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Running a Small Business: Tips from Successful Business Owners

Female entrepreneurship is on the rise, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 2007 and 2012, business ownership grew 27.5 percent for women. In that same time frame, America added 1 million new businesses overall. With so many bold new entrepreneurs starting out, we interviewed a group of seasoned small business owners and asked them to share their best advice for running a small business. Below are some tips from small business owners intended to help the newest wave of entrepreneurs as they get ready to launch their businesses.

Hiring

Many of the small business owners we interviewed agreed that finding the right employees is crucial, and also a sizeable challenge. J. Colin Petersen, president and CEO of J – I.T. Outsource, a technology outsourcing firm, shared, “I really wish I had known how important it is to hire correctly. At first, I made the mistake of hiring whoever was available instead of hiring the person who was right for the job. If I could go back in time and offer advice to myself, I would say to invest as much time as possible in learning how to assess for the hard skills, soft skills, and temperament that is required for success in a given position, and be sure to hire only according to that standard.”

Travis Bennett, managing director of Studio Digita, a web design and development firm, concurred, “Don’t rush into hiring staff to put people in seats just to get the work done. Take the time to find the right people that fit your team and your company.”

Finances

Small businesses live and die by their numbers, so it’s no surprise that many of the tips from small business owners we received on running a small business focused on small business finances. “Always prepare for your slow times and down times by having a solid line of credit, as well as credit cards,” said Mark Tuchscherer, co-founder and president of mobile application company Geeks Chicago. “Most small businesses consistently encounter issues related to cash flow. We may have $100K in outstanding invoices, but most of these are net 30-45 days, which does not necessarily represent cash in the bank. There are also slower times of year for most industries, so having a credit line in place – before running into a slow time, or while waiting for clients to pay – is a key element.”

Tiffany Sartor, owner of online kids clothing boutique Posh Peyton, said “I wish I would have known to save my on-hand cash and leverage my resources by seeking a small business loan or line of credit in order to save my on-hand cash as a reservoir for emergencies.”

Running a Small Business by Outsourcing

Running a small business can encompass all aspects of your life. Many of the small business owners we interviewed shared that outsourcing tasks has made a huge difference for them. “As a small business owner, I wish I knew the power of outsourcing when we were getting started. My wife and I were running around like circus clowns, answering phone calls, doing social media updates, and basic office bookkeeping stuff. Now, we have a virtual assistant and an answering service, so we are able to focus on the business. I wish we knew how affordable and efficient such services were. It would have helped us grow faster and easier,” said John Walko, owner of webdesign59.com, an affordable web design company.

Terry L. Raimy, founder of publishing company Black Streak Entertainment, shared, “I wish I knew that there was no way I could run a business on my own. I tried to play Superman and wear too many hats. I was accountant, marketer, publicist, and customer service agent. Trying to take on too much lead to debt and me being overworked. I should’ve hired professionals to handle all of these responsibilities from the jump.”

James Kademan, owner of business training company Draw In Customers, added, “Outsource as much as you can. Maybe you outsource payroll, phone answering, bookkeeping, or lawn mowing. Whatever you can outsource allows you more free time to either spend with your family or on your business in other areas.”

Accountants and Attorneys

When just starting out, many small business owners try to save money by taking on jobs that are really better left to the professionals. Comedian, voiceover artist, and motivational speaker Ashley Huyge said, “I wish I had known about tax write offs! I have a brilliant accountant now, but when I was getting started I had no idea what a write-off was, what to do with receipts, or that I could claim expenses. I could have saved myself thousands over the first three years.”

“The two most important people in your life when starting a business are your accountant and attorney,” added Joe Trizila, owner of TrizCom Public Relations. “Pick them wisely.”

Contracts

Unfortunately, many small business owners have to learn the hard way how important it is to have contracts in place with clients, suppliers, and potential partners, among others. Sherry Holub, owner of JVM Design, a graphic design firm, said, “One thing I wish I knew before starting up a service-based business was to always have your client sign an agreement before starting work. Luckily, it only took having a couple clients walk out without paying for me to clue into this!”

“One of the most difficult lessons I learned in my first year of practice is the importance of good contract language,” shared Courtney Casburn Brett, owner of Casburn Brett architecture. “Know what you need in order to have productive and successful business relationships, put it in writing, and review it up front with your clients and employees. One of the best ways to determine the clients you don’t want is with a well-written contract. Honest people may question, but rarely decline outright to sign a reasonable contract; and if an unsavory situation arises, with a contract in place, you can move towards a resolution or termination of the relationship with confidence.”
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