For a business starter, the first key steps in your business planning process would be choosing your business name and business structure that will reflect your brand identity. The next key step is registering your chosen name to give your business a legal personality.
Let us go over each one of them …
Naming Your Business
Here are some questions to consider when naming your business :
- How will your name look? – On the web, as part of a logo, on social media.
- What connotations does it evoke?– Is your name too corporate or not corporate enough? Does it reflect your business philosophy and culture? Does it appeal to your market?
- Is it unique?– Pick a name that hasn’t been claimed by others, online or offline. A quick web search and domain name search will alert you to any existing use.
- Does it identify your brand? - Your business name must reflect a professional image that builds your brand identity.
- Have you checked for trademarks? - Trademark infringement can carry a high cost for your business so it is best to check with the patent and trademarks office in your location to see if a similar name, or variations thereof, has already been trademarked before you finalize your choice of business name.
If you intend to incorporate your business, you will need to contact your state filing office to check whether your intended business name has already been claimed and is in use. If you find a business operating under your proposed name, you may still be able to use it, provided your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.
In order to claim a website address or URL, your business name needs to be unique and available. It should also be rich in key words that reflect what your business does. To find out if your business name has been claimed online, do a simple web search to see if anyone is already using that name. Next, check whether a domain name (or web address) is available. If it is available, be sure to claim it right away.
You should be able to choose the business structure that is best suited for your business considering its legal and tax implications. The three most-common types of business structure are :
- Sole Proprietorship – the simplest and most common structure run by one individual who is the owner. The owner is entitled to all profits and responsible for all the debts, losses and liabilities of the business.
- Partnership – a single business where two or more people share ownership. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business, including money, property, labor or skill. In return, each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business.
- Corporation – a more complex business structure that is suggested for larger companies with multiple employees. A corporation has certain rights, privileges and liabilities beyond those of an individual or partners. Doing a business as a corporation may yield tax or financial benefits, but these can be offset by other considerations, such as increased licensing fees or decreased personal control. Corporations may be formed for profit or non-profit purposes.
Registering Your New Business Name
Most of the common types of business structures mentioned above require registration with your state government. But if you establish your business as a sole proprietorship, some state governments will not require you to register your business at the state level; unless, you opt to use another name instead of using your own name as your official business name. This is known as your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name or trade name. Registering your “Doing Business As” name is simply the process of letting your state government know that you are doing business as a name other than your personal name or the legal name of your business. If you are operating under your own name, then you can skip the process.
Depending on the structure of your business, your first step is to get a certificate of registration for your business name from your state government agencies. There are the trade and industry sectors of your government which cater to sole proprietors, government sectors handling corporate stocks and securities where partnerships and corporations can register, or cooperative agencies which cater to cooperatives.
After getting your certificate of registration, you will also have to secure local government and internal revenue permits and licenses. The latter will require you to register your business as taxpayer and register your books of accounts and any point-of-sale (POS) machines or receipts. You will also need to register your employees to several government labor-related agencies for social security and insurances. Lastly, you may also need to secure special clearances, permits or licenses from selected government agencies if your business falls under categories which require special permits. You may need to consult your state or local government agencies on rules and regulations regarding employment and labor law, advertising and marketing law, financial contracts law, intellectual property law, environmental regulations, and other laws which are applicable to your business. It is best to inquire from your state or local government regarding these matters.