I don't want to be a non-profit ... so what should I do?

Discussion in 'Growing and Managing a Business' started by Thomas Aaron, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. Thomas Aaron

    Thomas Aaron
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    Feb 14, 2013
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    Hello, all.

    I am a successful business owner at the cutting edge of a niche within a larger industry -- so much on the cutting edge of the niche that there are less than a dozen people in the country who can do what I do, although there are probably several thousands who are interested in learning how to do it. I really believe I am in one of those GO BIG OR GO HOME situations, in which I can spearhead something that is going to be mainstream five or ten years from now. Enough grandiose talk.

    I have been thinking about starting a professional association to represent my niche. But there are four things that are holding me back:

    1. I don't want a board of directors telling me how much money I can make as the president of a professional association.
    2. I don't want to put my blood, sweat and tears to build something only to risk being voted out after some set term of service.
    3. I would not be able to pass an association on to my children or sell it. (You may be getting the impression that I am a capitalist. You are indeed perceptive.)
    4. There currently are not enough practitioners of what I do to actually support a professional association (although there are enough potential consumers of what I do that, if they could be enticed to join, it might work).

    All of that said, I do want to leap WAY out to the head of this niche and establish myself in a lasting way. Some of the ideas I've had about how to do this are:

    1. I could start an academy that trains and certifies like-minded people to do what I do.
    2. I could create a business that has an "association-like" side (i.e. offers a newsletter, database of certified practitioners, holds an annual conference, and sets certification standards for the niche) and a "for-profit-like" side (i.e. holds training academies in my home town, nationally and abroad).

    I would ultimately like to have the appeal of an association without it being a non-profit (kind of like the Better Business Bureau), and I'm looking for a creative, honest and effective way to do that. So, while the design of this business is in its infancy, my most pressing question at the moment is:

    Can I use terms like "Association", "Members", "Board" if I am NOT a non-profit professional association? If not, what other terms can I use? I realize I need to be up-front about this being a for-profit business, and I'm not looking to deceive anyone into thinking otherwise. I'm just trying to really go big and very professional on this. When somebody thinks of this niche, I want them to think of my business. If I don't pour a foundation here, somebody else will.

    I look forward to your input.
  2. PS9

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    Sep 23, 2012
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    If you don't want to be a non-profit your options are: be a for-profit company or be a for-profit company. There's no other way around it.

    Association I'm not sure on, members if you form an LLC, board isn't really something anyone uses in a company name, group would work fine. ex: Virgin Group.

    You say you're a capitalist, so do it. Don't beat around the bush as that's just going to make you look bad and if someone else starts a foundation, who cares? Forming a for-profit entity doesn't mean you can't do things a non-profit does; you can easily offer a newsletter, database, annual conferences, and certification as a for-profit entity.

    Basically I don't see what you're worried about. If you want to be for-profit, do it. If you want to be non-profit, do it. If you want to be for-profit and also do non-profit things to make your name known, do it. However, if you want to be for-profit and have all the benefits of a non-profit, forget it. You'll never have it both ways and if you form a non-profit all your financial records become public, by law.

    I'll leave you with one thought, Goodwill Industries is a non-profit organization... They did $4.43 billion in revenue last year; you still worried a non-profit can't go big or go home? The company made it but if you mean go big or go home only as in your own paycheck don't even think about going non-profit. It will not work when your records are entirely public.
  3. bluesky98

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    Feb 17, 2013
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    PS9 is correct that nothing stops you from naming your company whatever you want and calling your customers/subscribers whatever you want. If you are setting up a S- or C- Corp then you will need a board (even a board of 1)..so that terminology is not reserved for not-for-profits. There is nothing to stop you from being an a leader in your industry and providing training.

    But, I think, you may run into issues if you are trying to be the representative for your industry. While you can technically do so, you may have a perception issue if you are a for-profit association (which, I believe, do exist). The problem I see is with a perception of legitimacy. Since not-for-profits have higher hurdles to establishment and greater oversight, they tend to be viewed as more legitimate (in terms of associations/trade groups, etc)

    You might want to consider just starting the training/education business initially. Then, when there is a larger base of people in your niche, starting a separate not-for-profit industry group.
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