Many would-be entrepreneurs dream of one day launching their own business. Once you’ve settled on a specific dream — and made your personal “all-in” decision to pursue it — you’ll quite naturally want to set yourself up for success.
Not only do you need to determine what’s important for your business venture today, but you’ll need to always keep one eye on the future. Doing so from the outset sets the stage for growing your business and working toward sustainability. Change is inevitable, and much of it will be beyond your control. Still, having a plan will help you navigate those changes as you grow your business.
Building your own small business may or may not be complicated, but it will almost certainly require sustained effort over time. Here are a few big-picture steps to consider as you strive to set up your business for long-term success.
1. Create Your Business Plan
Creating a business plan is similar to charting a road map for your business. Without one, you’ll almost certainly be lost and/or confused in short order.
Discipline yourself to sit down and write out what your business offers. Answer the tough questions. How does your business differ from the competition? How do you serve your clients? What do you hope to achieve? How does your business make money?
Map out both a current plan and your stretch goals. Be as detailed as possible. Where do you hope to be in six months, one year, five years? What will it take to get there? Once you have your goals written down, work backward to attain them. It will be incredibly encouraging for you as you check off the steps taken along the way.
If you’ve been in business for a while, assess realistically how well your current plan is working. Many leaders find creating a yearly strategic plan is valuable. They then build on where they are while planning for the future.
2. Automate Your Payroll and Timesheets From the Get-Go
It really doesn’t matter whether your business has two employees or 20; you will benefit from having a payroll solution for your small business.
You already have a lot to do to keep your new business running. Partnering with a third party to manage your payroll will save you time and money. A reliable provider keeps everything on schedule and systematizes records for future use.
Today’s payroll systems allow you to add employees quickly to your system and automatically withhold taxes and benefit contributions as well. These could include depositing money into an employee’s 401(k) account and withholding money for health insurance benefits.
In addition to handling your payroll — no small task in itself — you can also use many payroll systems to send and receive offer letters and other forms when onboarding new hires. Other features include tracking timesheets and requesting paid time off. Having all of these capabilities in one system will be incredibly convenient and save you both time and money.
3. Fully Understand Your Financial Commitments
As you develop your business model, it’s critical that you accurately calculate your profit margin. Know what your expenses are and how much revenue goes into paying yourself, your employees, and running the business.
Stay informed on other businesses similar to yours and compare your costs and pricing to theirs. Research what profit margins are considered acceptable for your industry. This research will help you know whether your price points are realistic for what you hope to achieve.
Your business reputation will rise or fall when it comes to honoring your financial commitments. In addition to staying on top of payroll and paying your lease on time, staying current with your vendors is incredibly important. It’s also essential to keep up on all taxes so no unexpected fines or unnecessary bills land in your lap. The importance of timely payments on every front can hardly be overestimated.
4. Relentlessly Pursue Customer and Employee Satisfaction
Providing your services on-time and keeping your word to your customers is obviously important for the longevity of your business. Routinely checking in with your customers also goes a long way toward ensuring their satisfaction. Surveys or verbal check-ins will shed light on what you’re doing right and where you can improve.
Asking questions opens up a dialogue that could lead to discovering a new product or service you could offer, perhaps something you didn’t realize your customers needed. For example, you might learn that offering dead tree removal with your landscaping business makes a lot of sense.
Not only is it important to monitor customer satisfaction, but it’s also imperative to gauge employee satisfaction as well. After all, your team is out representing your business with clients, so you’ll want them to be happy with your organization.
Talk with your employees in one-on-one meetings and through occasional short surveys to measure their well-being. Understanding their needs and addressing issues will help you create a positive company culture. This will enable you to recruit new employees and retain existing ones.
5. Accept That You Can’t Do Everything Yourself
As the owner of your own small business, you are positioned as an expert in your field. You provide a product or service that sets you apart from your competition.
But performing all the administrative work in addition to providing the services of your business is likely to lead to burnout. Plus, you could easily leave yourself in a lurch in areas such as accounting, marketing, taxes, and more. So consider where you might need help.
For your business taxes, you might pay an accountant to prepare them instead of trying to do them yourself. The same individual might also do your bookkeeping. For marketing, reach out to a skilled, proven expert and pick their brain for your best return on investment. Seeking out advice and expertise in these areas and others will help you succeed.
When running a small business, it’s easy to let the administrative side of things slide as you focus on providing your service. Yet staying on top of things is essential to ensuring continued growth and success. It may take some outside assistance, but it will allow you to get back to what you love — providing great service to your customers.