There are so many things that need to be done to run a business and make a profit.  In the beginning there are a lot of one-time decisions, and then later there are a lot of areas to cover. 

You are responsible for all of these areas.  You can obtain advice from your CPA, your attorney, your banker, and other owners, but in the end you are making the decisions.  You will be wearing all of the hats, at one time or another each month.

Perhaps you are an expert in project management, so you may not need much help in operations, but the other areas will be more difficult.  If you were an accountant in a professional position before you started your business you will not need much help in this area.  Think about the different functional areas of your business – and what person could be an advisor in each of these areas, where you are not an expert:


Your CPA will help you to set up your bookkeeping.  Perhaps you will learn to do the input, or have a bookkeeper do that for you.  You can find a bookkeeper by 1) asking your CPA for referrals, 2) check with your Chamber of Commerce for members, 3) read your local once-a-week newspaper for ads.  Interview several and if possible ask your CPA to interview your selection to be sure your selected candidate is technically capable.


Most start up businesses cannot afford to hire outside marketing help, the help to locate and connect with your best target prospects.  So you end up figuring out how to do that yourself.  There is a super advantage to doing it yourself; when you learn to do the marketing for yourself (in the beginning) you will learn what works and what does not work; you will figure out what works and be able to repeat it time and time again; you will feel in charge of your future  and that you can create your own success.  There are lots of resources to help you along the way.  Talk with other owners is one.  Also read good books such as Riches in Niches by Susan Friedman.  Susan helps you narrow your planned target market in a way that you can become known as an expert in that area.  Read good blogs abour marketing; a great one is Chris Brown’s Branding & Marketing.


In the beginning you will be handling all of the operations.  If you are a graphic designer it will be up to you to find prospects,  prepare and deliver proposals, get  signed contracts, deliver the work, send the invoices and deposit the checks.  Usually the start up owner is very good at delivering the work.  The other functions you need to practice, do over and over again, until you are good at it.  I sometimes suggest that a new owner deliver some services to buyers outside of their little home town.  Then if everything is not as perfect as you would like, you will not run into the previous client in the grocery store.


You are responsible to talk with your attorney and use contracts and agreements that  are suggested.  If you want to prepare for the meerting with your attorney, read on line to be familiar with the content of a sales agreement, or a non-compete (for an employee or subcontractor).  Here are two sites that cover legal info in lay language: nolopress or legalzoom.  You can read up on the topic, and then be better prepared to discuss the law and your needs with your attorney (and you won’t spend as much time with her teaching you about different parts of the law).


Make a list of the other experts you may need.  Computer repair, IT installation, software training, transcriptions services, cleaning person, graphic designer, writer, etc.  Keep a list of the people you meet who might be good suppliers to call and interview when you are ready for their services.  This will help you get ready to wear all those hats!

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Clean Space for Creativity in your Small Business

by Norma Rist on September 21, 2010

thank you Alex Osterwalder – flickr

My earliest memory of visiting the Akron Beacon Journal offices was the look of books and papers everywhere.  All surface areas seems to be filled with papers.  Where did they sit to actually write, or to make notes, or to organize their materials?

How can you organize all the parts of your new business unless you have a place that feels clean and orderly,  just waiting for you to unleash some great new idea!  So where does that space come from?

One Desk for Communications – One Open Work Space for Creativity

One idea is to keep one desk for communications.  This includes your computer, your phone, your notes about calls to return and emails to send.  Those notes can stay stickied to your desk, computer, bulletin board. 

A second desk or table or even a door positioned horizontally over two two-drawer filing cabinets can create an open work space where you can create.  If you are working on a proposal, a presentation, or even a workbook, this open space will accomodate your writing pad, sample forms from other resource places, ideas from notes you wrote down last week, pens and squeegie toys.  Maybe you bring your laptop with you, but you avoid looking at email or social media.  This space then is totally dedicated to the project at hand.  No other work to pull your focus. 

I have known professionals who take all of those things and head for the nearest library; same result – all your materials are collected for the project at hand – easy to stay focused.

Some years ago we had a lovely foreign exchange student from Russia.  She was so focused on the project at hand, she could walk over to the table in our family room, push aside the other magazines, books and papers, and create a 15 inch square clean space, and start her homework.  I always admired that ability.  Not me!  I need the clean table to write my book.


Filing Systems for Small Business Owners

by Norma Rist on August 24, 2010

To Start Filing


Filing systems for a new business can be confusing.  First you seem to have a mishmosh of files, all in a different order every day.

Later they get bigger than the plastic cube, where they had a nice home for awhile, and you don’t know what to do next.
In the cube, if you look at the types of files, you will find that they have names that can be sorted functionally – finance, legal, marketing, operations, prospects and customers.  So as soon as you locate a filing cabinet you can sort the files by the functional areas.  Post names on the drawers.

More Drawers

Finance and legal might go in the first drawer.  Label it.  And inside keep the finance separate, to include bills-to-pay, paid invoices, financial reports, Q instructions, CPA info.  And in the same drawer keep as a group the files from legal, to include copies from NoloPress where you were studying about contracts in preparation to see your attorney, and incorporation papers, or other legal information valuable to you about your business. 
Then go to the next drawer and put your files on marketing.  This will be a big file.  You need lots of marketing in the beginning – to get your name out there and lots of people planning to use your service as soon as they need you.  If you have sales agreements, or other sales presentations, they can reside here too.
In the other drawer you can put files for the prospects.  Each name has a cozy home in a file folder.  I like to use two variations of one color for these two groups.  For example, perhaps you use light blue for prospects, but dark blue for clients.  Then you know one from the other.  You can enjoy watching the dark blue file folders grow.  And if you do not have enough light blue file folders – aha – you might not be doing enough marketing.  Need more light blue files to turn into clients.
Operations is the other section.  All of the things that you have to do to deliver a product or a service to your client.  What is the system you use.  What forms are used.  All of them go into this drawer.
This system will work for quite some time.  Some of you are asking “what comes next?”  Next would be four or five filing cabinets, one for each functional area.  Picture you walk into an office, say the insurance office, and you see lots of filing cabinets.  One entire cabinet is for clients, one is for the accountant to handle the payable, receivables, payroll etc.; you get the picture. 
 Hope this helps.  Remember that colors are good, and pendaflex files help keep everything neat.  Nothing worse than being late for an appointment with a prospect because you could not find a file folder.  Give them all a home – and arrive on time ready to close a new sale.
Flickr photo via creative commons:bowbrick,reedinglessons