Running a business can be exhilarating and rewarding, but it's also a lot of work. It's not uncommon to wear several hats—chief financial officer, marketing guru and human resources department—all while making sure that everything runs smoothly day to day. Here's an overview of some of the major responsibilities of running a new business, along with suggestions for getting help so you aren't trying to do it all yourself.
Find the right location
Every business has a physical location, even if it's a desk in the corner of your basement. If you plan to lease space, consider your budget, space requirements, parking, infrastructure needs, and expansion plans. A commercial realtor can help you find locations that meet your criteria.
When you find a property you like, visit the neighborhood at various times of day and talk to neighbors and other tenants in the building. Have a real estate lawyer review your lease and help you negotiate with the landlord for better terms. Be aware that your landlord's lease will almost always favor the landlord, so don't sign it until you've had someone review it and you fully understand all the terms.
Hiring and paying employees
Hiring employees might seem simple, but employment raises numerous legal issues and the consequences of doing things wrong can be serious.
Depending on how many employees you have, your business might be subject to a variety of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. These can impact everything from the interview questions you ask to the way you promote, discipline, and fire employees.
Lawsuits claiming employment discrimination are expensive and emotionally exhausting, so take steps to avoid them. An employment lawyer can advise you, or you can contract with a human resources professional.
Managing your business accounts
Always keep your business accounts separate from your personal finances. This helps preserve the limited liability provided by a limited liability company or corporation and makes your life easier at tax time.
- Recordkeeping. Businesses must keep accurate records and make payroll, income, and sales tax payments on time. Accounting software can help with this, but many small business owners hire a bookkeeper to set things up properly, pay bills and taxes, send invoices, and provide regular financial reports.
- Payments and data. If you decide to use a system to accept payments in person or online, choose one that is easy to use and keeps customer data secure. To minimize the potential for data theft, create a data retention policy and don't keep personal information like credit card numbers any longer than absolutely necessary.
- Getting tax advice. Set up a consultation with a business tax professional soon after forming your business so you understand your options, implement tax saving strategies, and estimate your tax liability. By establishing a relationship with a tax professional, you'll have someone to call when you have questions or need help preparing your tax return.
For customers to find you, you'll have to actively market your business. Here are some tips:
- Set up a mobile responsive website. People increasingly use smartphones for web surfing and purchases, so it's essential that your website is set up for mobile use. It should also be optimized for SEO to make it easier for search engines to find you. You'll save time and get better results if you hire a web designer and an SEO specialist to help you.
- Promote your business on social media. Pick a couple of social media sites that you think your ideal customers use regularly. Learn to use them and post updates regularly.
- Encourage customers to post reviews. Monitor review sites like Yelp and Angie's List Be sure to respond promptly to negative reviews to minimize their impact.
- Don't forget snail mail and email. Direct mail campaigns, including coupons or postcards, can be very effective. Ask customers and website visitors to subscribe to your email list, and use the list to send updates and special offers.
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