Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What do small business owners struggle with: complying with regulations and laws

One thing most small business owners must deal with is the need to wear many hats when running their business.  It can be tiring and worrisome to try and manage all the different tasks without the necessary skills or training.

One way entrepreneurs can reduce the strain is to take advantage of the resources available to small businesses.  Their local SBDC (Small Business Development Center), the SBA (Small Business Administration) and their local SCORE office are the best sources of free or low cost assistance.  Their experts can point a small business owner in the right direction when dealing with the myriad of laws and regulations a company may need to comply with.  Employment laws alone keep many small business owners from hiring needed employees.  Sitting down with an expert from one of these resources can alleviate many of the concerns and enable the entrepreneur to take the necessary steps to becoming a successful and compliant employer.

Another way a small business owner can insure compliance with regulations is to use the expertise of an outsourced service provider like an accountant, an attorney or a human resources expert.  Using an expert such as this can help the business get set up correctly at the start and trained to continue compliance with employment, sales or other regulations.  Using an outsourced expert will give the business the skill set necessary to insure compliance without the ongoing cost of hiring an employee to handle the tasks.

The SBDC, SBA and SCORE offices often have local experts they can recommend to small business owners so if they exhaust the free resources, they have an outsourced expert they can hire. The following links can assist you in finding the appropriate resources in the State of Wisconsin.  If you are in another state, just search for the resources with your state's name tagged on!

SBDC: www.wisconsinsbdc.org

SBA: www.sba.gov

SCORE: www.score.org

Don't let the fear of regulatory compliance keep you from growing your small business.  Conversely, don't bury your head and avoid the steps needed to insure compliance.  The government takes employment issues very seriously so calling people contractors to avoid employment taxes is not the correct tactic to take.  Find an expert to help you manage the task of following all relevant laws and regulations for your business.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What do small business owners struggle with: finding the right attorney or accountant

The success of a small business is dependent on many things with finding the right service providers being one key.  Here are a few things to consider when selecting an attorney and accountant for your business.

What type of work does the provider specialize in?  An attorney who works mainly on divorces or other litigation may not be the best choice to help you with contracts and employment issues.  A big CPA firm will provide you with all the advice and services you need, but if the billing rates are so high that you hesitate to ask the question, then that is not the right accountant for your company.  Asking what kinds of business experience the provider has is a good start as well as what specific industries or types of businesses they have experience with.  If you are a small manufacturer, finding an accountant who has experience with manufacturing will be much more helpful than one who only works with retailers and service providers.  You will want someone with an understanding of operations and margins and cash flow to assist you with running your enterprise.  If your business will have patents or copyrights, you will want an attorney with experience in those matters.  Asking for references is another good idea so you can talk directly with other clients of the accountant or attorney.

What rates does the provider charge? As stated earlier, if the rates are at an uncomfortable level for you, then you may be hesitant to make use of the accountant or attorney.

Are you comfortable with the provider?  You need to be able to talk with your attorney or accountant and feel like they are listening to you and understanding your concerns.  You don't want someone who doesn't take the time to hear all your concerns or ideas or who speaks condescendingly to you when responding to questions.  Take the time to talk with a potential accountant or attorney long enough to determine if you will feel comfortable with him/her.  If they are not interested in meeting with you as a potential client, then you know he/she isn't the right person for you.

You may not need to use the services of an attorney or accountant frequently, but you will definitely get better results if you do your homework ahead of time and pick the right one.  Check with your local SCORE chapter or Small Business Administration office for suggestions.  Talk to other business owners to see who they use and if they are satisfied with the service they receive.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What do small business owners struggle with: service providers

Most entrepreneurs or small business wear many hats, especially in the early days.  They can't do it all and finding good services providers to back them up is crucial to the success of the business.  While most hate to spend money on lawyers and accountants, the services provided by these individuals are very important.

Spending the money to have a lawyer review your lease, your customer contracts and employee contracts can save you money, time and frustration later.  Many new business owners are not familiar with all the terms in a lease and may not be aware that they will be responsible for taxes, maintenance costs and insurance as well as the regular rent and this can make a huge difference in their monthly expenses.

Having an accountant set up your accounting system and helping monitor your cash flow is also key to the success of a new business.  I can't tell you how many times a start up is aghast when they finally get their accounting set up and realize how much money they have spent on networking or packaging or office supplies.  Just keeping an eye on the checking account balance isn't the same as knowing exactly what you are spending the money on.  Getting the accounting set up before you start the business means you will be able to compare how you are actually spending the money to your budget or business plan.  A good accountant can spot potential cash flow issues before they arise and help the business owner make adjustments to avoid the problem.

Hopefully this has helped persuade any potential entrepreneurs to find a good attorney and accountant before they open shop and encourage existing small business owners to find good service partners as well.  Next week we will discuss how to find the right attorney and accountant.