Growing Your Independent Business: It Takes a Team
Owning a small business gives you independence. However, it doesn’t mean you are totally on your own.
Every independent business needs a reliable virtual team. Depending on your skills and background, you may need help with accounting, legal issues, marketing, and more. This is true whether the business is an S corp, a sole proprietorship, or a partnership.
In other words, it takes a team to grow a small business. Having supportive “team players” will help you get more done, make informed decisions, and give you the bandwidth to grow your business and focus on the areas where you are the expert.
Here are five ways to build your team.
1. Look to Your Local Community
Look for small businesses in your community that want to share resources. Local business groups are a good place to build your network and share resources.
Start by contacting your city’s business development office and local chamber of commerce. If your city or town doesn’t have local Small Business Administration (SBA) or SCORE offices or a Small Business Development Center (SBDC), there are likely some in nearby cities. Most of these organizations offer free or low-cost workshops, and both the SBDCs and SCORE provide free consulting advice and mentorship. They both also offer virtual assistance.
If your business is in a public location, get to know your neighboring business owners. There are likely numerous opportunities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects.
You should also consider joining your industry’s professional associations for in-person or online meetings. As you might expect, these groups have the best industry-specific resources.
2. Find Professional Help
When you need the expertise of professionals like attorneys, accountants, or graphic artists, begin by asking other small business owners in your community for referrals.
If you’re in the early stages of starting your business, services such as CorpNet and ZenBusiness can help. You can also use these services to secure trademarks, file state documents, and get necessary permits and licenses.
Don’t have time to manage your books? Turn to FreshBooks or QuickBooks. The latter offers consultations with live bookkeepers, to help record expenses, create invoices, and keep your accounting up to date.
Every business needs a visual identity. If you can’t find a local designer, consider an online service like 99 Designs to create a logo, website, or brand identity.
You won’t have to keep anyone on retainer—you can switch your team players to suit your needs. However, using the same attorney, bookkeeper or marketing professional often makes sense since they already know your business.
One additional consideration: Look for apps which can streamline jobs that typically fall to support staff or the small business owner. Index by Pinger lets you streamline customer communication with tools to handle inbound calls, speed transactions and make interacting with customers easier to manage.
3. Use Independent Contractors and Freelancers
Using independent contractors and freelancers offers a great way to build a support team without hiring permanent employees and paying payroll taxes. Just make sure you follow the rules. The IRS and some states have been cracking down on employers classifying workers as independent contractors when they’re actually employees. The difference can be confusing, but it’s crucial that you understand it so that you won’t be penalized by the IRS. (It’s a hefty penalty.)
Two major criteria the IRS considers are the degree of control the company exerts and the amount of independence the worker has. There are three categories or “common law rules” that help determine the degree of control and independence:
- Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the workers do and how they do their job?
- Financial: Does the payer control the business aspects of the worker’s job such as how workers are paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, and who provides the tools and supplies?
- Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee-type benefits (e.g., health insurance or vacation pay)? Will the relationship continue indefinitely? Is the work performed a key aspect of the business?
According to the IRS, “There is no ‘magic’ or set number of factors that ‘makes’ the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination.” To be sure, you can ask your accountant or file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding, with the IRS.
4. Hire Employees
When you’re ready, hiring permanent full or part-time employees is a positive step toward the growth of your company. You’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for all your employer legal and tax forms. You should get an EIN at startup anyway, as many banks won’t let you open a business bank account without one. Next, you must register with the state for payroll and unemployment taxes.
Before you hire, though, consider the type of people you want on your team. It’s better to hire workers with the talents and skills you do not have. In other words, fill the holes in your company’s talent pool. If you’re more of an idea and concept person, hire someone to carry out your vision. If you tend to only see the positives of a new project, hire someone who won’t hesitate to point out the downside.
5. Create a Support Group
The people in my small business group have supported me through my last 15 years of entrepreneurship with my sanity still intact. Without them, I’m not sure where I’d be today.
Your support group likely won’t look like mine. And that’s OK. Most of my support comes from business associates, past co-workers, family, and peers I’ve met on my entrepreneurial adventure over the years. We keep in touch by lunch dates, phone, email, texting, and social media. I can count on my team for quick and sound advice, and vice versa.
So, reach out to the people you know whom you respect. Most will be happy to share their advice and experiences. And, of course, make sure to reciprocate when someone needs your help.
Regardless of the approach you take to build your team, the key to long-term success is coming together with mutual respect and trust. Building a quality team you can count on takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. A strong network of people increases your chances of success.
Rieva Lesonsky is an award-winning business journalist who has covered small businesses and entrepreneurship for over 30 years. She was the long-time editorial director at Entrepreneur magazine.
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