“I need help starting my business!” –
is a common cry from many budding small business owners.
And it’s no wonder. Starting a business
is a huge step for any entrepreneur to undertake, and requires careful planning
as well as business smarts and the right advice.
While there are many useful online
resources for businesses to help with start-up planning, preparation and
management – including this one from Business.gov, “10 Steps to
Starting a Business” – there is nothing
quite as valuable as in-person assistance.
This can take many forms, from the
counseling and resources provided by organizations such as SCORE and Small Business
Development Centers (SBDCs) to the small business assistance offered by local SBA
If you are starting a business, you
should also consider seeking out specialist advice and help for three key
1. Tax and
Why? Simply because these are often
overlooked at the outset and each have a strategic part to play in the planning
and growth of your business. They are also functions that many start-ups either
don’t have the know-how or time to commit resources to.
That’s why getting your arms around
each of these functions early on, with the help of specialists in each of these
areas, can put you in control of your business and competitively positioned for
Here are some pointers to help you
source the right kind of help.
1. Tax and
I doubt there are many small business
owners – whether they are independent contractors, home-based businesses, or
employer firms – that enter business understanding their tax obligations. It is
critical that you seek independent tax advice from a specialist.
Many variables affect your taxes – from
the way you structure your business, to where you work, and whether you employ
Consulting a tax specialist early on in
the start-up process will save you headaches over time.
The good news is that it needn’t
involve a significant amount of upfront expense. Many tax specialists will
offer an initial consultation free of charge (with the hope of winning your
business over the long term). This can be a great resource for start-ups who
just need some initial guidance – at zero cost.
Check your local business directories for small-business tax specialists
in your area and give them a call. You’ll be surprised to find how amenable and
helpful they can be.
Read more about small business taxes
and resources that the government provides here.
Likewise, it’s worth consulting an
accountant. Why? More than just a bookkeeper or manager of your finances, a
good accountant can provide solid financial advice to help you steer your
business in the right direction, guide you on managing risk, tax planning, as
well as provide advice on personal finance management. Read “How to Choose an Accountant for your Small
from www.gaebler.com for great tips
on why you need an accountant and how to find the right one for your start-up
and future business needs.
Many business owners are reticent about
spending start-up capital on marketing when, in fact (for the most part), a
higher percentage of your overall business budget should be spent on marketing
during the start-up phase than any other time – anywhere between 5-8%.
But if marketing was not your best
subject at business school – where do you start? This is another area where
expert advice and assistance can help.
There are many options for start-ups
when it comes to marketing support, that needn’t break the bank. You might just
want to work with someone who can give you the outline of a marketing plan that
you implement yourself; or, you can engage with someone who can plan and
implement a marketing strategy. Whatever your needs, here are a few you options
Independent Contractor or Marketing Freelancer – Not hire, as
in put on payroll, but seek out the services of a consultant. Contracts can be
hourly, project-based or on a retainer (you pay a flat monthly fee and can use
their services as needed). The only overhead incurred is the consulting fee and
any costs associated with the tactics that you choose to implement.Try to find a
contractor who has experience in your industry. The best way to find
contractors is through referrals from trusted sources in your community or
industry. If you go this route, be sure to read this guide to Hiring
Independent Contractors to understand your tax and reporting obligations.
Work with a
Marketing Agency – Far from being reserved for the big- budgets of larger
business, many smaller independently owned marketing agencies can be flexible
to most budgets and needs. They often draw on the services of freelancers –
which helps keep costs low, and pass the savings on to clients – and because
they work with several clients you can benefit from the broader experience of
knowing what works in your market.
Again, seek out recommendations from your network and small business
peers in your industry or community.
Check out this Small Business Marketing Guide from
Business.gov for more tips.
Business administration — from
managing your business expenses to maintaining inventory to proofing and
formatting your sales pitch in PowerPoint – can be a time-consuming affair that
many small business owners could do without.
These demands have led to the growth of
“virtual assistants” (VAs). These are self-employed individuals who use their
own office equipment and software to serve you from anywhere between $20-$50 an
hour. They can help start-ups and growing businesses stay on top of the mundane
everyday tasks of keeping the administration side of your start-up flowing
smoothly, but they can also be drawn on for marketing support – and at a much
lower cost than hiring a personal assistant.
Whether you need occasional or ongoing
assistance, outsourcing to a virtual assistant can save you money and time –
whatever your line of business.
Read this excellent article by Wendy
Maynard that explains how VAs can be the “savior of small businesses” and find
out more about VA s from these associations:
International Association of Virtual
Office Assistants (IAVOA)
International Virtual Assistants
Association of Virtual Assistants