Starting an online business requires building an effective team. Building effective teams is the secret of success when it comes to creating a small and thriving business.

Too many individuals start building a business solo, and they end up finding out the hard way that comprehensive strategic partnership is how an online business becomes successful.

Building effective teams for your online business include:

  • An account that handles your finances
  • A lawyer that specializes in business contracts
  • A person who is familiar with tax changing tax laws
  • A banking representative that you can call directly
  • A commercial real estate representative
  • Dun and Bradstreet for business credit score assistance
  • A digital photographer
  • A “customer relations management” manager
  • A policy and procedure consultant
  • A merchant account gateway access provider

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Previously Covered Topics

Just starting to think about creating a business: (Part 1 of 6)

Figuring out where you could benefit your chosen industry: (Part 2 of 6)

Setting up your business process documentation and operational planning: (Part 3 of 6)

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Topics For this Article

With all of the planning stages completed, making your business legal is next: (Part 4 of 6)

Step 14 Obtain a Financial Accountant

Step 15 Obtain a Business Lawyer to Form Articles of Incorporation

Step 16 Obtain Your EIN from the IRS

Step 17 Obtain Your Business Bank Account

Step 18 Set Up a Physical Business

Step 19 Obtain Your DUNS Number

Step 20 Create Business Logo Images

Step 21 Hire a Photographer

Step 22 Hire an Account Manager

Step 23 Develop a Policy and Procedure Manual

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Next Article in the Series

Starting to make your business usable by the public: (Part 5 of 6)

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Obtain a Financial Accountant

From the first moment that you pay money or receive money or an asset on behalf of the business, that needs to be tracked. The best bet is to visit a couple of accountants to get advice on the best way for keeping records for your business, now and for future expansions.

The hardest part is getting started and to know what sort of financial data you need to collect and how to organize it. Once you have a handle on it, then it is a lot easier to teach someone how to take over this task for you at a later date.

An accountant can also let you know from the beginning of your business what steps are needed to take advantage of tax breaks for the year that you start doing business in. For example, starting your business in October might be more advantageous than starting a business in January.

Your accountant should also have access to a tax preparer for easier transfer of data to the IRS.

If you make a habit of tipping or rewarding your accountant with unexpected gifts, your accountant is more likely to assist your business with personal care.

Once you have an accountant who you like to work with, the next step is to find a business lawyer.

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Obtain a Business Lawyer to Form Articles of Incorporation

At first, take the time to interview a few business lawyers to find one who matches your business goals. It is a good idea to pay a few lawyers to handle different aspects of your business in the future.

The lawyer will help you decide what kind of business you should operate as well as the risks, rights and responsibilities of each business type.

Remember making a business name plan a while back? Now is the time to pull out those names you brainstormed and come up with your top name choices.

Then, you will be able to continue with your business application to the Secretary of State with these categories:

  • Business name search
  • Company legal name
  • Doing business as
  • Line of business
  • NAICS code(s)
  • Incorporation date

You will probably pay for the startup fees out of pocket, and your accountant can show you what you need in order to be reimbursed for these fees.

As of your incorporation date, you are officially a business owner. Business owners are in charge of collecting the proper taxes for the IRS, so the next step is to get your tax ID number (or EIN).

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Obtain Your EIN from the IRS

Getting your Employee Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is fairly straight-forward, and there is no cost. The IRS should send you a card with your business tax IDs on it for further reference.

As soon as you get your EIN, the next step is to open a starter bank account for your business.

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Obtain Your Business Bank Account

Opening a business bank account does take a couple of hours. The banks want to make sure that you are serious about following through as well as ensure that they are legally protecting themselves.

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Setting Up the Account

In order for things to go smoothly, make sure to bring these items/people to the bank with you:

  • Authorized signer(s) of account
  • Email of signer(s)
  • Instant messenger of signer(s)
  • Registered physical address(es)
  • Photo ID of signer(s)
  • Utility bills of signer(s)
  • Resume of signer(s)
  • Personal bank statements
  • Personal credentials

It is a good idea to open 4 accounts: one for doing business, one for taxes, one for payroll and one for an online merchant account.

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Obtain a Voided Check

While still at the bank, obtain a voided check from the online merchant account with this information on it:

  • Business bank name
  • Business bank account number
  • Business bank address
  • Business bank contact name
  • Business bank telephone number
  • Business bank email

Save this voided check to use for your high-risk merchant application in the near future.


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Small Loans are a Secret of Success

Take out a secured mini-loan with the bank in order to start building your business credit score. This is a step that a lot of businesses miss in the beginning as they are focused on getting huge lines of credit for their business. However, consider getting a loan for $100 in order to purchase something that you can start making money with right away.

It is okay to to pay high interest for such a small amount. The goal is to pay the loan in full and on-time. This builds your business credit score, and it shows that you are responsible with money given to you on behalf of your business.

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Business Bank Account Conclusion

Setting up your business bank account is worth your time to get things started. The problem is that your bank will not open a merchant account that accepts credit cards for you right away. This is a misconception for many people starting an online business.

Once you have your bank account set up, you now have everything you need to proceed to the next step and get a physical business address.

Starting an online business that links up to your bank accounts properly is a sure way to make sure that your business transactions are being accounted for in the proper way.

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Set Up a Physical Business

Even if you do the majority of your work from home, it is important to get a physical business address at another location, preferably in an established office building.

There are a lot of reasons for this, such as:

  • When you build your website, you can put a different address on the site than your home address for security reasons
  • Office buildings have established mailrooms that allow you to take advantage of bulk shipping and receiving rates
  • An office space is a terrific place to hold meetings (for example, with an IRS official) or to conduct interviews
  • It is easier to do a business transfer if you eventually leave the business
  • It makes it easier to get Federal contracts and grants
  • Having pictures of a physical address is good for your business reputation

This is the kind of data that you want to have for a physical business:

  • Business address
  • Location type
  • Business phone
  • Business fax
  • Business email
  • Business certifications
  • Business utilities or lease agreement
  • Business insurance

Even if your business is 100% online, you are still going to need all of the licenses to do business within your state as if you had a physical address (sometimes referred to as a “brick and mortar” location).

If you choose to have more than one office, make sure to get this information for each office you own.

For example, you might do consulting for “vacation rental brokers” which requires you to travel to various states. It is a good idea to choose a primary location for your business near where you live.

Later, it is a good idea to view the business laws in every state that you do business in to see if you need to establish an office there as well. For every new office, apply for a new DUNS number for each physical location.

Now that you have a physical business address established, you can move on to the next step and get your business credit file number.

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Obtain Your DUNS Number

What is a DUNS Number? A DUNS number  is a “data universal numbering system” that comes from Dun and Bradstreet that is used to calculate your business credit score. Dun and Bradstreet also collects data on your business.

Here are the characteristics of a DUNS number:

  • Unique nine-digit number
  • It is like a Social Security number for businesses
  • Used to create a business credit file
  • Fees vary for each physical location of your business
  • Free for businesses that operate with government contracts or grants
  • A DUNS number is necessary if you are going to bid for grants
  • A DUNS number is a credible reference for your business
  • A DUNS number is accepted globally as verification that you have a business

Just a quick note: Your DUNS number is registered to your business’s exact physical address. If your office is in a shared space, make sure to include your complete address. For example, 1234 Front Street, Suite Number 1111, Portland, Oregon 97202.

By including your full address, you can avoid the application taking longer because there may be a registry for the building address (1234 Front Street) for a <DUNS number>.

It takes about 30 business days to get this <DUNS number>, so in the meantime spend more time with your business plans above and make more contacts.

When your business credit report has been requested, here is the available data:

  • Full business name
  • Doing business as
  • NAICS code
  • Names of the signers to your bank account and stakeholders
  • Financial information
  • Payment history
  • Public filings
  • Lawsuits for or against
  • Liens for or against
  • Judgements for or against

It is a good idea to review your business credit report at least once per year.

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Review and Update Business Credit Score

Your business credit score is a shortcut into the information on your business credit report. If financial institutions, vendors, potential high-ticket customers or insurance companies see that you took the time to properly fill out the business credit report with data, it will reflect well on your business’s bottom line.

A lower score is replaced with confidence that you are at least moving in a positive direction.

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Review and Update Personal Credit Score

Your personal credit score (along with any account signers) is very important to maintain as well. It is a good idea to review personal credit reports once a year to remove any errors.

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DUNS Conclusion

A DUNS number is not required for businesses not applying for federal grants or contracts. However, there are a lot of benefits to obtaining a DUNS number for your business that will legitimize your company.

It is similar to a Social Security number for your business which is good for your business credit score.

Now that you have all of the legitimacy you need for your business, the next step is to create a business logo.


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Create Business Logo Images

Your business logo should be instantly recognizable. A simple, bold design is best. A single color is best, two colors is okay, three colors is pushing it and more than three colors will cost you more in the long run.

If you made a plan for “promotional swag” (also referred to as “stuff we all get” at conferences), you know that the more colors you need to complete an item, the more expensive it becomes. Because of this, limiting colors from the beginning is worthwhile.

Look for websites that promote logo creation contests, and you will have many designs to choose from instead of paying for each design individually.

Now that you have your logo created, the next step is to obtain a photographer.

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Hire a Photographer

If you are starting an online business, you want the photographer to take pictures in digital format.

Because the pictures are already ready to be processed for online use, this removes a lot of the steps required for traditional photographers (processing film, making photographs, scanning photographs and transferring files).

The best part of taking digital photographs is that it is also less expensive. Some of these pictures you can take on your own as well.

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Photographs of Physical Business

For the purposes of insurance companies, take pictures of every room in your office, including utility closet spaces and any building space you are responsible for.

For the purposes of promotion, get pictures of the front of the building, any entrances that customers would use, the parking area customers would use, the office and any nice features of the inside of the building like decorative moulding or flower beds.

For the purposes of the property management company, take pictures of any portion of the building that is damaged.

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Photographs of Staff

It is important to have different kinds of photographs of your staff members. All people used in promotional material need to sign a release; if you completed this during the “media plan phase”, you are ahead of the game.

Headshots (photographs taken from the shoulders up) are good for avatars and applications (like your high-risk merchant account application from High Risk Solutions).

Other good shots of staff members are photographs that show customers how busy you are, such as staff throwing away trash, carrying boxes, filing paperwork, making products and talking on the phone. Also, staff members holding a plain white poster board allows for post-editing for marketing material.

The last kind of staff shots you want are group photographs with the staff members smiling. If the only people you have are your stakeholders and yourself, use those pictures at first. You could also pull in random people from the street to sign model releases and smile in groups with you.

You can also include your third-party contractors to make your staff look more robust.

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Photographs of Your Process

People are naturally curious about the process of converting an idea to a physical product. That is why the TV shows which expose how things are manufactured are very popular.

For example, investors would want to know “how sabudana is made” if you make the vast majority of your products from this tapioca ingredient.

Also, taking photographs of the process helps financial institutions and investors get a better understanding of your business to gain more confidence in extending credit to your business.

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Photographs of Local Area

It is important to get lots of picture of your local area, as well.

Consider getting these shots:

  • Pictures of the street signs at the intersections near your business
  • Interesting landmarks close to your business
  • Any public transportation identifiers close to your business
  • Pictures of city signs
  • Pictures of nicely landscaped areas near your business
  • Pictures of food products within walking distance of your business
  • Pictures of things your city is known for
  • Pictures of nearby parking areas (in case your parking area is full)
  • Pictures of government and local utility vehicles

It is a good idea to take the majority of the pictures around 10 o’clock in the morning, when the sun is not so harsh. Make sure to clear away any debris that might affect your photographs negatively.

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Photography Conclusion

As your business grows, get into the habit of taking pictures often. Do not forget to take headshots and action shots of new staff members that have signed a model release form.

Now matter the pictures, look at them closely (especially in the background of the image). Scan them carefully for things that could be embarrassing or damaging to the reputation of the business before publishing them.

Make sure to have all digital photographs put through a photo editor and “saved for the web”. This process ensures that your photographs are displayed properly all over the Internet.


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Hire an Account Manager

Now that you have your legitimate business set up, it is time to hire an account manager who will be in charge of customer data processing.

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Customer Relations Management Database

A customer relations management (CRM) database is the best tool for your business. Most companies regret not collecting data on their customers from the very start of their business.

Every person that walks into your business should be asked for their contact information. A good way of doing this is asking for their data to send them exclusive coupons and offers that they will only get as part of that list.

At a minimum, you need a name, some sort of contact point, the date they came to your store and notes about what the customer was interested in and the questions that were asked.

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Define Your Customer Segments

It is very important to divide your customers by age, interests, <spending habits> and <brand ambassadors>. This way, it will be easier to tell which customers you need to spend time and money on.

For example, let’s say you set up a <Yahoo store> that sells <investment books>. You assume that your market is older and male, but the data you have collected shows that the average age of your customers is 25 and they are mostly female. At this point, you can tailor your marketing messages to attract similar customers.

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Order of Operations

If you want to learn order of operations well, look into multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. From the moment the salesperson gets your contact information, there is a distinct order they may follow.

For example, they will try to call three times, and only on the third call leave a message.

This is the time when you want to work with your account manager to figure out what prospects and customers can be labelled as:

  • Hot lead
  • Cold lead
  • Warm lead
  • New customer
  • Pending action
  • Superstar
  • Brand ambassador
  • Champion
  • Loyal customer
  • Promising customer
  • Hibernating customer
  • Lost customer
  • Customer that needs attention
  • Customer that needs immediate attention
  • Customer at risk
  • Dead/do not contact

Like the metrics section before, each of these labels should be specific and measured. For example, a “Superstar” is a customer who has spent more than $10,000 per month, every month for the past 12 months on your exclusive products.

This would be a good time to pull out your “customer retention plan” to remind yourself of good ideas.

Just remember that order of operations follows the simple format of “if this, then that”. For example, if I take an order by phone, then I need to make sure I get the customer’s contact name and phone number first in case we are disconnected.

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Create Sample Products and Services

At this point, a sample of your product or service must be developed in order to give away free samples as part of your marketing funnel.

There needs to be something to entice customers to give you their contact information, and a reason to come back to order from your business again.

Plus, free samples give you the opportunity for customer feedback in a safe place as they have only been given things and have had nothing taken from them.

Ask for feedback at every opportunity – especially “On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), how do you rate this business right now?”

Engaging in dialog with your customers is a very healthy practice for a business in order to build long-term, loyal customers.

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Traditional and Internet Marketing Sales Funnel Creation

Now that you have some order of operations figured out, then the next step is to refine your sales funnel.

Here are some ideas to think about:

  • What are you selling?
  • What are the fears of your customers that this product or service can fix?
  • What stats do you have to prove your product or service works?
  • Do you have testimonials about this product or service?
  • What two things should be included as upsells?
  • What amazing thing can you give away for free for each transaction?

The purpose of the sales funnel is to control the conversation and entice customers to pull out their credit cards to pay.

That is why getting a high-risk payment gateway through a merchant account provider like High Risk Solutions is so very vital to your business operations.

If you are part of the design of the website funnel, ask on the sales pages only to “hide” distracting links and to disable links to the homepage via the logo as well. The only links should be those that go further into the sales funnel.

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Access Levels with Password Box

Using the list of customer descriptions (like “Superstar”), you need to figure out their access level. Customers may have more access to the site than non-customers.

For example, there might be a dashboard that is only for specific customers who have access to that dashboard via their account with you.

The same is true for medical care programs and membership organization sites where members have access to more goodies than non-members due to privacy concerns.

It is important that the levels are password-protected and access-limited, and even more so the higher the customer goes up in levels or trust. A username and password box in the upper right hand corner of the website is where customers expect it to be.


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Security Features

When accepting credit cards online, you need to be aware of protecting your customers’ data. Letting them know that you have “security features enabled” is a great way to boost your reputation.

If you worked on the PCI compliance plan, then you are more aware of the security features that need to go into your website as well as your order of operations.

Do not forget that if you are wanting to take credit cards like VISA or MasterCard, you are going to need images of these companies’ logos to include next to any payment gateway options.

A simple security feature is to lower the limit of characters from 255 to 200 within data fields. The reason is that hacking code is written for 255 characters, and the hacking code will be invalidated before it goes through to affect your site.

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Build the FAQ Database Content

Each question that customers ask can be turned into a blog post within your website. The next best thing is to create an online “frequently asked questions” database that is accessible to the public or even just for members-only with restricted access.

The point is to get the information about the business into a format that is readily accessible for the next owner of your company. And if your FAQ is useful to customers along the way, that is an extra bonus.

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Account Manger Conclusion

You account manger quickly becomes one of your strategic employment partners because they maintain the data to show how customers interact with your business. For example, if you know that your business increases in March by 25% every year, you will know to hire and train staff in February.

From the moment your first customer interacts with you, you should be collecting data of that customer. It is cost-effective to retain customers rather than constantly getting new ones that leave. An account manager is so very important for making sure that your customers are enjoying their experience with your company.

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Develop a Policy and Procedure Manual and Related Documentation

By working on your various plans at the beginning of this process, it will be easier to create robust policies and procedures for the operations of your business. These need to be written out before you contract with a website builder or hire your first employee.

If you have these things completed before you build your website, you will save a lot of time, money and headaches:

  • Sample marketing material
  • Sample products and services
  • Complete descriptions of goods and services
  • Pricing list
  • Fee schedule
  • Privacy policy
  • Return policy
  • Refund policy
  • Cancellation policy
  • Warranty policy
  • Terms of use policy
  • Terms of membership policy
  • Inventory management policy
  • Delivery policy
  • Shipping options
  • Delivery timescales
  • Shipping fees
  • Restocking fees
  • Insurance for deliveries
  • Accepted transaction currencies
  • Accepted transaction countries
  • About Us description
  • Contact Us description
  • Correct copyright dates
  • Business hours
  • Business location map
  • Health and Safety Policy
  • Product and Service Quality Policy
  • Labor Policy and Employee Handbook Policy Manual
  • Monetary and Fiscal Policy
  • Sick Time Policy
  • Vacation Policy
  • Time Clock Policy
  • Media Policy
  • Sexual Harassment Policy
  • Device Policy
  • Open Door Policy
  • Confidentiality Policy
  • Non-compete Policy
  • Dress Code Policy
  • Supplier Agreement Policy
  • Certificate of Safety Policy
  • Violence in the Workplace Policy
  • Emergency Preparedness Policy

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Standard Operating Procedures Manual Conclusion

You do not need to reinvent the wheel to make these policies. There are a lot of great examples available online. In order to meet PCI compliance, you may want your lawyer to look after your terms and services to avoid any unnecessary liabilities on your part.

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Starting an Online Business with Effective Team Conclusion

The secret of success for starting an online businesses is building effective teams. Building an effective team gives your business a boost above those entrepreneurs trying to do everything solo.

Creating a comprehensive strategic partnership with High Risk Solutions is one way to make sure that your customers can pay for your goods and services with credit cards.

By filling out the application for a high-risk merchant account, you are initiating a strategic partnership proposal to have your merchant payment gateway accessible for your online customers no matter where they live at in the world.

Once you have your team put together, you can start building your online presence.

Fill out this application if you are ready to get started now by clicking the box below.

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