Don’t Start Your Business In The Dark

As part of the Jacksonville, Florida’s Chamber of Commerce’s GrowJax StartUp Quest program, I was invited to speak last Tuesday to 100+ aspiring and current entrepreneurs who are interested in starting and/or growing their businesses.

Startup Quest is an entrepreneurship training program for underemployed and unemployed, degree holding, professionals. Over a 10-week period, participants are exposed to business concepts with a combination of video presentations and guest speakers and the objective is to help individuals gain real-life experience in developing business ideas.

This program, in conjunction with Local Workforce Investment Boards from across Florida, is made possible through a nearly $12 million dollar, five-year grant from the Department of Labor.

The participant’s challenge is to develop a business plan in preparation for a business pitch to investors in the tenth and final week of the program.

I was invited to provide tips on how to set up a business and to help identify the best legal and management structure as you’re thinking about starting a business. Additionally, I discussed the impact of networking and marketing on potential business growth.

What a great experience and engaged audience!

Many of those in attendance are just starting and are trying to identify the best legal and management structure for their business.

By no means am I an attorney. I’m not. However, we shared and discussed five legal structures which are used to establish a small business or company. They are:

  • Corporation
  • S-Corp
  • Partnership
  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)

We discussed the pros and cons of each structure, the need to research and how to determine the best structure for your business. We also made it clear that it’s important to consult with an attorney for legal advice based on your business objectives and needs.

With this in mind, “thought starters” were shared and discussed with these aspiring business owners.

For example:

  • What are your objectives?
  • What are your short and longer-term business and personal aspirations?
  • Is this a hobby, passion or your future source of income?
  • Are you considering potential investors?
  • What are you willing to control and/or share with others with respect to your business?
  • Do you clearly understand your business plan to clearly understand what you’re trying to achieve and where you might need assistance?

Consult with an attorney for legal advice and work with a financial planner to help you understand key metrics supporting your business.

Once you have a clearer understanding, this will help you determine the best structure for your business. As we collectively discussed these and other questions in detail, you could see light bulbs going off across the room.

Additionally, there was a very engaging discussion regarding the “Power of the Network”.

I view every point of contact as someone I might be able to learn from. I’m not necessarily asking for business, but through casual conversation, you can tell what makes that person tick and what their interests are. However, it’s important you ask questions and listen effectively.

I shared a recent encounter I had with someone at a popular breakfast eatery. We started talking and come to find out we both had an interest in helping entrepreneurs. As the conversation continued, he mentioned he wanted to introduce me to his network and, as a result, invited me to come and speak to business owners.

The point is we have a built-in network. From family, friends, (ex) co-workers, organizations to random encounters, you always have an opportunity, when appropriate, to share your business with people. Certainly, have business cards with you, because you never know.

If you maintain contact, you may be surprised how these individuals may be a willing Advisor for your business or might have leverageable business contacts and/or business opportunities.

While some of these tips aren’t revolutionary, I hope you find them helpful as you think about starting, expanding and/or growing your business.