Florida, better known as the sunshine state, is a tourist destination for most residents living in the USA. Miles of beaches, nature preserves, and lots of sun is a mixture that attracts out-of-owners to come and spend money. With the steady influx of cash injected into the local economies throughout Florida, it would make a lot of sense to own a business and get your piece of the pie.
If you are reading this article, you may be ready to start a business, or your business idea may be in it's infacy, and you are here just to get a little more information. Others may be reading this article to make sure they have not missed any steps. In any case we will try to provide you with as much helpful information as needed to get your business up and running in Florida.
Provided you already have an idea about the type of business to open and the name you want to use, the next step will be legalization. There are some legal procedures required to start a business which are unknown to many business owners. Some of these procedures can help your business when you're starting off, others will allow you to determine if you are in fact violating the law. We will try to cover as many as possible, to help guide you in the right direction.
After you have decided on the Name and Type of business, you must decide what legal structure to take. There are several structures to choose from. We have the most popular ones listed below.
1. Sole proprietor - You are the business; No legal separation; Your assets and the business assets are essentially the same.
2. Partnershsip - You and your partner are the business; No legal separation; You and your partner's assets and the businesses are essentially the same.
3. LLC - Limited Liability Company; Legal separation from your business; Your assets are separate from the business; informal meetings less paperwork.
4. Corporation - Legal separation from the company; Your assets are separate from the business; formal meetings and paperwork intensive.
The next step is to register your business with the state of Florida. We have detailed the steps below.
Registering Your Business With The State
1. Visit the Florida Division of Corporations at www.sunbiz.org
2. Perform a search to determine if the business name you have chosen is available. Remember "Example Inc" and "Example LLC" are two different businesses.
3. If your business name is available in the business structure you have chosen, then choose the "start a business" option.
4. Next, choose the business structure, fill in all the requested information, submit and pay.
Now your business is legally recognized by the state of Florida.
After registering your business with the state, and depending on the business structure you have chosen, if you hire employees, you may need to contact I.R.S. and request an EIN (Employer Identification Number). The EIN is used to separate you and your business when collecting income and paying taxes, it is basically the social security number for your business.
The next step is to decide on your business location. As simple as it sounds there are several steps that you want to take. See them below.
1. Before running out and signing a lease, you must find out if your business location is within a city's boundary as well as the county boundary.
2. Go online or visit city hall to locate the city and county's Zoning department. Then you will be able to enter the address for your proposed business to find out if your business is permitted at that address or if it is forbidden. If you are not sure, it is important that you speak with someone from the zoning department before you sign any lease. If it is forbidden you must look for another location.
3. After you find a location which is zoned for the business you want to start; you must make sure the building is up to code and fire compliant. These requirements may be unique to your business as different businesses have very different requirements. Avoid signing a lease before you have this information, because the building may need alterations to prepare it for use by your business type. Then you can decide how much the alterations will cost and figure out if it will be you or the landlord footing the bill.
4. Depending on the business type, you may be able to host the business from your home. If you choose to do so, and the business is legally allowed to run from a home office, you must register your home as a home office and get an inspection. Don't be afraid, the inspection process is only to verify that the building is in fact still a home and that you are using less than 30% of the building as your home office.
Now you have a foundation and location from which you can begin your journey into Entrepreneurship.
The next step is licensing and permitting, which may include those listed below.
1. Professional License - Statewide, or regional; You may need a license to verify that you are knowledgeable or experienced in the business type for which you are starting. Examples of such licenses are Electrical Contractor, Real Estate, and Cosmetology.
2. Certificate of Use - This is a permit which is usually required by the city and or county in which you reside, and gives you permission to operate your business at the location for which you have determined to be your location of operation. This also applies to Home based businesses as well.
3. Local Business Tax - This tax is required by both the city and county in which you reside. It is the tax for your business operating within the city and or county limits. If you are out of the city limits, you may only need to pay the county business tax.
There may be more licensing or permitting involved with your business and you must check to make sure you have all the needed documents to legally run your business.
The next step in legalization is Insurance. There are several to consider and each protects a part of your business in a different way.
1. Liability Insurance - This type protects your business and its assets from lawsuits derived from normal business operation.
2. Workman's Compensation - This insurance protects your business from financial liability in the event one of your employees is injured while on the job performing work duties.
3. Automobile Insurance - This insurance protects your company form legal action in the event your work vehicle is involved in an accident.
These are just the basic policies. Depending on the exact field of your business you may be required to carry additional polices. Make sure to check with a Licensed Insurance Agent.
Some business owners may not complete all the steps above, and you may be feeling like "I'm just starting out, I don't need all that", however, there are many benefits to completing all these business steps and be 100% compliant.
Benefits of being compliant
1. Small Business Certification - Having completed all of the legalizations will allow for your business to be certified by different municipalities as a small business. This certification can help you obtain jobs/contracts that are set aside for businesses with the certification.
2. Minority Certification - Many entities will certify your business as Minority owned if you fit the description of a minority, however, you will usually have to prove that your business is legally compliant.
3. Business opportunity with local manicupalities - In order to take advantage of doing business with any government entity you must be legally compliant.
4. School District - Local school districts often have vendor, contractor, and minority certification and business opportunities. In order to take advantage, you must be able to prove that your business is legally compliant.
There are more benefits to being compliant, we have listed a few which can make an instant impact on your business. You are now ready to explore the joy of being a business owner. Good luck on your journey.
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