It seems today that everybody is some sort of “entrepreneur.” Everywhere I go I see people handing out business cards, talking about their business, and doing other forms of light promotion.
But a business card doesn’t make a business owner. You can put “entrepreneur” or “CEO” on your business card without having seen one profit turn, a consistent revenue stream or any type of real consistency in your business in general. To be truly legit, you need to get your business established in a few ways that speaks to clients, vendors, suppliers, customers and potential partners.
For this article, I wanted to discuss some ways you can make sure that your business looks legitimate to the general marketplace, which will help separate you from many of these supposed “entrepreneurs” running around in the market, and help you stand out as the authority that you are.
Have a Legitimate Business Plan
This is the most important aspect in making your business legitimate. Most of the other “entrepreneurs” in the marketplace are like chickens running around with their heads sliced off. They don’t understand what market they are in, what products they sell, how to move within said markets, how to develop a profitable formula, etc. They literally just have a dream and believe in a higher power or the Law of Attraction to bring it to pass; they have no concrete business plan in place.
The creation of your business plan should begin and depend upon your unique value proposition (UVP). Your UVP is the foundation of all of your business planning and forecasts.
Your UVP should answer this question: Understanding my market sector, what is it I will specifically bring to the sector that isn’t being already provided by the current crop of solution providers?
The question includes three main components that will be addressed:
- The identification of a market segment;
- The characteristics of all services within your industry, being sold to that market;
- The services that you will uniquely provide to said market and their unique characteristics.
Professionally Establish Your Business
You don’t want to be operating out of your basement (or at least, not appear that way), but instead, you want to professionally establish your business which will include having the following in place:
- Have an Actual Business Location. You can either lease a space or you can utilize a shared office or co-working space. In these setups, an organization will give you a professional address with a suite number located in an office building or other commercial building, which allows you to utilize their address for better imaging and credibility. Many will also have conferencing rooms, office assistants and other services available to give your business a nice professional touch.
- Incorporate Your Business. Choose between the C-Corp, S-Corp or the Limited Liability Company (LLC) to incorporate your business going forward. You will find that the LLC is the simplest form of incorporation. The LLC provides liability protection with great tax benefits and without the potential of double taxation, as profits/losses are passed through to the managing members of the LLC.
- Open Your Business Bank Account. There are more than 6,000 FDIC-insured banking institutions in the U.S. Make sure to create a separate business bank account for your business, which will separate your personal affairs from your commercial activities. For business checking accounts, I recommend looking for accounts that have FDIC Insurance Protection up to $250k, great customer service with convenient ways to manage your account and no service fees.
- Set Up a Business Telephone/Fax Line: Have a dedicated line for the business, which should also include auto-attendants which again, provide a nice professional touch for your organization.
- Establish a Website With an Email Address: Make sure to professionally design a website for your organization, with dedicated email addresses that you use to communicate with clients. There are plenty of solutions for the very small business owner these days, like Wix or SquareSpace.
- Online and Other Directory Listings (including BBB): Make sure to register your organization in various directories, including online directories and other directories so prospective clients, partners, vendors, etc., can find your organization listed. Also, registering with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) also helps to enhance the professional touch of your organization.
- Joining Applicable Professional Associations: Finally, joining applicable professional associations that represent your industry and/or customers or partners of your industry, is a great way to also get visibility and enhanced credibility. Also search out other entrepreneurial groups in your area — they’ve been there, done what you’re doing and have invaluable advice for new business owners.
Establish Business Credit
Another way of establishing legitimacy is building your own business credit profile, which makes you much more credible to potential creditors, vendors, suppliers and partners. You do not automatically get a business credit profile once you open your doors (or launch your website), you have to establish one yourself with at least one of the major business credit reporting agencies. (Experian and Dun & Bradstreet are two of the largest bureaus.) Establishing lines of credit with a few vendors or suppliers who report to the bureaus is the best way to begin building a credit history. You can also open a business credit card, though you’ll want to make sure the issuer reports your payment history for your business, not just your personal credit. (Here’s a quick guide to how issuers report to the bureaus.) You can check your full business credit profile for free on Nav.
The Final Word
While there are other things you can do to increase the legitimacy of your business (to separate yourself from the pack of “pseudo-entrepreneurs”), this guide is a great starting point to make sure that your business has the image of professionalism to help you stand out as the chosen category authority.