ALC Consulting

March 11, 2009

Before You Get Started

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 11:36 pm

Actually there are a few things you should really do before you print out business cards and start handing them out to everyone you have ever met.

Deciding to Start Your Business

First of all, once you have found your passion, and decided what you want to when you grow up; run your fabulous idea past some people whose judgment you value. It is even better if they know something about your field, your talents, skills, and background. A spouse can give good feedback, but he or she may be prejudiced and see you through rose colored glasses (one would hope!). Someone who has been successful in their field and has some wisdom and maturity is also good. Some entrepreneurs gather a group of these people and call them their “Board of Directors.” My good friend, Joan, the author of several books on women and leadership (see her website at has just such a group of friends. A former successful director at 3M, Joan now makes a living doing consulting, but she is smart enough to know that others can help her direct her efforts to achieving the goals she wants to attain.

Second, try to narrow things down to a niche. Being able to see a need in a particular market and find means to serve that market is a much better way to structure a business and improves your chance of being successful. There are so many resources available on the web and in government sponsored programs. Just Google business startups + your state, and you will be linked into them. Most of the services these groups offer are for free. There are many networking groups in the Portland area who meet on a regular business who are great at helping.         

Third, do your homework. Surf the web and try to find articles on startup businesses and processes. See if you have the qualities needed to start your own company. Do you have the temperament and resources needed to get started? Even if your idea sells and you have a client sign up tomorrow, you may not see any cash flowing in for a while. Do you have enough socked away to survive for a year, or six months at the least? Do you have the thick skin required to handle rejection that could happen when others do not recognize your genius?

The URL for the official government word on starting a business in Oregon is

The URL for the publication, How to Start a Business in Oregon is The publication even has Business Wizards that walk you through steps.

Another resource is Oregon’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) which provide services to anyone who owns, operates – or is considering starting – a small business in Oregon. Find the SBDC in your area at,

Writing a Business Plan

Writing a business plan is a necessary next step. It serves several purposes; 1) Writing your ideas down transfers them from your head to paper. If you are a visual rather than a verbal thinker, try diagramming your process flow. Often this exercise shows you the holes in your logic and gets you to think about what it is you really want to do. 2.) Business plans are excellent to show to bankers and others who you may approach for financing. Take it from me; a well prepared business plan goes a long way to demonstrating you are serious about this enterprise.

Doing the Legwork

The next step is critical. Once you have made these decisions, talk to an attorney who specializes in small business and knows the state laws. His or her advice is worth gold, and pay for it if you need to. I ran this past my friend, Ben Knaupp, ( ) who brought up some excellent points. A good attorney who knows small business law can guide you in deciding the type of structure you are going to use for your business. You may operate a business by yourself (sole proprietorship), with another person (general partnership), or as a separate legal entity (corporation, limited liability company, limited liability partnership, or limited partnership). He can explain each of these types of organizations and which would best meet your needs.

The attorney should also be aware of any kinds of licenses or insurance you need to be in business.

Your next stop should be the office of an accountant who specializes in small business accounting. You may not need a CPA, but you do need someone who knows how the laws work in your state and how to file your taxes correctly. This person will do his or her best to keep you out of jail and leave paper trails where needed. You have to deal with the feds, the state and often the city where you live. Someone who is aware of this stuff can guide you through setting things up.

Naming the Baby

My only advice here is to avoid being cute. It does not look professional. Unless you are starting a clown or children’s’ toy business I would try to project an image of a person who knows how to do business. Some names focus on a product or service being offered. Others of us just keep it simple and use our names. When I told my accountant the legal name of my corporation was Anne L Cloward Consulting, Inc, he joked, “How long did it take to come up with that one?” But since I do so many things, it just made sense.

Most companies are registered by the Secretary of State in the state you want to establish the business. They have websites and you can often do it online.

But, wait a minute, you say, I only want to work as an independent contractor on a W2 basis. Do I need to do all this? It seems like a lot of unnecessary work, I still would, just to be safe and make sure I don’t get any surprises when I go to file my taxes after a year of contracting. Your attorney and tax guy may say that you don’t have to do all this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry where the IRS is concerned.




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