trademark a slogan, word, or logo that’s already in use, you could be sued for trademark infringement, which could lead to a big financial setback for your company, and you would have to restart your branding from scratch. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, if a trademark owner is able to prove infringement, outcomes may include:

  • A court order (injunction) that the defendant stop using the accused mark
  • An order requiring the destruction or forfeiture of infringing articles
  • Monetary relief, including defendant’s profits, any damages sustained by the plaintiff, and the costs of the action
  • An order that the defendant, in certain cases, pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees

This is the last thing you want to be dealing with when trying to start your own business, so it is imperative to clear the availability of your name, logo, or slogan before it is too late. You can conduct a registered trademark search here.

Registered vs. unregistered trademarks

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A federally registered trademark is recognized everywhere in the country—examples include Nike and Coca-Cola—and have been registered through the US Patent and Trademark Office. An unregistered, or common law trademark, is usually enforceable only within the geographic region or locale where the trademark owner is using it in business.

Common reasons for refusal of trademark registration

There are 5 common reasons your trademark may not be granted:

1. Likelihood of Confusion
If there is a conflict between the mark in the application and a mark that is either registered or pending in the USPTO, the trademark will not be granted. This depends on both the similarity of the marks, and the relationship between the goods and services identified by the marks. Similarity in sound, appearance, or meaning may be sufficient to support a finding of likelihood of confusion

2. Merely Descriptive and Deceptively Misdescriptive
A mark will be deemed as merely descriptive if it solely describes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose or use of the specified goods or services. A mark will be refused as deceptively misdescriptive if the mark misdescribes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose or use of the specified goods or services.

3. Primarily Geographically Descriptive and Primarily Geographically Deceptively Misdescriptive
A mark will be deemed as primarily geographically descriptive if the primary significance of the mark is geographic, purchasers would be likely to think that the goods or services originate in the geographic place identified in the mark, or the mark identifies the geographic origin of the goods or services. A mark will be refused as primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive if all the above is true, yet the goods or services do not originate in the place identified in the mark.

4. Primarily Merely a Surname
The examining attorney will refuse registration of a mark if the primary significance to the purchasing public is a surname.

5. Ornamentation
The mark will be refused if the applied-for mark is merely a decorative feature or part of the “dress” of the goods. Such matter is merely ornamentation and does not serve the trademark function of identifying and distinguishing the applicant’s goods from those of others. An example of this would be a slogan on a shirt that does not directly identify the source of the goods.

If you’re thinking about starting your own business, visit directincorporation.com to get started today!

 

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The importance of building your brand in small business

If you’ve made the decision to start a small business, or even if you’ve been in business for a couple of years, making a conscious decision about your brand is essential to your long-term success.

Branding is more than the name you choose. It’s more than the logo. It’s more than the tagline.  All three of those put together are just a small part of what your brand is.

Branding is how people describe your business to other people. And that means you don’t own your brand. Your customers do.

Winning the hearts and minds of consumers can take years, and big money. Think about how much power brands like Apple, McDonalds and Nike spend on branding. Design, public relations, advertising, websites, agencies, firms, media, graphics… brands spend literally millions on branding. To a business owner, it can be daunting.

Now, throw all that out the window. You don’t have to spend anything to create your brand. Not a penny in ad space, direct mail or website. You don’t even have to have a logo.

Great branding in small business starts with great customer service. Every interaction with a customer builds your brand. Gather a community of people through social media who trust your opinion. Position yourself as an expert, and then give them something for nothing. Your experience is valuable to your customers. They’ll keep coming back. Brands create value in the mind of the consumer. Be what your customer wants you to be.

Building your small business brand takes work, but pays dividends in the long run. We make it easier to grow your business by helping you during all phases, from incorporation to building websites to protecting your trademarks. If you’re a small business owner and need help in any area, please give us a call!

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Dissolving your business partnership

In the beginning phases of any business, there are many things to consider that take up much of your time. Marketing, production, finances, personnel… these are all-consuming in the start-up phases of business.

Entrepreneurs are usually aware of the toll starting a business has on personal relationships. But they sometimes are unaware that the relationship with your business partner can suffer also.

If your business relationship has deteriorated to the point that continuing to work together is detrimental to the company, it’s time to dissolve the partnership. Preparing for this contingency is essential to ensure that the business suffers as little as possible.  The important thing to consider is whether you or your partner will forge ahead with the business.

For the sake of the company, and the partner who remains, a separation agreement is necessary. This is not unlike a divorce, and attorneys almost always have a role in these proceedings. This is no different. You should seek legal counsel to protect yourself, your partner and your business. Attorneys provide an objective point of view in what could be an emotional and trying situation.

We make it our mission to make it easier to start your business, from incorporation to trademark protection. If you’re thinking about starting a business, please give us a call!

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What’s in a name? The art and science of naming a business

Perhaps the most vital step when you’re starting a business, maybe even more important than writing the business plan, is naming the business.

There are companies whose sole purpose is naming businesses. They charge up to $80,000 to perform that service. Volumes have been written.  In fact, if you Google “naming the business” you can see almost 72 million results; while “writing a business plan” has about 38 million.

Generally speaking, you can choose one of four ways to name your business. All have their pros and cons.

  • Geographic – tells potential customers where you are and what you do, but is somewhat limiting – Northtowne Muffler Service
  • Fanciful – easiest to protect, but difficult to position in the mind of the consumer – Xerox
  • Descriptive – says something about what you do and how you do it – Speedy Printing
  • Generic – doesn’t say much about the company, but can lend itself well to branding – Apple

The most important thing to remember about naming the business is it has to be protected through copyright or trademark. Including a search of existing companies in the early stages of incorporating your business is essential. If your business hits it big, it would be a shame if an obscure company in another state with a similar name sues you for infringement.

Naming a business is just one area of concern when you start a business. We make it our mission to help you in every possible way, from incorporation to trademark protection.  If you’re in the planning stages of incorporating your business, we’re here to help!

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Updating your website

When you own a small business, performing regular maintenance on your website is an absolute necessity. I saw an article recently outlining seven steps for updating your website.

The article makes several good points about updating your site. For instance, if your site was designed a few years ago, the look and feel may be outdated. Cleaner layouts that use space effectively have taken the place of sites that shoehorn in pictures and content.

Another piece of good advice involves broken links, which are a telltale sign of neglect.  Make it a point to check the links on your site. (By the way, many experts agree that broken links adversely affect Google page rank.)

The one that hit home most for me concerned outdated information. I recently came across a site that had “New Arrivals – September 2010” on its home page. That doesn’t really entice me to go to its ecommerce page.

Also of utmost importance is the blog. The article discussed the liability having “a dusty, dated blog” will have on prospects. Quite simply, a majority of potential customers will go elsewhere if they see that your blog hasn’t had an entry in a few months. The article suggests once a week for a blog, which is about right for most businesses.

Promotion is just one area of concern when you own a small business. We make it our mission to help you in every possible way, from incorporation to trademark protection.  If your site needs an overhaul, or you need to build a website from scratch, we’re here to help!

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