Starting your own business, as exciting as it may sound, requires you to obtain a license to operate legally. You may have a lucrative home business running without one.However, there’s a possibility you’ll need a business licence even for your home business and of course, for any business for that matter. It’s like permission given by the government to run business activities and concentrate wholly on expansion.
Why a Business License is Needed?
A glaring issue with running a business without a license is, you are susceptible to penalties and legal hassles in case of an investigation.Due to the potential risks involved, it’s advisable to check out all the legal requirements and fulfil them to start a business.
A business license is like a notice to the Government about your activities to ensure you don’t do anything illegal. It’s also the source of revenue to the nation. A business license keeps track of your finances required for tax purposes.
Registering your business has multiple benefits, including validation and is the document through which you can apply for and obtain a business bank account. It’s a legal document by which you can also obtain a business loan.
However, obtaining a business license is inexpensive and is not time-consuming. Get your basic in place, fulfil the requirements and, you are there.
Know Your Local Requirements
Know where to get your business license from
Irrespective of whether you are starting a home business or renting/buying an office space, you have to get the license from the city where your business is located. You have to browse through the database of addresses that come under a specific municipality. You can search for your city and the license specific to your domain or industry. Authorized websites provide complete information specific to your locality and the type of industry.
Know the business code
No two business types have the same code and, they also have different application processes with distinct requirements. Whatever the type of business, there will be a form for it. Your city’s business license website will provide all the information about your business code.
Fill out the forms
Once you locate the required form for your business license, download it and fill in all the details. Check out for any important information and make sure you stick to them. There can be other support forms you may need to fill depending on the type of your business.
Meanwhile, go through the links provided and read all related descriptions and other requirements carefully. Some forms may be required to be filled and submitted online. You need to provide the basic requirements in addition to other specific requirements.
Getting Your Business License
File your forms
All the forms should be filed with the city’s finance department. You have to check your city’s website to obtain the contact information required to submit the forms.
Pay filing fees
The filing fee varies from city to city and, can go up to $400 depending on the type of your business. Some cities will also have an additional processing fee.
Follow up periodically
Different business types require different time duration to process the license. It can range from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Keep a track of your business license and be available in person to receive it. You have to provide a valid ID to receive the business license.
Follow the rules and regulations
Post operations, you should stick to specific rules set by the city laws for the type of business you own and operate. Remember to renew your business license according to the city’s laws. Select cities require you to display your business license at all times in the business location.
Permits You May Require
Obtaining only a business license will not always do the job. Some business types require other permits and registrations. These permits prove to be more beneficial to society and insulate your business against possible loopholes. The permits roll out additional rules and regulations to be followed, some at the state level and others at the federal level. These include:
Certain businesses like a restaurant, day care centres and therapy centres require you to hold an occupational license along with the business license.
Sales tax permit
In case your business is about selling products and the state you are operating in collects sales tax, you should hold a sales tax permit available at the tax office.
This is all about the type of business that can exist in specific areas in a particular city. Some businesses can operate in zoned areas like residential areas provided they meet all the specific requirements. This is a special case where your business should obtain a zoning permit.
Federal employer ID number
This is just like your social security number and, is available free of cost. It’s not mandatory to hold one but, its recommended. This way, you need not use your social security number for business purposes.
Health department permit
This permit is required for a home-based catering business or for selling food prepared at home.
Fire department permit
Some business may use flammable materials or can also be open to the public. Businesses like these require a permit from the fire department to ensure they meet fire safety requirements.
Air and water pollution control permit
Certain businesses discharge materials and wastes into sewers and waterways or burn some materials. There are other businesses thatrelease gas into the environment. To protect the environment, these businesses must obtain this permit from the environmental protection agency.
License and permit for alcohol
A liquor license is mandatory and, is available at the state level if your business is about selling alcohol. You have to obtain a federal permit if you are manufacturing alcohol.
If your business requires parking spaces, especially on the street, a parking permit is needed from the city government. Meanwhile, you have to approach the municipal government and apply for a land use permit to construct a parking lot.
Sales tax license
Businesses should pay sales tax for selling taxable goods and services. It is set at the retail level and, in most states, it’s a criminal offence to sell products and services without a sales tax permit. Also, it’s important to apply and obtain a sales tax permit separately for each place in case you have your business in multiple locations.
Sign and building exterior permit
Often, you come across situations in certain cities that restrict the size of your building or the type of lighting. This also includes restrictions on the appearance of the building. To avoid any issues, the sign permit should be included along with your business license.
You may have your business outside a city or a jurisdiction. County permits apply and are not as stringent as city permits.
Federal Business License
The government requires only select and specialized industries to obtain federal level permits. Industries with a very high level of liability must obtain a federal business license. Some of these industries include:
- Manufacturing, selling or importing alcoholic beverages
- Importing or transporting farm animals across state lines
- Have commercial fishing activities
- Provide transportation across the ocean
- Produce commercial energy
- Broadcasting services
- Operate oversized vehicles
- Manufacturing and dealing with firearms and ammunition
State License and Permits
Depending on your business activities, licenses and permits vary from state to state. They cover a broad spectrum of industries and activities compared to the federal government. Most of these licenses and permits expire after a specified period of time and, are very easy to renew.
Importance of Business License – In a Nutshell
While it’s easy to overlook the importance of a business license thinking you can move ahead scot-free, you are open to welcome legal liabilities and fines in case something goes wrong. As a business owner, it’s a complicated and time-consuming task to keep all your licenses and permits up to date. However, it comes packed with the business territory and, cannot be ignored.
A business license provides security for you and your employees and helps maintain privacy and builds trust. Customers will particularly trust a company that is licensed, and it enhances trustworthiness even if your business doesn’t require one.
In other words, licensing helps a business develop and maintain credibility and enhances the brand image amongst potential customers. It also offers legal protection to the business owner, especially those businesses that are prone to high liability and involve sensitive activities.
Registering your business also helps in economic welfare and keeps it strong and protected. Most businesses can get funding and protection only if they are legally licensed.
A business license is more than just a piece of paper. It’s the lifeblood and the backbone of robust business activities that run smoothly despite the small hiccups. A business license can also help you save a fortune during turbulent times.
Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’
By Andy Woods, Design Director of Rouge Media
The ‘North Star Metric’ (NSM) is one of many seemingly confusing terms to come out of Silicon Valley but its message is simple and universal.
It refers to the single metric businesses use to guide activity, drive key decisions and measure success. And while it may seem naïve on the surface, to boil business success down to a single metric, there is a method to the apparent madness.
It doesn’t mean businesses simply ignore all other performance data but instead measure it against the overarching goal they’re working towards.
Here’s how businesses can create their own North Star Metric and follow it to website success.
What is a North Star Metric?
The idea of a North Star Metric is to focus on the goal which delivers the most value for the business and its customers.
It’s a popular strategy adopted by successful business around the world. For example, Spotify set its North Star Metric as ‘time spent listening’, while Amazon focused on ‘purchases per month’. Every business decision was then geared towards increasing these metrics.
For the business, this increase means greater advertising revenue and sales, while for users, spending more time using the service or making more purchases shows the platform is meeting their needs.
Chasing this North Star Metric sees businesses align their efforts towards a single goal. For ecommerce businesses, this means sales and marketing activity is aimed at taking users to the website, where service experts provide relevant content and information and website designers add natural calls to action.
Finding the North Star Metric for your website project, whether it be sign-ups, purchases or more time spent on site, allows the whole team – plus your agency, if you work with one – to move in the same direction.
What does a successful NSM look like?
Nominating your NSM before undertaking a website project allows you to focus all your efforts in design, functionality and content on delivering your goal.
However, some businesses may have been operating for years with a North Star Metric that isn’t quite right. If you’ve been focusing your efforts towards a goal which isn’t driving value for the business or customers, and for which you struggle to measure impact, you may need to switch focus.
Key considerations for making sure your NSM delivers a positive impact for your business include:
Generating engagement: the internet is full of businesses fighting for custom and users don’t owe them anything. If a website doesn’t give them what they need, they can find one that does within minutes.
Solving consumer challenges: Customers want a product or service that solves their problems and they want it now. Does your website contain information that answers their questions? Does it call out the key features of your product or service that makes their life easier?
Building trust: The chances are, many businesses offer a similar product or service to you. Customers need to know your business is trustworthy if they’re to part with their cash. Case studies, awards and user reviews are examples of content which can improve your brand authority.
Finding your website’s NSM
Identifying your NSM doesn’t mean picking a goal that sounds good in the boardroom. It needs to be a targeted, realistic and measurable goal.
Dial-in on your NSM by answering these three questions:
What is the single most important thing your website should deliver? The answer to this should be simple and obvious – more sales, sign-ups, downloads or leads.
What do users want from the site? You’re likely to have many users, so try to identify your main three here. What are they looking for when they enter your site? Advice, a product, a follow-up from an employee?
Which metrics tie together the above? You need to be able to measure your performance in answering these questions. If you’re after more leads, monitoring on-site user data – like time spent on site and number of pages visited – gives you an indication of what users want and how well you’re meeting their needs.
There are many questions to answer when finding your NSM. A useful way to arrange the information is in a visual hierarchy. Place your NSM at the top, with the answers to these key questions as branches.
Breaking it down into a visual flow chart like this also helps with gaining crucial buy-in from the whole business, with teams visualising how their role fits into the wider goal.
As your business grows and industry and user demands change, you may need to adapt your NSM.
If you’ve been working towards an appropriate NSM, it may only need tweaking slightly. For example, as a start-up, your NSM may have been building awareness by generating more leads. After a few successful years, the business may decide to switch the focus from leads to online sales.
While the metric changes slightly, the original strategy has already laid the foundations for the new goal, with your website designed to drive traffic and provide helpful content to inform users’ buying decisions.
Using analytics data, businesses can make changes to their website to align with their changing goals. Look at how users are behaving on your site. Are there ways you can encourage them to convert or sign-up?
This data helps you understand where to add calls to action or how to improve website design and functionality, so completing a form becomes a natural part of navigating the site and accessing content.
Risk assessment: How to plan and execute a security audit as a small business
By Izzy Schulman, Director at Keys 4 U
Despite the current global coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty it has placed on the modern workplace, businesses cannot afford to relax their attitude towards security. Especially as there have been reports of increased break-ins and cyberattacks among the crisis.
Conducting a thorough security audit could be the key to improving employee awareness and identifying weak points in the business to avoid breaches.
Starting from scratch
The first step in an effective business security audit is a risk assessment – reviewing the workplace and all business processes to identify every risk.
No stone should be left unturned. This means conducting a physical inspection of the office, plus breaking down all employee tasks and demands and even reviewing how employees are working from home amid the current pandemic.
It’s important all risks are identified, so relevant and proportionate measures can be put in place – from heavy lifting to ensuring a comfortable office temperature.
At this stage, it’s also important to get employees to buy-in to security policy. Everyone needs to play their part to ensure complete safety.
Let employees know you understand they’re busy with their role but everyone needs to pull together to stay secure.
Offering incentives like employee recognition emails or even small rewards like gift vouchers may incentivise employees to go the extra mile.
Assessing the workplace
The average small business break-in sees around £2,000 lost in stolen property – not to mention the cost of disruption as a result of lost or damaged equipment.
Office security audits should begin with entry points, checking potential break-in spots like doors – and windows if you’re on a low floor – are monitored by alarms and cameras. Make sure these are visible, as this is known to deter potential intruders from trying their luck.
The workplace must also be protected against fire risks. Not only do fires threaten to destroy property and disrupt businesses, but hefty fines can be issued for failing to meet fire safety standards.
Carry out a thorough fire risk assessment, including nominating and clearly signing fire exits, establishing an emergency procedure and educating staff on its steps.
Safety audits should also highlight any trip hazards or danger of falling objects, plus any electrical or flooding risks.
Plus, this year has brought its own health and safety risks, with the coronavirus pandemic demanding new hygiene and social distancing measures.
For businesses with over five employees, the government has put together a specialised risk assessment for a COVID-19 compliant workplace, including advice on handwash stations and staggering shifts to avoid contact.
The online threat
The cost of cyberattacks to UK businesses is estimated at around £34 million a year – from the theft of intellectual property and the cost of recovering from the attack.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the risk, with many employees encouraged to work remotely, away from employers and IT managers.
A combination of technical IT solutions and educating employees on cybersecurity best practices can help businesses navigate these uncertain times.
For example, multi-factor authentication technology means employees are prompted to enter multiple login credentials to confirm their identity – typically their standard password plus a one-time code sent to their phone.
Even if their password is stolen, the attacker is still unable to log in to the company network without the additional code.
Managing permissions by employee case adds an extra layer of security, with individuals only able to access the data they need. If an employee’s device is breached, it limits the amount of data available to the attacker.
Keeping the company network secure is a team responsibility. Arrange calls in small groups in which IT professionals can explain new remote working protocols in detail and emphasise the importance of adherence, as well as answering employee questions.
Investing time and budget into identifying and addressing threats now, places businesses in a stronger position to maintain high standards of security in the future.
All information gathered from the security audit should be recorded, laying the foundations for a security framework and annual security audits. Log each hazard, along with the status of the risk and measures taken to prevent it.
The idea is to create a clear and structured audit process, which is intuitive to follow if personnel changes occur, or in an emergency. Include a priority checklist with the most significant risks, along with key dates for renewals or updates of any key equipment or facilities.
Update the file year-round, with all new information which may impact business or employee security. Any physical changes to the office should be recorded, along with new or updated equipment and machinery and any significant IT updates. Include key contacts and manufacturer information in the notes to speed things up in case of an emergency.
Buying enterprise professional services: Five considerations for business leaders in turbulent times
By James Sandoval, Founder and CEO, MeasureMatch
The platformization of professional services provides businesses with direct, seamless access to the skills required to face any crisis or opportunity.
The business world was ill-prepared for the current crisis, but a new breed of professional services marketplace platforms is providing valuable access to much-needed enterprise software and data specialists to curb the damage and rise to the challenge.
In today’s age of distributed teams, remote working and material lifts in online communication and commerce, digital systems and data skills are highly important and a matter of success or failure for many organizations.
Enter the ‘platformization of professional services’. Over the last few decades – in a majority of sectors – consumers’ worlds have been reshaped by platformization and personalization. Companies which have offered traditional products and services have moved online or they have been replaced by nimbler online competitors.
The most successful of these companies exhibit two qualities: They offer a platform for others to trade, communicate and to build upon, tailoring their services to the needs of individual consumers. Platformization and personalization.
The innovations born out of the platformization and personalization of B2C businesses are now beginning to transform the buying and selling of goods and services between businesses as well.
This means that businesses increasingly have extraordinary human capital investment flexibility and can safely, cost effectively remain well-equipped to survive and thrive through the most turbulent of times.
Here, MeasureMatch Founder and CEO, James Sandoval, has summarised five core benefits of the platformization of professional services for organizations feeling the heat from shareholders, competitors and even disruptions from pandemics.
The best of today’s professional services marketplaces will win the confidence – and budgets – from clients because they not only provide access to highly desired skills and services, but they’ve also gone to extraordinary lengths to maximise success by conducting, amongst other things, identity, insurance, skills vendor partner verifications. And this is on top of star ratings, written reviews, flexible contract management and more.
The combination of cloud computing services, plus deep ravines of data from historical customer engagement and completed contracts, means that professional services platforms can and should add exceptional value immediately on entry, and across every step of the experience – prior to spending a penny.
Professional services platforms are built for people to use – people from different walks of life and with different business needs. The best platforms provide an equally exceptional layer of people. They differentiate with added human value in the form of due diligence, domain and process expertise.
The OECD says unit labour costs “can be expressed as the ratio of total labour compensation per hour worked to output per hour worked (labour productivity).” Teams and individuals contracted via marketplace platforms, however, are armed and ready with requisite domain knowledge, experience and skills – which means there’s no requirement for the overhead costs commonly required for training, insurance, HR, office rent, utilities, which can amount to 25% to 100% on top of salaries.
Taking into account the contributions made by an unlimited capacity for precise machine-driven matching, exceptional accountability and flexibility, measurable productivity lifts, topped with human customer service and an attractive cost basis, it’s no wonder professional services marketplaces are exploding in popularity. The opportunities for value creation are material and available now.
The future will come with more complexity, surprises and risk. The platformization of professional services, together with advancements in enterprise personalization, will help everyone to embrace it all with confidence, balance and success.
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