For some people, the ultimate step toward building a more flexible career comes in leaving the corporate world behind and striking out on their own.
But once you take that step and start creating a small business, you’ll probably feel like you have more on your plate than you can possibly handle. In the blink of an eye, you’ll find you’re in charge of everything from marketing and sales to invoicing and quality control.
Fortunately, many tools are available to help you manage all of those widely varied responsibilities. Here are five things a small-business owner or founder should remember, and a few tools that can help:
1. Do your homework
While a great idea is vital to building a business, your ultimate success will depend on more than that. You’ve got to know what you’re getting yourself into and then plan, plan, plan.
One good place to start your journey is with a visit to the website of the U.S. Small Business Administration. It includes a business guide that will give you basic information about planning, launching, managing, and growing your business. It can also point you to a variety of other helpful resources as you begin to create your company.
2. Determine your market.
As noted in a blog post from EZOfficeInventory, sometimes “entrepreneurs can become so blinded by the love of their idea that they end up peddling the wrong product for far too long. In fact, CB Insights found that 42 percent of businesses failed because there was ‘no market need’ for their product.”
Clearly, this is a problem you’ll want to avoid. To do so, predict potential outcomes for your business, and create plans to deal with them. A tool like Salesforce can help you “generate forecasts for complicated sales workflows, and make real-time adjustments so you know who your top performers are at any point in time. This allows you to be more flexible in the face of unpredictability, and be more responsive to challenges that are pretty much inevitable when first starting out,” the blog post says.
3. Make sure you’re getting paid.
This may seem obvious, but it can also be challenging for a small-business owner. When you’re directing most of your energy toward creating and selling the best product or service, it can be difficult to focus on making sure your customers are paying for what they’re getting.
To avoid this problem, consider investing in financial management tools that include invoicing software, like the system available from Intuit. Such a system will allow you to collect payments all day, every day. The easier it is for customers to pay you, the more likely it is that they will do so. The Intuit software also helps you track invoices and payments, allowing you to pay more attention to building your business.
4. Create a flexible business model.
Work flexibility is probably important to you if you’re starting a business, so you should take that into account as you create your company’s culture. Look for opportunities to build flex into the core of your business.
If you’re not sure how to do that, a good place to start is by examining the practices and flex plans of companies you admire. You also can check out various websites that offer advice on flex. In addition to the 1MFWF blog, another good option is Remote.co, which offers a variety of resources to help you plan for hiring, managing, and working remotely.
5. Plan for the future.
As your new operation gets up and running, worst-case scenarios may seem far-fetched. However, you must remember how important the business is to you and consider what you would want to happen if you’re no longer around.
If you already have an estate plan, make sure you update it to include your business. And if you don’t have a will, make one. You can always visit an attorney to do so, but there are also online tools that can help. For example, Tomorrow provides a family financial planning app that can help you create a legal will and living trust for free. Take the time to decide what you need, and then follow through immediately.
Building a new business is a complex endeavor. You will flex intellectual and organizational muscles you didn’t even know you had. But if you use the tools that are available to you, you can create something meaningful—and flexible—for you now that will build a legacy for the future.
What are some other tips you would give to small-business owners or founders? What tools have been most helpful to you in these areas? Please share your ideas in the comments section.
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