You’re already operating your business. Magnificent! Chances are you’re running hard to keep up with all the things you need to do. But take a moment to evaluate where you are and what you need to focus on going forward. That way, you can keep your goals in mind while taking this bootcamp and use the information and resources here to your best advantage. Consider the following:
You might have glossed over the chart above since your business structure is already set. But consider for a moment whether the way you originally established it still makes sense for you. For example, if you started your business as a sole proprietorship because it was cheap and easy, you may find that there is now no separation between the business and your personal funds, subjecting your finances to the risks of the business. Maybe it’s a good time to evolve into an S-Corp, so that you can add a layer of protection for yourself that a sole proprietorship or partnership does not offer.
When you got started, you and any other founders took on set roles. As your business has grown, you want to make sure that each person’s responsibilities continue to match his or her skill set, and that everyone’s expectations are aligned. One way to avoid messy–and costly–misunderstandings later is to draft a partnership agreement. This kind of document, also available at LegalZoom.com, will make it a much more enjoyable trip for all. If it is employees you’re thinking about–and we’ll address hiring in more detail later this week–be sure you can afford the cost of full time labor. If you can’t you may want to consider hiring a contractor, freelancer or part-timer for the short term.
If you have boxes of inventory piled up in your garage or have ever had barking dogs interrupt business phone calls, it might be time to give your business its own space. Committing to a space is a big leap, though, so you need to thoroughly weigh the benefits. Or, if you’ve been renting an office space but are finding the cost to be a burden, you should consider alternatives.
Many small business owners are now sharing offices. National companies like Regus provide desks, conference rooms and telephone receptionists to individuals or small companies. Most metropolitan areas have locally owned shared work sites that you can check out. There are also industry-specific shared co-working spaces so that you can get to know other graphic designers, for example.
While cash, inventory and equipment are fairly obvious assets, take a moment to take stock of the intangible assets of your business.
- Contracts: Firm up contracts with service providers now to avoid misunderstandings later.
- Trademarks and Patents: Look at your business name, slogan or logo and decide if any of them might benefit from a registered trademark, which will protect your product or service from fakes and establish a legal standing for the mark in court, helping to make your product or service distinct in the marketplace. Start by searching the database of currently registered names and designs that the United States Patent and Trademark Office offers to be sure yours is not already in use. Other information about trademarking your intellectual property can be found on the site’s Trademark Basics page.
- Website urls: Even big businesses can get tripped up securing and renewing website names. Do a WhoIs search to see if anyone is already using your desired domain name. Once you register the name, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) requires the registrar to submit your personal contact information to the WHOIS database, which makes your listing publicly available. If your dream website name is taken, you may be able to buy it from the current user.