I have a thing where I hate to backtrack and touch a document twice.  I want to be done with it when the action is completed.  Unfortunately to avoid my normal paralysis by analysis, I’ve put the cart before the horse which is forcing me to backtrack and make corrections.  I had a checklist for starting a business and a few items on it could be done at anytime in no particular order.  Well now I’m here to tell you, if you are applying for a corporation status, get your legal name confirmed before applying for the EIN (federal tax number).

After spending multiple days coming up with an appropriate company name that wasn’t cheesy, wasn’t trendy, wasn’t fluffy, cliché or overused, I finally settled on the name Elite Personal Care. It’s a good idea to check if the name is already trademarked or branded so I searched the site:  http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp, and found no confirmation of a brand or trade mark on the name.  Of course I Googled the name in Georgia, and found one senior home with a similar name but the phone number was disconnected.  I couldn’t find any updated info so I felt it was safe to proceed with that name.  (Yea go ahead and comment away on that underwhelming thought.)  I was thrilled to discover I could self- apply for the EIN (can we say cheap at $0 cost) at www.IRS.gov .  The website form took the info, and spit out an almost instant EIN.

Next I linked to  www.LegalZoom.com to apply for LLC status; they asked for a 2nd and 3rd choice of names just in case the original name was unavailable. (BTW, you can self-apply with the state for your legal structure; current cost is $100.)  Thinking I had it all in the bag (because of the extensive research), and not wanting the site to time out, I threw out a few variations of the company name without any research.  A few days later, Georgia approved the optional name, “Elite Care LLC.”  Now I think to Google that name variation and find that name is active in Michigan, Ohio and probably a few other places that I failed to advance to in the search.  Quel horror!  I immediately called www.LegalZoom.com  to see if I could change the name – nope the process had started and they didn’t legally have to search any further than the state of application, as the state controls the name approvals.  The rep generously offered that she had just taken a call where their customer had received a “cease and desist” order for their company name because it was already in use.  O joy, just great.

Because it will cost to revise the LLC name, I’m going to run with it for now.  I’ve been told I can always create another “dba” name, that is doing business as which is legal.  In other words the legal name is still Elite Care, LLC but I can do business for example, as Elite Solutions.  Still thinking on that, but I did have to revise the EIN name to match the LLC name.  I sent that change request off to the IRS today, and am waiting confirmation. 

After I get through this process, I hope to compile a handbook of basic A-Z’s for starting a business.  Until then I hope these thoughts and tips posted here will help you. 

Your thoughts and comment are welcomed!  To be so cliché, have a great weekend!

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As promised, here’s a brief summary of what I’ve been working on the last few days.  It’s all about advancing the new business.  Saw my career coach yesterday – she reviewed the three-fold brochure I made for the business; she made some suggestions, and changes to improve the instant visibility of what the service is and does. To create the brochure, I used a great free template provide by HP at this site:  http://www.hp.com/hho/hp_create/home_business-business_kits.html.    This site provides a whole kit and caboodle of stationary for themed business cards, brochures, invoices, etc.  Pretty nice but the stationary items open in a Word document and I’m used to working in Publisher so there were a few frustrating hiccups.  All in all, it worked out well.

I was able to print ten brochures, front and back before the ink in my HP printer faded.  Not good.  Coach suggested reduce brochure from three-fold type to one sheet front and back, and minimize the color.  You know printer ink is very expensive, so yes, I now agree with her.  Working now to reduce 2 pages of info down to one-third of a page front and back.  A copywriter friend offered to look at it; I accept all free help.

Decided not to pursue business permit yet as the city does not pro-rate the fee, and it will expire December 31st .  I’d have to turn around and renew Jan 2011.  Visited IRS.gov to get an EIN, which is the business tax identification(kinda like a social security number for a business).  This is the number that my company will be recognized under when filing taxes.  I’m hesitating about incorporating for some reason – my thoughts are jumping around between non-profit, and LLC.  Will probably go ahead and file papers for LLC  which will allow protection of my personal assets and allow income taxes to be charged at a individual rate versus corporate rate.

Called my cable carrier to get a VOIP phone number as an add on service for a mere $10 a month.  They gave me the number and told me it would be active Friday.  I created brochures and business cards with this number.  I just happened to call the number today to see if it’s working, and yep it is.  Someone who wasn’t me answered.  Called the number again, in disbelief,  to double check.  Yep Comcast gave away number.  They are so so sorry for the mix up, and the loss of $$ from already printing cards/brochures in advance.  I asked for a credit or extra services on the phone; will hear back from them tomorrow on the decision.  Sigh.

Tomorrow will revamp the brochures and make a list of target companies to contact.  Excitement is starting to rise for face to face “customer” contact.

9/26 Update:  After multiple calls to Comcast regarding the phone number snafu, Comcast corporate office contacted me.  They have compensated me for the printing loss by crediting my account $100.  Much appreciation to Comcast for recognizing customers inconvenienced by a lack of service!

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Ever had an idea for a business?  I’ve had several throughout the years.  A few I’ve seen come to fruition, though I only found out when I saw them advertised on TV commercials.  I recently had an idea for a service…since I’m on the Entrepreneurial path at the career transition agency, I met with my coach and tossed the idea around with her.  She mentioned that a good business needs to satisfy a pain, or generate pleasure, enough for which people would give up their hard earned dollars.  Pain used here isn’t literal – it’s an analogy that stems from a critical need which is not being met. 

She thought my idea was good, and actually started spoking (is that a word?  I’m making a verb off spoke)  off ideas which could become an extended service from my initial idea.  Through classes taken at the agency, and at Dpt of Labor, I generated a business plan.  But before doing that I took a class which presented a list of questions to determine if you have the right frame of mind to start a business.  Ideas are one thing, but actually getting the idea off the ground is another. 

The four basic types of businesses:                                                                                              Start up a business                                                                                                                          Buy an existing business                                                                                                                   Buy a franchise                                                                                                                            Become a consultant                                                                                                                      

Here are some great questions to ask before you initiate any of your energies:

1.  Why do I want to start my own business?   What are my motives?                                      2.  Do I have all the skills needed to run a business?  Accountant, Legal, Secretarial,  Customer Service, Sales, Operations, Purchasing, General Management, etc.                          3.  Am I in love with the idea?  Do I have a passion for it?  Am I prepared to sacrifice my personal life and activities to devote time to the business?                                                          4.  Will there be an impact to my family, negative or positive?                                                    5.  Is this the right time – financially, emotionally, physically?

After the in-depth evaluation of self, if you still want to move forward, then you need to clarify your idea…I’m talking like I’m an expert right, but it makes sense yes? 

What and who is the market?  What pain are you solving?  What pleasure are you pushing?  What value are you offering?  Is it unique?  Research your competition, what percent of the market would you like to capture?  How will the product or service be marketed?  How will the company be structured?  Non-profit, incorporated, LLC, sole-proprietorship, etc?  Also important – location, location, location. 

Next it’s time for the business plan.  It will further focus and develop your ideas, build an idea of what the company will look like as far as marketing, finances, organization, and operations of the company.   Check out www.sba.gov ; they offer great planning resources for starting and developing a business, including on-line classes, and business plan templates.  Also check out SCORE http://www.score.org/index.html  –   it’s a resource of retired executives who offer their advice and counsel for free.  They are available to meet face to face, or via email questions.  I’ve done all the above, and have finished my business plan.  I’ve requested a 2nd meeting with a SCORE counselor to review my business plan, and discuss next steps.  Will keep you posted!

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How do people find jobs today?  I’ve heard that 85% of jobs are obtained through networking, and recruiters source 80% from www.LinkedIn.com .   What?!*&!  I received the first invite to join a few years ago.  Being curious,  I loaded a minimal bio and requested connections from a few of my closest friends.  After stretching to get about five 1st level connections, which linked me to ten or twenty  2nd level connections, I thought it was a kinda cute  program, somewhat like multi-level marketing.  I really didn’t see a need to delve into it since I had a job.  To be fair, I should also add that I didn’t have the time necessary to upkeep another networking site since I was already maintaining MySpace, and Facebook.  Now that I’ve separated from my employer, the need to learn LinkedIn has transitioned from unnecessary to necessary.

My career coach suggested I take their classes on the program –Networking with LinkedIn and Advanced LinkedIn.  After taking the first overview class yesterday, to describe and compare LinkedIn to a multi-level marketing scheme is a major understatement.  I’m totally impressed at the few things that I learned can be done with this powerful database.  At minimum, you can create a bio listing your name, a “professional headline” ( which can be a summary statement of your roles, and competencies), and the industry in which you play, err I mean work.   You can upload a resume and photo, initiate and receive email, filter on all your connections for information on their companies/locations/industries, make announcements to your network, and follow professional and alumni groups.

The most exciting thing that I have learned to date is that you can find a hiring manager of a company, and request an introduction if you have any 1st or 2nd level connections in your network.  Sweeeet!  Bypassing the gatekeeper and HR is the name of the game!  On the far right navigation bar, click on the “advanced” link near the search bar; this brings up the Advanced People Search Screen.  From here you can add appropriate filters, including the title of the person you think may be the hiring manager.  This left us a little stumped in class but we were told to use the title of the person to whom we reported, example “manager.”   The resulting view will bring up a bunch of manager titles.  A name will be listed next to the title if they are in your network, and you’ll have options to request an introduction.  If they aren’t in your network, apparently there is a fee of $10 you can pay to “cold call” email.  I would think this method could possibly be viewed as pestering,  but you can turn off the option to receive these calls in the Settings.

You can also perform a general job search:  From navigation bar at top, select Jobs, then Advanced Search.  Input appropriate filters and the resulting view lists multiple jobs and companies which meet your specified requirements.  Under the company name is a link to “see who at xyz company can help you get this job.”  Click that link and you view the person or people in your network that have an association with that company.  You then again have options to request an introduction through your connection.  Did I say sweet? That is an example of networking at its best.  Of course there are no guarantees that your request will meet the intended person, but your chances of getting an interview through this method I’m sure are better than submitting a resume through  impersonal  job boards.  LinkedIn.com – what a powerful networking and job search tool! Can’t wait to take the Advanced LinkedIn class.  Will report back…

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So I met with the career coach today.  She turned out to be an interesting entrepreneur who runs several businesses, consulting, facilitating,  and otherwise.  Although very busy, she eeks out some time every week to counsel others thru the program.  Althought I’m definitely interested in the Entrepreneur track, I have not totally discounted the track for Traditional Job Search.  She recommended taking several courses thru the company:  “Be Your Own Boss,” “Building a Target List,” “Effective Networking,” “Networking with LinkedIn,” and “Advanced LinkedIn.”  In orientation yesterday, we learned that 85% of recruiters find people assets thru LinkedIn, so that’s definitely a social avenue to be pursued. 

Apparently the team meetings(reference WAKING UP TO CAREER TRANSITION) have been suspended for the summer.  Since being part of a team is so integral to the success of the program, it might be wise for me to put the program on hold until fall.  I’ll take a few classes and then decide if that’s the best course for now.

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 As part of the layoff package, my ex-employer has sponsored three months membership at a company that specializes in career transitions. I’ve been reluctant to start the clock ticking on that benny because I don’t want another traditional j o b, however the initial orientation has to be completed within sixty days of termination, or the benefit is lost. I’ve been happily existing in a bubble of fantasy, collecting and saving “job available” emails from well wishing friends and working on monetizing the websites. In this fantasy, I’m bringing in enough money to compensate for a full time and might I add lucrative job, have plenty of time for socializing and fitness, and have even more time to pursue wonderfully interesting hobbies, activities and interests. Ha ha, fantasy is the operative word here.
While this fantasy is working for my conscience self, the smarter sub-conscious self is keeping watch in the real world. It tricked me into going to orientation by whispering “maybe they will have tips on becoming an entrepreneur, and becoming a successful website marketer.” At the orientation yesterday, it appeared that everyone in the room was almost forty and older, more men than women. That is a whole ‘nother topic in itself. We learned this company has the responsibility not to find us a job, but to ensure that 1)we have an eye grabbing resume, 2) we are uber prepared for interviewing whether it be a 30 second schpeel tag, or formal interview situation, 3) that we have access to all the tools we need for focused searches. We will be assigned a personal coach specific to the track we want to follow:
1. Possible retirement and part time work
2. Don’t know where to focus
3. Traditional Job Search
4. Entrepreneur and self employment.

Low and behold, my sub-conscience hit the nail on the head for me with #4. There will be assignments into a team of peers; team will meet weekly to discuss and provide feedback on individual’s goals, and success paths. Apparently the team dynamic is all about accountability to the team and to one’s self; it keeps pressure on the members to stay focused and on track, joy joy.
I have a meeting scheduled with my coach tomorrow; will report back.

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