There’s no one right way to manage a business. When you took the reins, you probably discovered a new sense of freedom. But with that independence comes a world of possibilities, each with its own unique pros and cons. As you test out different systems, processes, and tools, keep these essential recommendations in mind.
1. Set up a business structure
One of the most important steps you can take as a small business owner is to establish an official business entity. Even if you’re the only employee in your company, there are still benefits to forming a structure for your business.
This decision can protect you from liability and determine the amount of taxes you owe. The most common forms of business are sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and S corporation.
2. Separate personal and business finances
With your business paperwork ready to go, you can open a business bank account and start building a more organized, reliable system. That way, your personal assets won’t be affected by the potential risks your business might face in the future.
Not only that, but when you’re applying for outside funding, lenders will often look at the financial health of your business as well as your personal history. Without separating the two, you might have a harder time getting approved.
3. Stay on top of your bookkeeping
Keeping accurate records of your business transactions might seem like a no-brainer, but once those receipts start stacking up, you’ll understand why the process is so important. Whether you choose to keep everything on paper or to go completely digital, establishing bookkeeping and accounting practices for your business will save you time and effort in the long run.
Looking for a place to start? Read our tips on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog for an in-depth look at the 5 key components that play a part in successful bookkeeping.
If you send invoices, make sure they don’t slip through the cracks. Send them out as soon as possible after you provide your product or service, set expected payment terms, and establish a routine to follow up on invoices that you’ve already sent. There are plenty of programs that can help you automate the processes involved in invoice management, free of charge. Check out some of our top picks: 8 Best Free Accounting Software for Small Business.
4. Keep the clutter out
With the amount of time you spend working on your business, you’ll thank yourself for putting in the effort to keep it organized and free of unnecessary clutter. Whether that means setting up a filing system for loose paperwork, streamlining your digital calendar, or clearing out old items from your office, a mess-free environment means more productivity and focus.
Not only will your physical surroundings be cleaner, but you’ll have a clearer view of the important responsibilities and decisions on your plate. Read our tips and tricks to keep your small business organized.
5. Empower your employees
No matter how many people you have working with you, it’s important to make your employees feel like they’re a part of your company’s growth and success. Boosting team morale is key when it comes to building long-term relationships, increasing productivity, and sharing a common vision.
If you and your employees are working toward a shared goal, you’ll handle anything that comes your way and celebrate wins as a tight-knit team. Members will feel like their unique contributions are valued and their strengths are making an impact.
The empowerment process begins right from the start with a solid orientation and training. Even if you find the most capable professionals who have years of similar experience, it’ll take some time to get them acquainted with all the ins and outs of your business. As they get used to the requirements of the job, employees will feel more competent and in control. That’s a win-win in our book!
6. Step back and see the big picture
Taking time to reflect is just as important as being involved in the details of your business operations. Even though your consistent work is invaluable, don’t let the daily challenges let you lose sight of your vision. Measure your progress against your long-term goals and be proactive by networking with other leaders, attending small business development events, and learning about trends in your industry.
The Small Business Administration has plenty of resources for business owners like you. Find local mentorship through organizations like SCORE and the Small Business Development Center on the SBA website.
7. Set goals and track them
As you plan for business growth, set goals that align with your overarching vision. Start with a brainstorming session: where you are now, where you want to be in the future, and how you plan on getting there. Next, break down your game plan into defined, actionable steps. How do your aims translate into specific tasks on your calendar?
If you’re not running your business alone, being transparent about your goals from the start will help you ensure that everyone’s on the same page and set the stage for steady business growth.
Otherwise, your employees and partners will spend their time playing catch-up instead of working together as a cohesive team. It might seem counterintuitive at first, but taking time out of the work day to align on goals can actually boost your overall productivity. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Once you have your goals set, make sure you have methods in place to track their progress with tangible milestones and performance metrics. Check in regularly, measure your headway honestly, and share key results with your team. You might be surprised to find just how much you can learn by being transparent. Sometimes, the people who work directly with your products or services can offer the most insightful perspectives.
8. Take advantage of tech
Don’t underestimate the power of management tools that can simplify your day-to-day tasks and ultimately impact your business as it grows. The more you can automate your processes, the more time you’ll have free to focus on business development, strategy, and expansion. You might be surprised to find how much more effective your work can be after minimizing the basic company operations you handle.
As you continue to grow, you might be looking for a cash flow boost through outside financing. That’s where SmartBiz Advisor can help. Our free, online tool will be your Intelligent CFO as it guides you through your lending profile and offers tailored insights and recommendations to help you qualify for the low-cost funds you deserve. Get started today and see where your business stands according to the key criteria our bank partners use to assess applicants’ financial health.
9. Promote transparency
As all your employees work toward similar goals, you should foster a working environment that encourages transparency. This way, your employees can communicate about shared challenges as they work alongside one another. The more open your team’s communication, the more you can establish trust and engagement among your employees.
To further achieve a transparent workplace, you can consider sharing more information with your team. Depending on how much of a need you feel to keep certain information private, you can keep your team updated on certain financial decisions, customer struggles and achievements, and details from board meetings. Doing so can help your team break any barriers that are preventing it – and your small business – from thriving.
Think about the above suggestions like this: Innovation occurs at its best when all employees have a strong desire to collaborate and problem solve. However, innovation can’t happen if you are sharing information with solely yourself and other high executive leaders. In business, knowledge can truly be powerful.
10. Hire based on attitude
While it is important to hire employees with relevant skills and experience, it’s just as important (if not more important) to hire job candidates based on attitude. Even if the candidate you’re interviewing has all the skills in the world, it won’t matter if they have a difficult personality that makes it impossible for you and your team to work well with them.
When interviewing job candidates, keep an eye out for job prospects who are passionate about what they’re doing and willing to learn more. Look at their behavior and how they present themselves. It’s one thing for a person to tell you all their skills and experiences, but it’s another for them to show you how well they interact with co-workers, management, and other essential employees.
As you move candidates through the interviewing process, remember that someone who is enthusiastic about learning new skills may be a better fit than a skilled person who makes life harder for your colleagues. You can often train a new hire in certain skills, but shaping a new hire’s attitude is much tougher. Hiring an employee with a positive attitude can make all the difference when it comes to establishing and cultivating a healthy company culture geared for long-term success.