Whether you’re a seasoned business owner of many years or you’re just getting ready to start thinking about launching your first business, you could probably use a little help with organization from time to time.
That’s not to say that you can’t make money or grow a business without these things, but they are very helpful to have in place.
1. Business Foundations
When it comes to running a successful business, having your foundational elements in order can make all the difference in the world.
Having a robust business plan in place is an important step as a business owner. This becomes your foundation and a touchpoint for you as your business grows and evolves. A business plan is going to be a necessary part for obtaining any kind of financing you may want down the road, whether it’s loans, grants, or angel investors.
In order to put together your business plan, you’ll also need to identify the specifics of your products & services. What products and/or services will you offer? Who will your ideal client/target audience be for your offerings? The narrower your target audience, the easier your marketing and advertising will be. We’ll touch on this again in more detail in the Branding & Marketing section, as well.
I’m not an attorney or a CPA, but in most cases it’s highly recommended to file articles of incorporation for your business. This provides you with certain protection between your personal and business assets, and allows you to take advantage of business tax benefits and write offs. Before deciding, I suggest meeting with a business attorney or CPA for additional guidance, it’s really not as expensive (or scary!) as you might think and can help you make sure you’re set up in the best way possible. If you plan on having business partner(s) at any point in time, guidance from a business attorney is even more crucial.
For more information on the differences between business entities, check out this article on the SBA’s website.
2. Income & Expense Management
Once you’ve got your Business Foundations in order, the next step is to create some structure around your Income & Expense Management processes. Depending on your background and experience, you may not be comfortable with managing your business finances, and that’s completely fine. You are not alone!
The first step is maintaining separate bank accounts for your business. If you have incorporated your business as an LLC or S-Corp, you can now go to the IRS website and get your EIN number – DO NOT PAY for this service, it seriously takes 30 seconds on the IRS website. If you are still operating as a sole proprietorship, you can use your personal Social Security Number (although as I mentioned above, I do not recommend this) to get a separate bank account. If you’re not ready to file to incorporate, you should still set up a separate account, even if it’s a personal one. Commingling your funds is a nightmare and will cause you headaches down the road.
Managing your income and expenses is easiest if you have some sort of bookkeeping software (or a bookkeeper!) but this can also be done in Excel or Google Sheets – there are lots of free templates available online for either program. Part of this step should include creating a budget, so that you can compare your P&L (profit and loss) statement against your budget each month.
If you are manufacturing and/or selling physical products, you will also need to manage your product inventory and your supply stock. Square has some really great options for retail and restaurants, and can also help you manage your profit margins.
3. Branding & Marketing
When it comes to getting out there with your business, you should have a clear brand identity and marketing strategy laid out. Sometimes this might require partnering with experts in a couple of different areas (brand design, branding/commercial photographer, and probably a website designer too).
You will initially need a brand identity kit – these can go by many different names, but generally will include your logo and variations, your color palette, primary and secondary fonts, and so on. Some designers will also provide “social media kits” that have different sized versions that are optimized for your social media profiles and website.
Branding is the pull – it’s the story about who you are and why you’re unique. Marketing is the push – it’s you actively communicating the story to your chosen audience. Your website, social media, sales funnels, collateral, advertising, and so on, fall into the category of marketing. To use a brick & mortar store as an example, you wouldn’t (hopefully) set up your business and then just sit and wait for people to show up, right? You would go out and tell people about your shop, whether that’s through social media, ad campaigns, networking, or whatever other ways you can think of to get the word out.
4. Systems & Processes
Business systems are generally described as complex repeatable processes. Sometimes systems & processes are used interchangeably, but an easier way to break them down is a system is generally multiple repeatable tasks that you complete in a specific order when triggered by something happening in your business. For example, when a new lead comes in, this should trigger a series of events to happen, and they are usually going to happen in the same order each time. Lead comes in → sales rep contacts lead → sales rep schedules follow-up with lead → sales rep sends project proposal to lead → so on and so forth.
You are able to gain efficiency once you identify the systems within your business. Once you’ve established the repeatable processes, it is easier to recognize areas to reduce/remove duplicate or unnecessary steps, create templates and/or automations, and outsource tasks that don’t have to be done specifically by you.
As a business owner, a fair amount of your time should be spent working “on the business” instead of “in the business”, meaning time set aside for strategy, vision planning, and checking in on progress towards your goals. Many of us business owners get caught up in working “in the business” because we’re often wearing all or most of the hats, and having to do what needs to be done to meet client commitments.
A good rule of thumb would be to shoot for 20% of your time working on the business and 80% working in the business. If you’re not already in that ratio, you can build up to it slowly. If you spend 100% of your time working in the business, it can easily begin to feel like you’re just running around putting out fires, or that you don’t have true control over how you spend your time, which for many of us is one of the primary reasons we have our own businesses. Take control of your time, your growth and your business!
5. Leadership & Culture
Even if you don’t have traditional W-2 employees, as a business owner, you are still a leader. You are a leader to your clients, vendors, contractors and within your local community. How you show up in these areas is a representation of your culture as a company and your leadership.
What do you want people to know about you and your business? You know…what do you want people to say about you and your business behind your back? If you developed your Mission, Vision, and Values during your business plan creation, those are a great place to start. They would be your foundation to check back in with – does this decision/activity/conversation align with my company values?
Identifying your strengths & weaknesses is a huge step in this process as well. As you consider growing your team, you’ll need to know where you struggle, and hire for those gaps. We can’t all be perfect, and the strongest leaders hire team members who are strong where they are not. A well-rounded and diverse team will help you grow your business to places you probably haven’t even imagined yet.
6. Growth & Scalability
The most fun part of this process (in my opinion, anyway) is thinking about what your long-term goals are for your business. What do you want to accomplish in the future? Are you wanting to build a legacy business that you can hand down to someone when you retire? Do you want to build a strong enterprise that you can sell to someone else when you’re ready for the next step?
Don’t forget to dream big. You can accomplish anything you want to, might as well go for the big thing!
I am always happy to help, no matter where you are in the process of owning your own business. I have lots of resources available, and am always adding more to the roster! For more info, check out my links below:
FREE Facebook Group – Business Support for Entrepreneurs & Business Owners: https://www.facebook.com/groups/businesssupportforentrepreneurs
FREE Business Audit Checklist:
FREE Social Media Starter Kit:
LinkedIn Personal: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristin-deese/Linkedin