Introduction

People follow many paths to the point where they start their own business. For some, it is the American dream, a desire they hold all their lives. Others realize that they do not like working for other people—they just want to be their own boss.

Still others see themselves as pushed into going into business for themselves, perhaps because they have lost a corporate job they had always believed was secure. Some business owners start because they want a particular lifestyle, as might a mother who wants to work from home to be near her children. And then there are those who have the vision and drive to create a unique new product or service.

Whatever the reason for starting a business, many experts say that small businesses—which make up 99.7 percent of all employers in the United States—are a prime fuel of the American economy. And each of these business owners confronts a maze of decisions as they establish and move forward with their enterprises.

While there are virtually infinite ways to manage a business and an array of support services available, laws and regulations put boundaries on the choices that a business owner will make. If the business owner has a basic knowledge of the options, he or she can make smarter choices and avoid time-consuming and expensive problems.

One of the earliest decisions a potential business owner makes is how exactly to begin. Selecting a business that fits the owner’s personality, knowledge and resources is a step that usually takes both research and thought. Many people just assume that they will start a business from scratch. But others do not want to do so, and they decide to buy an existing business or a franchise.