But you are also aware that it is no small thing to launch a business in a turbulent and competitive economy, in which only about 50% of these businesses will survive their first five years. The hurdles faced by small business owners include:
- Operating expenses that run out of control
- Mismanaged revenue and debt problems
- Hiring the right workers
- Finding the right location to open your doors
- Buying or leasing the equipment needed to run a business
- Building an effective e-commerce site
- Crafting an effective marketing strategy
- Protecting your business from threats that may undermine its future
It’s hard to keep your eyes on the big picture when so many small but important details demand your attention. This is why it is good to have a partner, such as ZenBusiness.
Whether it is setting up an Operating Agreement, accounting and bookkeeping services, a domain name aligned with your business needs, cost-effective combined property and liability insurance, or, well, you name it, we have the business services you require to launch, grow, and thrive. Your success is ours.
No matter your chosen industry, the following eight-step guide can help you turn your great idea into a viable business with long-term prospects.
How to Grow Your Business
- Manage Your Operating Expenses
- Manage Payments and Revenue
- Hire Employees and Contractors
- Find a New Location
- Invest in Equipment and Other Tools
- Build a Better Website
- Create a Marketing Strategy
- Protect Your Business From Potential Threats
1. Manage Your Operating Expenses
You cannot grow your business unless you know where your money is going. It is important to track your various operating expenses to plan the path to sustainable growth and invest accordingly.
Common Cost Categories
When it comes to operating expenses, you have fixed and variable costs. As the name suggests, fixed costs are unchanging and must be paid whether goods or services are produced. For example, a design firm that leases a 3D printer would still have to pay the monthly lease costs, even if they don’t have any orders.
Common examples of fixed costs include lease and rent payments, utilities, insurance, some salaries, and interest payments. The more fixed costs a company has, the more revenue it needs to break even.
On the other hand, variable costs are connected to the number of goods and services a business produces. Packaging, raw materials for production, labor, and commissions are examples of variable costs, which increase or decrease according to production volume. For example, if it costs $3 to produce a widget, the cost is $3,000 for 1,000 widgets, $6,000 for 2,000 widgets, and nothing if no widgets are produced.
Variable costs differ between industries, so you need to look at two businesses operating in the same vertical to make comparisons.
While fixed costs tend to remain flat, variable costs can change according to the number of goods a company produces. If production goes up, the price of the greater number of goods produced is spread over the same fixed cost, leading to economies of scale.
- Rent: Many lease agreements require first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit.
- Equipment: While this varies a lot from business to business, most require things such as office equipment, signage, and security systems.
- Phone and utilities
- Inventory: Needs can range from inventory-heavy businesses, such as retail outlets, to inventory-light businesses, such as virtual personal assistants (some office supplies only).
- Fixtures: This broad category can include partitions, paneling, signage, storage cabinets, lighting, checkout counters, and all shelves, table stands, wall systems, showcases, and related hardware for product display.
- Licensing and tax deposits: Most cities, counties, and states require businesses to get different licenses or permits to be compliant with local regulations.
- Marketing: The first-year advertising budget is often calculated as a percentage of projected gross sales (often 2% to 5%).
In unsettled economic times, it is good to estimate costs high and revenues low and have a contingency fund in case of unforeseen expenses.
Tracking Costs Closely
Tracking operating costs is something that companies should do regularly, at least on a monthly basis, to ensure the financial circumstances of their business remain in good order. ZenBusiness helps ensure your spending doesn’t go dangerously out of whack with a few different services and products.
For example, our business banking and business credit card offerings can help you track expenses across your operations, simplifying accounting, reviewing expenses, and enabling you to keep atop cash flow, manage payments, and much more.
For even more help, ZenBusiness’s accounting and bookkeeping services can take over one of the most stressful and challenging areas for business owners. We can cover all your bookkeeping needs, so you can concentrate on growing and scaling your business. Our three competitively priced packages include Quick Start, Up and Running, and Grow and Scale options.
2. Manage Payments and Revenue
For a company to survive and thrive, it must have sufficient revenue to cover its expenses, repay investors, and expand its operations. Cash flow, as opposed to earnings, is an important sign of a business’s health. How well you manage revenue and track payments are essential to your success.
Without generating enough cash to meet its needs, a company will find it hard to conduct routine activities, such as paying suppliers, buying raw materials, and paying employees, let alone making investments in growth. And by avoiding debt, you won’t be put in the position of debtors having a say in how your company is run.
Ways to Get Paid
ZenBusiness’s accounting and bookkeeping services can help you easily manage your billing, payment methods, and track the all-important cash flow. Our various packages add a CPA to your team, determining what you need for bookkeeping and reporting. Invoicing, managing bank transactions, monthly book closings, and regular phone conversations with your CPA (in the top two packages) are among the services offered.
Your business can be set up to accept and track the ways in which your customers are accustomed to paying, including:
- Credit and debit cards
- Mobile payments
- Online payment gateways
- Click-to-pay email invoices
- EMV/chip card solutions
With health crises affecting businesses, more companies are investigating online ordering and payment solutions, enabling customers to pay with mobile wallets and other increasingly popular methods. Contactless payment methods are also rising in importance because of their convenience and concerns about common touch surfaces.
The process of projecting revenue and expenses is important for a business, especially when starting. They help you develop the operational and staffing plans that will make you a success and give potential investors the numbers they need to make their decisions.
Since it is usually easier to anticipate expenses than revenue, start by charting your fixed and variable expenses. Then, put together two scenarios for your revenues: an optimistic and conservative projection. Entrepreneurs and business owners usually fluctuate between wild-eyed hope and more cautious conservatism when regarding their company’s financial prospects.
So, it’s wise to build two sets of projections: a conservative one that may have minimal marketing channels, a low price point for products, no sales staff, and a single product or service launched in three years; and an optimistic one, with multiple products and services, sales staff, different marketing channels, and premium product prices.
Usually, the truth will fall somewhere in between.
Some of the include better:
- Cash flow management: By projecting when cash will arrive, you can make sure you can pay bills and employees. And it helps you avoid the pitfalls of missing payments, generating late fees, and damaging your credit and relationships with partners and suppliers.
- Analysis of sales: By forecasting your sales, you can determine the profitability of separate products and services. For example, you might decide to drop a highly profitable but low-profit-margin item in favor of one that offers bigger gross profits.
- Production scheduling: Revenue forecasting helps you manage your production scheduling to prevent bottlenecks that may hurt sales.
- Hiring planning: By knowing when your revenues are coming, you can plan for cutting back staffing during slow periods and ramping up during busy ones. You can also even plan out your production schedule so that your staff isn’t overused or underused.
- Credit management: If you know when you’ll require credit, you can arrange to have more available when needed and come to more attractive terms than if you do so on short notice.
3. Hire Employees and Contractors
Building a team of workers to help run your company is one of the most rewarding aspects of business ownership. It is also one of the most challenging aspects, trying to find the best-qualified people, being able to offer competitive salaries, having to train workers, and deciding whether full-time or contract workers are the best fit for a given role.
Employees vs. Contractors: Understanding Your Options
While hiring needs can vary wildly between industries or even between companies in the same sector, most businesses find themselves asking if they would be better served by the dependable presence of full-time employers or the greater flexibility of contract workers. But they have to begin by understanding the differences between them.
Is it important that you always have certain talent on hand, or are you better served cherry-picking a contract worker when seasonal or other work demand requires them? Do you need all your workers under the same roof, or is a dispersed workforce a possibility, saving you overhead costs and making workers happier and more productive?
To decide which is best for your business and situation, you have to look at the pros and cons of full-time employees and independent contractors.
Pros of a Full-Time Employees
- Invested in company and culture
- Provide dependable expertise
- Offer continuity of service
Cons of a Full-Time Employees
- Must get paid even during slow times
- Often must receive benefits
- In some cases, you must train and provide professional licensing
Pros of a Independent Contractors
- Provide flexible staffing options
- Fill missing expertise gaps
- Usually cost less
Cons of a Independent Contractors
- Seen as company outsiders
- Contractors often come and go
- Gives you less control over workers
It should also be noted that at one time, independent contractor jobs were often regarded as less-satisfactory standbys to full-time employment. But now, with the exploding gig economy, freelance and contract work, especially for remote positions, is on the rise, attracting highly qualified workers who want the freedom and flexibility of this type of employment.
Adding an employee to the payroll costs more than their basic salary or wage. Depending on a few variables, the cost is often 1.25 to 1.4 times the salary. That means if you pay someone a salary of $35,000, your actual costs likely will range from $43,750 to $49,000 (although there may be tax savings to offset some of these costs).
Some of the considerations for full-time employees include benefits and costs, such as:
- Retirement savings plans: While these aren’t mandatory, many employers choose to offer retirement savings plans, such as 401(k) plans, to employees. Employer contributions need to be factored into total wage package costs.
- Paid and unpaid family and medical leave: Federal law requires employers with at least 50 employers to offer unpaid leave. Some states have paid leave laws, which may put the burden on employers, employees, or both.
- Health benefits: Federal law requires only large employers (with 50 or more full-time and full-time equivalent employees) to offer health insurance or pay the penalty.
- Workers’ compensation insurance: Amounts vary from state to state.
- Other insurance: A professional firm might need professional liability insurance, or you might need a bond to protect third parties (customers).
- Legal costs: These are associated with drafting employment agreements.
Payroll Taxes and Other Expenses
Hiring a full-time employee means that a business owner must pay a number of payroll tax costs. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects more in payroll taxes than any other kind of income. Payroll taxes include:
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes: Medicare and Social Security taxes are evenly split between employees and employers. The employer must withhold employee tax amounts and deposit what they owe each payroll.
- Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA): This is fully paid by the employer, according to set percentages. Employers can also receive credit for these taxes.
- Federal income tax: It is up to the employer to withhold their workers’ federal income taxes from each paycheck.
Payroll taxes can also include state income taxes, state unemployment taxes, and even local taxes (such as supporting school boards and transit).
4. Find a New Location
Often, a business moves to a different location, perhaps a bigger one, to access a new market, because of better leasing/rental terms, or for other reasons. While the motive for a move depends on the company in question, certain key considerations and administrative updates apply to most situations.
Cost, Convenience, and Other Key Factors
Some of the common variables business owners should consider in selecting a space suited to their needs include:
- Community demographics: For some businesses, it’s important to be near where their customers are. For others, it helps to be in an area with access to a workforce with the needed skill sets.
- Accessibility, parking, and foot traffic: Access is important in choosing a location for many businesses. Is there adequate foot traffic and a lot of available parking? Is the facility accessible to people with physical challenges, and is it easy to do pickups and deliveries?
- Local competition: In some cases, competition is good. You might get overflow business from your competitor. In other cases, it might hurt your business.
- Closeness to other businesses and services: Examine the other businesses in the area to see if they can benefit you. Will they generate customer traffic for you? Or can they cater to the needs of your employees, with, say, restaurants for meals and day care facilities for children?
- Ordinances and zoning restrictions: Before you sign for a new lease, check to see if there are any local ordinances and zoning restrictions that might affect your business. Keep in mind the type of neighborhood you’re moving into. A quiet neighborhood might not have restrictions to stop your new nightclub from opening, but that could change after a few noise complaints.
- Room to grow: It’s good to think ahead. If your business expands, can you do it in the new location, or will you be forced to make another move?.
When You Move: Updating Key Records
Keep in mind a change in address can entail making changes to business documents, such as the Articles of Incorporation. For a low fee and associated state fees, ZenBusiness can file required amendments, such as changes in address, business name, or ownership structure.
ZenBusiness also offers its registered agent services to small businesses. State agencies require corporations and LLCs to appoint a registered agent when they form their business. So, a registered agent service can act as the main point of contact between your company and the Secretary of State or another official government office, receiving service of process, correspondence, and other important legal notices.
For a low annual price, ZenBusiness offers the registered agent services you need to meet state requirements, which include a dedicated office open during business hours, the ability to be served legal notices, and the ability to quickly relay all legal documents to the appropriate people at your business.
5. Invest in Equipment and Other Tools
One important facet of business growth is investing in the right equipment tools to produce a product or provide a service. While the actual equipment used can vary from industry to industry — ranging from laptop computers in offices to heavy machinery in a manufacturing facility — it serves a vital role in producing a product or offering a service cost-effectively.
Once you decide on the equipment that your business needs, the next step is to determine whether you will buy or lease it. More than considering the cost for each, the decision has to weigh maintenance, tax deductions, flexibility, and more. Depending on your circumstances, one option’s cost-benefit might make it a better bet than the other.
Pros of a Leasing
- Needs less cash or credit upfront
- Maintenance sometimes included in the cost
- Lease payments for business equipment are often tax-deductible
Cons of a Leasing
- Lifetime costs of the lease are higher
- Replacing equipment can be expensive when the lease expires
- Depreciation of leased assets aren’t usually tax-deductible
Pros of a Buying
- You can claim appreciation of equipment on taxes
- The lifetime cost to purchase is less than leasing
- Equipment is counted as an asset on the balance sheet
Cons of a Buying
- Needs more cash and credit upfront
- Don’t usually have the same leeway to test equipment
- You may be fully liable for maintenance and replacement
Looking for Savings: Short and Long Term
When investing in equipment for your business, you should not just be guided by price and short-term savings. Cheap equipment may not last as long as quality equipment, incurring large repair bills and early replacement costs. It can also impede the productivity of employees.
If businesses think short term rather than long with their equipment, this can restrict their growth, dampen their competitiveness, and stop them from exploring new markets.
Deduct Your Business Expenses
When looking at the federal rules for deducting business expenses from your tax burden, your equipment and supplies are handled differently. Business supplies (such as computer paper) are typically used up in less than a year and can be used as a deduction on your taxes the year they were purchased.
Business equipment, such as a computer, is considered a long-term asset, and its cost is depreciated over time (it is taken as a deduction in increments over the useful life of the equipment).
In accounting, equipment is considered a capital asset or fixed asset used by the business to make a profit. Gains or losses on the sales of capital assets are handled differently from regular business sales income. Capital gains are taxed differently from sales income.
There are three types of costs you can capitalize:
- Business startup costs
- Business assets
How to Create an Operating Agreement
Operating Agreements should be customized to your particular business; however, there are some standard items to include. When it’s time for you to create your business’s Operating Agreement, you could hire an attorney. However, that option is expensive and takes time.With ZenBusiness’s accounting services, your small business can maximize your tax deductions for business equipment and supplies to take advantage of all the benefits to which you are legally entitled.
6. Build a Better Website
These days, an attractive and well-functioning website can be as important to a business as a brick-and-mortar location, or even more so. There has been a massive consumer shift to e-commerce, researching, and making purchases online. Some sources predict that the U.S. will have 300 million online shoppers by 2023, or 91% of the population.
Small businesses without a strong web presence are already at a strategic disadvantage in the fast-changing marketplace.
Make Your Business Findable Online
Since most consumers search online for products and services, it’s essential that you secure your own business domain (internet address). ZenBusiness can secure a domain that aligns with your new business name and protects you from anyone else purchasing it.
With it, you will be able to create a website for your business, with connected email addresses, to publicize your company and sell your products or services online or in a physical store.
As you create a robust website, upgraded with full e-commerce and online ordering capabilities, and optimized according to best search engine optimization (SEO) practices, you will find more new customers seeking you out and growing your business.
Enhance Your Website: Form and Function
Just as an attractive store with a great layout will attract business, it should have a functional and attractive website. When you purchase a ZenBusiness plan, you can use the ZenBusiness website builder to quickly create a strong website, using an easy drag-and-drop interface to add images, videos, Google maps, and much more with the click of a button. You can also:
- Pick the perfect theme for your site from a vast library, covering everything from your blog to online stories.
- Stay social by connecting your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds to your site.
- Have access analytics to fine-tune your marketing efforts.
- Use a save history to revert to a previous version of the site if needed.
- Rely on the solid infrastructure of Hostgator, your website host, to ensure your site stays up and running.
Once you’ve finished building your site, you can launch it and begin your new online selling adventure.
7. Create a Marketing Strategy
While it is nice to think you will build a new business and people will just come, the truth is that you need to have a sound, strategic marketing strategy. Business owners who neglect this and decide to fly with the seat of their pants can expect a rough landing as the realities of a competitive marketplace hit home.
Audience, Platforms, and Selling Proposition
A good marketing plan takes time, thought, money, and preparation to put in place. Some of the key components of a marketing strategy include:
- A detailed description of the target audience: Among other things, this would cover the market’s size, demographics, unique traits, and trends related to the demand for your business.
- Your unique selling proposition: In describing your business’s unique competitive advantage, you might highlight a superior product or service, lower prices, better customer service, or other strengths.
- The marketing channels you’ll use: To show how you will achieve your marketing and sales goals, you will outline which marketing channels you will use, such as online advertising, radio ads, billboard, and others.
Marketing Math: Budget and Return on Investment
Any marketing strategy should include a complete breakdown of the plan’s costs in a detailed budget. It’s imperative to be as accurate as possible, with a detailed understanding of the outcomes to justify every marketing expense and avoid financial headaches. Once the plan is set into motion, you should closely track the costs to catch overruns before they happen.
Part of doing the marketing math is to calculate a return on investment for initiatives. While a strategy might command a certain amount of consumer interest, does it generate enough revenue to make it a worthwhile investment?
A marketing strategy works best if it is a living document, incorporating new insights and experience as the business operates. Look for opportunities as they arise. Don’t become attached to how you are used to doing things and fixed formulas. Change may be needed because:
Part of doing the marketing math is to calculate a return on investment for initiatives. While a strategy might command a certain amount of consumer interest, does it generate enough revenue to make it a worthwhile investment?
- An old marketing strategy doesn’t work.
- Consumer tastes change.
- A competitor strategy needs to be countered.
- A mature product needs a boost.
8. Protect Your Business From Potential Threats
Running a small business does come with certain risks that, if mishandled, can set you back. With proper planning and protections in place, you can keep on track with your plans for long-term growth and sustainable success.
Plan for All Possibilities
Some of the costly risks potentially facing your business include:
- Liability risk: Your business could be found legally responsible for property damage or personal injuries to someone.
- Property risk: If, for example, your business location is damaged by an accidental electric fire, destroying equipment and inventory, it can leave you with a big bill.
- Business interruption risk: If your business has been interrupted or drastically slowed by a calamity like a fire or a flood, the mounting operating expenses and lost income can be devastating.
For companies looking for protection and peace of mind, ZenBusiness’s businessinsurance offerings have the coverage they need at one reduced price. You can get a quote for a business owner’s policy (BOP) that protects you with general liability, commercial property insurance, and additional coverage options based on your needs.
The bundled coverage comes at a reasonable cost and can be tailored to your business’s specific requirements. We have partnered with a few strategic insurance partners to offer BOP that is specifically designed for small businesses and startups, covering claims from theft, fires, and any other property damage, along with personal injuries that result from the operation of your business.
Utilize a Strong Operating Agreement (for an LLC)
A strong Operating Agreement for an LLC can also help businesses overcome potential conflicts and difficulties. Outlining the rules and plans governing your company, it provides the structure and framework needed to grow your business. An Operating Agreement helps:
- Protect your assets by further separating your personal assets from your LLC’s.
- Articulate the business rules that will guide your company as it scales and grows.
- Provide guidance to help resolve disputes and succession plans if an owner exits the business.
Our Operating Agreement template can help you develop an Operating Agreement that clearly outlines which actions are acceptable for your company and how it will be governed, as well as creating a succession plan if needed.
Get Your Business Growing With ZenBusiness
Starting a business is a great adventure and one of the most fulfilling things you can do. By adopting a strategic approach to launching and running your business, you can ensure that you are prepared to deal with the costs of operating it, manage payments and revenue, hire the workers you need, find the best location for your business, get the equipment required for your goods or services, set up a powerful e-commerce presence, develop an effective marketing strategy, and get insurance protection for liability and property issues.
Since this is a lot to juggle, and since so much is at stake, it is good to have a partner like ZenBusiness, who can work with you in the months and years ahead to smooth out the bumpy road to success, ensuring you have everything you need to create your dream business.
Come to us today to discover how we can use technology and automated processes to provide a fast and low-cost business formation service that meets your unique business needs, whether they involve:
- Setting up a business bank account
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- A worry-free CPA assessment
- Domain name registration
- Domain name privacy
ZenBusiness can help you with many of the details of setting up and running your business, so you can concentrate on what’s important: growing your business and seeing it flourish.