What makes a company great? In all of my years of being practice, I have met with a lot of small business owners. Probably tens of thousands. I can usually tell who is going to make it in business, and who isn’t. Seeing as today is a lazy Sunday afternoon, I thought that I would share my experiences with what my thoughts are in what makes a great company.
Some business owners come from big businesses. They were usually executives, had assistants, and a lot of things that were done for them. Now for whatever reason they find themselves in business for themselves. They are typically doing something like consulting, or executive coaching. They were great when they came from Corporate America, but in the small business world, buzz words, and motivational posters won’t feed you. The first thing you have to learn when you are self-employed is that you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. You have to get in the trenches, do the busy work, answer your own phone realize that your day starts the second you wake up in the morning, and goes on until you go to bed at night. The world doesn’t want to wait on you. Especially when you are just starting out, and trying to build a business. No matter how much advertising you do. No matter who you were in Corporate America, you need to realize that the rules have changed. You are the boss, the business owner, the receptionist, the assistant. Starting out, the worst thing you can do is hire a staff to do all of that for you. You have to grow into that. Rule #1: Get your hands dirty.
There are some things you can do yourself, and others that you really shouldn’t touch. For instance, I am an accountant. I am licensed by the United States Treasury Department to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service. I have been in practice for over 20 years. I have been around the block, and have the war stories to prove it. Even if you do your own tax return with Turbo Tax, even if you took that Accounting class back in college, you really shouldn’t try to tackle the Internal Revenue Code yourself. Sure you can go to your state’s website and form a corporation or a limited liability company, but do you know exactly what you have gotten yourself into? The answer is a resounding NO. There are tax implications of forming a corporation or a limited liability company that you don’t know. You aren’t supposed to know. Knowledge of the Tax Code is for people like me that have no life. I wake up every day at around 4 or 4:30 am. After going to the gym and reading the Wall Street Journal, I spend about two hours every morning catching up on the Tax Code updates. That’s right, two hours every day. I read United States Tax Court Cases, Internal Revenue Service Bulletins, Internal Revenue Service Revenue Procedures, and guess what? This is on top of the 30 hours per year that I am required to take of Continuing Professional Education. You can’t be your own accountant. Further, you need to budget something for professional services. Don’t go around town looking for the cheapest accountant that you talk to. Of course price is important, but you want an accountant that you can work with. They should be assessable. They should be knowledgeable. They should dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” and keep you out of trouble. They should be able to not only advise you on tax matters, they should have some understanding of your business so they can help you make decisions about your business.
You don’t want to throw a lot of money at advertising. Advertising is expensive. Advertising takes time. Do what you can do for free. Learn how to build a website. Do self-promotion. Get some business cards printed. Wherever your office is, get to know the businesses and people around you. Network with people that you want to business with. Ask current clients for recommendation letters. Use Social Media to your favor, and most importantly build your brand. You can be the best at what you do, but you will starve if you don’t let people know about your business. There are literally thousands of articles on the internet about advertising, read them.
These are the keys to being a success. Take it from someone that meets with start-ups every day.
Craig W. Smalley, E.A., is a senior partner of CWSEAPA®, LLP. CWSEAPA® is a brand of financial, accounting, and tax services with offices in Florida, Delaware, and Nevada. Craig has been Admitted to Practice Before the Internal Revenue Service, is a Certified Estate Planner™, and is a Certified Tax Resolution Specialist™. Craig writes a tax column for the online newspaper Examiner.com, and has written twelve books on taxation.