Guide to Small Business Management

Although it's an exciting venture, starting and managing a small business can be challenging. In addition to establishing an identity, you must also figure out finances, hire employees, and develop a solid marketing strategy. As an entrepreneur, you have to consistently negotiate, make tough decisions, solve problems, take risks, and think creatively. Taking all this into consideration, being your own boss is still beneficial. You decide where, when and how much you want to work, and if successful, you can make more money than if you were an employee. Additionally, being involved in all aspects of business can be a great learning opportunity, and watching your ideas and dreams come to fruition can be very rewarding.

Creating an Identity

Similar to the birth of a baby, starting a small business requires that you give it a name. A business name can make or break a company, so taking time to come up with a good name is essential. After narrowing down potential names, look for a name that's unique, timeless, and unforgettable. When you mention your company's name to customers, you want them to remember it. A simple name that's easy to pronounce and gives information about what the business does is ideal. To ensure the company name doesn't already exist, perform a fictitious business-name search at your county clerk's office. Also, perform an online domain-name search if you plan on using your business name as your company's Internet domain.

After establishing a name, you can create the company logo. Ideally, your logo conveys the nature of your business. Whether you use fonts, a graphic symbol, or a simple illustration, your logo is a key identity piece of your small business. If your budget allows it, you can even hire a designer to create a logo for your small business. To protect your logo, make sure to trademark it on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Website. The business name and logo should also appear on your business cards and stationery.

Managing Your Finances

When you're first starting out, a thorough business plan can help you manage your budget to make sure you know where you're putting your money. Forecasting sales and estimating expenses can help you make cash-flow projections. Keeping track of cash flow is essential, especially when you're making expensive changes to the company, such as personnel changes or facility expansions. When you're first starting out, avoid hiring a bookkeeper. Keep track of the company's financial records yourself so you have a better handle on your business. Eventually, other factors you might have to deal with when managing your company's finances can include different types of credit, loan proposals, and savings and investments. When the time comes, work with an accountant to ensure you make the best decisions.

Hiring Employees

Before you resort to hiring employees, ask yourself whether you actually need to hire employees. Often, services such as website design and management, manufacturing, and even administrative tasks, can be outsourced, or done by freelancers. This can save you significant money. However, if you do need the presence and input of regular employees, advertisements in local trade publications and newspapers can be effective. You will have to interview the applicants and hire them based on your own discretion. You can also consider using an employment agency to find employees for you. Employment agencies have a database of pre-screened, available candidates. They can advertise the job opening for you, and select the people they think are most fit for the job. Although you'll have the last say on who gets hired, you won't have to deal with seeing unqualified people.

Developing a Marketing Strategy

Advertising is what presents your small business to the general public. It's what entices customers to show interest in your business, and purchase whatever product or service you have to offer. Initially, your budget might be tight, so strategic marketing is essential. A local marketing effort can most likely keep you within your budget. In addition to word-of-mouth marketing, consider flyer distribution or sponsoring a 5K charity walk. You can also participate in local coupon mailings, or maybe even attract customers by offering a free trial of your product or service. Always focus on establishing a good relationship with your customer so that they become loyal, returning customers. Also, don't be afraid to ask your customers for referrals, because this can be an easy way to grow your business.