Starting your own business and becoming a small business owner is part of many Americans’ dreams. For some though, it can become a nightmare. There are definitely some right ways and wrong ways to approach starting your own business. Over my tenure as an experienced business advisor, I have seen plenty of heartache and additional expense along the way. Here are some of Do’s and Don’ts to consider if you want to start your own business:
- Do: Go simple – Unless someone besides your spouse will own the business with you, you don’t need anything other than a simple limited liability company. It offers you liability protection while minimizing your tax filing requirements. Being the sole owner and having this sort of entity allows you to file you business’s activity on a Schedule C on your Form 1040. Until the business grows and is successful, this entity type will likely be sufficient for your small start-up.
- Don’t: Go cheap – Small business owners tend to think they can or should do everything themselves. A lot of sweat equity goes into starting a new business, but be smart and humble enough to know the difference between what you can do and what you should do. It’s OK to ask for help!
- Do: Involve professionals – This is an area where new business owners tend to want to go cheap. No one likes paying attorneys and folks don’t know they need a tax professional sometimes until it’s too late. Getting set up with the proper legal documents is a critical first step, and it’s one that new business owners like to try to tackle on their own. I know from experience that a good attorney is worth the expense. Don’t know who to ask? Start asking other established business owners who they use.
- Don’t: Do payroll yourself (unless you have experience) – Some of the heftiest penalties the IRS assesses involves payroll taxes. They don’t mess around when it comes to properly assessing and remitting payroll taxes and paying your employees. Even one slip up can set a business back several thousand dollars. The issues continue to compound if they are not properly taken care of, so don’t ignore this extremely important aspect of your business. Unless you have prior experience with payroll or you hire someone with experience, this is an area where you should seek professional help.
- Do: Consult your local Chamber of Commerce – Chambers of Commerce exist to assist businesses in a multitude of ways. Our local Chamber offers Small Business Counseling classes that are meant for new business owners who are just starting up a business. These classes include counseling, training and assistance for start-up businesses. This local resource can be invaluable if you choose to utilize it.
Starting a new business is a brave and exciting endeavor. Avoid common slip-ups by following the advice above and you’ll be well on your way to a successful start.
Around the same time you start your business, you’ll also want to consider your business’s growth strategy. Lee Beall, CPA, CEO at Rea & Associates, covered this topic in a podcast episode on unsuitable on Rea Radio. Check it out to learn what you need to do to establish or strengthen your business’s strategic plan.
By Lesley Mast, CPA, MAcc – Taxation (Wooster office)