10 Steps to Starting Your Small Business In Florida

  1. Write a Business Plan. Most businesses fail because they don’t have a clearly spelled-out business plan. Don’t make that mistake. Put together a detailed and accurate business plan. The more questions you can answer now, the fewer surprises you’ll encounter down the road. A well-researched plan not only helps you define your goals, but it is also a document you can present to a loan officer or other potential loan source.
  2. Raise your Capital. Once you’ve found the business of your dreams, you’ll need to find a way to finance it. Crazy as it sounds, experts advise starting your business without a loan. The key is to begin small and use the resources you already have. The average cost to start a business from home ranges from $50 to $2,000. If you do need to borrow money, find out about local resources such as the local Small Business Administration office or local programs for small businesses.

    Another source of financing is family or friends. If you do accept financing from another party, even if it is from family or friends, spend the time (and money, if necessary) to draw up a contract stating all the particulars of the loan. Finally, if you must use a credit card to finance your business, put a limit on how much you charge and stick to it.

  3. Name your Business. Your business name should tell the customer exactly what you do. For example, if your leaf-raking business is called “Leaves of Autumn,” a person walking down the street wouldn’t necessarily make the connection. But if it’s called “We Rake So You Don’t,” a passerby in need of yard work will give you a call. If you don’t want to use a fictitious name, simply use your full legal name in the title of your business. If your name is Alice Smith, call your umbrella business Alice Smith Umbrellas. However, if you name the business Umbrellas for U, you will have to register the name with the Secretary of State and the County Clerk ‘s office, and will also have to place an announcement in the local newspaper.
  4. Make it Legal. Whenever you start a home business, you will have to deal with legal issues. Don’t think that you’re too small for local authorities to bother with. Be sure to find out about your local zoning laws. Call the Palm Beach County Planning and Zoning Office at (561) 233-5003. Chances are it is legal to open a home business in your town, but it’s better to make sure first.
    • Find out about your local zoning laws. Call the Palm Beach County Planning and Zoning Office at (561) 233-5003. Chances are it is legal to open a home business in your town, but it’s better to make sure first.
    • Find out what license(s) you need to do business. (561) 355-2272 ( Palm Beach County Occupational License Office). Costs vary.
    • Get a state sales tax certificate so you can start collecting and paying state sales taxes if you’re selling goods. Get a resale tax certificate if you’re going to be buying or selling wholesale goods. Get appropriate form(s) from the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-3676.
  5. Set Your Pricing. Have a price list or contract available for your clients. This way, customers know what they are getting, how much they are going to pay, and when it will be ready. A book, “The Contract and Fee Setting Guide for Consultants and Professionals,” by Howard L. Shenson provides some excellent guidelines.
  6. Investigate Your Insurance Options. Like home insurance, business insurance protects the contents of your business against fire, theft and other losses. Contact your insurance agent or broker. It is prudent for any business to purchase a number of basic types of insurance. Some types of coverage are required by law, others simply make good business sense. Examples are: liability insurance; property insurance; business interruption insurance; home office insurance.
  7. Set Up Your Office. You’ll need to decide whether or not you need a small or large area. You should base this decision on your business plan and the service or product your business will offer on a daily basis. When shopping for business equipment, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” Ask that at least five times, take a deep breath, and go home and think about it for a week. By then you will realize that you don’t need all 25 colored pens – three will suffice.
  8. Get Stationery and Business Cards. Business cards and personal letterhead are essential. If you have a computer, some sort of publishing software and a decent printer, you can easily make your own. Most office supply stores carry good quality paper and card stock. If you’re not comfortable designing or producing your own letterhead or business cards, have it done professionally. This is one area you don’t want to skimp on.
  9. Get a Second Phone Line. You may want to consider installing a second phone line for your business. The advantages include the ability to track business call expenses and list the number in the Yellow Pages. If a second line is too expensive at first, there is another solution. The phone company can give you a business number that rings on your regular phone with a double ring that lets you know it’s a business call.
  10. Don’t Forget the Details. Get yourself an organizer, and use it! Consider getting a post office box for your business address if you don’t want clients coming to your house. Get going. You’ve got a lot to do.

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