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Getting Ready for Business

Even though it all worked out for Wilkinson, it was still a close call. The Department of Agriculture could have shut down his business. That's why it's so important to have your licenses and permits in order before you open for business.

Depending on the type of business you are starting, you may need a permit, a license or both. Or you might not need either one. But how do you find out?

For licensing regulations, the best way is by contacting your state government offices. Ask for a list of businesses and professions requiring licenses in your state as well as information on the laws and regulations for your specific business.

In most states, people who are in business to provide personal care, such as barbers, cosmetologists and medical caregivers, are required to be state-licensed. Many states also have licensing requirements for professions such as teachers, lawyers, electricians, plumbers, building contractors, insurance agents, real estate brokers and animal caregivers.

Some counties and cities also may require one or more local occupational licenses before you open for business. Check with your city and county governments to find out what regulations apply to you.

Obtaining a permit usually requires passing some type of inspection or test as well as paying an annual fee. There are several types of permits that could be required. In some areas, businesses that are open to the public must have a permit from the local fire department, showing that they meet fire safety regulations. Restaurants and food handlers usually need permits from the health department.

As with a license, it's important to check city, county and state government regulations regarding any permits you may need for your business. A good place to start is your town hall. The city clerk will be able to direct you to the correct city departments that can explain the local regulations that apply to your business.

Whew! Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? Making sure you have any necessary licenses and permits in order before you open your doors does require a little extra legwork, but as Wilkinson learned, when it comes to licenses and permits, what you don't know can hurt you.

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