When it comes to avoiding or ignoring important business decisions like the ones in the following list, I’ve heard every excuse in the book:
I’m a one-wo/man show! I don’t have time to do that.
I didn’t know I needed to.
Just as soon as I [insert unattainable goal], I’ll do it.
No more excuses. These 10 things are ones you absolutely need to put at the top of your list. Today.
1. Choosing a Business Structure. There are well over 3 million sole proprietorships in the US today, but that’s really because it’s the default business structure. Most business owners don’t bother to set up any other type of structure, like an LLC or corporation, but doing so will protect your personal assets and keep you from being personally liable in case of a lawsuit.
2. Applying for Business Licenses. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I operated for years without a business license. Just didn’t realize I needed one. But no matter what type of business you run, you need some sort of business license or tax certificate. Check with your state and city to find out details.
3. Organizing Your Finances. Still entering your accounting details in a spreadsheet? I know, you’re too busy to buy and learn an accounting program. But trust me on this: an hour of learning will save you countless hours down the road. Accounting software makes your life easier, and should you ever be audited, makes it easy to access important financial records.
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4. Paying Taxes Throughout the Year. If you’re a sole proprietor, you pay your business taxes when you file your personal taxes. But take it from me, who learned the hard way: waiting to pay them only creates financial strain. It’s better to either pay them throughout the year or set aside funds (estimate what you’ll owe) so you don’t have an eyeball-popping tax bill in April.
5. Training Staff. Whether you have staff you haven’t maximized, or are too wrapped up in your business to start delegating, you’re not doing yourself any favors. I know you think no one can do a job as well as you can, but you’re wrong. Invest in training an employee to take over some of your responsibilities, and you’ll be free to work on what you really enjoy doing.
6. Saving Money. If you live in the moment with your business, you probably buy inventory and supplies when you run out. But with a little planning, you can buy in bulk and save big-time. You can also strategize by putting purchases on a credit card that gives you cash back…just make sure you pay the balance before that interest fee kicks in.
7. Growing. There’s that overused Michael Gerber phrase of “working IN your business, rather than ON it.” If you’re too busy managing the day-to-day, how can you expect to grow over time? Set aside time each quarter to look at your growth strategy and work on it.
8. Setting Goals. Part of that growth strategy should include goals. I like to set mine at the start of the year, as New Year’s Resolutions. Whenever you set yours, just be sure you circle back to see if you’ve actually achieved them. Create action items to work toward accomplishing your goals.
9. Investing in Smart Software. Just like with the accounting software, there are probably other programs that can help your company do more. Customer Relationship Management platforms, social media dashboards…these are all tools designed to make you more efficient. And they’re affordable, to boot.
10. Learning. Never, ever, ever stop learning. As soon as you do, your competitors will gain market share. Whether it’s reading blog posts, books, or magazines, or taking webinars or seminars, continue your education of your industry and your target market.
Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s also the founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant, 101 Entrepreneur Tips. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.