At this stage of my business, I am a sole proprietor and have chosen to remain as such for as long as there are no greater advantages to form a different legal entity. I came across this article yesterday from one of my favorite entrepreneur info magazines, Inc.com, and it got me thinking about the challenges, and rewards of being in business for myself.
According to the article and the Small Business Administration, “there are an estimated 18.6 million sole proprietorships in the U.S. today, representing three-quarters of all small businesses”. That’s a lot of us out there, taking risks every day and riding on the hope of being one of the small percentage that makes it.
In the article, Leslie Taylor writes: Wearing too many hats prevents solo business owners from expanding, according to a new study. More than a third of sole proprietors say their greatest challenge is finding the time and resources to generate new business, according to a new survey.
I identify with many of the difficulties; finding ways to be efficient, keeping up with technology (those pesky computer breakdowns are enough to trash my day!), offloading the mundane and routinized tasks.
However, I have been forced to evaluate how I do business so that I can manage a full work day, and show up as a mom and spouse. Here are some of my lessons learned:
Invest upfront in competence. Even though my web designers and programmers have cost me a pretty penny over time, I have been proud of the comments I’ve gotten implying that I am coming across as a professional.
Same with getting advice. I have made certain to meet regularly with my CPA, various business coaches, my financial planner and other professionals who have supported my business development.
Even if it seems expensive to invest in getting professional help, ask yourself: What does my business need right now? And, what is my likely return on investment?
If your budget is truly stretched, consider tapping into the wealth of expertise of the counselors, provided on a volunteer basis for free, at your nearest SCORE office.
Outsource and delegate what you can. It is easier than ever to outsource those parts of your business that you:
• hate doing
• feel incompetent doing
• shouldn’t be doing because someone else can do them at less than your going hourly rate.
Gone are the days when you had to employ someone right away. A competent virtual assistant is a huge blessing. Not only can he or she assist you with scheduling, correspondence and even sales calls, but you can expect to get help with managing your website, blog, creative projects and even business strategy. After all, these are established entrepreneurs themselves. Find out more at AssistU.
If you have a small number of employees, think about outsourcing payroll management, many HR functions such as employee handbook creation, and of course, your IT management.
Develop a “marketing machine”. It takes a lot of patience, creativity and excellent listening to figure out your best marketing strategy.
Once you’ve got a plan, find a way to systematize your marketing activities to create a “marketing machine”, capable of producing consistent results.
Whether that is a company newsletter with valuable content that highlights your company’s skills, or a rousing presentation that repeatedly draws inquiries after you have spoken, or a series of articles that helps position you as an expert – find YOUR marketing talents and put them to work for you, over and over again.
Two great marketing resources for small businesses are: Action Plan Marketing and Duct Tape Marketing.
Participate in or create a network of professionals who support entrepreneurs. One of the smartest moves I made early on in business was to join a wonderful network of professionals. The membership, and their vast numbers of clients, represents a huge array of industries. Even though most members are not in my target market, they have clients who are, and they are also marketing, accounting, legal, business development, information technology and financial professionals. As a result, I can get any business question I could possibly imagine answered!
What cheered me greatly at the conclusion of the article were the statistics that, “while nearly two-thirds of respondents say they work as hard or harder for themselves than they did for their previous employer, 83% said they are happier working for themselves.”
Count me in!!!