August 21, 2020

Louisiana Business Startup Guide

WRITTEN BY

GOALS OF THIS GUIDE

So, you’re ready to start a business. You have a great new idea or skill set to contribute to your community and you’re chomping at the bit to get started. Entrepreneurship takes vision, passion, and action. You have the vision and passion but taking action can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to do. We hope this list helps turn your vision into action and your dream into reality.

Getting Started

1. Prove your idea.

You might think that you have built a better mouse trap, but what do you really know? At this point, your opinion doesn’t matter as much as what your potential customers think. Before launching, it’s critical that you understand your customers’ needs and wants, as well as their reaction to your product or idea. Now is the time to get a customer’s opinion straight from the source.

  • Customer discovery is what separates a failed startup from a successful one. During customer discovery you are testing and proving your idea by asking open-ended, objective questions. Your biases cannot creep into your questions and taint the end result. You’re seeking an unbiased truth.
  • What is your customer’s pain point? Good products solve a problem, be it software that can help identify personalized music recommendations or adhesive tape that can turn a screen door into a boat. Whatever the problem, your goal is to eliminate a pain point. The trick is ensuring that the pain you aim to solve and the pain your customers experience are aligned.
  • Listening is of the utmost importance. A customer will almost certainly tell you that your idea isn’t any good. Despite how criticism can feel initially, it’s usually good feedback. Remember, customer discovery is about listening, not defending your idea. Make sure you truly hear what your customers are telling you; ask the same question several different ways until you really understand the answer. Clarity is key.
  • Pivot. Yep, sometimes the information you discover by talking to your customers will require changing your idea or tweaking your product. Pivoting allows you to change with the times and market trends, keeping your company relevant. Unwillingness to adapt can be fatal. (Just ask Blockbuster Video.)

2. Build a business plan.

Okay, so you’ve done your market research and customer discovery. Your idea is sound. Now what? You need a plan to move forward. When driven by strategy, a great idea can become a great company. But without planning, your great idea might be just that: an idea.

  • Naming: Pick a name that resonates with you, something that will motivate you and something you’ll be proud to share. You’ll also want to make sure that the name you choose is available in Louisiana, as a URL, and as social media handles. When considering options, remember that the domain should be easy to find when people search for your business online.
  • Sales: Remember all of those people you spoke to during customer discovery? Now it’s time to turn them into actual paying customers. Think about who you spoke to: What traits do they have in common? What are their preferred modes of communication and how often do they like to be contacted? This is now the basis of your Customer Persona.
  • Resources, roles, and responsibilities: What tools or equipment do you need to run your business? Who do you need on your team in order to get the job done? What are the unique roles and responsibilities required for you to succeed? When hiring people and building out your team, it’s critical to understand the roles you need filled as well as the type of people you want filling them. Are you hiring based on skills alone? Do you want employees who share your values? The right team can make all the difference.
  • Financial planning: It takes money to make money. Build out a detailed financial plan and model to establish a healthy business and ensure your burn rate isn’t greater than your cash flow.

Red Tape, Paperwork, Filing (Oh My!)

3. File for a business license.

There is a fair amount of paperwork involved in starting a business, and geauxBIZ is a great, one-stop-shop resource for starting a Louisiana business. The site will help you create a checklist to keep you on track, register your business, and file amendments with the Louisiana Secretary of State, among other things.

4. Register for taxes.

  • In order to hire employees and open a business bank account, you will likely need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax ID Number.
  • If you’re planning to sell a physical product (as opposed to a service), you’ll need to register for Louisiana Sales Tax. Truic has published an easy to follow Louisiana sales tax guide housing valuable information and useful links; it’s a great place to start learning. You can start filing through your geauxBIZ account.  
  • If you’ll be hiring employees, you’ll need to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax and Employee Withholding Tax.

5. Set up your accounting, payroll, and benefits.

Once you have your EIN, you’ll want to set up a business bank account and credit card. Pick a bank and account with low fees and good benefits. Check out the US Small Business Administration for more information.

Online resources like Quickbooks and Gusto are great alternatives to hiring an accountant and/or HR rep.  

6. Obtain the proper permits to operate your business.

You will need to comply with federal, Louisiana, and local government regulations. The US Small Business Administration is a great place to start inquiring about the permits necessary for your business on the federal and state levels.

7. Obtain required insurance coverage.

The state of Louisiana requires that every business has workers’ compensation insurance, which provides financial assistance for injured workers and protects your company against lawsuits. Workers’ comp probably isn’t the first thing you thought of when considering setting up shop, but it is necessary. If your new business is in an industry with a high risk of injury, you’ll need to find an insurance provider that will cover you even without an existing claims history. At LWCC, we are proud to say yes to you or anyone else — always. We guarantee not only to write your workers’ comp insurance policy, but also to have our safety services team follow up to ensure that your business is operating as safely as possible and that the risk of employee injury is minimized.

  • To find the best workers’ comp provider for your business, contact a local independent insurance agent. Your agent can also assist you in buying other forms of insurance you may want or need, such as medical and disability.
  • If safety, security, and stability are important to you, ask your agent about LWCC and whether it is a good match for your business.

Launch with a bang!

8. Launch.

With your back end clean and lean, you’re ready to launch your business. Every market is crowded and noisy these days, so you’ll want to rise above the noise with marketing efforts that will resonate with your Customer Persona. How you choose to go about it is a strategic choice, but every business should launch with a well-defined brand and digital footprint. Take advantage of the owned channels at your disposal. Social media and a well-designed website go a long way!

  • A good website can build immediate credibility and trust. Ensure your website is easy to find, easy to navigate, and enjoyable to use. Tools like WordPress, SquareSpace, and Wix allow you to build a beautiful site yourself. If this isn’t up your alley, find a local web designer (maybe even a college student) who can create a high-conversion site for you. Services like UpWork are a great resource for these types of projects.
  • Get the word out there! Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Yelp, Google Business…The outlets are endless. Understand how (and if) each of these platforms can work for you, develop a content plan, and do your best to stick to it. Like it or not, your customers will likely turn to at least one of these outlets when looking for a business like yours.

9. Don’t do it alone.

Starting a business is scary. You’re putting yourself and your resources on the line. You’re filing mountains of paperwork, juggling a million tasks, and putting out fires left and right. It’s hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are many organizations that are designed to help entrepreneurs like you succeed.

  • NexusLA, for instance, is dedicated to building a better future for entrepreneurs in Louisiana. They offer online seminars such as Resiliency, a space for business tips and leadership hacks, and Resolve, a virtual event series focusing on creating Equity in Entrepreneurship in Baton Rouge and South Louisiana.  
  • Need funding? Consider attending a PitchBR event where you can pitch your idea and catapult your company to the next level. Can’t attend? Check out the abundance of resources PitchPR provides on their website. With their help, you’ll have a stellar pitch deck (and funding) in no time.
  • If you have a tech-enabled idea and need some guidance, consider reaching out to Louisiana Technology Park. The Baton Rouge based incubator offers assistance with business planning, introductions to angel and venture capitalists, accounting services, access to their Strategic Partner Network, and fully equipped office space (including an administrative assistant!).
  • Want some FREE business mentoring and education? Check out SCORE.
  • The Small Business Association (SBA) is the country’s only cabinet-level federal agency fully dedicated to small business and is another great resource to consider when getting started. The SBA provides access to capital, entrepreneurial development, government contracting, and advocacy.  
  • Your local community college or university likely has entrepreneurship programs that could be worth checking out.  

At LWCC, we are Louisiana Loyal; we strive to elevate our state and help Louisiana thrive. As the largest workers’ comp insurance carrier in Louisiana, we realize this vision by supporting our neighbors and friends as they build businesses that contribute to our economy and better our communities. Our focus has been and will always be excellence in execution, from underwriting to life-long care of an injured worker. We hope that the results of our work inspire our partners and policyholders to trust us and be proud to work with us. They know that we will be there. Always.

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