Setting a solid foundation of administration principles for your business early on will have a lasting impact on the lifespan of your company. It’s not enough that you have a plan and vision, you have to be able to put that plan into practice when and where it counts.
For many, the “learn as you go” approach works well, it’s rewarding because overcoming new challenges and fine-tuning your business acumen will bode well for future ventures. That is, until you find yourself at a professional crossroads that is so far out of the scope of your expertise it leaves your head spinning. For instance:
How much of my garage…ahem…office space can I write off in my taxes?
How do I write an Employee Handbook?
At what stage in the business do I need an Employee Handbook?
And, do we really need a website?
What about any HR or finance and tax gotchas?
And, that’s not to mention the importance of defining your company culture early on. This will be a necessary and never-ending task that will lay the groundwork for your company’s “story” through the people you choose to bring into your tribe, your employees. From interns to senior management, your employees are the heart and soul of your business, so having the right mix of individuals is crucial to your success. This requires you to put on your HR hat, yet another aspect of business administration, only to discover that the art of hiring is not for the faint of heart.
For all intents and purposes, we consider ourselves a startup – 19 months in and counting – but we feel that we have some helpful things to share that might benefit those of you who are thinking of starting your own business. We’ve broken business administration down into 3 separate buckets that we feel have the most direct impact on how your small business functions now and down the line.
How Administration Affects Business
A lot of time, brain space and money go into starting a business. Generally speaking, businesses are created because of a need in the marketplace for a specific product or service. As an individual business owner, you have to possess a certain level of confidence in your skill set within a specific field in order to make a case for a successful business idea.
Starting your own business has plenty of perks and rewards; flexible work schedule, more control over what clients you take on, and creating jobs for others. Did I mention flexible work schedule? But no matter how you slice it, Business Administration is a sometimes tedious yet necessary task to add into the mix if you want things done right. Trust us, it’s well worth it in the end.
In our industry it is not uncommon for boutique PR agencies to go years before they establish their business as an entity: proprietorship, partnership, or a company. It’s a scary concept, especially if you’re doing your own bookkeeping and you want to do right by the I.R.S., otherwise there is hell to pay when tax season comes.
This is why it’s helpful to have people in your corner who you trust and can rely on for accurate information and counsel. Don’t try to do everything on your own. There is no point in arguing how capable a person you are, it’s a moot point. We all have our strengths, clearly defining estimated quarterly taxes may not be one of them, so use this as an opportunity to learn from someone who knows better than you.
How Administration Affects Employees
Even as a sole proprietor, your business will eventually reach a tipping point when the time comes to employ a few people to help manage your early-stage successes. With this decision comes great responsibility, because you are now responsible for the financial welfare of someone other than yourself (This is right about the time when most small businesses have their “holy sh*t” moment.) “You mean there are other people depending on me???”
It’s worth stating the obvious for added emphasis: Your employees need to know that you have your shit together. Organized Chaos works for some, but it’s not all about you anymore.
That’s right, it’s not impressive enough to know you have a good reputation with your clients, you have to back that up with your employees. This is equally if not more important than nurturing the public perception of your business, because your employees are individual representations of your business.
Here at Radix, we are a lean operation, however, through our unique business model we rely on the support of our army of satellite independents we call The Collective. Telecommuting in this day and age is not uncommon, especially in the tech world, so we find it important to stay in constant contact with both our team members and our clients. Moreover, we trust the people we have chosen to bring into the fold, and we keep that stream of communication open like a faucet at all times.
So often we speak to hot startups (and even some established companies) whose internal communications and organization is a hot mess. In this rough-and-tumble and highly competitive market you need to keep your game tight if you want to last. Having the right amount of business administration processes in place will help you establish a level of professionalism early on that will make a positive impression on both employees and clients.
Speaking of clients.
How Administration Affects Clients
When things are going awry behind the curtain you better believe that your clients can sense it. That’s why it’s imperative to establish organizational process even if your company is two people strong. Without your clients you have no business, so it’s really important to put one’s house in order before the first proposal goes out.
When it comes to onboarding, a consistent routine in welcoming new clients is just as important as onboarding new employees. Your clients should feel confident in their decision well after the ink dries on the contract.
Are you a small business with interesting/funny/scary/life-altering stories to share? We’d love to hear them and commiserate and/or celebrate with you! Leave us a note in the comments section and tell us how you’ve grown up in startup life.