How to Start Your Business in Illinois
Where do I start? How do I get this thing off the ground? How do I know I'm complying with the law? Where do I go for help? These questions and many more are asked daily from visitors to the Workforce & Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Illinois College. Our trained business counselors are here to help you through the daunting process of getting your business up and running while helping you stay focused on key issues like risk, safety, legality and profitability. Here are some of the steps we'll walk you through:
What is your vision for the business?
This may not seem like a very important step to some, but to us, this is one of the most crucial steps before going anywhere. You must know who you want to become to develop a solid plan to get there. Developing a simple vision statement will create the foundation for who you are, what you do and how you accomplish it. For instance, if your vision is "to operate high quality automotive detailing service in Southeastern Illinois with the quickest turnaround time", that creates a certain series of activities that should be completed to achieve that goal as compared to someone whose vision is "to operate the lowest cost car wash in XYZ town". Vision identifies where you're going and helps you set the steps, time frame and costs on how to get there. It also helps prevent you from veering off course and losing focus.
What structure will you operate under?
Sole proprietorships, Corporations, LLC's and Partnerships all are ways to organize in the State of Illinois to do business. Some structures are inherently easier to navigate and cost less to establish, but may result in greater levels of liability to the owner. Others are are difficult to establish and maintain, and may cost more to start, but in the end create a high level of liability protection and organizational stability. Before meeting with our counselors, you need to first ask yourself, "how much liability am I willing to take on personally and how much am I willing to spend to get the company established"? From that, we can help guide you into the appropriate organizational structure that is most viable for you. Keep in mind that it's a good idea to retain legal counsel at some point prior to formalizing things just to review any agreements or contracts.
Have you registered your business properly?
Depending on the type of business you are using, a variety of registrations may be necessary to make it legal through the State of Illinois and related federal agencies. Depending on your business structure, you may have some initial registrations as soon as you start. For instance, sole proprietors and general partnerships must register their business with the county clerk in the county they are doing business. This includes completing an Assumed Name Act Affidavit and proper public notification in the local newspaper. For corporations and LLC's, you must register your name through the Secretary of State and file certain documents like your Articles of Incorporation or Operating Agreement. Beyond registration of the company as a formal entity, you will also need to file a REG-1 form with the Illinois Department of Revenue. Depending upon whether or not you have employees, other registrations include your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), your notification to Illinois Department of Employment Security (once to determine your unemployment insurance rate and again every time you hire a new employee), as well as other applicable state and federal agencies. Our staff will walk you through each business registration required and what must be done to be in compliance.
Will you need financial support for start-up costs?
If you need a loan to get your business going, most banks will require a business plan be submitted. This task can seem impossible for a new business owner. With the WISBDC, a trained counselor will walk you through all aspects of business plan preparation. We'll guide you through all of the financial forecasting and help you develop financials that are both realistic and attainable. Once completed, we'll help you put it into a very presentable and easy to understand format for any financial representative.
Beyond business plans, our staff can also help you develop a solid financial forecast or cost analysis of recent performance.
How will you market and sell your services and/or products?
As a new business owner, you must develop a solid approach for how you introduce others to your business and its services/products. This may include an array of direct mail, sales staff, referral sales, promotional campaigns, ads and the web. The mix of methods is typically different for each business, but the process of developing a sound sales and marketing plan is very important. We'll help you look at all factors including target audience, product/service features, regional demographics and of course cost. Whether you're looking just to create a simple brochure or develop a strong web presence, our counselors can help guide you in the right direction.
Will you have employees and how will they report/be managed?
Start by asking yourself, "how much time do I have and what tasks need to be done"? This will help you begin to understand the time and resource constraints you will face and how many employees are needed. Implementing good hiring practices from the very beginning is critical to limiting turnover, decreasing hiring costs and maintaining a solid, supportive staff of professionals. From the outset, be cognizant of Illinois Department of Employment Security reporting requirements, OSHA guidelines and Right-to-Know posters.
Do you have an "exit strategy"?
Most people don't like to think about the end of your business, but there's no better time to think about it then at the beginning. What would happen with all you've worked for if you got sick, if you passed away, or if you just wanted to sell it off? Just like an emergency response plan, an exit strategy will keep you prepared in case you must part ways with your company.