Think Of Yourself As A Business Owner

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sounds easy. But, too many entrepreneurs who launch new companies don’t know the everyday nuts and bolts of running a business.

“They may be a great plumber or writer. They understand their trade. But they don’t know how to run a business,” says Gene Fairbrother, the lead small-business consultant for NASE’s Business 101 program. “They don’t know that they have to market the business, keep track of finances and do all the other things it takes to run a successful business.”

Business owners rarely perform only one function. Instead they often juggle numerous tasks. Here’s a quick rundown of the necessary chores you can expect to encounter:

  • Bookkeeping, record keeping, bill paying and financial reporting
  • Client billing and payment collections
  • Marketing your business
  • Upgrading technology (like computers and smartphones and Wi-Fi)
  • Keeping up with federal, state and local regulations
  • Completing and filing tax forms as well as making timely tax payments
  • Hiring and firing (and following the legal guidelines that come with those tasks)
  • Performing customer service
  • Taking care of administrative tasks, like buying office supplies and answering the phone
  • Planning for your eventual retirement

Add to all of that your actual work—as a graphic designer or landscaper or consultant. The demands on your time and knowledge can seem overwhelming.

As a new business owner, you don’t have to master every task. You can hire help. But you have to know enough to ensure that every critical area of your business gets the attention it deserves.

Develop your business plan

Being a successful entrepreneur requires not only being well versed in the particulars of running a business, but also seeing the big picture. And that means having a business plan.

As a startup, your business plan needs to address:

  • Specific descriptions of the products and services you want to offer
  • Your target customers and their needs
  • How you will market your business to reach those customers and the cost of that marketing
  • Your financial projections, including how you will finance the startup, cash flow projections and a break-even analysis
  • How you plan to allocate your time and other resources to get the results you want

If you’ve never seen a business plan, check out more than 500 free ones at bplans.com. You can choose from different categories. Find one closest to your type of business and read it over to see what kinds of information the plan addresses.

But don’t get analysis paralysis. Your plan doesn’t have to be formal or cumbersome to be effective.

“I’m not a big advocate of detailed business plans that go on and on for 50 pages,” Fairbrother says. “But I do think you need a good overview that goes out 12 to 18 months.”

Be aware of your surroundings

Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you need to know what’s going on around you.

That means keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing. It also means understanding what’s happening in your city and staying in touch with national policies that could have an impact on your business.

“Pay attention to what is going on in your community, in your state and in our nation’s capital,” says Kristie L. Arslan, executive director of NASE’s Washington, D.C. office.

“Decisions and laws that can affect your ability to start, manage and grow a successful business are made at all levels of government. If you keep abreast of the economic, regulatory and political climate around you, you can weigh in on debates regarding key issues that could affect your business.”

The NASE can help

Visit the NASE Legislative Action Center for up-to-date information about national policies regarding small-business taxes, regulations and other legislative priorities.

The consultants at our Business 101 program can answer your questions about business plans and other startup issues.

Learn more about becoming a small-business owner with these articles from the NASE:

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