- What is a business plan and why do I need one?
A business plan precisely defines your business, identifies your goals and serves as your firm's resume. Its basic components include a current and pro forma balance sheet, an income statement and a cash flow analysis. It helps you allocate resources properly, handle unforeseen complications, and make the right decisions. Because it provides specific and organized information about your company and how you will repay borrowed money, a good business plan is a crucial part of any loan package. Additionally, it can tell your sales personnel, suppliers and others about your operations and goals.
- How can I find qualified employees?
Choose your employees carefully. Decide before hand what you want them to do. Be specific. You may need flexible employees who can shift from task to task as required. Interview and screen applicants with care. Remember, good questions lead to good answers-the more you learn about each applicant's experience and skills, the better prepared you are to make your decision.
- What other financial responsibilities do I have for employees?
You must withhold federal and state income taxes, contribute to unemployment and workers compensation systems, and match Social Security holdings. You may also wish to inquire about key employee life or disability insurance. Because laws on these matters vary from state to state, you probably should consult local information sources
- Should I hire family members to work for me?
Frequently, family members of the owner "help out in the business." For some small business owners it is a rewarding experience; for others it can cause irreparable damage. Carefully consider their loyalty and respect for you as the owner-manager. Can you keep your family and business decisions separate?
- What are the alternatives in financing a business?
Committing your own funds is often the first financing step. It is certainly the best indicator of how serious you are about your business. Risking your own money gives confidence for others to invest in your business. You may want to consider a partner for additional financing. Banks are an obvious source of funds. Other loan sources include commercial finance companies, venture capital firms, local development companies and life insurance companies. Trade credit, selling stock and equipment leasing offer alternatives to borrowing. Leasing, for example, can be an advantage because it does not tie up your cash. Ask your local SBA office for information about these various sources.
- What do I have to do to get a loan?
Initially, the lender will ask three questions:
- How will you use the loan?
- How much do you need to borrow?
- How will you repay the loan?
- What is my market potential?
The principles of determining market share and market potential are the same for all geographic areas. First determine a customer profile (who) and the geographic size of the market (how many). This is the general market potential. Knowing the number and strength of your competitors (and then estimating the share of business you will take from them) will give you the market potential specific to your enterprise.
- What legal aspects do I need to consider?
Licenses required, zoning laws and other regulations vary from business to business and from state to state. Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office and/or chamber of commerce will provide you with general information, but you will need to consult your attorney for advice specific to your enterprise and area. You also must decide about your form of organization (corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship) or tax status (e.g., should you opt for a Subchapter S status?).
- How much money do I need to get started?
Once you have taken care of your building and equipment needs you also must have enough money on hand to cover operating expenses for at least a year. These expenses include your salary as the owner and money to repay your loans. One of the leading causes of business failure is insufficient start-up capital. Consequently, you should work closely with your accountant to estimate your cash flow needs.
- What should I know about accounting and bookkeeping?
The importance of keeping adequate records cannot be stressed too much. Without records, you cannot see how well your business is doing and where it is going. At a minimum, records are needed to substantiate:
- Your tax returns under Federal and State laws,including income tax and Social Security laws;
- Your request for credit from vendors or a loan from a bank;
- Your claims about the business, should you wish to sell it.
- What financial statements will I need?
You should prepare and understand two basic financial statements:
- the balance sheet, which is a record of assets, liabilities and capital; and
- the income (profit.and-loss) statement, a summary of your earnings and expenses over a given period of time.
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