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Behind the Bitterness of Building a Business

The Cost of Being the Boss

By Johnny Duncan

Many start-up Internet companies today have hit it big! From the very beginning, practically everything the owners of these start-ups touched turned into gold. In a short period of time, these companies were built into multi-million dollar powerhouses. As much media attention as these companies receive, they are the exception. Most of us do not have it so simple. For most of us, building a business is a difficult journey with numerous obstacles along the way.

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  • Most of us who have started a sign business, or any business for that matter, did so because of a dream or vision we've had for some time. It could have been because we saw a need that was not fulfilled by anyone else. Or, we may have been dissatisfied with how the people we worked for were doing the job and knew we could do it better. Whatever the reason, the passion was there and so we jumped in with both feet. That is when reality happened. One by one the many overhead costs of running a business hit us. The costs of insurance, including liability, auto, fire, worker's compensation, taxes, suppliers, vendors, marketing and advertising expenses and many, many more can overwhelm you. The dream of building a business and making a difference within your field of "expertise" becomes blurred by reality and eventually diminishes to a "what could have been". Fortunately, it does not have to be that way. There are at least three preventive steps you can take to avoid these pitfalls.

    You may get weary of hearing about the indispensability for planning when starting or even expanding a business, but the importance of a effectual business plan cannot be over-emphasized. It is essential if you are to have a snowball's chance for obtaining business financing. A well-constructed business plan is mandatory when dealing with prospective investors. The first thing they look for is a complete, concise, and thorough business plan. Your business plan is where you will keep all of the details, plans, forecasts, and financial data that will help lead you through the early days of your business. There are many good resources available today to assist you in writing a good business plan. Some good books include: Be Your Own Business! The Definitive Guide to Entrepreneurial Success by LaVerne L. Ludden, Ed.D., and The Perfect Business Plan Made Simple by William Lasher, Ph.D., CPA. Both can be found at Barnes and Noble bookstores. On the Internet, try Hoovers Online as a good resource with great links for business plan writing.

    Professional Advice
    Attorneys: When it comes to gathering up professional advice for your business, the hourly rates for attorneys, accountants, and consultants may seem far too expensive, but depending upon the advice you need and are given, it is far cheaper to pay for their advice than to take the time to try to learn all the of complex regulations by trial and error, which could end up getting you into a lot of trouble. Besides, getting legal and accounting advice ahead of time will save you a great deal of time that you could spend on building your business.

    It is not necessary to keep an attorney on an expensive retainer. It is far better to just make a list of your questions as they pertain to the law, and schedule a meeting with a lawyer who has the experience with your business. Stress that you are starting a business and that you can only afford an hour or two of the attorney's time. If the lawyer hesitates or gives any indication of being long-winded, find another attorney who is better suited for your questions. If you are incorporating your business, or purchasing an existing business, you probably will be better off hiring a lawyer to tend to the troublesome little details.

    Accountants: Schedule time to meet with an accountant in the beginning phases of building your business. All the questions you think you may be able to answer on your own as time goes by will only bog you down and create unwarranted frustration. Go ahead and pay up front for the advice of a good accountant. As with the attorney, you may need to go through a few in order to find one that suites your needs and personality. Don't hesitate to ask others within the industry you are starting the business to recommend a good accountant. Usually, an accountant with a good reputation receives his or her business through referrals.

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    Consultants: Although the term consultant has been so overused as to be almost nonessential, the truth is that a person who has experience in the business you plan to start can be an invaluable source of information about what you can anticipate, both in the early days and a couple of years or more down the road. They can look over your budget, and your experience (your business plan), and provide a detailed report informing you where to fill in the blanks regarding your goals or specifying any trouble spots to be on the lookout for and what to do should they arise.

    One of the most frequently overlooked and most valuable sources of information is the Small Business Administration (SBA). They can offer you courses and seminars to assist you in building your business as well as publications and videotapes. Also, the Service Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE) is an SBA-affiliated association that matches up experienced retired executives with aspiring and experienced business owners who need counseling on running their businesses. To reach the national office, call (800) 634-0245. To reach the SBA Answer Desk, call (800) 8-ASK-SBA.

    Personal Budget
    Even though keeping up with business expenses may seem important at his juncture, it is equally important to keep tabs on the money you spend on the personal side of your ledger. If you've never kept a budget for your personal life, now is a great time to start. You will have to account for and keep track of every penny you spend in your business; doing the same thing when it comes to your personal life will help you to manage your money better in both areas. As a bonus, it will mean you will have more money to invest in building your business because people who stick to a budget tend not to squander away their money. It is a good idea to prepare two personal budgets: one for how you live now, and the other that you will use once you have started building your business.

    The best way to get a handle on your spending habits is with a comprehensive financial software such as Quicken. You can find helpful tips for budgeting and even download sample plans when you visit Planning, seeking the right counsel through attorneys, accountants, and consultants, and creating and using a budget beginning with your personal financing will all help to kick-start your business into a building mode. These preventative measures will never eliminate the start-up costs involved in developing a business, but they will help to cushion the blow and ease the pain. You may have a great idea for a business and even have all the "right stuff" to take that idea from the drawing board to fruition. But, if you don't plan for the potholes along the road to building your business, you will have sleepless nights and headaches or even fail. I hate to reuse an annoying saying, but it is true: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Sneak in from behind your ideas and dreams of starting a business, and behead the bitterness of building your business!

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