Welcome to the area where I feel I’m swimming rather than standing on firm ground. Thankfully, I have advisors for this, but I’m still the person who needs to make the decisions. Let’s dive into the swimming-pool: it’s called Starting a Company, in the city of Oh-My-God-Is-It-Really-A-Good-Idea-To-Blog-All-This.
I have one event underway, Going Solo. If all goes well (and I intend it to) this will be the first of many — whether they cater to the same audience or not is still something I’m thinking about. So, I want to create a company which will be behind these events. Good for branding, allows me to bring in partners, pay myself a salary, etc. (Actually, I realise now that I’m not 100% sure why it’s a good idea to create a company — I’m sure it is, but I have trouble explaining it. Enlightened comments welcome.)
This company has a board of advisors. I haven’t drawn up any contracts or anything yet, but we have verbal agreements. I do want to get things down on paper, though. In French, we say les bons comptes font les bons amis, meaning that keeping money/business issues clear and clean preserves friendship (or makes it, depending how you understand it).
I need to incorporate the company, too. I live in Switzerland, I’m a British-Swiss dual citizen. In Switzerland, to have an “SA” company (the equivalent of an Ltd.) you need to show up with 100K CHF on the table. Even an SàRL requires 20K. From what I hear, it costs virtually nothing to set up a company in the UK. My focus is events on the European market, so basically, I see no real reason for the company to be Swiss. I’m no specialist of these kinds of decisions, though, so I’m basically listening to what people tell me and reading up here and there.
It seems to me that the simplest thing to do is to set up the company in the UK. I could have a subsidiary (? = succursale) in Switzerland, but again, I don’t understand how this makes things easier. (This isn’t making me look good, is it?)
I’m also not sure what happens with my “independant” status in Switzerland. I’m not going to stop being “independant” because I set up the company (ie, not looking at becoming a full-time employee of my company yet), so is there a way I can preserve this — it’s particularly important from a tax point of view, for example.
Then, advisors. I want the advisors to the company to have a (small) financial stake in it (I think that’s rather common), so I need to write up agreements for that. Do I need a lawyer (eeek)? Can I just do it myself? How do I know what to write in it? I’m a bit uncomfortable about saying who the advisors are publicly before the formalities are done — am I worrying for nothing?
Which also brings up another issue: many people around me are being very helpful by providing their advice and support. But if I bring them all onto the advisory board, as I’d be tempted to do, that means I’m going to have a (possibly) important amount of very little shareholders, which can create trouble if I want to bring partners into the company, or investors, or sell (they have to approve, don’t they?) So, can I have two kinds of advisors — advisors with a financial stake in the company, and others without?
Those of you out there who own companies with advisory boards or who are on advisory boards — would you mind telling us a bit more about how this works? And this is Europe, not the US (in case it changes anything — I suspect it does). Also, should I set up the company now, or wait until the first event is done?
Same kind of questions about partners. At the moment, there will be three of us doing the bulk of the organisation of Going Solo. We’ll be subcontracting other companies or individuals for some pieces of work, of course (any tips about where to go shopping for Wifi That Stays Up, by the way?) So, as far as Going Solo is concerned, we can draft out an agreement between the three of use to determine how much and how we get paid for our work, and what happens with any extra money we might have (ok, might be dreaming here). If this first event goes well, and we’re happy working together, it could make sense to have them enter the company, wouldn’t it? (This is where the when-how-howmuch stuff comes in, but I’m aware we’re not there yet.)
So, maybe my question is this: what are usual models for paying people who organise events? From what I’ve heard, bringing in sponsorships should earn you a cut of what you brought in, though it gets complicated when the sponsorship in question is not just cash, but covering the expenses for certain parts of the conference, or bringing in goods/services. It also gets complicated if the event doesn’t make as much money as planned, or makes a loss — should the person in charge of the sponsorships be paid while others are not? So many questions.
Also — trademarks? Do I need to trademark anything?
Any pointers, advice, or opinions that can help me see clearer here will be most welcome.