Being in the logo design & branding field, we run into a lot of people who are starting up a small company and need to get their promotional items created (business cards, brochures, web site, etc.) A lot of the time it can be confusing knowing exactly what you need to do to start up a business right.

are a few tips to make sure you get everything set up right. This is by
no means a complete list, or a sequential list, but just a set of
recommendations based on some common problems we run into with clients
and some lessons we’ve learned well from our own experiences:

1) Get Ready to Spend Money
true that you have to spend money to make money. It may be tempting to
go the cheap route, but if you want your business to succeed, I’ve
found that doing it right the first time is worth the money your spend
up front. If you try to cut corners, you may not be real happy with the
results. Get a loan and pay off these expenses later when you have
money coming in. At least you can know that you are putting your best
foot forward and you’re not sabotaging your business’s success over the
relatively minimal amount of money you need to spend up front to
develop a good image for your company.

2) Pick a good company name
sounds simple, but it can be one of the hardest tasks you face. You
want a name that reflects the services or products you offer, but you
also want to be catchy. That’s tough. A good trademark attorney will
help you with this process, and this leads to a very valuable point:
Trademark your company name! This is a painful (and sometimes costly)
process, but a good idea because it keeps another company for taking
you to court over your name and it keeps other companies from stealing
glory from you by resembling your business. If you own a small bait
& tackle shop on the edge of a lake in the middle of no where,
trademarking your business may not be so important, but we’re not all
so…. err…. lucky.

There are two primary ways to trademark your business:

  1. Text only
  2. Stylized graphic logo

are both necessary to protect your name and your logo. Your text
trademark will be evaluated to make sure it doesn’t resemble or sound like
any other registered trademarks. Especially other companies that are
similer to yours in what services or products they offer. The stylized
trademark takes into account your font, colors and any other graphical
elements in your logo. You can’t change these things after you apply
without resubmitting another application, so make sure you get it right
the first time! It’ll cost you around $325 to trademark each method. A
trademark attorney will help you search for a clear name and logo and
file the paperwork for you, although he’ll charge you waaaay more than
$325 each. You can search for trademarks online at the US Patent and Trademark website here. Then you can submit your application here. NOTE:
It can take up to a YEAR to find out if your trademark was approved and
you have to pay your filing fee regardless if you get the trademark or

At this point you will probably need to get a federal tax
ID for your business, or EIN. You also need to file with your local
secretary of state to register your business name. You may also be
required to get a business license/permit. Here is a good website for people in NC.
You’ll need to figure out if you want to do business as a sole
proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, etc. too. Your accountant can help you with
that and you can file online or get an attorney to help you. Then you
can get a bank account as a DBA or "Doing Business As" if you are a
sole proprietor or get a bank account in the name of your corporation
if you incorporate. Usually you need to do business for about 2 years
before a bank will let you open a company bank account. DBAs are
immediately available to you though. Also note that if you incorporate
later, you’ll need to get another tax ID and your bank account will
have to be closed and reopened with the new ID. Fun!

3) Get your Logo and Branding Done
step goes hand-in-hand with the second step. Find a graphic design
company that does logos, corporate identity and branding and get a logo
created that you really like and you feel represents your business
well. They should work with your attorney to make sure your logo
doesn’t conflict with another logo that is already trademarked. This is
the building point for all your marketing materials. To have a
consistent corporate identity, you want to get your logo on everything
you put out there: business cards, letterhead, website, etc. Why is
corporate identity important? Why can’t you just put out generic
marketing materials? Well, you can, but studies show that people need
to see (or hear about) your company up to seven times before company
recognition occurs. Having consistent branding helps to build
credibility and help people remember you. Think "The golden arches" or
the Nike "Swoosh."

4) Market your Business
you find a marketing agency or do this yourself, you need to figure out
how you are going to promote your new business. Believe it or not, just
getting some business cards and a website most likely won’t bring a
mass exodus of customers to knock down your door. You have to get the
word out. There are many ways to do this, such as press releases,
phonebook ads, online ads, TV and radio, ads, etc. A marketing company
can help you determine where your money is best spent to get the most
return on your investment. Your marketing agency will work with your
designer to develop good marketing materials like postcards, flyers,
brochures, etc. They can also help you figure out where postcards need
to be sent and where you can send email promotions to get the best
response. Note: Marketing
companies, despite what they tell you, are not always the best equipped
to design your marketing materials. Some marketing companies have good
internal design teams or contract out with good design agencies, but
often you can run into pretty unimpressive stuff if you don’t get a
designer involved.

There are also many other things you can do
to get the word out like joining your local Chamber of Commerce, attend
trade shows, etc. Networking in this way can prove to be very valuable
and it’s pretty inexpensive.

5) Run Your Business Well
duh! If you don’t do a good job of running your business, all of the
above will be for naught. Sure, you’ll make a few mistakes along the
way, but don’t let that keep you from forging ahead. Make sure you get
a good attourney to take care of any legal concerns, get some insurance
for your company – and you may want to look into disability and health
insurance while you’re at it. Your accountant can help advise you on
setting up a retirement account too. Better safe than sorry!

of the keys to running any business successfully is to provide friendly
and prompt customer service. So establishing a way to handle that up
front is important. Impersonal phone systems, busy signals and
answering machine messages are usually going to send a cold message to
your customers. People are starved for good customer service these days
and most people don’t mind spending a little extra money to know that
they are being taken care of well.