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Starting and growing a business is one of the most challenging things you can do. The drive to jump in head first is admirable, but it’s actually a smarter idea to get a solid overview of what you need to do so that you have some kind of direction or plan to work with.

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Planning ahead doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges, get sidetracked or end up in a dead end. It’s just about increasing your chances of success, knowing how to move forward and having more options available to you. To help you get started with your business, we aim to provide an overview of all the important aspects of your business as well as tips for your success in everything from sales/marketing, business technology, hiring/training, managing your business, accounting/payroll, to insurance and investing.

Business Sales and Marketing

The lifeblood of your business will be sales and marketing. The difference between sales and marketing is that sales is about the process of closing the sale. It’s about understanding your target prospect, communicating the value of what you have to offer, and convincing the person to buy. Marketing, on the other hand, is about creating a promotion for your products or services. Usually, service oriented business or businesses that sell high priced products will need to excel in both sales and marketing.

Most business models, however, can depend on marketing to do the selling for them, so it’s important that you prepare a marketing strategy. The marketing mix is one of the most effective ways to develop a strategy. It’s defined by the 4 Ps which stands for product, place, price and promotion. By fleshing out each P, you’ll be able to create a usable strategy which includes information about how your product will be positioned, how to reach your market, how much you’ll be selling the product for, and how you are going to promote.

Business Technology

The next step is making sure that your business has the technology to keep running or run efficiently. The business technology that you need will depend on the type of business that you are operating. For example, an Internet eCommerce business would need a hosting platform, email management system, shopping cart system, etc. A retail store would need a POS system, cashier system and an inventory management system. Virtually all businesses have a need for cloud storage.

You need to get a list of the technology you need by studying how your type business runs. After coming up with a list, you should research vendors that provide the service you need. Compare different vendors based on features, price and customer support to choose the best one for your business.

Hiring, Recruiting, and Training

If your business is ready to take the next big step and hire employees, you need to make sure that you have an effective strategy for recruiting new employees. The secret really is that you’ll need to go sell the challenging aspect of the position and go through a few dozen candidates before you find that one great hire. If you are really struggling to find a budget to hire a full time employee, you can use a temp agency to hire a temporary worker.

Training is another obstacle you have to face when hiring a new employee. The best way to lower training costs and time is to hire right in the first place. Hire an employee that has experience in the position you need to fill. It’s going to be difficult trying to train an employee while all the other aspects of your business. If a prospective employee has many qualifications but is lacking a few core skills, it’s a good idea to invest in a training program rather than doing most of the training yourself.

Managing and Growing the Business

Managing a business can be just as hard as starting a business. You need to be a capable leader, be on top of your financials, have a solid business strategy and of course, manage people. The key to making managing easier is to set up systems for every aspect of the business so that it’s easy to figure out what’s happening and get your employees to understand what needs to happen. You can find many topics on managing your business on the SBA’s site to help you get a broader overview of management.

Once you learn to manage your business, and specifically how to avoid the biggest management mistakes, you can focus on growing your business. Growing your business means that you’ll be investing more of your profits back into your business. It’s likely that you’re going to spend more money expanding your reach in the marketing channels you’re using as well as expanding into new channels.

The key to growing will depend on the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, so you’ll constantly find yourself going back to change or add on to your existing marketing strategy. Of course, sometimes it can be about innovation and efficiency. You may find a new way to run your business that can cut costs or you may find low cost strategic partnerships that open you to a new audience.

Accounting and Payroll

Accounting and payroll is another essential part of running a business. You need to make sure that your financials are in order so that you make better business decisions and keep your business running smoothly. Here are some basic accounting tips you should follow: open a separate business bank account (to separate it from your personal account); conduct a monthly review; use your business credit card to track expenses; pay attention to cash flow.

Payroll is more than paying your employees what they are due. You have to consider many factors such as taxes, deductions, paid vacation days, and more. Payroll isn’t something that can be taught in a few sentences, so it’s best to take out some time to look deep into the topic. Intuit has a very helpful guide on payroll, particularly on implementing it with your first employee.

Both accounting and payroll can be taken care of using accounting software like Quickbooks. If you feel you have the time and knowledge to take care of your business finances, then Quickbooks is a great solution. If not, it’s a really smart decision to hire a bookkeeper. Their fees can range anywhere from $75-$200 an hour.

If your company is involved in research and development, you may be eligible for the federal RD Tax Credit.

Insurance and Investing

Every business needs insurance. The basic policies are property, liability and worker’s compensation. You need to look into what kind of business insurance you require. Sometimes, insurance isn’t necessary but the consequences of something happening can ruin your business, so it’s usually a better idea to have insurance than put yourself at risk. There are also cases when having insurance can lead to you winning clients over competitors that do not have insurance, making it worth the investment.

Finally, you’ll have to make a decision about your surplus. It may seem like investing money back into your business as soon as possible is a good idea, but you really have to do a thorough analysis to make sure that you can afford to invest the money. Problems such as cash flow issues, outstanding debts, personal expenses, and volatile sales periods may come into play. You may also want to set aside some of the money in case of emergencies. So before you make decide to invest, consider all the other financial factors and weigh your options.

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