New Biz 101-Opening Your Doors in the Right Order

We get so many different license requests across our desk! It is so fascinating to watch retail alcohol license applications come in to ABC Consulting: Restaurants, Day Spas, Taverns, Tastings at Wineries/ Breweries/ Meaderies. As we develop a relationship with these applicants, their DREAM comes to life. We often coach a bit – find out why our client decided that THIS was the business to pursue. We ask the hard questions and what SHOULD be easy questions for a smart business owner: “What makes your business unique?”

As you start to think about what opening day for YOUR business idea will look like, it is best to look to the future (the 5-year plan, if you will!). In other words: make the right decisions, now, so that you leave yourself room, later, to grow in logical ways. Here are the Top 15 things to know when starting a business (any business, not only the ones that will someday serve alcohol):

  1. Get specific with your mission: Write it down – your dream location, your financial goals, your work hours, where you’ll work, when you’ll hire, when you’ll expand. This “why” of your goals is possibly one of the most important parts of your business and determines the answers to the questions: What do you REALLY want? Why are you really starting your own business? Do you want freedom or to retire younger or to create a different lifestyle or to earn a certain salary? You MUST know your “why.” No one is going to stand over you to ensure you reach your daily goals. In fact, no one is going to create the daily goals for you in the first place. This is all up to you. If you have a monthly financial goal, you’ll need to ensure that you do what’s necessary, every single day, or else you won’t reach your goal. If you don’t have the VISION to begin with, the every-day stuff will seem harder.
  2. Determine what you are an expert in. Do That. Outsource the rest! Yes, outsourcing costs money. But let’s say that you are not good at invoicing; you could lose so much time fumbling through it and if you don’t bill the correct amount, or inconsistently invoice, you’ll quickly be out of business.
  3. Determine a domain name for your website and search availability. Here is a site ( https://www.godaddy.com/ ) that I’d recommend to do so. Use your trade name as your domain name (checking this first will help you determine your trade name!). Do some Google searches to make sure someone else is not already using the name you have in mind (especially locally!). Note: the shorter the domain name, the better.
  4. Determine your company name and trade name. Snag that name on all social media sites.
  5. Get that website up! You must have one, if you want to be found. Even if it is a one-page How-To-Find-Us, get a website up and live – before you open.  
  6. Add a blog to your website, at this stage. A blog on your website will increase Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This blog can be cross posted to all your social-media channels – which drives traffic back to your product on your website! It also shows you as a Subject Matter Expert and someone to trust and communicate with. Lastly, the more *active links that you have, the higher quality the SEO. (if you have 5 social-media channels and don’t post to any of them, it isn’t doing you any good and eventually will make you look like you aren’t even operating!). 
  7. Register your company with the VA SCC. https://vaabc.com/apply-online/va-company-formation
  8. Register for your FEIN https://vaabc.com/apply-online/employer-identification-number
  9. Register your trade name, I recommend having a trade name that is different than your LLC name https://vaabc.com/apply-online/trade-name-dba-fictitious-name
  10. By The Way, VA Sales and Use registration is only needed when you start to sell products and charge/collect sales tax; we can help with this registration when you are closer to opening, for business.
  11. Create a plan for social media. Plan on having some presence on all relevant Social Media sites and snag your trade name or company name on all that you deem necessary. Create a plan (on paper, with priorities) for having some engagement on every site, using key words on the platforms you’ve chosen. Plan to outsource or dedicate time to managing your social-media outlets. 
  12. Consider hiring a business coach. A coach is so valuable in holding you accountable to your goals. Owning a business is 24-hour a day work. You’ll think about it – even when sleeping! Because of this potential for burn out, a coach is so very important. If you take on too much, (very easy to do because you’re trying to wear all the hats and save all the money), you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and lose sight of your goals and baby steps to get there.
  13. Stay AWAY from negative people! Surround yourself with successful people that cheer you on. There is truth to “You are who you hang around.” Look around at your circle. See who you spend time and energy on. If this core isn’t successful, positive, go-getters — it may be time to expand your tribe.
  14. Know this (if you don’t, already)! Money is currency. Do you know what the word “currency” means? To flow, to run (i.e. the circulation of money). You are simply a vessel that money flows through. Don’t stop the flow of money with a mindset of LACK! Always stay positive and optimistic about money. Spending and making money should come easy to you – especially if you are planning to own your own business. I believe MONEY has ears! Don’t run it off; welcome it!
  15. Be grateful! Every single day, wake up and write down what you are grateful for. Be grateful for closed doors and new opportunities. The quickest way to lose money (and subsequently stop the flow) is lack of gratitude. 

Let’s discuss Number 2, for one more second. Outsourcing. If you are familiar with business licenses and alcohol licenses, awesome; if not, please hire professionals so that you fill out license applications and registrations in the correct order. This will save you time and ultimately money, in the long run. If you hire ABC Consulting, we’ll walk through the applications as you fill them out and ensure that they are submitted appropriately at the correct time.

One Last Gold Nugget: have a good relationship with money before you open your doors. It costs money, heart, time to start a business. Having money, and being able to manage it, healthily, is paramount. This sets you up for good decision making (how much to invest at the start, what you can do without at the start, when to expand, when to hire and how much to pay, etc. etc.)

Crystal Stump, CEO of ABC Consulting

No matter what kind of business you are Starting Up, we can help you get your business started — and on the RIGHT foot, so if/when you add alcohol to the menu, you won’t have to redo all your registrations. Apply, here.

*Disclaimer: This article and its contents represent the opinions of the author only. It is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. ABC Consulting is a private consulting firm, and in no way do we represent the VA Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. You should not act upon any such information without seeking qualified professional advice based upon your situation.

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