I just retired from the Army and have decided to open my own business to provide leadership development for companies. As a career Army guy, I was pretty intimidated by the “civilian” world. Even so, I’ve jumped in and started figuring things out. After getting over my fear of the unknown, I’ve learned it isn’t that mysterious, complicated or overly difficult.
I know West Virginia isn’t considered a hotbed of business activity, but you might be surprised at the opportunity here. The state government has made great strides to help small businesses launch.
In the course of my research, I identified six things which both pleased me and surprised me. Here they are:
- Creating your business as an LLC provides a positive impression to potential customers. It’s not required for a small business (you could do it as a sole proprietorship), but the “LLC” after the company’s name gives it an air of substance that is missing without an “Inc.” or other designation.
- The West Virginia Secretary of State’s website is almost unbelievably easy to navigate and use. I had the paperwork completed and submitted in under three hours. It took that long because I read every word. If I need to do it again, it will be under two.
- Expenses are minimal. It cost me about $130 plus the time.
- If your business is going to have any real estate, it’s a great idea to become an LLC. Before going forward, I sat down with a friendly lawyer. He recommended that I didn’t need the LLC for liability purposes given my stated business objectives, but it would critical to have if I was going to be dealing in real estate in any manner, such as owning a retail store, a restaurant, or becoming a landlord.
- For Federal tax purposes, the IRS treats an LLC with a single manager / owner the same as a sole proprietorship. That definitely reduces the hassle when it comes tax time in April!
- You need a Federal Employment Identification Number (FEIN). The WV website (link above) connects directly to the IRS website where you go through the process. I was amazed to find out that I could get the number almost instantaneously during normal business hours!
All my life, I’ve heard about government bureaucracy as an impediment to business (I know the Army bureaucracy gets in the way sometimes!), but my experience to date has been very positive. I haven’t even mentioned all the additional support and resources the state government offers. I’m in business, baby!