I faced these same exact circumstances years ago so I thought I would share some of the things that I learned along the way to try and help.
Start A Business In Augusta,GA
For this article, I am going to skip all of the “Theory” that goes into business. Questions like: Is the market demand big enough? Instead, I am laying out the actual actionable steps you have to take to get a business started.
If you need professional consulting services, I recommend contacting Augusta Global. They are a consulting company in Augusta,GA.
- Operating Agreement
- Business License
- Business Insurance
- Bank Account
- Intellectual Property
- Strategic Partners
- Professional Help
In the State of Georgia, it is a good idea to incorporate with the State. Prior to filing with the State, you will need to decide what type of entity you want your business to be. Is it for-profit or non-profit? For this article, we are going to stick with for-profit.
You can go to the Georgia Corporations Division of the Secretary of State website and you will need to create an account. After that, you will gain access to your Georgia SOS Dashboard. You will get a Certificate of Organization when the process is complete.
Many businesses now a days file as an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), but there are lots of choices LLP, LLLP, LLC, INC, etc. All of these have different legal protections and you will want to seek legal advice or at the very least get some business coaching from a professional in order to determine which entity to file.
How many people are going to be making decisions in your business? 1, 2, 5, 10?
If it’s just you, then filing as a single member LLC will do the trick most of the time. You can also act as the registered agent for your new business. The Registered Agent is required so that if anyone ever decides to sue you, they will know where to serve the paperwork. You can’t skip this part, however you can get companies that will serve as your registered agent. If you hire an attorney to prepare the paperwork for you, speak to them about serving as the Registered Agent if possible. This designation can also be changed if necessary.
Right after you incorporate with the State of Georgia, go to the IRS website and get an EIN (Employee Identification Number). You will need this number even if you do not plan on having employees. The bank will ask you for this number when you go to open your business bank account.
2. Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is an agreement among the members of your business and dictates how the business will be run. You will need to have an operating agreement whether you are a single member or multi member business. If you are a single member LLC, the operating agreement is used to prove in court that the LLC structure is separate from that of the individual owner. If you are a multi member LLC, an operating agreement will protect you regarding many issues that arise in business, including when the business comes to an end or if any legal proceedings take place.
You can get an operating agreement from a lawyer or legal zoom. The ones from Legal Zoom are very generic, but they are legal. I suggest you go to an actual local attorney who specializes in business formations. Don’t go to your buddies’ attorney that specializes in divorce and expect to get solid business formation advice. This is like going to a foot doctor because your head hurts. Spending a little money up front will save you big headaches later on down the road.
3. Local Business License
You will need a local business license if you plan on doing business in Richmond or Columbia County. The county calls the license a Business Tax Certificate, but most people refer to it as a business license.
For Columbia County, print he PDF version of the application and send it in. You can print the application HERE.
The fees for both counties are around $100.00
FYI: You can start a business out of your home in Columbia County, just check the box labeled “Home Based” where it says “Location Type” on the actual application. If you fill out everything correctly, it will only take about a week to get your license. The process is very easy.
If you are going to have a commercial building (An actual office), then there are a few extra steps that have to be taken in order to get the “Business License”. They will let you know when you file. The fire chief might need to come out and inspect your building, etc. Be ready for anything when it comes to this because you will have to comply with all codes before your permit is granted. If you are leasing office space, most of these codes have been addressed already.
PRO TIP: For a very small business, make sure when you negotiate the lease that there is a clause addressing any situation where the county will not issue you a “License” for any reason. You may wish to put in the lease that the contract is null and void if this occurs. Otherwise, if the county spots an infraction and the lessor says they will not comply, you will be between a rock and a hard place.
If you are starting a big business, you will just want to pay for the “Upgrades” and be done with it. A couple of thousand dollars is nothing in the grand scheme of things. If you are doing business on an industrial level, you will need professional help and that topic is beyond the scope of this article. In that situation, I would suggest that you contact the development authority for either county.
4. Business Insurance
As with most things in life, you need insurance. Do not skip this part. You will need some type of general liability for your business. Having the proper insurance can help protect you if someone is injured on your premises or if your income is disrupted due to circumstances beyond your control, like if the building is damaged by fire.
Most newbies try to skip this part. Don’t do it. Experienced business people understand that insurance is part of the game and they proceed accordingly. Professional investors understand that insurance is VERY important and it’s what separates the men from the boys in the game of business.
If you have car or home insurance, call them and start asking questions about business insurance. If they don’t provide it, they should be able to direct you to a local company that does provide it.
5. Bank Account
You will need a commercial bank account. Do not run the business out of your personal bank account. This is a big no-no.
The bank you pick will depend on the type of business that you operate.
If you are going to be starting a local business that will only do business on a local scale, then pick a local bank. If you are going to be doing big business, then I would suggest you go with one of the larger banks. The reason being that the larger banks offer services on a regular basis for big business, especially international business.
There are pluses and minuses for “Local” bank versus a “Big” bank. Decide on the actual services you will need from the bank and then make your decision.
There are also companies like Stripe that offer excellent services for doing business “Online”. You will still need an actual commercial bank account to connect the Stripe account to. Stripe just makes it easy to process money online and it will integrate with your company website for processing via Ecommerce.
When you go to open your commercial bank account, you will need your Operating Agreement and a copy of the Certificate of Organization from the Georgia Secretary of State. You will also need your EIN number that we talked about earlier.
6. Intellectual Property
I included this because it is very important and I see a lot of new business owners not address this properly.
What do I mean by “Intellectual Property”? This would include: domain names, trademarks, patents, etc.
You can file for a trademark at the USPTO (United States Patent And Trademark Office).
You can purchase domain names through Godaddy.
This is more important than ever when it comes to doing business in the age of the internet. Don’t think that just because you are doing business at the local level that trademarks are not important. This would be a mistake. Hopefully, you are setting up a business that will do business on a national or international scale at some point. If not, you might be selling yourself short. I fully realize that some business are going to be local no matter how big they get and I acknowledge this.
Do not skimp on the domain name. Pay the cost to get the right domain name for your business. It is best to do it out of the gate. I see all the time where a local business runs off of a Dot Net ( Example.net ) and the Dot Com ( Example.Com ) is for sale on the internet for $1000 dollars. My head wants to explode when I see this. Pay the money.
When I give a talk to large groups, I try to stress the importance of domain names by giving the following example: If I line up 10 people and tell them to go home and go to example.net, 6 out of 10 will go to Example.com. It’s just habit. So if you advertise on the radio for Example.net, 6 out of ten people will go to Example.Com looking for your company website. What if I am your competition? I will buy Example.com and point it to my website. Unless you have a trademark, good luck doing anything about it.
Donald Trump (Love him or hate him) did this exact thing to Jeb Bush in the Republican primary. He purchased JebBush.com and pointed it at DonaldJTrump.com. I don’t care what your politics are, this made Jeb look unparepared. What’s the business lesson? Buy the intellectual property or your competition will.
Buy your domain name and don’t skimp. I have paid upwards of 25K for domain names for my businesses in the past and they were worth every penny.
7. Strategic Partners
Find strategic partners that can help you. Strategic partnerships are a way to leverage what both parties bring to the table. I include this because we are taking Augusta into the big leagues when it comes to business and strategic partnerships will become very important to the success of everyone.
A strategic partner is not a “must have”, but it will help you grow by leaps and bounds. Don’t do it for the sake of having a partner. Do it because it makes sense.
8. Professional Help
If you are a medium or large business who wants to break into the Augusta market, I suggest contacting Augusta Global. You will save yourself tons of headaches. Augusta Global offers professional managed consulting services for Augusta,GA and Washington DC.
After you start your business, maybe you can present your business to real investors at the Invest Augusta Conference that takes place once a year in Augusta,GA.