There are so many little details that go into running a small business that it can be hard to keep track of as a new business owner. Knowing what you have in place already and what still needs to be done to keep your business properly organized and running smoothly is key for sustainable success. With that in mind, today we have a checklist of things you should have dealt with either when setting up your business initially, or on a yearly basis. Have you completed all of these? If so, congratulations — that’s a huge accomplishment that you should be proud of. If not, that is alright – maybe you just need a little help from a virtual assistant.
Getting all the Legal Stuff Done
When starting a new business or overhauling and rebranding an existing one, it’s wise to conduct a trademark search at the federal and state levels. If the business name, slogan, or other pieces of identifying branding you’ve come up with are already trademarked, you need to determine if your use of the name would cause legal trouble or consumer confusion. Ask your county clerk’s office if anyone has already registered any of the names on your list of possibilities as a fictitious business name in the past. If you deem it necessary, you can apply for your own trademarks and protections.
Once your business is set up and running, you definitely need to have all your paperwork in order, as well. Required documentation may include any of the following: Partnership Agreement, Buyout/Buy-sell Agreement, Articles of Organization, Operating Agreement, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and Employee Contracts.
When it comes to legal and accounting issues, you want to be as prepared as possible. Make sure that you’re intimately familiar with the IRS checklist for starting a business (or whatever your country’s equivalent is). You should probably consult a small-business attorney to answer any legal questions you have from the start, or a year into running your own business.
Ensure that you’re aware of your requirements as an employer under your local employment standards laws. Get liability insurance for your business space if customers or clients will visit. Are you required to provide worker’s compensation coverage or health insurance? What about coverage for yourself, whether associated directly through your business or separately as a private individual? The last thing you want is to be taken to court by an employee or contractor.
Doing Your Business Type Registration
Regardless of which country your business is located in, they all tend to have a registration process which must be followed. Consider and select the most appropriate business type/structure to operate your business under. Are you going to be running a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, Corporation, or Non-profit? Check out your registration requirements, determine what information is needed, where you have to send it, and plan when and how you’ll fill out the necessary forms.
These registration processes may be separate from other required registration processes for business names, license(s), or taxes, so make sure you’re on top of all the steps required to own and operate your business. Determine whether any industry specific licenses and/or regulations may apply to your business, as well. You may need any number of local or state permits or licenses, especially if you’re selling a tangible product.
Planning for Tax Season
As a small business owner, it is vitally important to understand your tax obligations, including effective record-keeping and deductions. You’ll need to have a handle on income tax, employment taxes, and other federal, state, and local tax obligations for small businesses, including payment methods. Have you figured out your payroll, trade, and taxes for a small business? Are your books being run under cash or accrual methods? Do you follow a normal calendar year or different business fiscal year? What’s your projected income for the year, and how will that impact your tax rates?
You’ll likely need to register a tax number associated with your business. Closely examine the basic tax scheme for your type of business. Learn the difference between capital and current expenses, and figure out which ones apply to you. Doing this may seem tedious, but having all the financial aspects of your business worked out will save you countless headaches in future, especially if you get audited.
If you’re operating a business or have any kind of self-employment income, you really need to set up an orderly record keeping and accounting system. You probably want to contact a qualified accountant or certified bookkeeper to assist you with this, at least for the first time. The length of time you’re required to keep records for can be variable depending on where you live and operate your business, so make sure you’re aware of that.
Creating a Procedure Manual
If you don’t have or haven’t even thought about creating a procedure manual, this is something to get on top of right away. A procedure manual is one of the most important documents for team members and other support staff who work with your business. In it you should include: necessary usernames and passwords for accessing systems used by your business (including shopping cart and email marketing accounts); banners, fonts, logos, imagery, and bios for content creation; social media editorial calendars and outlines; and online procedure lists for the any services/websites they may have to use.
Having a procedure manual allows your virtual assistant, in-house assistant, web designer, and/or technical support team to quickly access whatever information they need to get work done. Instead of calling or emailing you to ask the same questions and obtain the same information again and again (thereby wasting both their and your time, which could be better spent working), it is all in one central, easily accessible place.
If you’re having difficulty finding the time to handle these basic but important tasks, consider delegating them to a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants are commonly asked to handle multiple aspects of business administration. Having someone else pour over forms, deal with bureaucratic processes, and liaise with the appropriate legal/financial/governmental bodies or individuals can save you a lot of stress and frustration. Sounds pretty good, right? So what are you waiting for – it is officially tax season.