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No. of Recommendations: 3
An acquaintance came to me with an idea last night. It's something he's been sitting on for a few years now. It's a good idea, and I think worth something... maybe a lot. He doesn't have the know-how to make it happen, but I do, or I know the people who do. He says he can get seed money for it. He wants me to be his partner.

So now, for the first time in my life, I'm presented with what I believe is a truly novel thing -- something that could fundamentally change a large market, a new way of thinking about an old problem. It's what every aspiring nerd hopes to come across, and... I don't know where to start. Patents, incorporation, development, marketing, exit strategy: I know what all these things are, but have no experience starting or running a business, and neither does he.

I need help. I think I need to read a book. Can anyone recommend a place to start here? We have some napkin scribbles that I believe are worth some effort. Before I up and quit my day job, I need a clearer sense of how to proceed.

I'm posting this here because I think this board has a lot of successful people who do have experience with these things, and I'm hoping something here resonates enough to point me in the right direction. Thanks!
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No. of Recommendations: 2
This book will not solve all of your problems, but it may be one of several you find helpful:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Personal-MBA-Master-Business/dp/15...
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Does this idea have to do with the disparity between the .02 deposit on Coke bottles charged in the east, and the .03 deposit charged on bottles in the west? It worked well in the late 60's.
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tprooney3: Thank you! I ordered a copy. Looks like a good overview.

chippunk: No... that sounds like a hardware problem to me.
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No. of Recommendations: 4
Whafa,

I would read and talk to everyone you can

Try Peter Theil's book Zero to One.....
Kinda for big scalable startups but lots of good
info from a grizzled vet.

I also like: The Hard Things about Hard Things for the same reasons

Basically you are in a new relationship and feeling woozy
Spend time trying to shoot holes in it and planning for the
breakup/failure.....

I recommend considering startups but they are rarely anything other than the most
consuming, heartbreaking and uncomfortable thing you can do.....

And that's if you succeed !

Good luck
TSKuhn
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Some quick thoughts:
1. Get trademark coverage. Trademark trumps patents in that a memorable product name associated with a quality product or service is lasting and hopefully, ever increasing value for the owners.
2. Get patent(s) but not to keep folks out of your business realm. Rather to make sure someone has a high wall to cross should they want to sue you to stop. In other words, you have the patent. They have to expend $$$ and effort to challenge you. However, always recognize know-how is the core technology aspect that you want your company to have in abundance. There is a lot of stuff successful companies do that relates to their exceptional know-how.
3. Incorporate and have a shareholders agreement. Make sure it sets up guidelines for going forward including taking the company apart, selling one's holdings, etc.
4. Do you like the people who in whom you are investing? It is one thing to love the idea and another to deal with the folks who are to make it happen.
5. Has anyone done a market study? You can go to local colleges and approach their business school professors to see if you can engage the professor and some of their students in doing a study. You can also hire a student on an internship basis. Surprisingly good work is often done by students on these types of projects.
6. Has your group built prototypes? You want to put money down on squares and to quickly assess what works and what does not.
Uwharrie
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No. of Recommendations: 6
Some slow ideas:

Understand the technology and the market adjacent to your invention. This can mostly be done on google. Find the companies and products that are most like yours. Understand these products and their markets, at least a little.

Get an NDA if you are going to talk to other companies about what you have.

Patents are not a panacea. If you are in a mature industry, what will be patentable will be pretty narrow as the broader patents have already been issued (and many are already expired). This also means potential competitors can look at your invention and figure out how to to it slightly differently such that they don't infringe your patents.

If you can get meetings, talk to VCs or even established angels. Maybe you don't want their money, but they will have a lot of experience and information about starting companies and getting new things off the ground.

The best businesses do one thing that really adds value and buys everything else that is not their invention. Tesla is an exception: they "should have" built car powertrains but instead are building the whole car. Tesla could not have done what it is doing if the auto industry didn't have so many suppliers of brakes and windshield wipers and headlights etc. that Tesla can buy to put on their cars. So if your invention is "a car with heated cupholders," don't try to build the whole car from scratch, rather figure out how to get your heated cupholders into existing cars, discover the aftermarket parts suppliers and car modifiers.
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After a few years when we read about you in Fortune, please come back here
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Probably better to organize as an LLC than a corporation. John Cunningham's website(s) would not be a bad place to start. This link may help http://www.llcformations.com/Business%20plan%20issues%20-%20....
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No. of Recommendations: 26
You are in a situation of dealing with a totally start-up company opportunity. My suggestions come from my experience with angel and venture capital (VC) investing, which I approach very differently from my public company investments. It requires a different mindset than studying existing businesses for investing opportunities since there is no existing business.

My first priority suggestion is to read some of the books on angel and VC investing. Amazon is loaded with them. These will give you a good sense of what an entrepreneur needs to do to raise angel and/or VC funding and what a prospective investor looks for in a potential start up or early-stage company company. These books will give you an idea of the range of issues one should think about in forming a company and what it takes to achieve funding. Even if you think you can self fund, or so-called "Friends and Family" fund, and do not plan to seek angel or VC funding, these books do a good job of discussing what it takes to get a business going on a path to success.

Having done some reading, you may well find yourself in a mixed state of mind: both energized by what you have learned, as well as potentially discouraged by all the questions about the business you are not yet in a position to answer. That is ok, because the unanswered questions form the basis of your moving forward work plan. The following is my attempt to summarize my own experience and understanding from these books of what questions these planning activities should try to answer for the period of time it takes to achieve a viable business 1,2, 3, 4,....? years:

1.What is the offering, product and/or service.

2.What customer problem is/are being addressed.

3.What is the market you intend to address and what do you estimate its size to be.

4.Who are the competitors, now and perhaps in the future. Indirect competitors offering substitute or alternative solutions need to be included so as to not fall victim to a horse-drawn buggy vs. automobile like phenomenon.

5.What is your advantage---technology, know-how, etc. If there is intellectual property involved, how do you intend to protect it.

6.What is the business model, i.e., what is the basis of revenue and how will fixed and variable costs be managed. Here is the place to think about customers vs. users. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have huge numbers of users, but few paying customers and thus they have different approaches to each constituency.For BRK's railroad, the customers and users are the same group.

7. Lay out a financial estimate for one to two years out, with particular emphasis on costs. Any attempt at projecting beyond that time frame is usually a waste of time.

8. How do you validate the key premises of the business--the viability of the offering, market opportunity, and business model.

9.Think about amounts, timing, and desired sources of funding.

10.Think about people. The current players, their strengths and limitations, their roles, and the functional competency roles, i.e., holes that need to be filled. Perhaps you want to seek out some advisers as well, either generalists or specialists.

Answers to these questions are not static, but living thoughts that can and should evolve over time with experience and better understanding. When they are packaged up into a single document, they become the sections, table of content, of a business plan, ideally a living document.

If all this seems like a lot of work, you are right, it is. If it seems too hard to think about or to take on, then starting up a company may be a bad idea. On the other hand, an energized entrepreneur may find the challenge of translating an idea into a successful business the real fun part. Good luck.

Carl
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Thank you, everybody, for the great advice! Yes, if this turns into anything I will definitely come back and report on it.
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Thiel's Zero to One. Some interesting stuff about startups.
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No. of Recommendations: 32
Adding to some of the earlier comments:

Ask your accountant or attorney about company legal structure. The thinking these days is to go with an LLC, but for some an S-Corp may also be a good choice. There are subtle differences including payroll tax and income reporting considerations, so just check first to see which will be best for you. I won’t pretend to offer legal advice however you might find this post and its startuplaw blog interesting: https://www.startuplawblog.com/2011/09/30/12-reasons-for-a-s...

If you are eventually acquired, chances are the acquirer will simply buy the ‘net assets’ of your business and not the legal entity (unless there are non-transferrable licenses involved or something) so it probably won’t matter if you are a corporation or an llc. An exception might be if you really hit this out of the park and are being acquired, giving you huge taxable gains. If incorporated you may be able to defer taxes indefinitely by exchanging your shares for some of your acquirer’s, assuming Buffett or whoever is buying your business will do that. In that kind of dream scenario you might regret having made an llc selection.

The jurisdiction in which you elect to incorporate (or register) matters, as does -- entirely separately -- where you actually do businesses and pay people. Corporate America gravitates to Delaware with its business-friendly laws and judiciary, but for your purposes you may find a state like Florida or Texas appropriate. Not only do you want to take into consideration factors like the absence of state income taxes, but also business law that might affect your company. Other factors being equal, you might want to do business in jurisdictions that don’t see you as the enemy or as a revenue opportunity.

Know your state’s labor laws. Start-ups should be especially aware of their states’ ‘employment-at-will’ rules. Two-thirds of states recognize the existence of ‘implied employment contracts’ that give your employees much more entitlement to continuing paychecks than they would have in the minority of states that don’t recognize this con
cept.

Going even further, some of those employee-friendly ‘implied contract’ states, notably in the Northeast and on the west coast, put additional burdens on employers and require that you demonstrate ‘just cause’ for firing people. In places like Massachusetts and California you can be very restricted, even if the employee turns out to be an obvious bad fit or even a malcontent. Meanwhile in states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana employers generally can show people the door at will and without repercussions.

Whatever your social-responsibility views or political leanings, all other factors being equal, a start-up’s flexibility to fire at your discretion really is helpful. Hiring ‘mistakes’ are inevitable, and with a start-up it is imperative that everyone be exactly right for your company and that you remedy problems quickly. Whether or not this factors into your decision on where you do business, the point here is that you just need to be very aware of your state’s rules.

Of course “always consult a professional” etc, but if you want to get set up fast and inexpensively, there are a number of on-line services that can get you incorporated in states like Delaware or Florida (you don’t have to actually be located in the state you select) for $100 or $200, and they make it pretty easy. If for example you go the S-corp route, these on-line services will get you the documentation and everything you need and take you through the steps, including the simple but necessary process of getting an EIN and applying for ‘S’ status. I’m partial to Florida incorporation myself, with no state tax, easy on-line filings, some favorable laws, etc. Designate yourself as an officer, say treasurer, if for no other reason that you can control the checkbook. Bring the incorporation paperwork including the EIN letter from the IRS to the bank, open up a business account, and you’re pretty much good to go.

Controlling the checkbook and cash flow generally is power in any start-up, and that’s one activity that you want to control directly and not be in a rush to relinquish or share.

I happen to use BofA and they offer a linked payroll service (by Intuit) that’s particularly convenient and that I also use. Hopefully you won’t rush to hire employees and this is just for future reference, but when you get to that stage I’ve also found ADP's small business offerings useful. ADP carries some credibility that can be useful, and it offers big-company options adapted for small business like worker’s comp coverage and certain benefits programs. The pricing is a bit expensive starting at a few hundred dollars per month, but you it’s one area where you can come across as major league.

I’ve seen start-ups of even several hundred people that use bare-bones discount services like ‘$10 Payroll’ but (a) you tend to get what you pay for, (b) you won’t impress investors, acquirers, or employees (who can be understandably reluctant to have their SSN, bank account numbers, and other personal info with just anyone) and (c) with these you need to keep an eye on how the discount service is making money off of you, for example through float. Enough of that rambling.

Keep your start-up’s bookkeeping simple (more later). It’s disheartening to hear ‘lack of a system’ used as an excuse for not having a handle on a business’ finances. Systems are just tools and it’s the disciplined mindset that’s critical.

In years past we might mention that a company ‘uses Quickbooks’ as polite code for being ‘mom-and-pop’ and not particularly ready to be a prime-time investment. That stigma has largely passed and you can use something like that at least as a stop-gap until you learn your long-term requirements. These days you will find that system selection is often dictated by your key suppliers and/or customers. For example, one tech start-up I was involved with found that it was in an ecosystem where an SAP installation was pretty much mandatory. Be patient with IT systems and see what’s required in your particular world.

Be paranoid. Be obsessive on several levels. A strikingly high proportion of successful serial entrepreneurs share a common trait of being almost unnaturally obsessive about everything, including a belief that people will steal their business, their business idea, their customers, financial data, everything. And if your idea is that valuable, people really will want to steal it or end-run you. Watch the movie The Social Network again for a refresher on the progression with the Winklevosses and Saverin. While Facebook is an extreme case, that stuff really does happen in everyday start-ups.

Whether you outsource manufacturing or intellectual work, take precautions against getting ripped off, including limiting and segmented what your outsourcing and supply chain partners can see. Non-disclosure agreements are de rigueur but still are only as strong as your financial ability to enforce. However don’t disclose the crown jewels unless you have a completed and signed letter of intent to purchase the business on terms you are comfortable with, and even then be careful. Check out this cautionary example: venturebeat.com/2012/02/27/a-classic-startup-horror-story-th...

Know your costs. I can’t emphasize this enough. You really, really have to have a handle on all your costs. There is nothing more discouraging than asking a new business owner to discuss expenses and having them say we’ll ‘have to talk to their accountant’ or bookkeeper, or that they’ll get back to me after they prepare this year’s taxes, or year-end financial statements, or some other stall. Any start-up owner needs to be aware of every dollar spent in real-time, its general categorization (more on that shortly) and each expenditure’s relevance to revenue.

One thing you should do, as much as it seems an inconvenience, is keep a running projection of your checkbook going out at least a couple of months, on Excel or something. Update the projection with actual receipts and disbursements as you go along. Even in larger companies you should do this. You want a realistic picture of your cash flow and cash availability, and you want to be factoring in surprises as you go along. For example if you have a confluence of time-sensitive payments coming up you don’t want to be surprised, or if you are intuitively relying on a big customer payment to make payroll you’ll want to be well ahead of that. The exercise will seem a nuisance but it will be worth it, even if the company is flush.

Watch some episodes from the very first season of Shark Tank, and then watch some more recent episodes, available on YouTube and elsewhere. In the first season, start-up founders were routinely blind-sided by the investor panel for not knowing things like their cost-to-produce a unit, their per-customer acquisition costs, the lifetime value of a typical customer, customer retention rates, their own core competencies, etc. In later seasons, presenters figured out what to expect and as a group came in much more prepared. Regardless of what you think of the show, the questions are educational and the answers sometimes revealing. That’s a minimal level of preparedness you want for yourself, even just for your own benefit.

Forget GAAP. That might be a slight exaggeration, but one of the more challenging transitions for big company transplants (or public company investors) is the importance of a cash-flow mindset versus the typical GAAP thinking where managers or investors focus on familiar concepts like ‘earnings’, ‘assets’ and ‘equity’. Earnings don’t matter much if you run out of money. Distinctions between capital expenditures, expenses, and inventory build-up lose relevance and are all still components of a start-up’s ‘cash burn’.

Perhaps the toughest element of the mental transition from investor or big-company manager to entrepreneur is working capital management. There was a recent discussion here about the merits of Costco as a company and an investment. One of the great characteristics of Costco (and Walmart even more so) is the business model as it relates to net working capital required for its operations. Costco’s net working capital requirement is: zero.

One of the key predictors of any company’s ability to grow, assuming its product or service concepts is accepted by the markets, is its net working capital, particularly the ‘incremental’ working capital needs for each dollar of revenue growth. With businesses like Costco and Walmart, suppliers essentially fund all the business’ working capital, which is a large portion of the investment needed for growth. To belabor this point, Costco investors don’t foot that bill; it’s covered by negotiated float. Successful start-ups need to figure this dynamic out for themselves. Those that don’t solve this in their business model will have continuing challenges, always needing more cash to grow.

Specifically, look at inventory, payables, and receivables on an aggregate basis. The objective is to get these items to have as little drain on cash flow as possible. This is where the best companies excel, and how Buffett financed several early key acquisitions out of his initial textile company investment, the source of funds for everything that followed. In those key early years he cranked as much cash out of improvements in working capital dynamics as the business generated from selling product.

Again, Walmart is the king of working capital management, which has been a critical component of its dominance, and businesses like Costco are right up there. This week’s Wall St Journal had an article with some approaches for small businesses. www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-start-a-business-with-very-littl...

With suppliers and other outside ‘partners’ always be aware of the ‘too big to fail’ dynamic in the relationship. On the one hand, don’t open yourself up to the business world’s version of blackmail, particularly by your customers who might be inclined to suck you into a relationship where they can, for example, strong-arm you into giving them more credit or better terms than you initially thought you were signing up for. The more they owe you, the more they own your future.

On the other hand, be aware of how you might build and maintain leverage over others.

Your best customers and most loyal suppliers can and will take advantage of you if survival is in question and they are given the opportunity. One of the most depressing things in business is seeing nice-guy suppliers getting dragged under by customers who got some leverage over them. Similarly, suppliers who think they smell blood won’t hesitate to shut you off to protect themselves when you get up to date with them and relinquish your own leverage. Always be aware of the dynamics, and if anyone is creating a dependence, let it be you.

One of the more curious things with start-ups that hit it big with venture capital funding is the funding groups’ innate need to issue press releases announcing the deals. They can’t seem to help themselves with these announcements, using the funding to market themselves and all. If you are the recipient this might somehow seem like a good idea, providing some instant credibility for your business in your marketplace. When on the receiving end, however, the effect is like announcing in a press release that you’ve won the lottery. Everyone who was until then giving you favorable payment terms or discounted pricing, or suddenly thinks you might owe them something from the past comes, out of the woodwork. Everyone has a rationalization to separate you from that money before it might be gone.

If you do take in funding from outside sources, know that there is a decent chance you will be asked to leave the company or at best take a diminished role. If the funding group has a more experienced, proven candidate for your job, someone they know and trust and has come through for them in other businesses before, you quite possibly will be asked to step aside. From a totally impartial perspective this might be best for the business, but not necessarily best for you. This happens, a lot, and in my experience some ousted founders don’t take this well. Investors aren’t always upfront about their intentions, or sometimes they just become disillusioned with the founders.

Be careful with debt. Secured revolving lines of credit can work out fine if thing are going well, but with those the bank is essentially taking over your checkbook though it might not seem like it immediately. If business is steadily and profitably growing, no problem, but if things turn, the credit line automatically contracts when you really need it. If the bank elects to drop you (ala HOG in the recession, when Berkshire thankfully came to the rescue) you can have a real problem. Remember also that factoring, no matter how attractive the nominal terms might seem on the surface, is essentially the pay-day advance of the business world. On the other hand, keep in mind that equity funding is usually the most expensive source of funding of all.

Take a funding lesson from Buffett. One of the most impressive thing about the growth of Berkshire over the years is that basically, its growth was almost entirely self-funded. Buffett never kicked in more money himself, for anything, nor did he go to the public markets. Other than his initial equity purchase of Berkshire shares for something like $10 million, he did not put any more of his own money into the company and never raised money for the company through share issuances. Of course he issued some equity in making some major acquisitions where he needed to strategically to secure a deal, but in fifty years he did not issue or otherwise sell shares to raise money to fund ongoing operations or for the business’ growth. This really takes a lot of discipline, a lot of patience, and of course good cash management skills.

Be miserly. No matter how careful you are with money, the day will come when you wish you had been even more careful than you were. At the same time, use common sense about saving money. For example in my experience, a $500/hour attorney often ends up costing far less for a better result than you might get from a $250/hour one. Likewise getting exactly the right help in non-routine accounting, legal or technical situations can cost a few hours of fees but save weeks of in-house effort. An ounce of prevention and all.

Business Model vs. Business Plan. Know your financial model. Much is made of ‘business plans’ (except of course at Berkshire world headquarters) and you really want to at least complete the qualitative questions on those lists for your own benefit. What you will really want to have nailed however is your ‘business model’, including the model of the businesses’ financial dynamics. You know Buffett would have this cold.

Categorize each cost as one of the following:
1. Fixed – all overhead including leases, utilities, insurance, employees on your payroll, etc
2. Variable – costs that should vary with revenues, like selling and volume-related production costs
3. One-time / start-up – development costs, patents and other legal costs etc
4. Owner benefits. Owners’ pay and benefits, including anything personal you charge off to the company, like a car lease, meals, or anything you are

If you have a good handle on what you expect these costs to be, and track them in these broad categories, you can figure out your break-even revenue levels, and what your incremental earnings should be as you grow. If you can segregate out 3. and 4., keeping track of these it will not only help you manage costs more clearly, but if you go to exit the business potential acquirers (or investors) you can make a case that you have higher ‘normalized’ than might be reflected on the company’s bank statements or tax returns.

Avoid long-term obligations. One of the first things too many start-ups focus on, especially if they receive some early funding, is their physical space. Don’t rush this. So many start-ups find that after a year or two, the office or commercial space they thought was perfect, wasn’t.

Be frugal. In one instance where the company burned through its first private equity infusion, the founder/CEO had amenities like his own office bathroom and shower, and they had just spent $100k putting epoxy floor paint on a leased warehouse floor. In another, the owner had gotten a great deal on leasing a building he could ‘grow into’ only to give it up a year later because the location wasn’t proving practical. Be patient and careful in making fixed-cost commitments. Generally, overhead does not add ‘business value’ and a potential acquirer will see long-term financial commitments for something they may not even want as a negative rather than as something they would pay you for.

Some miscellaneous items:

Don’t hire family. Unless perhaps you are first-generation citizens and everyone understands the survival-mode game plan, the odds are against it working out as you envision. Use the family’s help and support and all and take advantage of available resources, but resist putting relatives on the payroll. If you invite funding from outside investors, both you and your family members are at risk of getting bounced.

Be careful of making personal commitments or guarantees on behalf of the business, including even seemingly innocuous ones that perhaps a credit card processor or some such provider might say they require. Somehow these always come back to bite you.

Understand the value creation (or destruction) of your marketing activities. When it comes to marketing, or in my case engineering or technical or outsourcing questions, my own approach is to have a secret weapon: friends and neighbors who conveniently have some expertise in areas where I’m deficient. Informal networks aren’t the end-all, but they can provide helpful perspectives.

Lastly, as you get ready to get into this world, sign up for Pepperdine’s periodic studies on ‘Private Capital Markets’.
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I can't thank you enough for this (and everybody else who replied). I'm meeting with my friend again soon to talk things out a little more. All of this info will really help to map things out. I'll post an update here if/when this turns into anything.
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The jurisdiction in which you elect to incorporate (or register) matters, as does -- entirely separately -- where you actually do businesses and pay people. Corporate America gravitates to Delaware with its business-friendly laws and judiciary, but for your purposes you may find a state like Florida or Texas appropriate. Not only do you want to take into consideration factors like the absence of state income taxes, but also business law that might affect your company.

Just to clarify this a bit, incorporating in a state like Florida, Texas, or Nevada (the local choice here in CA), does not make all of your activities free from state income taxes.

Your state income taxes will be driven mainly by where you operate, not where you incorporate. So if you form a corporation in Florida, but the corporation's activities are all in New York, you're going to pay NY state income taxes.

--Peter
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Your state income taxes will be driven mainly by where you operate, not where you incorporate.

This is the case with C-corps, however with taxable-income pass-through entities like S-corps the more precise answer may be 'it depends'.

Most states exempt S-corps from state income tax at the corporate level and the shareholder pays tax at a personal level in his state of residence. However there are a number of significant exceptions of states that do subject S-corp income to state income taxes for having operations in their state regardless of where the shareholder resides, a few important examples being New York, New Jersey, and California.

That said, there are enough individual state variations in all this that the best general advice might be 'speak with your tax professional'.
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I happen to use BofA and they offer a linked payroll service (by Intuit) that’s particularly convenient and that I also use. Hopefully you won’t rush to hire employees and this is just for future reference, but when you get to that stage I’ve also found ADP's small business offerings useful. ADP carries some credibility that can be useful, and it offers big-company options adapted for small business like worker’s comp coverage and certain benefits programs. The pricing is a bit expensive starting at a few hundred dollars per month, but you it’s one area where you can come across as major league.



As a potential investor in Paychex and Intuit, I'd love to hear a little more of your perspective on this whole small business payroll outsourcing matter.

What strengths do you see in Intuit?

Also, I noticed that you mentioned Intuit and ADP, but not Paychex. I was kind of surprised, as my understanding is that Paychex was the overwhelming leader for payroll in small business, whereas ADP focused on larger.
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... my understanding is that Paychex was the overwhelming
leader for payroll in small business, whereas ADP focused on
larger.


CC,

That might have been true a while back, but both companies have
since been gradually creeping into each others' territory.

When evaluating each payroll service for our company, we decided
to go with ADP because we had more confidence in its support for
our multi-state needs. These days I'm sure either company would
be adequate for our requirements.

I would guess there's a moderate amount of stickiness once a
company has chosen one payroll service or another. Not impossible
to switch, but there's certainly the cost of migration once you've
built your workflow around either service. For example, a minor
annoyance for me was that ADP's service required Microsoft
Internet Explorer, yet it wasn't enough of an annoyance to switch
payroll services.

In either case, our cost for using a payroll service isn't even a
blip compared to the hassle of hiring someone to do the work. We
just use the minimal services, however, so I don't know how
companies requiring more services might perceive differences in
the advanced services offered.

As I recall, ADP makes money on the float. So if you think
interest rates are heading up, it may be a positive factor in your
investment decision, assuming the market hasn't already factored
that possibility into the price.

-Rubic
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Update: I'm pretty sure I won't be moving forward with this. I hope my acquaintance becomes famous for it, and makes a $billion. It really is an Idea whose Time has Come, and addresses a problem that basically everyone online has. I can imagine a future where his product is ubiquitous, but I can't see any path to get there from here. Maybe I just lack ambition, or maybe I'll have some flash of inspiration. Right now I think I'm passing on it.

I want to thank everybody who replied to my thread with suggestions and very lengthy advice. I really appreciate the effort in sharing your ideas and experience. Thanks again!
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