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Article Contributed by Noah Y. Rue

It’s no secret that starting a new business is stressful. There’s a lot to plan for, a lot to pay for, and an endless stream of potentially unforeseen circumstances.

It’s also easier than ever to start a small business, and that means more people are doing it. Not without cause, either! 91 percent of startup founders surveyed by First Round Capital agree that now is a great time to start a small business.

More people starting businesses equals more competition among entrepreneurs. The pressure is on to create a profitable business that will outlast the others in the market. In the frenzy of getting your doors open, it can be easy to get caught up in the immediacy of it all and forget to forecast for the future.

If you just focus on the present, though, and don’t have a plan for scaling your business up as you grow, you may make it past opening day and then have no direction. While you’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on your business plan, keep a few things in mind to set you up for success down the road.

Plan for Efficiency

Nothing will curtail your business like spending time and energy when you don’t have to. It may seem simple (and cost effective) to just do everything yourself, but it can lead to major pitfalls down the road.

As a business owner, it will behoove you to automate whatever processes you can afford to, though don’t assume this means you can ignore them. You’ll still need to keep an eye on the processes to make sure everything’s running smoothly. However, with the magic of computerized payroll systems, predetermined monthly supply shipments, and scheduled email blasts, you’ll be able to concentrate on growing the bulk of your business.

While your business is small, take the time to standardize as much as possible. Any intake papers, forms, quotes, etc., should look the same. Having uniform templates will ensure that all the necessary information is gathered for a given task. You’ll minimize the likelihood of something getting overlooked or of key details being missed out on.

Have one of your first employees write everything down. And I do mean everything. As business processes get refined and put into regular practice, document what the steps are and keep an up-to-date version of office processes available. This will help with future training materials as your business grows, cutting down on the time needed to go back and create these documents retroactively.

Cultivate Company Culture

As soon as your company grows, you’ll have to hire. It’s a mixed blessing for new companies — on one hand, you’re growing. On the other hand … who likes sorting through resumes?

Employees are the lifeblood of a company, and the type of people you hire now will have a massive impact on the type of company you become.

Millennials are redefining the workplace, and one of their massive sticking points is culture. The way a job feels and the prevailing attitude of management is a determinant in whether or not they’ll stick with a company. In order to recruit the top talent, you’ll need to create a desirable company culture.

While it may seem daunting, the task of cultivating culture may be easier than you think.

Primarily, hire wisely. This goes back to employees being your company’s lifeblood — hire the type of people you want your company built on. Be picky; don’t feel like you have to settle just because you’re a new business. You may not be able to hire the top in the industry, but look for passionate, dedicated, curious people who align with your company’s goals. And remember, when your company is small, every new hire has an impact — personalities are important.

Second, once you’ve hired people, treat them well. Millennials are looking for management that is transparent, honest, and available. Be available to your employees when they have questions, be transparent about the business and their progress as employees, and generally just treat your employees like people. Never underestimate the power of a thank you.

Finally, make work fun. This doesn’t mean everything has to be a game or that productivity has to suffer. Provide incentives like a monthly learning lunch, company snacks, or seasonal events for employees to enjoy, and don’t make them dependent on merit or competition. Creating events where employees can bond and form friendships will go a long way towards solidifying your company’s culture.

Check Your Legality

No one wants to think about legal trouble — that’s only for shady businesses, right?

Unfortunately, no. An uncomfortably large percentage of new businesses will end up with legal trouble at some point in their tenure, and no amount of company culture can wish that away if it comes for you.

A good place to start is to look up other businesses within your niche and see what they’ve had trouble with. Learn from other people’s’ mistakes (or unfortunate circumstances) so that you can cover your bases and make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you. Additionally, ask other business owners what kind of insurance they have and what they’d recommend — you may be surprised at what business insurance can cover.

Make sure all of your company practices and documents are up to snuff. This includes hiring practices, employee agreements, workplace conduct, and other regulations. It may be worth consulting a lawyer to make sure you’re covered in the event of a suit.

Finally, when dealing with clients, create airtight invoices and contracts — no company wants to end up in small claims court for balances that a client refuses to pay. It takes time and resources away from other business functions and defers getting paid for longer than some new businesses can handle.

Go Forth and Conquer!

Starting a business is a big endeavor, and it can be hard to see more than a few weeks ahead. Don’t let the pressure overwhelm your judgement. If you plan for your future now, you’ll be leagues ahead of your competitors once you’re more established. Following the tips in this article will makes sure that you’re not playing catch up a year from now.


 
 
 

 
 

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