This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012, started out the same as any other day.
I woke up. Got dressed. Commuted to the office. Worked my 8.5-hour shift. Commuted home. Did the mom thing. And… I started a small business.
It wasn’t really something I was planning to do. But the date felt special. 12-12-12 felt like it meant something. It felt like the exact right time to jump on my idea the moment it hit me.
So, I searched the internet to make sure that my business name wasn’t already out there, and then I registered my LLC with the state of Virginia. I finished my MBA the previous year so I pretty much knew the steps I had to take. I registered with the County, applied for an EIN, and put up a website.
Clue Consulting, LLC was born.
But the truth is, when I started my business, I didn’t have all the pieces in place the way I would’ve wanted. It takes more than a business bank account and a dream to start a business the right way.
That’s what makes a resource like the SunTrust Small Business Best Practices Guide so valuable. Using the “Starting Your Small Business” checklist, I’m able to reevaluate my plans and make sure that my business stays on track.
Here are two things I’d do differently if I were starting my business today:
1) I’d figure out what type of business I *want* to start.
When I started my business nearly five years ago, it began as an Administrative Consultancy. I’ve been in my field for over 19 years, have an MBA and a Masters in Project Management, and I work alongside executives each day. When my entrepreneurial friends began asking me for advice on managing the backend of their businesses (because they didn’t have a ‘clue’ how to do all that admin stuff), starting an administrative consultancy seemed like the most natural fit.
However, I quickly realized that I had a passion for writing. This led me to start the first iteration of my blog on April 15, 2013, and I went on to become a certified content marketer. Through sharing my advice, experiences, and musings, I stumbled into thought leadership and being an influencer. This winding path led me to now offering life coaching services.
When I reflect on my business’s journey, I realize that I never really brainstormed or did a pros/cons list or gave much thought at all to the type of business I wanted to start. I kind of went to the default. Because of this, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on branding, marketing, and related expenses—only to change direction several times over.
2) I’d focus more efforts on controlling cash flow and increasing profitability.
In the beginning, I viewed my business as a side hustle/passion project. Sure, I wanted it to make money and be profitable. But I didn’t put enough emphasis on controlling cash flow and increasing profitability early on. Money was going out just as quickly as it was coming in. I hit an income plateau and realized that I had to adjust how I was managing the finances in my business.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned how important it is to have a strong financial foundation in place. I knew this (after all that business schooling, I surely should have known). But being in the everyday trenches with my business, and everything moving so fast, I wasn’t using the right financial practices.
The straightforward checklists in the SunTrust Small Business Best Practices Guide are helpful in planning and managing all aspects of my business. Whether I need to focus on planning, cash flow, profitability, growth, asset protection, or transition I can find what I need within the Guide. Using the checklists, I could pinpoint the activities I should focus on to understand the patterns of money going in and out so I can create consistency, better practices for business cash flow, and improve processes so I can set myself up for success.
Following solid business practices is important for any small business owner. Particularly when you are a team of ONE. It’s less stressful when you have resources, tools, and services that can help inform your decisions and prepare you for future growth.