Category Archives: Business Basics

Here’s what you need to choose a business structure.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has a very helpful resource for those struggling to decide if they should have a sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited liability company (LLC), corporation, nonprofit or cooperative.

They say that “the business structure you choose influences everything from day-to-day operations, to taxes and how much of your personal assets are at risk. You should choose a business structure that gives you the right balance of legal protections and benefits.”

Here is a link to the resource page on their website.

Is it time to turn your side hustle into a business?

These days, lots of people have a side hustle to help them earn extra income, develop new skills, become a small business owner and quit their day job. Lots of them connect with a SCORE mentor to help them transition their side hustle into a full time business. Here are some of the steps they often need to take. 

Adopt the right mindset 

First, you’ll need to adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset says that people constantly change, develop, and learn as they work through obstacles. 

When you become a business owner, you will face many challenges… with customers, employees, contractors and suppliers. You will have to handle marketing, sales, financial, taxes, and more. 

A growth mindset will help you navigate these challenges and focus on reaching your goals. 

Make sure your portfolio is strong 

Building a solid portfolio will help you attract new clients or customers. You will need to register a website domain, create a website with a professional theme, and add 2-5 portfolio pieces. For each piece, include a short description explaining the processes and skills you used. 

When choosing portfolio pieces to feature, be sure to select work that demonstrates your strengths and the diversity of your skills. 

Take steps to scale 

As you scale your side hustle into a business, your workload will increase. To manage your work efficiently, you should invest in tools to automate repetitive tasks. For example:

  • Scheduling apps like Trello, AirTable, ClickUp, or Asana
  • Accounting software like Quicken or Wave
  • Payment processing software like PayPal, Payoneer, or TransferWise
  • Grammar-checking apps like Writer.com and Grammarly.com

You could also use business plan software to create a long-term plan to guide your side hustle’s growth. Effective business plans include a financial plan, competitive analysis, market analysis, goals, sales and marketing plans.

Seek financing

If you are hiring employees, investing in software, starting a retail location, or buying inventory for your business, you may have to seek financing. 

Financing gives you the cash you need to invest in solutions that will increase your income long-term. 

There are many ways to seek financing, including:

  • Seeking investment from friends, family, and coworkers
  • Applying for a Small Business Administration loan
  • Starting an online crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo or GoFundMe
  • Acquiring a bridge loan
  • Applying for local, state, or federal government grants

Establish your business. 

You will need to establish an official presence for your company by:

  • Open a business bank account 
  • Register your business with your city, state and Feds.
  • Filing for a Tax ID Number (TIN)

You must establish an official presence online. Research shows that 68% of American consumers research a business on search engines before purchasing anything. To establish your digital presence, be sure to:

  • Add your business to Google My Business
  • Optimize your website with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so it ranks well in search engines 
  • Start Yelp and Yellow Pages accounts 
  • Start a Business Facebook page 

Start actively marketing your business

As investing in digital marketing for your business can provide a return-on-investment (ROI) between 10% and 43% according to Statista.com, it’s a great way to increase your revenue. There are many ways to market your business, including:

  • Start a blog 
  • Run a social media ad campaign 
  • Invest in Google advertising 
  • Set up Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn profiles for your business
  • Create a podcast 
  • Invest in email marketing 
  • Host webinars 

You don’t have to do all of these things at once. Just pick the ones that make the most sense and add them to your to-do list. To get the most out of your marketing, you can monitor your success with Google Analytics. 

Focus on your customers 

Making sure that your customers are happy is a great way to scale your business. 

To learn what your people want or need, be sure to have discussions with customers or potential customers. Find out what benefits your products or services provide from their perspective. 

Work hard to create a customer-centric culture. 

Get the help you need

As you’re developing your new business, reach out to SCORE to connect with a mentor. SCORE mentors can guide you and provide feedback. With expertise in all aspects of starting and growing a small business, SCORE mentoring is a valuable (and free) resource that can help you succeed.

Ask SCORE: How can I get more customers? 

By Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE 

For many years, my business efforts were focused on helping client companies market their products and services. I was an advertising agency creative director for five years. On day one, there were just two of us. Five years later, we had a lot of clients and a team of 36. 

Our sales and marketing efforts worked. When the owner closed the agency for medical reasons, I created a virtual ad agency. Six months later I had seven clients, all on the list of the largest companies headquartered in Orange County, CA. That was my goal, and I reached it. 

Working with companies that were large and small, I learned many things. One of the most important was that entrepreneurs need a bullet-point marketing plan. They need to focus some of their energy on finding new customers and the rest on delivering excellent products and services. 

Short answers to the following questions will give you an excellent marketing plan.

Ask SCORE: How can you make writing a business plan less intimidating? 

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE 

Writing a business plan is one of the important steps an entrepreneur needs to take before launching a new business. There is no shortage of people who feel that writing a business plan is an intimidating task. However, many business owners are likely to agree that their plan played a major role in their ability to launch and grow a profitable business.

A business plan isn’t about the document itself, it’s about the discovery process you use to create it. 

Business plans can be tackled in a number of different ways, but all should go after the same result – to clearly demonstrate the viability of your business to generate revenue and turn a profit. Your plan needs to state the business case for the business itself, discuss marketplace, financials, SWOT analysis, and much more. It’s a lot to think about. 

Too often owners decide to jump right in rather than take the time to properly plan. The benefits of planning – and the investment in the time it takes to write the plan – are invaluable in the end. Thinking through your start-up costs and revenue projections ahead of time, for example, will help you make the types of decisions that could be the difference between your business losing money or generating a profit.

When you’re ready to start your business plan, create manageable goals and hold yourself accountable for meeting deadlines.

The easiest way to get started is to create a task list with manageable goals and deadlines. Here are some tips to make writing a business plan less intimidating and easier to accomplish.

Ask SCORE: What’s the best way to communicate with my customers?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

You’ve seen people so absorbed with their smartphones that they appear oblivious to what’s going on around them. True, everyone is entitled to a bit of privacy, and perhaps that message or video is really, really important. However, spending too much time in a “heads-down” mode can be off-putting and, sometimes dangerous.

Many entrepreneurs, particularly those who work from home, operate their small businesses much the same way when they rely too heavily on email to communicate with clients. Email is convenient, particularly for work related issues and updates, but numerous studies have come to the same conclusion — customers want to be treated as people, not as return email addresses. 

When you take a technology-centric approach to communication, you’re missing an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Don’t you think they would rather do business with someone they know? Wouldn’t you? 

Tips for Driving Small Business Success with Strengths-Based Leadership

The philosophies surrounding business leadership practices have changed dramatically over the past several decades. Years ago, it was common for a single owner to call the shots and dictate orders to his or her employees. Today, the research is undeniable, showing that the most successful companies are the ones with leaders who focus on taking care of the team so the team can take care of the business.

Small business ownership is less about running a company and more about leading a team.

One of today’s most respected business leadership approaches comes from a landmark study on leadership strengths that sought to better understand how successful business leaders lead. Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s international bestseller StrengthsFinder 2.0 distills 30-years of their research on strengths-based leadership into one of the most thorough accounts of what it takes to successfully lead an organization.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 reveals the study’s discovery of three keys to effective leadership: knowing your strengths and investing in others’ strengths, getting people with the right strengths on your team, and understanding and meeting a set of basic needs of those who look to you for leadership. Continue reading

What Tax Documents Should You Keep?

And which ones should you shred?

If your filing cabinet is bursting at the seams, you’re not alone. As a small business owner, you have a lot of paperwork to keep track of – everything from business licenses, employee records, lunch receipts – the list goes on.

Some of the more challenging records to manage are your business’ tax documents and all of their supporting paperwork. Navigating tax document requirements is complicated and is often unchartered territory for a small business.

As a default, many business owners end up unnecessarily saving every last receipt for years and years. Or, they become overwhelmed and throw away important information. Continue reading

Should I take on a business partner?

Are two heads always better than one?

When it comes to taking on a partner to start or grow a small business, there’s no right or wrong answer. 

Partners can complement each other’s management skills and bring benefits such as special expertise and client relationships. 

As with any relationship, there are trade-offs that must be carefully considered before deciding whether adding a partner is a wise move, and then you have to find the right person for the role.

If it sounds a bit like marriage, you’re not far off. Having the right partner can be a terrific advantage for a business. Making the partnership successful takes as much energy, effort, and positive feelings for one another as it does to make a marriage work.

There are several important things to consider before choosing a partner and entering into a business partnership. Continue reading

How to develop a successful new product.

Developing and launching a new product requires research, resources, and a determination to follow through despite roadblocks and setbacks. If you have a product idea, how can you better ensure your development effort goes smoothly, and the end result is a win for you and your company?

While product development comes with varying levels of complexity that depend on the type of product you plan to create, several key ingredients for success remain universal. Continue reading