All posts by Steven Cole

Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida, Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 30 years experience in the parking lot striping business.  Expert in reflective visibility solutions.

Creating a Business Plan

A good business plan is like a good map or navigation system. It can help you get where you want to go. It can also help you focus on important subjects that must be addressed if your business is to thrive and grow. It is a blueprint that will help you visually layout your strategy for success and make changes on paper rather than in real life. A good business plan should accomplish most of the following:

-A good business plan gives you a clear path to follow. It can help you make your business what you want it to be.
-A good business plan can be a communication vehicle for your employees and future customers. It can establish your vision for the company and will allow you to measure your success using your plan as a benchmark.
-A good business plan can help you grow as a manager by helping you to focus on your competition and opportunities. It will force you to change your way of thinking from that of a common man to that of a business man.
-A good business plan provides your banker or investors with insight into your goals and objectives.
-Above all, the business plan is a strategy which prepares you to manage your business, rather than allowing your business to manage you.
-A successful business plan is realistic, factual and objective, presenting your goals in measurable and attainable terms.

A Business plan can take many forms and will vary in length, but all successful plans
communicate the following information clearly and concisely:

-The nature of your business (what service is your company going to provide)
-The goals and objectives of your business. (where do you want to be in 5 years)
-The steps you will take to achieve your goals and objectives
-An action plan for implementing these steps
-Major potential problems and strategies for overcoming these problems
-An effective business plan also answers a variety of specific questions, such as:
-Who are the potential customers for your product or service?
-Why will they purchase the product or service for you?
-What is your marketing plan and how will you implement it?
-Who are your principal competitors? What are their strengths and
-What management skills do you lack or are weak? Where will you obtain these
skills or compensate for them?
-What are the current financial resources of your company?
-What is the projected financial condition of your company over time!?

There is no one “correct” format for a business plan, although most effective business plans include the same critical information. More important than a specific format, however, is the presentation of your ideas in a clear and concise manner. This is one step that you may not want to take but not creating a business plan is like leaving on a trip with no map, no compass and no directions. You simply cannot know where you will end up.

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Choosing a Name

Once you have decided to start a parking lot striping company and have chosen the form of business you will use, you will want to choose a name for your company. Your company name should make it clear what you do, should be easy to remember, and should sound professional. Long, complicated names are often hindrances to your business’s success. It is also important to keep in mind that most listings are alphabetical. Therefore, if you choose a name like “Zorro’s Striping”, you will always be last on the list. If you choose “AAA Stripe & Seal”, you will always be first. Search the internet for striping company names. If you are in Florida and someone is California has a name you like you can most likely use it because you are in different states.

If you are forming a corporation, you can visit your State’s division of corporations on the internet and see if the name you want is available. If an online search is not available you can call them. If you are forming a sole proprietorship or partnership you will need to check with your county clerk about filing for a fictitious name. One rule of thumb for most states and counties is that if you use your own name and then “striping company” you do not have to file for a fictitious name since that is your legal name already. Check with your local business license office to be sure. Whatever you pick, make sure you like it because it is an inconvenience to have to change it later.

Here are some good names that I have seen over the years:

Stripe Right
Pro Stripe
True Line Striping
Stripe Masters
Stripe a Lot
Quality Striping
Pavement Pros
Affordable Line Striping

That is just a few. Good luck with your business.

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Choosing Your Form Of Business

Forms of Business

One of the first decisions that a business owner must make is what form of business will be used for the company. There are 4 basic forms of business to choose from. They are as follows:

* Sole Proprietorship
* Partnership
* Sub S Corporation
* Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Sole Proprietorships

Most small businesses start out as sole proprietorships. Mainly because it is so simple to form. You basically need a business license and a checking account. This form of business has one owner who makes all decisions and is personally responsible for all the liabilities of the company. They own all the assets of the business and receive all the profits generated. In the eyes of the government the owner and the company are one in the same.

The advantages of a sole proprietorship are numerous. First, this is the easiest form of business to organize. No attorney or accountant is needed. You share control and profits with no one. Taxes are relatively simple. A schedule C is filed along with your personal return. Most tax programs include this at no additional charge. If you wish to dissolve the company it is fairly easy and straight forward to do.

The disadvantages of a sole proprietorship are numerous as well. All of the liability of the company falls on the owner personally. In other words if the business incurred a liability from a lawsuit the owner would be personally liable. (a liability insurance policy can help cover this) Some benefits like health insurance are not fully deductible. Also, you will have to pay social security on all the companies profits. In other words there are some tax disadvantages. On the other hand, you can deduct some expenses that you would not normally be able to deduct and get your profit down for tax purposes. Lastly, a sole proprietor will generally be taken less seriously than an incorporated business or an LLC. Borrowing money may be more difficult because of this. Also, audits by the IRS may be a little more frequent for this form of business.


In a Partnership, two or more people share ownership of a single business. Like proprietorships, the law considers the business and the owners as the same. In this form of business there will be a partnership agreement which will spell out all the terms of the partnership including who makes decisions, how profits are divided, buyout provisions, etc… Because you now have two or more people involved the paper work and upfront planning is multiplied. Getting an attorney involved would for this type of business probably be a good idea. Like marriages, partnerships tend to develop problems and everything should be agreed upon and written down ahead of time.

The advantages of a partnership are similar to a sole proprietorship. Additionally, more capital can be raised with a partnership and more expertise will be present in the business. Profits flow directly to the partner’s tax returns.

Disadvantages are the same as a proprietorship but also include lack of control by any one partner, liability for one partner because of the actions of another partner and the possible dissolution of the partnership if one partner passes away. Also, having to share profits is another disadvantage.

Disadvantages of a Partnership
-Partners are jointly and individually liable for the actions of the other partners.
-Profits must be shared with others.
-Since decisions are shared, disagreements can occur.
-Some employee benefits are not deductible from business income on tax returns.
-The partnership may have a limited life; it may end upon the withdrawal or death of a partner.

-General Partnership – Partners divide responsibility for management and liability as well as profit or loss according to their partnership agreement. Everything is equal unless otherwise stated.
-Limited Partnership – Limited means that most of the partners have limited liability. This type of partnership is generally not used for standard business. More for short term projects where someone is looking for investors. Forming a limited partnership is more complex than a general partnership.
-Joint Venture – Like a general partnership, but it is clearly for a limited period of time and / or a single project.

Subchapter S Corporations

A corporation chartered by the state in which it is headquartered is considered by law to be a unique entity, separate and apart from those who own it. A corporation can be taxed separately from its owners. It is liable for itself and can be sued and can enter into contractual agreements. The owners of a corporation are its shareholders. The corporation has a perpetual life until dissolved and does not cease to exist when ownership changes.

A Sub S Corporation is actually a tax election only and is done through the IRS . This election enables the shareholder to treat the earnings and profits as distributions and have them pass through directly to their personal tax return much like a proprietorship or partnership. People prefer this type of ownership because of limited liability personally and tax savings. The shareholder is not personally liable for what the corporation does. However, in the case of negligence there would be no protection for the individual who was negligent. To further explain this liability shield assume an employee borrows a company car and injures someone while they are drunk. The employee would be personally liable since they were negligent and were driving. Secondly, the corporation would be liable since it owned the car. But lastly, the shareholders of the company would not be personally liable for the event. As far as taxation goes a shareholder can take a fair salary and take the rest of earnings in the form of a draw. If the salary was fair and reasonable they can save social security on the draw portion. If it is not reasonable the IRS can make the shareholder pay social security on all earnings and even go back to previous years. The general rule is to pay yourself a fair salary before you take draws.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The LLC is a relatively new type of business structure that is now available in most states. It is designed to provide the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership. Formation is more complicated than a general partnership or sole proprietorship but easier than a Sub S corporation.

The owners are members, and the duration of the LLC is normally decided when the organizational documents are filed. LLCs must not have more than two of the four characteristics that define corporations: Limited liability to the extent of assets, continuity of life, centralization of management, and free transferability of ownership interests. If the company has more than two it must file as a corporation.

Before you decide on the business form you will use you should sit down with your accountant and discuss all of the facts and how they will affect you. Once a business form is elected it is difficult to undo.

In closing I will say that most people choose either an S Corporation or an LLC for a parking lot striping company. Mainly for the liability limits and the tax advantages. Also, with a corporation you will almost always have a separate name which you can choose. When you sell the business you simply transfer your shares to another person and you are done.

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