FAQ

General Business Questions

Do I have to register my business name?

It is not required but certainly recommended.

How do I register my small business?

By going to the Oklahoma Secretary of State website (www.sos.ok.gov)

How do I determine if the name I choose is okay to use?

By going to the Oklahoma Secretary of State website (http://www.sos.ok.gov)
And you can do name availability search and see if the name is available.

Do I need a business license?

It depends on the business nature.

What type of business structure do you recommend for a new business?

There are four primary legal forms of business from which to choose from: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, and incorporation (both C-corp and Subchapter S.)

A sole proprietorship is owned by an individual (or a married couple) and it may have one or more employees. Operating a sole proprietorship means that the owner is personally responsible for all liabilities of the business. Also, the owner is taxed on a personal level for all profits generated by the business.

A partnership occurs when two or more people agree to share ownership of a business. This form of business allows the partners to share complimentary skills and resources. The owners share, and pay personal taxes on, the profits of the business.Additionally, each partner is individually responsible for the liabilities of the business.

Another option is to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC). This legal form is a combination of the corporate form (providing limited liability) and the partnership form (allowing you to be taxed as in a partnership).

The corporate entity is created when your business registers with the Secretary of State's Bureau of Corporation. This enables the owners to take advantage of the limited liability aspect of the corporate ownership and to raise equity by selling shares of the company. For profit entities have the option to choose either a C-corporation or Subchapter S-corporation status. If you become a C-corporation, the corporate profits are taxed, and then the owners will be taxed on their share of the profits and compensation (i.e. dividends and wages) received from the corporation.

Subchapter S-corporation does not pay a corporate tax. If you have any questions regarding these forms of business entities, please feel free to call your local Oklahoma Small Business Development Centers.

What type of insurance should I obtain for my small business?

When you start your own business, there are various types of business insurance that should be considered essential and others that, while not essential, may be desirable and add to the security of a business. Most businesses will require some type of general liability insurance and many businesses obtain an "umbrella policy" that covers a variety of risks including personal property, liability, fire, theft, and medical payments.

If you have employees, you will need to obtain workers compensation insurance. Additionally, if your business owns or uses vehicles for business purposes, automobile coverage is necessary. Beyond this, what other forms of insurance obtained depends on what risks are incurred in operating your business, and what kind of supplementary coverage you want to employ to provide additional security for your business.

The following is a list of certain types of insurance that you may need to consider: Key Person Insurance, Flood Insurance, Fidelity and Surety Bonds, Boiler and Machinery Insurance, Product Liability, Business Interruption Insurance, Overhead Expense, Disability Insurance, and Life Insurance. The best course of action is to contact an insurance agent, or several agents, for a consultation regarding the appropriate types of insurance for you and your business.

Do I need a sales tax number and how do I register for one?

It depends on the business nature and if you are a retailer or not, you can apply for one through the Oklahoma Tax Commission website or by mailing in a request form.

How do I finance the start-up of a small business?

To determine financing needs, you should first prepare a business plan with a complete set of financial projections including a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. With a properly completed business plan, you will have identified your funding needs. Keep in mind that most small business start-ups are funded through personal resources including savings, equity or loans from family, friends or other investors, home equity loans, cash value of life insurance, or other personal resources.

Banks will lend to some business start-ups if they are satisfied with your business plan, your level of equity investment, the collateral you have to pledge to the loan, your credit history and experience. If your request is denied, ask your bank if they would consider the loan with a guarantee from the Small Business Administration (SBA)

What initial cost should I consider?

Initial costs are one-time expenses that are needed to set your business in motion. There's no way you can start and build a successful small business if you don't have the funds to back it up. Start by making a list of ALL your initial costs, no matter how small or insignificant.

  • Incorporation
  • Legal fees
  • Accounting
  • Licenses and permits
  • Rent and security deposit
  • Signage
  • Transportation
  • Insurance
  • Building/remodeling
  • Supplies
  • Initial inventory
  • Furniture and equipment
  • Installations
If I am self-employed, how do I report my taxes?

Self-employed business owners are required to pay state and federal income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare based on the profits generated by the business. Profits in a proprietorship are determined before you draw compensation from the business (i.e. your draw or wages are not considered an expense of the business.) Once your liability for federal income tax and self- employment FICA exceeds $500, you will need to deposit the tax payments to the IRS (whether this happens in any one quarter or combination of quarters.)

What is a business plan?

A business plan precisely defines your business, identifies your goals and serves as your firm's resume. It describes the products and services you will sell, the customers to whom you will sell them, the production, management, and marketing activities needed to produce your offerings, and the projected profit or loss that will result from your efforts.

How long will it take to write a business plan?

A well thought-out business plan generally takes anywhere from six months to a year to complete, but it can be less depending on how committed you are to the business, and how much time you are willing to spend on writing your plan. Your business plan is a joint venture with your consultant.

Why do I need to define my business in detail?

It may seem silly to ask yourself, “What business am I really in,” but some owner-managers have gone broke because they never answered that question. One watch storeowner realized that most of his time was spent repairing watches while most of his money was spent selling them. He finally decided he was in the repair business and discontinued the sales operations. His profits improved dramatically.

Can you name a good reference book that can be used in the creation of a business plan for a restaurant?

The National Restaurant Association, the trade/industry group for the restaurant industry, has a number of publications you may find useful. You can find more information on these publications on the National Restaurant Association's website at www.restaurant.org or by calling (800) 482-9122.

What are some resources to view and download various business forms?

OKSBDC and SBA

What is a feasibility study?

This is a preliminary business plan used to answer the question, “Should I do that?” It includes facts and projections that outline what will happen if something is done. It allows a businessperson to look at probable results before anything is done to produce those results. These studies can be brief or lengthy.


Counseling Questions

How do I sign up for your service?

You can sign up for counseling or training by going to www.oksbdc.org and clicking Register for Free Counseling.

What is the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OKSBDC)?

OKSBDC assists small business owners and new entrepreneurs by providing no charge, one-on-one business management advising, business management workshops and business technical assistance. OKSBDC advises business owners in many areas including financial analysis, capital sources, business planning, operations, industry research, international trade, commercial financing, human resources, accounting, competitive market studies, import/export assistance, government contracting opportunities, information technology and economic and business data modeling and analysis.

We serve all 77 counties in Oklahoma.

Why should I use your service?

Because you will have access to 20+ professionals and their expertise, at no cost. You will also be able to take advantage of state of the art tools that OKSBDC possesses in their tool box. Business Advisors have the skills, knowledge and tools to help existing business owners grow and reach the next levels of success. We also strive to get new businesses on their feet and into the business world successfully.

What will a business counselor help me with?

Our business counselors provide assistance with business and marketing plans, financial and cash flow analysis, accounting and record keeping, marketing and sales, start-up and buying or selling a business, market research, loan packaging and capital access, operations and personnel management, international trade, sources of credit and financing and more. It should be noted that the counselor will not do the work for you. They will certainly help you each step of the way if that is what it takes to make your business a success.

What can I expect from a meeting with a business counselor?

The business counselor will ask pertinent questions, listen to your needs and tailor the session around your specific experience and concerns.

Does the Oklahoma SBDC charge for its services?

No. Oklahoma SBDC is a free service to Oklahoma small businesses and future business owners.

What are hours of operation?

Monday- Friday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Do I have to make an appointment?

Yes, to set up an appointment call your local SBDC or register online at www.oksbdc.org.

What do I need to bring to my first appointment?

You are not required to bring anything but your thoughts, questions, ideas, etc. However, if you have information and/or materials that you think will help the counselor better understand your situation/business then bring them. If there is something in particular that the counselor would like to see, they will be sure to let you know before the appointment.

Where are the counselors located?

Refer to the OKSBDC website. (www.oksbdc.org)

Is there limits on how many times I can see a business counselor?

There are no limits.

Will information I discuss with an SBDC counselor or staff be kept confidential?

Yes. All information between clients and councelors will be kept confidential.

Are your counselors qualified to help me?

Our requirements are:
1. Bachelor’s degree
2. Business ownership experience

Does the Oklahoma SBDC provide financing or grants?

No. Oklahoma SBDC will help you with loan applications. It is rare for a for-profit business to be awarded a grant, however, we have had one business find and receive a grant.

Will you write my business plan?

No. Our counselors will assist you in the writing of your business plan. We strive to give you the resources and knowledge to develop your business plan.

Do you provide Legal assistance or advice?

No, we do not provide Legal assistance or advice. Consult your attorney.

Do you host workshops, seminars or courses?

Yes, we do host workshops and seminars. Some of our courses are online and can be accessed through our website.

How is the Oklahoma SBDC funded?

Through the state and federal government

Is the Oklahoma SBDC the same as the SBA?

No, the Oklahoma SBDC is funded by the SBA but is not the same entity.


Starting a business

Are there any grants or loans available?

Not through the OKSBDC

How do I get a business loan?

By completing a well written business plan and filing through appropriate channels

Where can I learn about starting my own business?

A great place to start is with the Oklahoma SBDC workshops and online trainings.

What basic skills do I need to run a business?

The basic skills include a working knowledge of record keeping, financial management, personnel management, market analysis, breakeven analysis, product or service knowledge, federal, state and local tax knowledge, legal structures, and communication skills

What business should I choose?

Usually, the best business for you is the one in which you are most skilled and interested. As you review your options, you may wish to consult local experts and businesspersons about the growth potential of various businesses in your area. Matching your background with the local market will increase your chance of success

How long will it take to start a small business?

As long as it takes you to complete your feasibility study, prepare your business plan, gather your money, buy what you need to buy, and arrange your business operation affairs. This could take a few weeks or many months. If you have difficulty with any of these items, the time to learn and solve problems must be added

Should I buy a franchised business to start?

Approximately 40 percent of present-day retailing in the US is done through the franchise method, which makes owning a franchise an appealing option. There are definite advantages to starting out with a franchised business, but it is important to be knowledgeable about the different kinds of franchising options available to you. Some offer fair value for what you pay and others are rip-offs. Get legal or business counseling advice before purchasing a franchise.

Should I buy an existing business to start?

The advantage of buying an existing business is that it is already established in the market. It has customers and is carrying on business. You avoid the hassle and expense of starting from scratch. The trick is making it fit your desires and capabilities. Is it the kind of business you want? Can you afford it? Can you operate it?

How do I start a home-based business?

If you are entertaining the idea of having a home-based business, contact your city or county planning and zoning department, depending on whether you live within city limits or not. Contact them before you start the business, not after. They will inform you about the requirements for a home-based business.


Marketing

What does marketing involve?

Marketing is one of your most important organizing tools. There are four basic aspects of marketing, often called the “Four P's”:

  • Product – the item or service you sell.
  • Price – the amount your charge for your product or service.
  • Promote – the ways you inform your market as to who, what, and where you are.
  • Place – the channels you use to take the product to the customer.

As you can see, marketing encompasses much more than just advertising or selling. For example, a major part of marketing involves researching your customers: What do they want? What can they afford? What do they think? Your understanding and application of the answers to such questions play a major role in the success or failure of your business.

Should I have a web page?

Yes, every business should have some form of website, whether it is a blog, Google Business page, or a standard dynamic website. A website is an essential marketing tool for a business, and one that will allow your customers to obtain important information about your business instantly on the web. There are several free websites editing programs online- such as Weebly, Wordpress, and Wix- that have drag-and-drop systems allowing users to easily create and update their own websites.

How do I obtain a domain name for my business?

A domain name can be purchased online from one of several different domain name companies. One of the most popular domain companies is GoDaddy. Most domain names can be purchased for as little as $15 a year. Once purchased, you can connect that domain name to your website’s hosting company, allowing your customers to find your website by typing in the domain name into the browser bar.

What is the most important item to include on my website for international exporting?

A minimum order free on board quote or MO FOQ

What is my market potential?

The principles of determining market share and market potential are the same for all geographic areas. First, determine a customer profile (who) and the geographic size of the market (how many). This is the general market potential. Knowing the number and strength of your competitors (and then estimating the share of business you will take from them) will give you the market potential specific to your enterprise.

How can I find profiles on typical industry customers?

Trade Associations: Trade and industry groups often conduct extensive market research and make this research available to members. While they often focus on national or statewide trends, you might find local statistics through a group's local chapter. The SBDC can also provide relevant, up-to-date information on your industry.

Local Chamber of Commerce: Chambers also conduct market research. They primarily focus on economic development issues in key industries.

How do I find suppliers for my business?

Contact your local SBDC for information concerning suppliers. Our consultants have information concerning international, governmental, and private suppliers for your business. Another option is to attend trade shows. Trade shows are a great place to track down suppliers and wholesalers. One on-line resource for tracking trade shows is the Trade Show News Network at www.tsnn.com.

What are some resources to help with marketing research?

SBDCnet Industry Links –  resources by industry (click on the "Industry Information Links" in the blue bar)
Industry Resources Reports – guide to industry information, research, and analysis for over 400 industries
County Business Patterns – lists establishments, payroll and employee size for all U.S. counties by SIC
Paid
Northern Light Market Strategic Research Portals - market and competitive intelligence
BizMiner  – reports on industry, market and financial trends by size of business
Zapdata.com  –  search U.S. markets by SIC code
MarketResearch.com – databases of market research reports


Human Resources

How can I find and keep qualified employees?

Two of the greatest challenges for any business are hiring the right people and keeping them. Employees, and, more importantly, their contributions, are a business' most important asset. So how do you go about finding, selecting, and retaining the best people?

Decide What You Want – Before beginning your hiring efforts, know what you want. One way to list the skills, experience, and other attributes you are looking for is in categories of:

  • Must-have: skills you do not have the time, money, or desire to teach but which are absolutely necessary to do the job.
  • Should-have: sets of skills in which the candidate should have some degree of knowledge or skill.
  • Nice-to-have: what you'd love to have but can live without.

Search in the Right Places – Basically, the harder it is for you to find the skills you need, the wider the net you must cast. You may choose from local media, the state's employment center, and using the Internet. View any employment ad as a marketing tool for your company, making it as appealing as possible. Put a headline on your ad that describes the absolutely best benefit you can offer. Be sure to add your must-have list of skills, experience, and education. To get qualified people without having to weed through a pile of applications, be specific about what you say and very selective about where you place the ad.

Don't underestimate the value of networking. You may choose to ask your best employees if they know someone who would fit into your organization and might be interested in joining or use your network in the community to find employees.

Conduct a Thorough Interview – Give the applicant a complete and accurate picture of your business. In today's tight job market, you have to sell both yourself and your company. Through your questions, cover the job's must-haves, should-haves, and nice-to-haves and be sure to obtain a clear picture of where the candidate is in relation to these attributes. Remember, good questions lead to good answers-the more you learn about each applicant's experience and skills, the better prepared you are to make your decision. If you find yourself talking as much or more than the candidate, stop – you only learn about the candidate when you are listening. Don't be afraid to press a candidate for more information – it is then that you may learn important information.

Hire the Right Person – Some tips for choosing who to hire are:

  • Go with your gut
  • Accomplishments are what really matter
  • Attitude counts
  • Be objective

Three critical elements in hiring the right people for the job are: skills match, company fit, and job match. Be objective in determining which candidates have the best overall fit.

In terms of wages, try to be a leader in your market – think about the cost of paying a little more versus the cost of turnover (roughly 25% of salary and benefits).

Hang on to Good Employees – Retention of employees is as important as the initial hire. An individual's suitability to a particular job is the single most important factor in job performance and retention. Be sure to provide people jobs that fit with their personality and then take the time for a proper orientation. Listen to them and continue to provide training and skills development opportunities. Set clear expectations, show concern for employees, and treat them fairly.

What other financial responsibilities do I have for employees?

You must withhold federal and state income taxes, contribute to unemployment and workers compensation systems, and match Social Security contributions. You may also wish to inquire about key employee life or disability insurance.

What is OSHA?

The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace safety. All employers are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace and are subject to no-notice safety and health inspections by OSHA. Employers with more than 10 employees are required to maintain a record of injuries on the OSHA 200 form, which must be available for inspection for a period of five years.

How do I know if I should hire someone?

When you are considering hiring someone be sure to address these conditions:

Can you afford an employee?
Will you really save time?
With an extra employee, would you have more time to market your services and expand your business?

Would an extra employee allow you a chance to produce more products or serve more clients?

Would an extra employee allow you to give your customers more efficient service or quicker delivery, with the result that higher quality would lead to more customers?

There's a tension between how much the employee's salary and benefits will drain your business' budget and how much extra money the employee's presence will bring in.

How can I effectively interview applicants?

Use interviews along with background checks and references in order to help determine whether or not the applicant is suitable for your position. This way, you will have an idea of the applicant's personality as well as qualifications.

Which federal posters do small businesses need to post?

The federal posters that should be on display for your business vary widely depending on the type of business that you are in. The U.S. Department of Labor has an interactive Poster Advisor tool that will walk you through the steps to determine the posters that you will need specifically for your particular business. In addition to knowing what federal labor posters you should have on hand, you should also visit the state labor office to determine the labor posters that are required in Oklahoma.

What is the self-employment tax? Do I have to pay it?

Sole proprietorships and partnerships that report a profit are required to pay self-employment tax in lieu of Social Security and Medicare contributions. Self-employed persons may be required to make quarterly deposits of estimated deposits based on profits. For specific information, consult with an accounting professional.

Sole proprietorships and partnerships that report a profit are required to pay self-employment tax in lieu of Social Security and Medicare contributions. Self-employed persons may be required to make quarterly deposits of estimated taxes based on profits. For specific information, consult with an accounting professional.

Can I deduct everything since I’m a small business owner?

To be deductible, an expense must be “ordinary and necessary” in conducting your business. The IRS provides more information on small business and taxes.

What is the business life cycle?

The business life cycle refers to the various stages of development of a small business. Each stage has its own unique characteristics and the focus of business activities will reflect the current point within the life cycle