Protect Yourself

Thursday, May 12, 2011

When you start your own business, you put everything on the line—from your reputation to your income. This is not the time to risk it all.

Many pundits say that entrepreneurs are risk takers. The truth is, successful entrepreneurs take calculated risks. They weigh the pros and cons of their decisions and their actions. And they protect themselves whenever possible.

Here are just a few ways you need to protect yourself when you launch your new venture.

Guard your information

Your business generates stockpiles of valuable information—from customer data and financial numbers to pricing strategies and marketing statistics. All can be lost in an instant, whether you store that information in paper files, on computer drives or in your smartphone.

Back up that information or make hard copies. Encrypt it or lock it down. Do whatever you have to do to make sure that if the information is lost, you can find a way to retrieve it.

Get the right insurance

The type and extent of the coverage you need will depend on your business. But in general, you should make sure that you have property insurance to cover your business assets in case of theft, natural disasters or accidents. Assets include vehicles, facilities, equipment and tools. You may also need liability, errors and omissions, health insurance and other types of policies.

Prepare for emergencies

If something can go wrong, be prepared to deal with it. Hurricanes and blizzards have stopped many successful businesses in their tracks. Those who had contingency plans in place survived. Know what you plan to do if the power goes out for a week or a flood prevents employees from getting to the office.

Defend your reputation

Your good name is a springboard for business success. Client referrals are earned by consistently delivering what you promise.

Today, online review sites have taken word-of-mouth marketing and multiplied it by thousands. Satisfied or dissatisfied customers can post good reviews or negative comments about their experiences with your business. Make sure you take all possible steps to generate positive buzz for your business.

Stay Healthy

You are your business. The success of your business depends on you being in tiptop shape—mentally, emotionally and physically.

Taking time off away from your business may seem like one of the hardest things to do, but it’s also one of the most important. Find a balance between work and play. Take action when health issues arise so they don’t worsen and put you out of commission. At the NASE Health Resource Center, you can find a wealth of health information geared specifically to the self-employed.

Safeguard your future

As a new business owner, you’re not only in charge of your working days, but you’re also in charge of your golden years. That means you need to plan and save for retirement.

There are a multitude of retirement programs available to the self-employed. The plans differ on tax consequences, contribution rates, withdrawal rates and other issues. It’s up to you to sort it all out and decide what will work best.

The NASE consultants can help you identify your retirement needs and find ways to get your retirement planning on track:

  • Business 101—business consultants who can help you identify the right retirement plan
  • TaxTalk—certified public accountants who will answer questions about the tax issues surrounding different retirement plans
  • Retirement & Estate Planning—licensed attorneys who will show you how your micro-business fits into your retirement planning

The NASE can help

Learn more about protecting yourself with these articles from the NASE:

To print, click here to download the full Startup Kit.