Starting A Small Business In Minnesota
Here's some advice for Minnesota-based entrepreneurs starting a new business in Minnesota.
First, obtain a copy of A Guide To Starting A Business in Minnesota. This book is free. It's published annually by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (Small Business Assistance Office). The book runs about 320 pages and covers a wide range of business topics, from business taxes and licensing to hiring employees to financing your small business. And, of course, it's Minnesota-specific and provides information about many other valuable resources to help you build your business. The website is http://www.deed.state.mn.us. You can also order A Guide To Starting A Business in Minnesota by telephone. Visit the DEED website to get the current phone number.
Another useful website is Minnesota BizLinks bizlinks.state.mn.us which provides information about business licensing and regulation.
To start a business in Minnesota (or any other state), you'll need to form a business structure, such as a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. If you don't form an explicit business structure, you'll automatically become a sole proprietorship or a partnership. The partnership is automatic if the business has more than one owner. Your business automatically becomes a sole proprietorship if the business only has one owner.
I'd avoid structuring most businesses as partnerships. If you have partners, go with a corporation, a limited liability company, or some limited liability professional organization structure. Consulting an attorney to discuss topics, such as liability, is a good idea if you're starting a business with others. I discuss the dangers of partnerships and liability issues in Thinking Like An Entrepreneur.
If you decide to form an S corporation, I hope you'll read my book How To Start And Run Your Own Corporation: S-Corporations For Small Business Owners
If you have employees, you'll need to learn a bit about employment taxes (and/or outsource employment tax issues). Visit taxes.state.mn.us to find an online book (pdf format) titled "Employment Taxes and Employer Issues and Responsibilities." This 98-page book is produced by the Minnesota Department of Revenue and several other agencies. It's based upon free Minnesota Department of Revenue classes offered about employment taxes.
In addition to classes about employment taxes, sales tax, capital equipment, and general business taxes, the Minnesota Department of Revenue and the IRS sometimes teach classes about business structure topics, such as C-corporations and S-corporations.
Unfortunately, I don't believe these classes are offered as frequently today (probably due to budget cuts). It seems only the sales tax classes remain. But, if you find a class that covers a topic you want to learn about, I highly recommend these classes to new entrepreneurs. You can get a current copy of the Minnesota tax workshop schedule from taxes.state.mn.us.
Employment issues are tricky. Just ask the Governor's first choice to head up the Labor and Industry Department, which handles workers' compensation and other labor issues. Her appointment was scuttled when it was found her law firm failed to properly pay workers' compensation insurance for her own workers. Oops! Apparently, she didn't know she needed workers' compensation for her employees! (Of course, one reason so many political mucks run afoul of employment tax law is that they're trying to illegally evade various employment taxes. For example, we regularly learn about some appointee who had an illegally-employed house worker, where Social Security and Medicare tax haven't been paid.)
Many good books cover business taxes in general, including:
Minding Her Own Business: The Self-Employed Woman's Essential Guide to Taxes and Financial Records by Jan Zobel. I highly recommend this book if you operate as a Schedule C business, i.e., a sole proprietorship. Similarly, if you operate as a one-member limited liability company (LLC), this book also applies, because from a tax standpoint, limited liability companies (LLCs) are considered disregarded entities. In other words, one-member LLC owners file just as if they were sole proprietors, using Schedule C. If the LLC has two or more members, the LLC files taxes as if it were a partnership.
Keeping The Books: Basic Record-Keeping and Accounting For The Small Business by Linda Pinson and Jerry Jinnett. This book is particularly strong in teaching the basics of recordkeeping for a new small business.
You might also want to examine organizations for Minnesota entrepreneurs, such as mn-entrepreneurs.org. In addition some colleges have classes about entrepreneurship which you might consider.
It's a good idea to speak with people (from any state) who have experience starting a business of the type you contemplate. Find out if there are any industry organizations you might like to join. That will help you learn about the general industry. Industry experience and contacts are often extremely valuable to the success of a new business. Also, if you noodle around on amazon, you'll probably find some industry-specific startup books.
Some general reading about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship might prove helpful. One book I particularly like is What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business by Jan Norman. Subscribing to small business magazines, such as Inc. Magazine is also a good idea.
Good luck in starting your new Minnesota business. See you at the next Lutefisk Festival!
How To Start And Run Your Own Corporation: S-Corporations For Small Business Owners
Thinking Like An Entrepreneur: How To Make Intelligent Business Decisions That Will Lead To Success In Building And Growing Your Own Business