SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

How to start a business

 

By: Jayson Demers

VIP CONTRIBUTOR

MARCH 21, 2016

You’re excited to start a business. Maybe you have an idea, or you’re just fascinated with the idea of launching and growing your own enterprise. You’re willing to take some risks, like leaving your current job or going without personal revenue for a while. But there’s one logistical hurdle stopping you: You don’t have much money.


On the surface, this seems like a major problem, but a lack of personal capital shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams. In fact, it’s entirely possible to start and grow a business with almost no personal financial investment whatsoever -- if you know what you’re doing.

Why a business needs money

First, let’s take a look at why a business needs money in the first place. There’s no uniform “startup” fee for building a business, so different businesses will have different needs. It’s important to first estimate how much you need before you start finding alternative methods to fund your company.


Consider the following uses:

  • Licenses and permits. Depending on your region, you may need special paperwork and registry to operate.
  • Supplies. Are you buying raw materials? Do you need computers and/or other devices?
  • Equipment. Do you need specialized machinery or software?
  • Office space. This is a huge expense, and you can't neglect things like Internet, utilities costs, janitorial services and whether to outsource back office tasks, like payroll and invoicing.
  • Associations, subscriptions, memberships. What publications and affiliations will you subsribe to every month?
  • Operating expenses. Dig into the nooks and crannies here, and don’t forget about marketing.
  • Legal fees. Are you consulting a lawyer throughout your business-development process?
  • Employees, freelancers and contractors. If you can’t do it alone, you’ll need people on your payroll.

With that said, you have two main paths of starting a business with less money: lowering your costs or increasing your available capital from outside sources. You have three options here:

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Q&A: How Fortinet’s Security Fabric Creates New Opportunity for Channel Partners

Joe Sykora, Fortinet’s Vice President of Americas Channels and Enhanced Technologies, gives his perspective on how an integrated security architecture like Fortinet’s Security Fabric creates new opportunities for solution providers. Joe Sykora, Fortinet’s Vice President of Americas Channels and Enhanced Technologies, gives his perspective on how an integrated security architecture like Fortinet’s Security Fabric creates new opportunities for solution providers. 


Why is the idea of a security fabric so important to network security in this current environment?

Organizations can’t just keep adding new, siloed security solutions that don’t talk to other devices on their network, banner ad security fabric 220x150 002and that require separate management and collaboration tools. What organizations need today is a collaborative system of tools that work together to monitor their network, share information, and respond to threats no matter where they occur.

The Fortinet Security Fabric allows us to take all of our tools and integrate them into a single, interactive security framework. This collaborative ecosystem also includes third-party partners in cloud, software-defined networking, sandboxing, testing, security information and event management (SIEM), and Single Sign On technologies, as well as support for the services provided by our worldwide family of channel partners.

How does Fortinet’s Security Fabric benefit Fortinet’s global partner network of distributors and solution providers?

Because of its critical and complex nature, security continues to be one of the largest opportunities for the channel. Partners that can plan, design, deploy, and optimize an integrated security offering are finding a growing demand for their skills. 

By tying traditional security appliances and emerging technologies together into an integrated security fabric, partners can help their customers collect and respond to more actionable intelligence, synchronize threat responses, and centralize the creation, distribution, and orchestration of their security management and analysis. This broad visibility and open-standards approach provided by the Fortinet Security Fabric allows solution providers to implement more automation to focus on the alerts that really matter.

How is Fortinet’s Fabric Ready Partner program different from the alliance partner programs we see other vendors promoting?

Like many partner programs, Fortinet’s Fabric Ready Partner Program brings together best-in-class technology alliance partners. But unlike those other approaches, Fortinet’s approach actually allows our channel partners to deliver pre-integrated, end-to-end security offerings ready for deployment.

And for our channel partners, extending the functionality and intelligence of the Fortinet Security Fabric vision with an open and cooperative ecosystem of partner solutions means they can more easily:

  • Deliver more effective, more responsive security solutions that leverage the collaborative power of the Fortinet Security Fabric
  • Speed business outcomes with integrated ecosystem solutions that address customers’ needs.  Leverage Fortinet’s Fabric-Ready seal of approval to build trust with customers and instill confidence that the solutions work
  • Deliver solutions with faster time-to-deployment to customers, with reduced technical support burden & costs due to pre-validation.

Download our eBook, How the Fortinet Security Fabric Addresses Today’s Top Security Concerns.

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7 Common Legal Issues Entrepreneurs Need to Consider When Starting a Business

When it comes to starting a business, you might be a pro…

But, what about when it comes to working through all the legal issues you must Entreprenuerconsider as an entrepreneur when launching your start-up?

The world of business can get complicated quickly when you add in all the laws that apply – liability, finances, trademarks…

The list goes on. 

Most entrepreneurs get caught up in the midst of starting their business and quickly forget about the legal aspects that need to be considered.

To ensure that you avoid the negative repercussions of an avoidable mistake, there are a few common legal issues you should be aware of:

1. Non-disclosure agreements.

It seems like a given – don’t talk about anything that is considered “top secret.” But, it isn’t that obvious to everyone and to some, it just isn’t a priority or even a concern…

Particularly those outside of your business who might become involved with you in some way.

Anyone who interacts with your business – from the business side, not your clients – should sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure they won’t run and share your ideas with the competition. 

2. Future of the business – the what if’s?

Life happens. Unfortunately, sometimes people leave this world too soon. If that is the case, what will happen to your business?

It is important to invest in a will kit to ensure the assets of your business are protected and have a designated owner should you become unavailable. 

Have your attorney send your will kit to the post office for easy pickup.

3. Vesting.

Finding the right co-founder for your business is quite the task…

Who do you trust? Who will make a good fit and lead your business in the right direction?

It is important that you have a similar work ethic and timelines for investment – you need to have chemistry. 

Instead of getting all your shares at once, once option to consider is vesting. Your equity can be vested over time so that if you don’t have the chemistry you thought you did, there is a fair solution. 

4. Intellectual property.

While your business is still small, it is hard to imagine that you could potentially face the issue of people infringing on your intellectual property assets (or vice versa)…

But, it can happen easier than you think.

It is worth the investment of both time and money to get your trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets legally registered. It will be a lifesaver if, or when, an issue arises. 

5. Trademarks.

You just thought choosing a business name was difficult…

But, did you consider that even as creative as you might have been, someone else might still have thought of it first? 

Invest in performing a killer search to ensure your business name is not already another company’s trademark.

6. Compliance.

There are corporate compliance laws in place that affect companies in various industries. The laws that apply specifically to your business will vary based on the type of business entity you are, the state you do business in, and several other determining factors.

Do some research, and consult the help of an attorney, to ensure you know what documents should be generated and maintained by your business to remain compliant. 

7. Business structure.

There are several different business structures…

Partnerships, S corporations, corporations, sole proprietorship and a limited liability company.

All business structures hold very different meanings and offer a variety of different benefits. You should consider if your business is going to remain privately funded, if you plan on taking on investors, and what type of growth you expect your company to have in the future. 

You’ve already put in all the leg work to get your business up and running, don’t let a simple – and costly – legal mistake cause you to lose it all.

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MSFT SMB Partners – Shelter in Place!

IT’s the mean season at Microsoft with targeted SMB-related layoffs in the reorg wave and then the “how does it play out” conversations at the annual partner conference underway in Washington DC (now called Inspire; formerly Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC)). Here’s my take on it: shelter in place until the next quarter starting October 1, 2017. 
 
During the 4th of July week, and the start of FY18, Microsoft made long-anticipated announcements concerning layoffs and reorganizations.image1 Proper PR communications suggested it was in the sales and marketing roles primarily overseas. The reality is different. 
 
Cindy Bates. I can now confirm that Cindy Bates, VP of SMB (US) has left the company. In her role she oversaw Partners, Customers and Distributors. She did not oversee the Microsoft Stores. On an individual basis, Bates is a friend and I’ll know she’ll do fine and land right-side up. Sources indicate she has already been invited to join two Boards of Directors. Say what you must but the departure is significant as she was a legendary force in the SMB practice area at Microsoft. 
 
Cindy Bates Team. Sadly, there are other critical exits underway. Steven Fielding and his team are out. He reported to Cindy and was a key SMB Cabinet member in the PR, communications and messaging area. Other departures are expected and I’ll keep you posted. 
 
SMB State Department. With the Microsoft Inspire conference being held in Washington DC, I cannot resist a political analogy. It seems like Microsoft is dismantling the US SMB business organization. Much like the current president and administration are starving the State Department. So, what does this look like? It means we’ll have SMB embassies without Ambassadors. SMB diplomacy will screech to a halt. One long-time SMB Nation partner from SoCal whom I spent time with here at Inspire is bamboozled about Microsoft’s commitment to the beloved old timy SBS crowd (yes – he wants his on-premises server back). Microsoft’s action were not a vote of confidence.  
 
What’s My Job? Internally my Microsoft blue badge sources indicate that things aren’t clear yet. There are likely two more layoff waves in the next six months. People have new roles as of last week without guidance. It’s akin to the White House being paralyzed over the Russia thing. This will take the summer to sort it all out. 
 
SMB Acronym Missing. I listened intently to all of the keynotes. I personally didn’t hear the acronym “SMB” once. I heard the term “Small Business” and there was even a keynote reference on Day Three to “Small Business Server” but the term SMB has become persona non grata. I stopped counting how many times I heard the term “Inspire” after 100 instances. 
 
Lead Generation. The One Commercial Partner initiative is a highlight. And within this simplification and consolidation strategy, the lead generation service is the crown jewel. Readers might recall I spent two years in a Seattle-based Big Data startup called LeadScorz so I’ll dig deeper into this area and report back. I can tell you an SMB Nation member never met a warm lead she/he didn’t like! 
 
This is my first report from Microsoft Inspire in Washington DC. Keep it right here for more analysis. 
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7 Mistakes First Time Entrepreneurs Make and How to Avoid Them

We have all seen it happen to at least one good person…

Rather it is in politics or small business – someone makes a huge mistake and loses it all.

But, the ironic part about the entire situation is that the mistake was totally MistakesbyFirstTimeEntrepreneursavoidable. And, as an outsider, you could totally see that.

However, the person making the detrimental mistake is an insider – they don’t see what you see, hints as to why they didn’t avoid the mistake in the first place.

So, as you look into beginning your entrepreneur journey for the first time, I am here to be the person that offers you the advice you need to avoid those big, obvious mistakes…

As an entrepreneur for the first-time, a few big mistakes you can make (and also avoid) include:

1.    Falling head-over-heels in love.

Mistake: Young, or just first time, entrepreneurs often fall into one trap – they get bit by the love bug of the business industry. Don’t fall completely in love with your business idea; you will lose focus. Falling in love with your business idea could blind you and keep you from seeing that it might not have any profit-generating avenues.

How to avoid it: Be subjective. Always keep a list of your pros and cons, to remind yourself that if or when the pros outweigh the cons, it is time to move on to a new idea.

2.    Lacking support.

Mistake: This can encompass lacking technical, emotional, and/or financial support – trust me, you will need it all. While you can’t always get everyone in your corner, there is always someone. Especially financially, you will need this support to even get started.

How to avoid it: Create your own support group. Only keep the people you trust in your close circle, but be sure to keep it free of all the “haters.” Discuss business with people who truly believe in you and foster those friendships.

3.    Working with friends.

Mistake: Friends are just that. Friends. Friends and business should always remain separate. When working with someone so close to you, a level of respect is often lacking in your relationship which could lead to issues and tension in the workplace.

How to avoid it: Scout out talented people at networking events. Ask other people in the industry for recommendations – maybe some of their former employees would be a good fit. Always look for neutral parties to add to the team.

4.    Attempting to capture everyone.

Mistake: There is a big sea of people out in the world, and capturing the attention and likings of them all is impossible. You will never make everyone happy and intrigue everyone enough to buy your product, so why waste your time trying?

How to avoid it: Designate a target audience, then, refine your message and target specific niches that relate to your target audience.

5.    Using personal credit cards for business expenses.

Mistake: Several experts in entrepreneurship say you should only risk what you can afford to lose. There is no guarantee your business idea will work, so don’t risk it all just hoping that it will. Putting business expenses on a personal credit card is a good sign you can’t afford whatever you’re doing – and now, you are paying interest on your debt to credit card manufacturers and companies.

How to avoid it: Start a savings account. Continue to build the balance up with the intentions of it being your business funds. Then, use those for business ventures. You already had it set aside for that purpose, so you aren’t risking tour livelihood.

6.    Failing to test the market.

Mistake: While your idea might sound pretty intriguing, it isn’t fail-proof. Just because you assume the market will eat it up, doesn’t mean that they will. Testing the market could also lead to valuable advice that could improve your product for better sales.

How to avoid it: Test your product and get feedback from the market rapidly – before starting your business. Pass the product out to friends, family and anyone else who is relative to your target audience.

7.    Being the single founder.

Mistake: You will have far more responsibilities and tasks than you realize. You will suddenly find yourself overloaded with tasks that you can’t possibly get done.

How to avoid it: Learn to delegate tasks. Have a co-founder, or two, that you can hand some of the responsibility.

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