Michael McNeal, a former Vice President of Talent Strategy and Acquisition for Intuit,Inc. (TurboTax, Quicken, and QuickBooks) has joined FORMATIONNOW, a new company that aims to help small business owners make their dreams of owning a business a reality – and very quickly.
As someone who’s worked for both the major corporations and entrepreneurs, he’s especially interested in helping the indies because of his two daughters. Their experience trying to navigate the murky waters of small business start-ups wasn’t easy.
To hear him tell it “My motivation at that time was encouraging both my daughters to chase their dreams, not sit in a cubical. My favorite comment is, don’t work so you have the money to do what you love, do what you love so well people will pay you for it,” said McNeal. “I then proceeded to watch both of them struggle trying to get a business started. One owns a wine bar in the Bay Area, the other is a songwriter and singer.”
“I had the opportunity to talk to the father of a very popular musician, and he himself is in the music industry. Just getting his child started in an industry he already knows well, forming an entity, all the way to “where do i get an earpiece for when she goes on tour?” All of those little things are daunting, even for someone who has already been in the industry their whole life… What about people who are new to the industry?
FormationNow was started by entrepreneur Josh Reisman, and “initially they just did formal filings. For most people, formal filings are the way to legitimize your business. Give yourself a corporation or an LLC, make sure you’re protected from tax situations, that sort of thing,” said McNeal.
“When I left Intuit, Josh came to me and asked if I would help him with the business, and I said sure if you want to look at a bigger plan. Don’t just help people form their businesses, help get their business really started.”
WHAT DIFFERENTIATES FORMATIONNOW FROM THE SBA?
Michael McNeal: The biggest difference is ease of use. If I sent you now to a .gov site, you would probably have no less than 20 pages of things that you need to go fill out. The worse part about that is it’s hard to tell whether you even need to fill them all out.
Here’s the other problem, say you try to go get a domain name. You go register that name. The next day you get a lot of emails and direct mail, from very official government looking companies telling you that you need to “go file this.” Then if you go back to a .gov site to try to figure out if they actually really need to be filed, it’s extremely difficult and time consuming.
We wanted to make it easy. Most artists just want to play their music, write songs, perform, they want to work on their craft. They don’t want to be on a .gov site trying to figure out what to file. It’s like paying taxes. We know you’re capable of figuring out how to fill out the form, but is that the best use of your time?
NO – CAN’T THINK OF ANYONE WHO DOES ENOY THAT PROCESS.
Michael McNeal: We also wanted to give people a single place to go for everything they may need instead of having to go to ten different sites. A one stop shop.
There’s so many things to keep track of when you have a small business that you run out of time to do what you want to do. Compliance, filings during the year, taxes, payroll, that you don’t want to miss out on. Because that can really cost a lot in the long run, so we just take the surprise out of it.
IF SOMEONE WANTS TO START A BUSINESS WITH YOUR HELP – HOW LONG IS IT FROM START TO FINISH?
Michael McNeal: When someone signs up we get right on it. Remember the idea is to keep it very simple. First, we ask about ten or twelve questions for filing and process entry points. We immediately go file in whatever state you want to work out of. In addition, we help with a domain name search, your new email and start building your website. The fun and reality that you have a new business really starts hitting people when they see their site and start putting content in to make it their own. We give you a registered agent, email address, business cards and an 800# all in a few days. The actual registry of the business varies in time based on the state. But at least you have a place to send customers to or start selling your products.
We’re trying to make starting a business easy. Just for fun we’re starting a campaign “all the businesses that should have been started but haven’t been.”
HOWS THAT GOING?
Michael McNeal: It’s just for fun, but we know people have all kinds of business ideas that they never start – like one guy had a floating barbecue idea. Then we did the research and found out it actually already exists. As someone who lives on the water, who would have thought of cooking while standing in the lake? Not me.
Then there was the gentleman who was going to do asphalt jewelry. He was going to pull chunks from the different freeways around the world.
I CAN JUST SEE THE GUY, CHISELING ON THE ROAD THEN RUNNING OFF BEFORE HE’S CAUGHT.
Michael McNeal: Yes, freeway mining, by a freeway prospector.
THAT’S HILARIOUS. STRANGER THINGS HAVE BEEN SOLD THOUGH.
Michael McNeal: How about the pet rock, remember that? So it’s real ideas, then there’s other stuff. We had one website idea that was “all the things that shouldn’t be recycled.” People were making stuff, like toilet seats as picture frames.
People are so creative, just give them the chance to go think about something and that could be the next great business.
For me the real tragedy is that people never try! I was talking to one of the largest internet registrars in the United States, and they were telling me that of the 10 million people who get a domain name, only about 3 million do anything with it.
Michael McNeal: A lot of people have the idea and then they go get the domain name. But they never actually go anywhere with it because of the challenge of actually starting a business.
The other part of that is a lot of people will start the idea with a domain, but because they’re working they don’t have the time to actually carry through with it. So one of the things we’re looking into as well, is if we can get some of the banks to help finance the small businesses, or even go to the government and say “Hey SBA, put your money where your mouth is.”
Most of the financial institutions, if you have good credit when you open a business account, will give you a credit card for up to $5,000 or even $10,000. A lot of small businesses can get started on that kind of money. So the net/net of it is this: just make it easy. They don’t need a ton of money to go start their business, and they go after it.
WELL HERE’S TO A LESS VANILLA WORLD. I’VE GOT NOTHING AGAINST CHAIN STORES, BUT I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE TO HAVE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ALREADY TO PURCHASE A CHAIN STORE, IN ORDER TO CAPITALIZE ON THE BUZZ THAT’S ALREADY CREATED BY THEIR BRAND.
Michael McNeal: You bring up a good point. Chain stores and franchises tend to be simpler for people because they have figured out how to get it started for you. If you go online, you’ll see a lot of talk about the success of their franchise.
So what we do is try to be that for any kind of business. It’s a great analogy. We want to be the franchise for any idea that you have – and help you through the business stumbling block part of it.
SO I APPLAUD YOUR IDEA. SO FAR HAS IT BEEN SUCCESSFUL FOR YOU GUYS?
Michael McNeal: Our site has only been up for about 45 days, but we’re probably getting a couple customers a week. What’s been fun is we get all kinds of contacts in the conversations we’re having with people. Some of the people call up and say “what kind of business are you going to start for me?” We smile and say no- no, YOU have to have the idea. We’ll get it started for you.
WHEN I LOOK AT YOUR SITE, I SEE A SIMPLE TO NAVIGATE WEBSITE WITH A CLEARLY STATED PURPOSE. THAT’S PRETTY EXCITING.
Michael McNeal: As you know, sometimes making something seem simple and clear is very hard to do. Especially when you take a topic that’s difficult. Quite honestly, I don’t want to understand every part of it.
For example, my team came to me with a customer who sells designer wraps for cigars. They need to sell a tobacco, right? In Nevada, there are ten different licenses you need. So my team came to me and needed to find out what is needed to sign up for ten different licenses. Well, I don’t even want to know, let alone the guys starting the business. So it’s definitely the idea that we make it as clear and simple as possible.
We do the hard stuff and still there is a lot client can do themselves. Take the website – we’ll start it for you. But it’s like a frame, you need to load the content and things to personalize and make it your own. That way you can change it when you need to. That said, if you don’t even want to do anything, we have partners that will help with everything. The same for logos and business cards and those kinds of things.
The FormationNow team believes that building up the courage to start one’s own business should be the hardest part, and that’s why they handle the rest. Their goal is to put small businesses in business – quickly, easily and inexpensively.
For more information go to FormationNow’s website