Starting a Business in Lincoln, NE – 2018
Have you been thinking about starting your own business? You’re in good company, with many aspiring to venture into entrepreneurship. When it comes to turning those dreams into reality, however, fewer actually put their money – and just about everything else they have to offer – where their mouth is, proverbially speaking. Just like the iconic Marines slogan, if you find yourself as one of “The Few, The Proud, The Brave,” once you’ve got your mind set on moving forward, what’s next?
Let’s kick things off with forming a company. Do you opt for an LLC or S-Corp?
In brief summary, here are three steps you should take when choosing between the two:
First, determine how many people will be owners or shareholders in the business. LLCs can have unlimited members while S-Corps can only have 100 shareholders or less.
Second, consider how you would like the company to be managed. S-Corps have fixed rules that govern management practices and more structured rigid rules. LLCs can be managed using the structure of your choosing with fewer default management provisions.
Third, determine whether you will invite additional investors to raise capital at a later stage. Work with your lawyer and CPA to ensure that your company is set up for success.
How your new business is structured is just one of the many, MANY decisions you’ll be making in the beginning stages. With so much to think about and to be done, it can be intimidating and overwhelming for even the most dedicated, organized and intrepid of entrepreneurs. However, don’t let this discourage you; there are great options out there to meet all of your initial needs.
When it comes to where a business gets its start, this will vary quite a bit. Many great businesses have been started out of homes, while others have begun in an existing or newly-constructed standalone location. Now there are even office suites, coworking spaces, incubators, virtual office capabilities, and more that are particularly ideal for SMBs.
“Taking advantage of office space with HIP OffiCenters is a very low-risk way of getting your business started,” says Michael Holroyd with Holroyd Investment Properties. “There are a wide range of lease terms to meet your commitment level. We offer a variety of office sizes and styles, and can even furnish it for you. Our clients are provided with 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 struggle of staffing an office.”
He adds, “New business owners need to be sure their office is convenient to find and that sufficient parking is available. And first impressions matter. Be sure your office appears professional to portray confidence and success to your customers, and that anyone representing your company is providing excellent customer service. Clients of HIP OffiCenters have a professional receptionist in a comfortable lobby greeting all of their customers. We professionally answer incoming phone calls for our tenants, which allows them to focus on taking care of their existing clients and building their businesses. Perception is important, and we strive to help you make every experience for every customer the best that it can be. The Executive Office Suites are easy to find and offers free parking next to the building. Our large, spacious offices give the professional atmosphere our clients are looking for, with a host of amenities that further enhance the experience for both tenants and their clients.
HIP OffiCenters is in the business of helping new businesses grow. We make the first step easy so that new companies can focus on reaching their goals.”
When searching for the perfect space to house your new business, there are certain things to keep in mind. Some you’ll already have front and center, but other things may not occur to you right away.
To that end, Greg Ayars with Greenleaf Properties advises, “If you are looking for commercial space, for the first time or otherwise, I would suggest contacting an agent and letting him or her represent you. In most cases, the potential tenant or buyer is not responsible for the payment of the agent. Contracting an agent allows you to have a knowledgeable individual who has experience in the field to help you find the perfect property and negotiate terms that work for you.
For example, most individuals who are leasing commercial property for the first time find triple net leases a little confusing. I like to explain it as separating the rent from the other costs associated with leasing a space, such as taxes, insurance, common area maintenance, etc. It also allows you to more easily compare the costs of leasing one space compared to another on an apples to apples basis.
Greenleaf Properties can help new businesses understand and acquire their space needs. Every business has different goals and we can find the space that puts them in the very best position to accomplish them.
In the early stages, it’s critical to establish a strong foundation that supports the initial functions of conducting business as well as to drive new business coming in. Today, there’s a strong possibility this would involve the latest in technology too. You may not even be aware of the possibilities that exist to get your business up and running…or sprinting for that matter.
“We exclusively work with SMBs, and as one as well, we fully understand our client’s needs and the challenges they face,” says Darren Lichty with Panology Tech Solutions. “All of our offerings have been designed with these things in mind. We take great pride in being able to help our clients achieve their goals for their businesses, making technical support and cloud services easily accessible and affordable. Additionally, we help to find efficiencies that can greatly benefit a business in a number of ways.
By educating small business owners on the options available to them, they are in the position to make an informed decision – one of many they’ll be making as they get their businesses up and running. Moving forward, our technology growth plan allows for the integration of faster and more advanced technology as a business grows. It does this by identifying and resolving any technology deficiencies early on in order to prevent growing pains when a business decides to expand its operations. By implementing this in the very beginning, you’re setting yourself up for success and ensuring that the technology you’ll come to rely on is always working hard for you at peak performance.
Technology is continuously evolving, offering new and more efficient ways to conduct business. Many of the options are available at little to no cost. By being open to implementing the right tools, and leveraging innovative new approaches, you can greatly increase your chances of success.”
He also notes, “A piece of advice I’d offer to all entrepreneurs is to utilize Lincoln SCORE as a resource. I found their workshops extremely helpful when I started. Put yourself in the places where you’ll have the opportunity to meet and talk with other entrepreneurs, learn about the tools they found helpful, and bounce ideas off of them. Listen and learn from the experiences of others in the business community.”
As far as the basics – the absolute essentials – there’s little you can do without phone and internet. For new business owners, it’s critical that service for both is fast, reliable, and budget-friendly.
“As you’re likely already familiar, ALLO provides communications services including very fast internet speeds at competitive prices,” says Brad Moline with ALLO Communications. “For some companies, co-working spaces are very appealing, and many have access to our services there too. ALLO provides internet, telephone and television services as well as connections to other cities in the region or country. Simply put, you can save money and do more with ALLO’s services.
When talking to potential business clients, we’re often asked about contracts, installation charges, and how long it will take to be connected. Our responses are that ALLO does not require contracts or charge for installation in virtually all situations as long as your business is in an ALLO community. Generally, ALLO is ready to install in a few days to a few weeks.”
Moline offers a few tips for those embarking on new business ventures, advising, “It tends to take more money to start a business than you think it will and often you won’t be able to take any money out for some period. Make sure that you have enough money to get it off the ground. Of course, make sure that you have a good handle on customer opportunity and potential demand.
In the communications industry, technology is always changing, making it easier to start businesses. Even in low unemployment situations, a creative and interesting business that treats employees well will be able to attract talent.”
He concludes, “Give ALLO a call and we can tailor a solution for you to set your business up for success. We have many solutions that will help you conserve cash and operate efficiently.”
Finally, Kevin Knudson with QTEQ offers the following insight based on his vast experience:
“Technology impacts every walk of life now. It’s important to understand the new world of technology that exists today, which is changing faster and faster due to the internet and the access to and sharing of knowledge on that platform. How will you use all possible resources? A mentor or consultant can be tremendously helpful with navigating the modern I.T. landscape that’s predominantly cloud-based.
In fact, with the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s projected that over 50 billion ‘things,’ or devices, will be connected to the internet in the next decade. Most haven’t been invented yet, so the more you dream the more you can do!”
As for his advice in general, he continues, “Our first family business, Pontillo’s Pizzeria, opened April 19, 1978 when I was 19. In 2006, I stepped out on my own to open QTEQ Computers. Today, I have been involved in opening a dozen different concepts in over 40 different locations, from restaurants and family entertainment to technology companies. Many of these have reached the 10-year mark and beyond.
Here are the steps I’d suggest taking to start a business: 1. Select a name and legal structure. 2. Write a business plan. 3. Obtain your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). 4. Open a bank account. 5. Lease office or retail space, (if not home-based). 6. Obtain licenses and permits – Federal & State. 7. Hire employees (if applicable). 8. Set up an accounting system. 9. Obtain business insurance. 10. Systemize and organize. 11. Develop your business identity and get the word out. 12. Focus on your written business plan. Start generating revenue/sales; begin marketing, social media, website, business branding, business cards, letterhead, and so on. 13. Know your market, identify competition – run a marketing S.W.O.T. analysis.
Specifically regarding that final point, there will be more startups in the next decade than perhaps the last 100 years. Competition is only going to get more tough from here on out. Statistically, approximately 70% of all businesses will fail. The good news is based on that number, approximately 30% will survive. Entrepreneurs, focus on the 30%. Failure is a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.”
As far as what all to consider before you commit, Jethro Hopkins with No Coast Business Advisors is also quick to point out, “Are you prepared to invest your life in your business? That’s what it takes to be successful.”
He goes on to provide the following advice:
“If you are planning on starting a new business and don’t have any prior experience with business ownership – I’m not talking experience in a management role, in the industry, you’ve done your research, or any of that but strictly as a business owner – I’d recommend structuring the company as a corporate entity as opposed to a sole proprietorship or partnership. By doing so, it gives you what is called the ‘corporate veil.’ This is a legal concept that separates the business’s liabilities from the personal liabilities of the owner(s). It provides a certain amount of protection in that if things go drastically wrong, it’s harder to go after your personal assets. You and your family will be protected from any devastating losses that could completely wipe you out.
I know that sounds extreme right out of the gate, but this isn’t something that’s best viewed with rose-colored glasses. Starting a business sounds exciting, and it is, but it’s incredibly scary too. If you’re not scared, chances are you’re in trouble because you’ve only considered the possibilities in the event of success and not the very real possibilities that come along with failure.
Those who fully understand what’s in front of them for the first few years are terrified but feel that it’s worth the risk to pursue their passions and dreams in spite of the odds. And those who succeed past the first few years are the ones who have put in everything they have to give to get themselves to that point. The thrill of it will wear off quickly, so you should be absolutely certain you’re entirely committed.
Don’t be completely discouraged by the high failure rate of new startups, but do be honest with yourself and put yourself in the best position to succeed so that you don’t become a statistic. I’m a firm believer in putting things down on paper so that it makes it real. Document your business plan, which could be in a more traditional format or by simply listing what you want to achieve and actionable steps to get there. Equally important, list any and all of the potential problems and roadblocks you might encounter along the way. Having that in front of you will not only help you stick to the plan since you can reference it often, but you’ll also be better able to convey your thought process and intentions to others. It can be reviewed thoroughly so that other people can collaborate, whether it’s helping you solve the problems you’ve already identified or adding to the list so you won’t be blindsided by something you hadn’t previously considered, which will further mitigate your risk.
Managing costs in the early stages is critical; although you do have to spend money to make money, until you’ve established a solid revenue stream, it’s wise to only spend money on what’s absolutely necessary. Startup costs will vary for each business, but there are some things you can look into that will minimize your expenditures up-front until you’re in a better position to invest back into your business. There are a whole host of ways that startups can save money when things are tight while they get off the ground, it’s just a matter of taking the time, putting in the effort, and consulting with others to identify them.
As for the latter, networking will be invaluable. Surround yourself with people who know more than you, have more experience than you, and have had more success than you, then watch and learn. If you’re the smartest or most experienced person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of learning from the people who have done what you want to do. The people around you will either make you better or hold you back – there’s really no middle ground on that. You’re going to encounter things along the way that you didn’t expect – tons of them, actually. Along with networking, put together a trusted team of advisors – your lawyer, accountant, banker, mentor, etc. – and consult with them regularly. Finally, develop strategic partnerships with fellow business owners. There’s strength in numbers; support one another and help each other succeed.
Being a business owner is a lifestyle, not a profession. It will need to come first before everything else in your life, at least in the beginning. For some, that never changes. After the first five years, it does get easier. In the meantime, if you need help, there are many professionals who can assist you in your efforts who are easily found at local networking events. Although No Coast Business Advisors specializes in buying and selling established businesses, we also help keep them running, and are happy to sit down and assist you with your efforts in whatever way we can.”
Entrepreneurs in Lincoln are fortunate to have access to a wealth of resources that can help greatly during the start-up phase and with subsequent business development. As was previously emphasized, mentorship and involvement in activities where you’re in the company of established business owners and seasoned professionals is invaluable to a new business owner. At the same time, you’ll also want to form relationships with like-minded people who are doing the same things you’re doing for support and to help one another grow your businesses.
Where to find these people, you ask? Start with your local Chamber of Commerce, which also will serve as an advocate for your business and its interests.
“A Lincoln Chamber membership can jumpstart your business by helping with brand recognition in the community and growing your network,” explains Jaime Henning with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber has been the leading voice for business in Lincoln for over 100 years and has over 1,700 business members.
Taking care of our members is our top priority. We are here to help businesses every step of the way; from being an advocate at the local, state and federal level and helping you announce your business to the community through ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings and other events that connect you to new faces.
Businesses often want to know what the Chamber can do for them. Beyond what I’ve mentioned above, we offer gatherings and forums where our members, especially small business members, can learn how to navigate Lincoln’s business issues, engage fully in the community and take their place in what’s next for Lincoln. Events like Chamber Coffee and Face the Chamber enable elected leaders to transfer knowledge to our members to give them a front seat and leadership role in Lincoln’s future.
Joining the Lincoln Chamber is a business necessity that pays big dividends. We are dedicated to promoting the local business community. We want to help businesses learn, collaborate and grow. We offer B2B relationships and referrals that will help you get your business. going.”
As you might suspect, or are acutely aware if you’ve done your research, there’s a lot that goes into starting a business. Successful businesses that stand the test of time don’t get to that point by accident or pure coincidence. It’s hard work, requires dedication, and involves many aspects that should be carefully considered and thoughtfully planned. If you think you’ve got what it takes, put your plans in motion, find yourself a mentor, and put together a team of professionals that will help you build a strong infrastructure. If you’ve got something special that you want to share with the world, get after it and make your dreams of business ownership come true!