If you're currently employed, you have first-hand knowledge of what it's like to be an employee. If you think going into business for yourself will mostly mean doing the same thing, but for yourself, you're in for a surprise. Small business owners are responsible for the entire business, which involves a lot more than just providing goods or services. It's likely that all the administrative and managerial duties currently performed by your employer will fall on you.
We've all heard of the beleaguered executive who moans that he's overworked because he has to wear two or three hats at his company. Well, most small business owners would give anything if they had to wear only two or three hats.
Sales taxes and payroll or self-employment taxes will have to be collected and paid. Accounts receivable and accounts payable will arise in almost any business setting. Providing customer service, keeping the appropriate equipment and supplies in stock, as well as tracking and maintaining inventory and work in progress are activities vital to most businesses. As a new small business owner, it's more than likely there'll be no one except you to do them. And you'll be doing these things in addition to the activities that directly relate to providing goods or services to your customers.
Here's a look at some of the roles you can expect to play if own your own business:
- Tax collector — if you sell goods at the retail level, you're responsible for collecting a sales tax for various government entities; also, if you have employees, you're responsible for collecting payroll taxes from them.
- Manager/boss — if you have employees, you'll be responsible for all of the human resources-related functions, including recruiting, hiring, firing and keeping track of all the benefits information; you'll be the one filling out all the insurance forms, answering employee questions and complaints and making the decisions about whether you should change the benefits package you offer your employees.
- Sales/marketing/advertising executive — in addition to having to plan your marketing or advertising campaign, you'll have to carry it out; you may write advertising copy, do some preliminary market research, visit potential customers and make sure existing customers stay happy; depending upon the type of business you own, you may have to join business groups, attend various breakfasts, lunches and dinners and just generally network with anyone who could help your business prosper.
- Accountant — even if you have an accountant, you'll have to know a lot about accounting; you'll have to know which records to keep and how to keep them; if you don't have an accountant, you'll also have to prepare all of your tax forms, and you'll have to know how to prepare and interpret all of your own financial statements.
- Lawyer — even if you have a lawyer, you'll have to know a lot about the law; if you don't have a lawyer, you'll have to prepare all of your own contracts and other documents and understand all of the employment laws if you have employees or want to hire someone.
- Business planner — as you own your business, you'll inevitably want to make changes, perhaps to expand the business or add a new product line; if you want to make a change, it'll be your responsibility to do it; you'll have to plan it and execute it, and you'll have to consider all of the ramifications of your decision.
- Bill collector — when customers don't pay, it'll be up to you to collect from them; you'll have to know what you can and can't do when collecting; you'll have to decide how best to collect from them and when to give up.
- Market researcher — before you start your business, you'll have to find out who your customers are and where they're located; you may also have to conduct market research at various times during the life of your business, such as when you are considering introducing a new product.
- Technology expert — as a small business owner, you will probably come to depend upon your computer; you'll have to fix it when it breaks, install upgrades and load software; you'll also have to keep up with the newest products and the latest changes in technology.
- Clerk/receptionist/typist/secretary — even if you have clerical help, you'll inevitably do some of your filing, some of your typing, some of your mailing and some of your telephone answering; even if you have someone else, for example, keep track of overdue accounts, you'll have to know how to do it so that you can teach them what to do.
We included this list of the important responsibilities of running a business so you can realistically appraise your chances for success. Obviously, much of your time will be spent on the mechanics of complying with the requirements imposed on you as a business owner. If you're going to succeed, you'll have to do so in the time that remains. Don't make the mistake of underestimating the cost, in hours, of being in business for yourself. A person who spends 40 hours a week focused on his or her work will have to work a lot more hours as a business owner to get in 40 hours of activity directly relating to providing customers goods or services. And during the startup period, you'll probably be the busiest you'll ever be.