You’re excited to get your new small business launched. You’ve come up with an idea for a great new product or service, and you’re eager to get going. But early on in the life of your new small company, carve out just a bit of time to meet with the following four types of people. These four can save you lots of headaches—and money—down the road.
** A Lawyer
When I went into business for the first time, I spent two hours with an attorney. We wrote up a simple letter-of-agreement I could use with clients, and we discussed how to price my services, collect overdue fees, and minimize taxes.
If you’re developing a new technology or invention, you’ll need an attorney who regularly deals with intellectual property law to protect your ideas. If you’re in a highly-regulated industry, seek one with experience in that industry to help you navigate red tape. And if you’re going to be raising money from sophisticated investors, such as a venture capitalist, it’s ideal to find a lawyer who’s helped other entrepreneurs negotiate term sheets and investments.
Most small businesses just need an attorney who handles general business law and works with small companies. Ask for referrals, especially from other small businesses or entrepreneurs.
** SBDC counselor
It’s always a good idea to get advice from an experienced business consultant, especially when you’re just starting out. And there’s a way for you to get one free.
One of the best services provided by the U.S. government to small businesses is the national network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). There are about 1000 SBDCs, located primarily at community colleges, serving nearly one million small businesses annually.
SBDCs provide free one-on-one consulting and low-cost training programs on critical business skills such as business planning and Quickbooks. Almost all SBDC locations have libraries with books and materials to assist you in planning and running your business.
SBDC counselors can assist you not only as you start your business, but as you grow your business as well. You can find a list of SBDCs online here. http://americassbdc.org/home/find-your-sbdc
I love my accountant. I consider him one of the most valuable partners I have in my business.
A good small business accountant can help you in most aspects of managing your money. He or she can help you set up your accounting procedures and books, explain any financial or tax issues you’ll face, and help in tax planning. You’ll avoid a lot of problems by getting things set up the right way right from the start. And you’ll almost certainly lower your taxes too!
Believe me, a good accountant can save you more than you pay them.
Here are some questions to ask an accountant:
* What kinds of taxes will I have to pay? What are my tax deadlines?
* How can I reduce my taxes?
* Which expenses are deductible, non-deductible or have to be depreciated?
* What kind of bookkeeping system should I set up?
* How can I set up systems to reduce the possibility of theft or embezzlement?
* How should I pay myself and what are the tax implications?
* Should I use the cash or accrual form of bookkeeping?
* Do I need to keep track of inventory? If so, what method do I use?
* How do I handle payroll and payroll taxes?
* Do I have to collect sales tax? When? From whom?
* What kind of retirement program can I set up and how much can I contribute each year?
* What other accounting and tax considerations are there for my type business?
** Insurance agent
One of the most frustrating expenses you’ll incur when running a business is money spent on insurance. And figuring out insurance coverage will be daunting too. There’s liability insurance, health insurance, fire and theft insurance, and professional liability insurance for some. That’s why you need an agent to help you navigate this morass.
Ideally, you’ll find an agent who understands companies of your size and industry. It’s best if they’re a broker who can offer you policies from a number of different companies rather than just representing one insurance company’s products. Some trade associations offer lower-cost insurance specifically for the needs of companies such as yours.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on May 1, 2015