Are you thinking about starting your own business? Sounds great, right? You get to bring your ideas to life, set your own schedule, and be your own boss. Before you quit your day job, though, be sure that you understand what you’re getting into. Small business owners wear a lot of hats.
Your tasks and responsibilities are many and varied — and you might not have a lot of help when you’re first starting out. Here’s what to expect.
Planning and Strategy
You should always have a business plan, which includes a marketing plan, cost analysis, and operational guidance, before starting your business. It’s up to you to create a strategy that’s based on facts and data, which means you’ve got a lot of research to do before you take the plunge. Every failed business owner will tell you that they wish they had done more market research, or done a more thorough financial plan, or spent more time planning their product launch.
Finance and Accounting
You’ll need to keep your business finances separate from your personal accounts. This is not only crucial for proper accounting and tax calculations —and required for business loans and credit card processing— but also helps you appear professional. You’ll also need to think about how to collect payments from customers or clients, how to cover your overhead costs, and what the compensation for your employees or contractors will be.
Compliance and Legal Responsibilities
Usually, you’re required to officially incorporate your small business, apply for a business license, register your business with the state, and pay the appropriate taxes. You’ll also need to send tax forms to your employees and independent contractors and be willing to develop and sign contracts, NDAs, and other legal agreements with clients or freelancers. It may be helpful to have a lawyer on hand should you need any advice.
Marketing and Sales
You may have the best product or service in the world, but no one will hear about it if you don’t advertise. And if you don’t stand out from the sea of other people selling stuff, no one will accept what you have to offer. A careful marketing plan and robust strategy are crucial to your success. Although you may hire experts to handle marketing and sales for you, it’s still up to you to develop a core message and strategy.
Customer Service Duties
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the phone, answering emails, and, if you are opening a store, dealing with customers. You may benefit from automating a lot of customer service tasks with new technology such as chatbots and automated phone systems. However, a human touch will still be needed at times, so be sure that your people skills are up to par!
Employees and Human Resources
When you first start out, you’ll be in charge of recruiting, hiring, and managing employees. Make no mistake — this is a huge undertaking. You may consider using freelancers or virtual assistants until your business is big enough to take on multiple full-time staff. As your business further scales, a dedicated manager or HR professional will become crucial to the team.
If this sounds like a challenge you’re ready to tackle, great! Remember, planning and testing are essential parts of your business development. Never go in blind and don’t rush the launch of your business. Take your time to understand all your responsibilities and seek help where you’re lacking. Good luck!