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performance gaps

As president of NationWize Solar, Marvin Wilcher knows a thing or two about running a business. He often shares his wisdom on the website MarvinKnows.com, and in a post for the New Pittsburgh Courier titled “Tips for Black Entrepreneurs in 2015,” he offers some terrific advice for starting a new business. While the tips are aimed at black entrepreneurs, they’re applicable for just about anyone with an idea and some ambition, so read on and see how to get your venture off the ground.

1. Make a Business Plan — Before you can enter a given industry, you’ve got to know the ins and outs. Size up the competition — then start thinking about pricing, marketing, financing, and the like. This crucial step, Wilcher writes, is “a dry run of what your business might look like in the future,” so don’t take it lightly.

2. Select a Business Structure — This could be the “make or break you” decision, according to Wilcher. Will you be a sole proprietorship, wherein you’re fully responsible for assets and liabilities, or will you be a corporation or a limited liability company? While corporations are more costly, Wilcher writes, they offer protection from creditors. “The right decision here could save your personal credit or maybe your personal assets,” Wilcher writes. “Choose wisely.”

3. Figure Out Financing — Once you’ve got a business plan, you’ll need capital to get things up and running. For smallish amounts — $5,000 to $10,000 — a personal credit card might be a smart move, Wilcher writes. If your business requires more start-up funds, you might try a bank, though they often require three years in business. Other options include SBA.gov and “crowdfunding,” the process by which you use websites like Kickstarter to raise money through donations.

4. Get Licensed and Registered — Your business will likely need a proper license. Research what your city and state require, and then see about grabbing an employer ID number, or EIN, from the IRS. This number separates you from your business, legally speaking, and in addition to allowing you to open a business bank account, it’ll help you avoid future tax troubles.

5. Hire Good People — As Wilcher writes, “hiring the right people is the most important job that an entrepreneur has.” You can find employees on websites like Craigslist and monster.com, and at first, Wilcher advises, it might be prudent to hire folks as contract workers, at least until you’re established. Just make sure there’s a clear agreement between your and your workers, and be sure to pay all payroll taxes.