Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? Do you have an idea that could add to the commerce and personality of the Lincoln community? Do you feel empowered to take things into your own hands and seek out new opportunities? If so, you’ve probably dreamed of owning your own business and putting your spirit to the test. Is it a little intimidating? Sure it is, but if you have the dream and the spirit to follow through, why not test your ideas and give it a try? Just be certain that you are truly dedicated before taking the plunge, because starting a business can be a bit of an arduous and highly detailed process, but the rewards can cover the price of entry.
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a 10-step plan for starting a business, which includes: conducting market research; writing a business plan; funding your business; selecting your business location; choosing a legal structure for your business; choosing your business name; registering your business; getting federal and state tax IDs; applying for licenses and permits; and opening a business bank account. As part of this entire process, we suggest working with a business coach who is a good match for you, hammer out some details, and test your grit. We talked to some savvy business experts in the Lincoln area to get some tips for walking the path to business ownership and outfitting your business and employees for success.
Don’t Get Bogged Down in the Details
Starting and growing a business come with extensive responsibilities. With this in mind, it’s important that you focus on your strengths and hire the right experts to handle the parts of starting a business that are otherwise specialized. That’s where SP Group, PC (spgrouppc.com) comes in.
“Starting a business can be an intimidating process to tackle on your own,” said SP Group CPA Chris Robinett. “We strive to alleviate some of the headaches that come with getting started, including business planning, entity selection, payroll management and bookkeeping, and financial-statement preparation. Having a trusted CPA firm at your disposal will let you focus your time on the things you truly do best, instead of getting bogged down in the details.”
One of the crucial steps in the process of starting a business is choosing an entity type, and it’s a step that often is missed by first-time business owners. You must choose whether your business is a sole proprietorship, limited-liability company, partnership, or corporation.
“This is a critical decision from a legal and ownership standpoint, but it can also have far-reaching implications from a tax perspective,” Chris said. “Consulting with both an attorney and an accountant about your entity selection before you start your business is a wise step in the planning stages of your new business.”
Engaging an accountant in the planning stages of a new business allows an entrepreneur to leverage that professional’s experience and knowledge to address both short- and long-term concerns. An accountant that serves business clients is aware of the potential pitfalls and blind spots that a new business owner may face and helps navigate the complexities of the tax code and tax planning, as well as, the more day-to-day tasks of bookkeeping and payroll processing.
“SP Group, PC, has a wealth of experience assisting business owners at every stage, from initial startup, through the growth years, and into succession planning or sale of a business,” Chris explained. “We provide a complete array of services including entity selection and business advisory, payroll and accounting, audit and assurance, and tax compliance and planning. SP Group values long-term relationships. Our strength is knowing you and your business over many, many years. We provide you advice based on a complete understanding of your personal, family, and business goals, and taking that journey together. We succeed when you succeed.”
Location, Location, Location!
Selecting a location for your new business depends on a wide variety of factors to find not only the right building configuration but the best place for your business to be accessible to your potential clientele. Greenleaf Commercial Real Estate (greenleafcommercial.com) can help you get the right space to meet all of your needs.
“We assist business owners and entrepreneurs with decisions related to their commercial real-estate needs,” said Greenleaf Director of Brokerage Services Brett Harris. “Most new businesses require some type of commercial real estate to get started and we work with entrepreneurs to identify the best space to meet their requirements. As real-estate professionals, we have experience helping clients through the process of finding the right location for their business and negotiating the best terms for a lease or purchase.”
It’s also important to be certain that you have not underestimated the cost of getting your business going. After all, you don’t want to get started and run out of money before you’re even up and running.
“Starting any new business requires capital,” Brett said. “Many entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of start-up capital required for rent, build-out, equipment, and operating expenses. We can help them to understand their expected real-estate expenses and create a realistic budget.”
Greenleaf Commercial Real Estate is unique in the industry because they are a boutique real-estate firm that enjoys working with smaller entrepreneurs and startups, as well as larger, established companies. In addition to their brokerage activities, Greenleaf also provides property-management services for a variety of commercial property owners, and they strive to provide each client with the same level of service, regardless of their size or requirements.
Shared Entrepreneurial Spirit
An entrepreneurial company at heart, Guiderock Commercial Realty LLC (guiderockrealty.com) was built on the desire to help other would-be business owners achieve long-term success. They go the extra mile to help business startups learn about all the options and find the perfect location for their venture, and they offer property-management services, as well as delivering resources for other associated needs.
“As we work with prospective entrepreneurs, we want to learn as much as we can about the vision they have for their business and where they are in the startup process,” said Guiderock Broker and Property Manager Cathy Kottwitz, CPM. “We help new and small businesses learn about leasing and buying commercial real estate, but we know that our service is only a part of what new business owners need. We often hear from clients that they may not know about resources available or there may be areas that they need help thinking through. As we engage with them, we can then help connect entrepreneurs with professionals in other areas who can get them off to a strong start. Through a collaborative approach, we help our clients make the immediate decisions needed to get their business going and create a foundation for their long-term success.”
The Guiderock team helps business owners make strategic decisions about the locations they use, in addition to helping communities and landlords understand trends and assets to build strong business climates. She recommends that entrepreneurs start the search for a location with plenty of time to find the perfect space.
“One of my primary roles as an agent is to help clients select a site that aligns with both their current needs and their future goals,” Cathy said. “I commonly see business owners not giving themselves enough time to find a location. I typically recommend getting some general ideas for locations and costs about a year in advance and planning to start actively looking six months in advance of their projected opening date. This allows time to assess options, negotiate terms, and remodel a space if needed.”
For business owners who want the benefits of a professional space but are unsure about the costs, Holroyd Investment Properties (HIP, hiprealty.com) Realty offers an excellent alternative to the more expensive and traditional route of leasing or purchasing a standalone location. HIP OffiCenters offered by HIP is a very low-risk way of getting your business started. They offer a wide range of lease terms to meet your commitment level, and they have a variety of office sizes and styles, with the option of furnishing the office for you if you desire. Tenants of HIP OffiCenters enjoy the assistance of a full-time receptionist, conference room, and modern office equipment. HIP OffiCenters is a great way to convey a professional image to your clients without the financial commitment of staffing an office yourself.
Your Built Environment
So you’ve made it through all the brainstorming, paperwork, strategizing, funding, locating, building, and minutia to start your business. Now it’s time to make it a place that people want to work safely and happily and customers or clients want to frequent. We know the next step: Contact AOI Corporation (aoicorp.com) to ace the built environment! They offer comprehensive services for new construction, renovations, and expansion, provide furniture options that leverage environments to create greater value for businesses, and offer an entire line of sustainable prefabricated modular interior construction.
“AOI focuses on the built environment, whether that be in your home office, a small business, or a corporate tower,” said General Manager Penny Johnston. “We have everything from Herman Miller highly ergonomic task chairs to DIRTT (Doing It Right This Time) modularly constructed walls, and everything in between.”
Integrating technology needs for growth is crucial to starting a business. You’ll save a lot of time and effort down the road if you plan for long-term technology needs in spaces like huddle rooms or meeting spaces. AOI can help you strategize your built environment for now—and when you grow, considering your specific needs.
“Every buyer’s situation is so different, which is why our furniture consultants are trained on things like ergonomics and warranty, to help you make the best product decisions,” Penny said. “Our design professionals are trained on local codes and life-safety issues within the built environment, as well. To that end, we also have online shopping available through our various manufacturers, so if you do not need personal help just yet, we have other avenues for you. We help you make the most informed decision possible, whatever your situation.”
Among AOI’s newest products are Framery Pods, which are soundproof pods that make a perfect place to have meetings, brainstorming sessions, and important one-on-one conversations in private without disturbing the entire office—or the office disturbing them. This is just one example of what they deliver as Nebraska’s authorized dealer for Framery, a globally recognized brand known for offering innovative workplace solutions to many of the world’s leading companies, including Microsoft, Puma, LinkedIn, and Tesla. AOI is also a certified dealer for Herman Miller furniture, which transforms ordinary spaces into collaborative, innovative environments for the 21st century.
“AOI is the only full-service Herman Miller dealer in the state of Nebraska,” Penny said. “As a company, AOI can build your building, add the offices and meeting spaces, then outfit all of it with amazing furniture that will grow and change with your business!”
Managing Your Technology
The better you manage your budget and monitor your financial situation, the more successful your business will be. By having an accurate handle on your budget, you can measure performance against expenditures and ensure that resources are available for initiatives that support the growth and development of your business. One of the initiatives that you can’t afford to overlook in the digital world in which we live is technology. Data is everything, and Lutz (www.lutz.us) can help you invest in an effective IT system and support for your new business.
“Technology is critical to the success of your business operations,” said Lutz Audit Manager Scott Sunderman. “It’s important to invest in solid IT equipment to help ensure that processes are running efficiently. Our IT professionals can help you assess your business technology needs and recommend the best options for you. Our Lutz Tech team can provide your startup with everything from managed network and IT services to custom software and application development to help your organization function optimally.”
Showcasing Your Brand
With a new business, marketing is crucial. Signage and promotional items showcasing your brand will always be terrific ways to put your name and branding in front of potential customers. Sign Pro of Lincoln (signprolincoln.com) has been providing local businesses with the best in signs and graphics for more than 25 years. Many businesses throughout southeastern Nebraska have benefited from the eye-catching signs they deliver. Whether you require something for a one-time event, signage for a construction site, or if you are opening a new business, you can depend on Sign Pro to meet your needs. For promotional items to hand out to clients, potential clients, and at trade shows, turn to Flicker Promotions (flickerpromotions.com). Locally owned by Amy Doele, Flicker Promotions can keep you stocked with truly useful swag that people will keep and use, showcasing your brand whenever they do. Handing out fun, useful items with your loco on it is a foolproof way to let people know about your new business.
Starting a business is an exciting venture for dedicated entrepreneurs, and the options are endless. It’s no simple task, though, and we recommend working with some of these experts to get it right the first time—and to help you achieve ongoing growth!