After starting three small businesses, I’ve learned firsthand the headaches that accounting causes for most small business owners. It’s one of those back-office tasks that never cross your mind when you decide to run your own business, and yet it sucks up your day and makes running a successful business that much harder.
But there’s hope, and it starts with getting organized. Here are 5 tips I’ve learned by helping business owners trying to tackle their accounting:
1. Keep it separate. That new backpack for your kids isn’t a business expense, but your business credit card was handy so you used it. Sure, you can pay back your business for a personal expenditure, or the other way around, but if you’re going to do it right you actually have to record an accounting transaction. Things get complicated fast, and you don’t need that headache. By keeping separate bank and credit card accounts for business and personal, you’ll save yourself hours of work and make it easy to keep track of deductible expenses in one place. Some applications can automatically handle the behind-the-scenes accounting for crossover expenses, but even so, we recommend handling business and personal finances as independently as possible.
After you get your new business Pinterest profile set up, the next challenge is probably the biggest: how to get high-quality followers, so you can start having real conversations and generating word-of-mouth buzz (and traffic) for your company.
Below are 7 tips (from my Ultimate Guide to Pinterest) to do exactly that:
1. Show Off Your Brand
People need to know about your company and be exposed to who you are as well as what you offer. Your username should be the same as your company name, and your gravatar should be your business logo.
In order to accelerate your brand’s growth, you have to increase online awareness and engagement. And online promotions such as contests, giveaways and sweepstakes are one of the best marketing tools you can use to create excitement around your brand and build relationships with your customers in a remarkable way.
Here are five key tips to ensure your next promotion’s success:
1. Make it super easy to participate. The easier you make it for consumers to engage with your promotion, and the better the prize(s), the more likely they will do so. For optimal participation, remove as many barriers to entry as possible. Giving consumers extra, tedious steps like having to log in to access your promotion or having too many fields on the entry form decrease the likelihood they’ll enter — so just keep it simple. A complex promotion may seem more compelling to you, but for consumers, the clearer and more concise the entry process, the better.
“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.”
This quote from an unknown author might be the most apt description of my life as an entrepreneur. Some decisions will change your life, but only if you ask the right questions.
In 2007 I was faced with one of those decisions — what to do with my life. I was finishing my master’s degree in Management of Innovation and Business Development at Copenhagen Business School. The economy was bullish, industry was growing and graduates were in high demand. Like many of my peers, I got a steady influx of news about recruiting events and even a few interview requests too. At the same time, there was my study-mate, Gus.
Gus and I spent many nights enthusiastically discussing different startup ideas, which always lead me to the same perplexing question: “Should I get a job, or should I start a company?”
Question: WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE JUST STARTING TO HIRE C-LEVEL TALENT?
Hear from 8 CEO’s
1. WHAT’S IN A RESUME?
“Intelligence, cultural fit, and an ability to work with the team are the most important factors that you should consider when interviewing C-level talent. Don’t be dazzled by their accomplishments. A resume should be one of the last items that you look at.”
– John Berkowitz | Co-Founder & Vice President of National Sales,Yodle
2. TRY TOPGRADING
“Take your time and work through the Topgrading hiring process. We use it for all hires, but have found it gave us a great framework for evaluating all of the dimensions of pivotal C-level candidates.”
– Nick Tarascio | CEO, Ventura Air Services
3. EASE THE TRANSITION
“Integrating a C-level executive into an established corporate culture takes time and ongoing responsiveness. Create phases of transition for the executive to move into the role at a comfortable pace. Make yourself available to offer moral support and strategic guidance.”
– Lisa Nicole Bell | Founder/CEO, Inspired Life Media Group
Before founding Zealyst, I studied conflict resolution and volunteered as a mediator for small claims court and family disputes. I had no idea at the time that I was cultivating skills that would make me a better business leader, but the lessons I learned while helping people resolve disputes about property damage, resource distribution and parenting plans ultimately helped me to negotiate with investors, communicate more effectively with clients, and address potential conflicts with employees.
Here are 5 of the core mediation principles that have helped me launch my business:
1. “People aren’t against you, they’re just for themselves.”
In one of my first mediation courses, the instructor introduced this basic concept, and it fundamentally changed the way I perceive conflict. When engaged in a conflict, emotions run high and people generally defend their best interests, which often feels like an attack and perpetuates a rigidly antagonistic line of communication.
A simple step back and consideration of the other party’s perspective reframes the entire conflict and can open up the pathway to resolution. For example, I was once engaged in a series of frustrating negotiations with a client — we were struggling to agree on the way responsibilities should be delegated.
The standard industry advice has always been, “Don’t do business with family.” But who follows industry advice? Three years ago, I decided to do more than just business with family — I went all the way and founded my company with my brother, Scott. We went from bunk beds in the ’80s to “Brofounders” in 2009 when we started our digital education and marketing firm, 9 Clouds.
Our business just turned three years old, and after working with over 400 clients and launching two subsequent businesses together, I think I’ve experienced both the good and bad of starting a business with your sibling. Here are my key takeaways that prove the traditional industry advice wrong.
Tell Your Story
Every good business knows how to tell their story, and probably more importantly, sell their story. Whether it is the tale of Zuckerberg in his dorm at Harvard, or Blake Mycoskie of TOMS losing The Amazing Race but recognizing that children in third-world countries are in need of adequate shoes, a good company always has a good story.
Not only do people love the story about 9 Clouds and how my brother and I started it together, but we make sure to always share it with others. Whether speaking at a conference or pitching to a new big client, we make sure to present our story and sell it. You have to. Starting a business with a family member makes you unique — it is an opportunity to promote your company values while also allowing the listener to make a connection with you.