Running Your Business: 85 Things You'll Want to Know

Information you need for your business to grow and thrive--from taxes, insurance, and contracts through financing, marketing, websites, and more.

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If you’re already running your own small business, you know that there are constant challenges to your ongoing success. It’s easier to meet those challenges, and ensure your business continues to grow and thrive if you have solid information about basic business activities. From taxes, insurance, and contracts through financing, marketing, websites, and being the boss, here’s a list of 85 ideas to help you keep your business running smoothly.

Taxes and Bookkeeping

Step

Description

Resource

1

Learn the rules for paying estimated taxes.

Paying Estimated Taxes

2

Find out the details of federal employment taxes.

Tax Savvy, by Frederick Daily

3

Learn about the various federal tax deductions related to salaries and business expenses.

Deduct It! Lower Your Small Business Taxes, by Stephen Fishman

4

Familiarize yourself with the basics of business taxes for your legal form of business (Partnership, LLC, S Corporation).

Tax Savvy, by Frederick Daily

5

Get small business guides from the IRS.

IRS website

6

Learn about depreciation and Section 179 of the IRS Code.

Deduct It! By Stephen Fishman

7

Find out what to do if you owe money to the IRS.

How to Deal With the IRS

8

Familiarize yourself with the audit process.

How to Prepare for a Business Audit; What Auditors Look For

9

Consider hiring a bookkeeper or accountant if your business has grown big enough or you need someone else with the right expertise.

Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold

10

Know what financial records to keep--and for how long.

How Long Should You Keep Business Records?

11

Learn how to handle your taxes if you are operating at a loss.

Tax Savvy, by Frederick Daily

12

Become aware of the key tax issues for employers.

The Employer's Legal Handbook, by Fred Steingold

Insurance

13

Find out about possible ways to save money on your business insurance.

Obtaining Busness Insurance

14

Know how to make a claim if you suffer a loss.

Small Claims Court and Business Disputes

Contracts and Leases

15

Make sure your contracts are legally valid--and try to write them in plain English.

Contracts 101: Make a Legally Valid Contract

16

Learn how to amend an existing contract.

Sample Amendment to Contract

17

Get the best possible new lease when moving to a new location.

Signing a Lease or Rental Agreement FAQ

18

Avoid creating or signing unfair or illegal contracts.

Unenforceable Contracts: What to Watch Out For

19

Learn the basics of your state's business contract laws.

Contracts, by Richard Stim

20

Become more familiar with business-to-business contracts.

Contracts, by Richard Stim

21

Find out what you need to do when the time comes to sign a contract.

Ten Tips for Making Solid Business Agreements and Contracts

22

Investigate whether it’s better to buy or lease business equipment.

Business Equipment: Buying vs. Leasing

Loans, Financing, and Cashflow

23

Learn about ways to cut costs if your business is short of cash.

How to Cut Costs and Spend Less in a Cash-Strapped Business

24

Find out how to increase your business's cash flow.

How to Create More Cash Flow for Your Business

25

Learn how to keep your cash in your business.

How Small Businesses Can Hoard Their Cash: 9 Ideas

26

Find out how to collect on your debts.

Collecting Business Debts

27

Find out about alternative ways to borrow money.

Alternative Ways to Borrow Money When Your Business Needs It

28

Learn about ways to deal with bankrupt customers.

Customer Bankruptcies: Ten Tips to Minimize Losses

29

Figure out if you should pursue a bankrupt customer.

Deciding Whether to Pursue Payment by a Bankrupt Customer

30

Know more about why you should pay your bills on time.

Why Businesses Should Pay Their Bills on Time if at all Possible

31

Lower your energy costs.

Reduce Energy Costs for Your Small Business

32

Familiarize yourself with the rules for late fees and finance charges.

When can I charge late fees or finance charges?

33

Obtain financing from loans or equity.

Raising Private Money: Gifts, Loans, and Equity Investments

34

Look at various, less traditional sources for raising money.

Alternative Ways to Borrow Money When Your Business Needs It; Peer-to-Peer Lending (P2P) for Small Businesses

35

Make sure to document money you receive.

Promissory Notes

36

Know how to extend credit but still get paid.

Invoicing Customers and Extending Credit

37

Learn the laws about consumer credit.

Consumer Credit Laws and Your Business

38

Familiarize yourself with options for collecting what you're owed.

Illegal Debt Collection Practices

39

Learn about your state's debt collection laws.

What to Expect When Your Debt Goes to Collection

40

Be prudent about using credit cards and checks.

Credit Repair, by Margaret Reiter

Marketing and Working with Customers

41

Draft an effective business plan.

Write a Business Plan

42

Find out how to increase customer recommendations.

Encourage Customers to Recommend Your Business

43

Be clear on your business's target market.

Define a Target Market for Your Small Business

44

Try to do some market research.

Doing Market Research

45

Improve and grow your business image.

Your Business Image: Ten Ways to Build and Market It

46

Figure out the best marketing strategy for your particular business.

A Marketing Strategy for Every Business

47

Find ways to advertise through e-mail without sending out junk.

Email Marketing Without Spam

48

Use your website to market you do and what you sell.

Market Your Products or Services on Your Website

49

Learn which types of list advertising are effective for your business.

Listings: Advertising That Works

50

Create ads that stay within the law.

Avoid Unlawful Advertising: Seven Rules for Your Business

51

Create a social media policy that really works.

Drafting An Effective Social Media Policy

52

Show potential customers what's special about your business.

Your Business Image: Ten Ways to Build and Market It

53

Innovate by learning to produce--and copy--good ideas.

54

Know how to target the right customers.

Define a Target Market for Your Small Business

55

Be creative in your marketing.

Marketing Without Advertising, by Michael Phillips and Salli Rasberry

56

Learn the legal ins and outs of warranties.

Breach of Warranty Cases in Small Claims Court

Selling Goods & Services

57

Figure out the best way to sell your products -- retail, wholesale, or consignment.

Retail, Wholesale, and Consignment Sales

58

Understand the basics of consumer protection law.

Consumer Protection Laws and Your Business

59

Understand the basics of consumer credit laws.

Consumer Credit Laws and Your Business

60

Know the law on shipping products and giving refunds.

Shipping and Refund Rules for Businesses

61

Decide whether it’s better to lease or buy your business equipment.

Business Equipment: Buying vs. Leasing

62

Learn when and how to invoice your customers, and whether to extend credit.

Invoicing Customers and Extending Credit

Websites and eCommerce

63

Learn about what terms and conditions should be posted on your website.

Website Terms and Conditions

64

Make sure to get proper permission when you use other people's work.

Getting Permission to Publish: Ten Tips for Website Managers

65

Familiarize yourself with search engine optimization and get more traffic to your site.

Increasing Traffic to Your Website

66

Know who owns a website created by independent contractors.

Who Owns a Website Created By Contractors?

67

Learn the proper way to license and get paid for your creative work.

Licensing Artwork: Negotiating and Monitoring Royalty Payments

68

Familiarize yourself with the best ways to license your work.

Questions to Consider Before Licensing

Legal Matters

69

Find out how to handle business disputes and small claims cases.

Small Claims Court and Business Disputes

70

Learn about the mediation process.

Mediation for Small Businesses

71

Know whether you need to hire a lawyer.

Business Lawyers: Do You Need One?

72

Learn about your state's Small Claims Court rules.

Everybody’s Guide to Small Claims Court, by Ralph Warner

73

Find out how to change the legal form of your business.

Having Employees and Being the Boss

74

Find out the right way to advertise a job and handle interviews.

The Job Description Handbook, by Margie Mader-Clark

75

Create an effective employee handbook and know how to discipline employees for infractions.

Create Your Own Employee Handbook, by Amy DelPo and Lisa Guerin

76

Ensure you're meeting requirements for record-keeping and payroll withholding.

The Manager’s Legal Handbook, by Lisa Guerin and Amy DelPo

77

Decide on what kinds of employee benefits you want to offer.

Employment Law: The Essential HR Desk Reference

78

Be prepared for health and safety inspections.

OSHA: Complying With Workplace Health and Safety Laws

79

Understand illegal discrimination.


The Manager's Legal Handbook

80

Approach terminations the right way--avoid wrongful discharge lawsuits.

Illegal Reasons for Firing Employees

81

Understand employer recordkeeping requirements.

The Manager's Legal Handbook, by Amy DelPo and Lisa Guerin

82

Consider not showing off in front of your employees.

83

Try not to overwork yourself.

84

Work with, not against, the best competition.

85

Respond quickly when bad things happen.

The Manager's Legal Handbook, by Amy DelPo and Lisa Guerin

 More Information

Even 85 good ideas may not be enough for your particular business. Nolo has many great resources that can give you the additional information you need. Check out the following products and more on Nolo’s Small business Products page:

Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold

The Small Business Start-Up Kit: A Legal Guide, by Peri H. Pakroo

Tax Savvy for Small Business, by Frederick W. Daily

Running a Side Business: How to Create a Second Income. by Richard Stim and Lisa Guerin

Quicken Legal Business Pro (software)

And, if your business has employees, check out the Nolo article “If Your Small Business Has Employees: 40 Things to Know” — or get Nolo’s best-selling book for employers, The Employer's Legal Handbook: Manage Your Employees & Workplace Effectively, by Fred S. Steingold or The Manager’s Legal Handbook, by Lisa Guerin and Amy DelPo.

by: , Contributing Author

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