By CHRIS BRENNAMAN
When researching how to actually open a comic book store, one of the consistent threads we got from every single source was that you have to treat a comic book store as an actual business and you have to do that right from the start.
On the surface, this sounds pretty obvious. But it’s easy to fall in love with the dream-come-true part of having your own store. We all get into comics and gaming not for the money, but because of love. We love comics and we love games and we love the culture that surrounds them! And now we’re building a clubhouse for the people who love those things, too!
So yeah, we understood pretty quickly how the basics of setting up a business can be set aside in all the fun. Fortunately, we took three big steps pretty much immediately to make sure we were operating on a good business footing.
We Formed an LLC
One of the very first things we did was set up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). We did that even before we had settled on a name for the store. In fact, the moment we decided to commit to opening a store it was the first thing we did.
An LLC comes with protections for the parties taking the plunge opening a business by limiting the owner’s personal liability. That means things like debts owed by the business, liens, lawsuits and the like are limited to the assets of the business itself.
So if things go bad for your business- like, really bad- having an LLC can help pad a fall.
We Drafted and Signed an Operating Agreement
I’m friends with all parties involved with opening Infinite Realities. Good friends, in fact, and the idea of hanging out with them all day every day slinging funny books and playing Dungeons & Dragons keeps me up at night with excitement. But for a few weeks, I was also kept up at night as to how I could navigate the often murky waters of business with people I have a strong emotional attachment to.
An operating agreement took away a significant amount of that stress. The operating agreement is a legal document that lays out all the boring- and sometimes awkward- details of going into business with other people. It covers everything from who owns what percentage and how possible profits are divvied up to what happens in the event a partner breaks bad or if the business tanks.
Going into the minutia of how the business will be run could often times be tedious. Plus, money conversations are never easy, and the volume of really, really dark “what ifs” was outright uncomfortable. However getting those tedious, awkward, uncomfortable conversations over with on the front end- and putting it all in writing- has made all the difference in the months since.
We Lawyered Up
As I said before, I trust the people I’m going into business with, but that still doesn’t make me an expert in contract law. I had a lawyer take a glance over the documents for me and he spotted a couple of things I would have never thought to ask questions about. Nothing major, mind you. Just stuff that I needed to ask for better clarification.
Now at first, I was hesitant about getting a lawyer to look things over for me. I felt like my partners would take it as an insult. Fortunately, I was assured by the partner with the most experience with this sort of thing that not only was it not insulting but he wanted me to have a lawyer take a look. In fact, he told me I would be foolish not to have a lawyer look at the document for me.
So if you’re thinking of opening a comic store- or starting any kind of business- get a lawyer. And if you do have partners that get upset at that notion then you know you’re about to do business with someone you don’t need to be doing business with.