Category Archives: Small Business

The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make While Growing Your Business

As a small business owner, one of the most exciting (and terrifying) parts of owning your own business is when it starts to grow. You realize you’ve got a winning formula, but now you’re not sure where your business is going to go. The possibilities keep you up at night; unfortunately, so does the fear. You want your business to grow into something long term, so you don’t want to make any major mistakes. Well, we’re here to help you avoid some of the more common mistakes business owners make when their company starts to grow.

Mistake #1: Taking on all that growth yourself

If you own a small business, there’s a high chance your company started out as a one-person operation. You’re used to doing everything yourself, and honestly, it can be hard to let go of any of it. The problem is if you don’t pass anything off, things are going to start falling through the cracks. As you start getting more customers, things are going to get busier and busier.

To avoid this mistake, write down all the tasks you do for your small business. Next to those tasks, write down how much time each takes. Then, write down if you’re an expert at it, you do it satisfactorily, or you don’t know what you’re doing. Using that list, think about the kind of person you could hire to fill some of those roles that take a lot of time and you have little expertise in.

Mistake #2: Hiring the wrong employees

When you’re looking to hire employees, don’t make the common mistake of going with the easiest hire. Whether they’re a family friend, or they’re the least-expensive option, you can easily hire somebody that won’t perform, or worse, cause more stress. You have to make sure they are the right fit for your business needs.

Whatever role you’re hiring for, make sure you do your due diligence. Research the role online, look for advice that other business owners have hiring for that role, and look for specific interview questions. Look for the self-starters, the ones who don’t need a lot of hand-holding to get the job done. These people are the future leaders of your growing company.

Mistake #3: Not investing in your infrastructure

As your business grows, you need to take a hard look at what your location, your equipment, and your processes can handle. Take a few minutes and think about how your location, equipment, and processes would hold up if you had twice the amount of business. What about 10 times the business? One hundred times? You want your business to be scalable, so look for software solutions, equipment, and processes that can grow with your increasing business.

Mistake #4: Not preparing for cash flow needs

A huge mistake a lot of small business owners make is not preparing for future cash flow issues. Too many small businesses wait to apply for a loan until their business is in trouble, and at that point, capital can be hard to find. If your business is doing well, now is the time to go to a lender for a line of credit or a business loan. Also, consider applying for a Small Business Administration loan, which have much lower rates than typical small business loans.

If you can avoid these common mistakes, your business will likely continue to grow and be successful. What other mistakes have you seen small business owners make as their business grows?

How to Stop Wasting Time and Start Seeing Results from Your DIY Small Business Marketing

As a small business owner, it can be hard to see what the best marketing channel is for your specific product. Everywhere you look, you see marketing “tactics” that will “explode your Twitter following overnight” or “start a viral movement.” Unfortunately, the majority of companies out there will see zero positive impact, and going viral is extremely difficult and not always a good thing.

So how do you find the best marketing campaigns for your small business that you can run?

Let me walk you through a simple and effective plan that will get you the business you need. Take 20 minutes and follow these simple steps.

Identify your customer’s problem

The first step is to identify the problem that your small business solves. You know your customers better than anyone, so try and get in their heads.

Take a few minutes and write down some common problems your customers have.

Here are three examples:

A family restaurant:

Problem: “I need a place where my family can eat that has reasonable prices, good atmosphere for kids, and good food.”

A mortgage broker:

Problem: “I don’t even know where to get a home loan and I’m worried I won’t understand the process when I do.”

A business accountant:

Problem: “Our company needs software that allows our accountants to work closely together so we can quickly and efficiently help our customers.”

Show the solution

The next step is to consider each one of the problems you wrote down, then write down two sentences that show how your business solves that particular problem. For example:

Problem: “Our company needs software that allows our accountants to work closely together so that we can quickly and efficiently help our customers.”

Solution: “Our innovative accounting software allows your team to work together quickly and effectively.”

Solution: “We’ve built a suite of tools to help your accountants work together on the same project in real time, saving you and your clients time and money.”

Also, consider looking through your customer testimonials or reviews for snippets that show how your business solves people’s problems. These can be the most effective messages you can share.

Now that you’ve got some good solid ad copy, run it by someone you trust to give you honest feedback. Don’t let your ego get in the way; make sure to listen to what they say. Make changes as necessary.

The last step is to find the best way to get your message in front of your audience. It’s important to recognize that one size does not fit all. If your clientele is small business across the nation, odds are you’re going to need to reach out to your customers on the Internet or through trade publications. If you’re local, it might be the newspaper or local Google ads.

The best way to find the right marketing channel is to determine where your customers are when they make the “decision.” For example, people frequently check Yelp for restaurants, so if you’re trying to find new customers, you may want to take out an ad in Yelp. If you’re a plumber, you may want to take out an ad in the local newspaper or put an ad on Craigslist.

Here’s a list of common marketing channels for small businesses: 

   •     Google AdWords
   •     Facebook ads
   •     Forum banner ads
   •     Bus stations
   •     Local newspapers and radio stations
   •     Yelp
   •     Craigslist
   •     Trade shows
   •     Magazines
   •     Local television

Now that you’ve got your copy and you have your channel, all you have to do is place the ad. Then, make sure to watch the results closely. If it’s not successful, consider changing the message or going with a different channel. Once you find an advertising campaign that works, it can bring profits for years to come.

What kind of success have you had running your own marketing campaigns for your small business? Reply in Comments below.

6 Easy Tax Breaks for Small Businesses

To be a small business owner is to know how to save money. Small business owners have to be savvy with how they spend because they often have re-invest a lot of their profits back into building up their business, and profits and costs can vary dramatically.

One of the best ways you can save as a small business it to know the full extent of your available tax breaks. Before we delve into 10 of the easiest tax deductions for small businesses, make sure to review all tax-related information with a certified accountant or tax professional, as I am neither.

Home office expenses
If your team is a distributed workforce and you work from a home office, you can deduct your operating expenses. The IRS calls this “Business Use of Your Home.” It works like this:

   •     Calculate the percentage of your home office from the total          square footage of your house. The home office must be a sole          dedicated space to your business—a hobby craft room with a          desk in the corner technically doesn’t count.
   •     That home office percentage is also the percentage of all          utilities you can deduct, including electricity, gas, and Internet.
   •     Take your monthly statements or the yearly averages and          calculate the percentage.
   •     Half of all business dinners

If you regularly meet new or potential clients for dinner or drinks, you can deduct 50% of the amount you paid as a business expense. This is the case whether or not you’re traveling or in your home city.

New technology
Many people forget to deduct a portion of the new technology they buy because they also use it for personal use. The good news is you can deduct the cost of percentage of the item that you use for business. For instance, if you use your smartphone 50% of the time for business calls, email, or Skype IM chat, you can deduct 50% of the cost for a new one. This also goes for your Internet connection costs as well.

The same goes for computers, monitors, back-up batteries, cameras, and more. However, don’t be generous with the deductions—it’s not worth the IRS audit

Car leases or mileage
When deducting use of your personal vehicle for business, you have a few options. For a purchased car, you can deduct either by mileage or actual expenses, according to TurboTax.

Additionally, if you decide to lease your car instead of buy it, you can deduct the percentage use of lease payment (same as the technology example above). So, if you use your car 15% of the time for appointments, driving to clients, etc. you can deduct 15% of your car lease payments. You have to use the “actual expense” model as mentioned above to deduct lease payments.

If you regularly attend conferences, buy books directly related to your business and industry, or attend on-demand courses, you can deduct the related costs. This is a great way to stay relevant in your industry without worrying too much about the costs.

SaaS subscriptions
If you regularly have subscriptions to ongoing services that you use for business, you can deduct them. Some examples include:

   •     Computer virus protection
   •     Cloud file backup (for example, Mozy)
   •     Adobe Creative Cloud
   •     VPN for client security
   •     PayPal or credit card transaction fees

There are several other tax breaks for small businesses available. Get familiar with the IRS guidelines for business deductions and take advantage of as much as you legally can.

How to Use LinkedIn for Business

You’ve wanted to learn how to use LinkedIn for business for quite some time now. However, the only tips that you’ve been getting from the Internet so far are the cookie-cutter ones (you know, things like complete your profile, network, etc.). It’s quite frustrating, isn’t it?

When you think about it, although the cookie-cutter tips are technically correct, it doesn’t really give you an edge over your competitors because everybody knows about it. What’s worse, none of these tips are actionable.

If you’re tired of reading useless, borderline cringe-worthy tips on how to use LinkedIn for business, then you’re in the right place. I will share with you three LinkedIn marketing tips that are actionable, simple to implement, and most of all effective.

Let’s hop right in.

1. Use LinkedIn’s “15 Ways to Keep in Touch” feature.

The thing with using LinkedIn is it can be such a productivity black hole, especially if you aren’t keeping track of your time. That’s why using LinkedIn’s “15 Ways to Keep in Touch” feature is such an amazing strategy; it works somewhat as a “counter.” The way I use it is I send messages to all 15 users, and when I’m done sending messages, I then stop using LinkedIn and proceed on doing other more important tasks.

Before you use this tip, I’d like to highlight two critical points first:

1. Send a personalized message. You can create a template if you want, but be sure to leave room for customization. Don’t ever send LinkedIn’s “Congrats on the new job!” default message.

2. Do not sell your services on your first contact. Establish a level of connection with them first. On my end, I tend to send my pitch on my 3rd or 4th reply to their message, depending on how our conversation progresses.

This is one of my favorite strategies on how to use LinkedIn for business. Not only is it effective in terms of bringing you new customers, but it also helps you keep track of your time, making it easier for you to manage it.

2. Uncover possibilities of collaboration with the users connecting with you.

When other LinkedIn users start sending you connection requests, I hope you aren’t just accepting them without sending them a message. That would be a wasted opportunity! Because you’d like to learn how to use LinkedIn for business, here’s what you can do instead. You can send them a message thanking them for connecting with you, add a one-liner personal message, then ask about possibilities where you can both collaborate.

Giving them that kind of message will show the person on the other end that you are a real person, and a “likable” one at that! This is one of the versions that I use when others add me at LinkedIn:

“Hi (first name).

I appreciate connection request. How’s everything in (write the name of their city here)?

Can you tell me more about your job role in (the company that they are connected with)? I’d love to explore opportunities where we can both collaborate in the future. Take care.


This template usually yields surprising results. The user almost always replies with what it is that they do and asks me about what kind of collaboration opportunities I have in mind. At this point, all you need to do is to pitch your services strategically to what it is that they do. If they’d like to give your idea a try, then they’ll go for it. But if not, then just be a good sport and accept their decision.

Another route that you can take (which you should almost always be doing) is to ask for referrals. Doing so gives you more mileage on every connection/relationship that you establish.

3. Contact the users who viewed your profile.

There’s a reason why others are viewing your profile. Whatever that reason is, you can bet your family jewels that it has something to do with the work that you do, or the product or services that you offer. This somewhat makes them a warm lead. Be sure to capitalize on this feature and start contacting those who viewed your profile. Your message doesn’t have to be long and intricate. You can say something along the lines of:

“Hi (first name).

I noticed that you viewed my profile. If there’s anything that I can help you with, do let me know.

I wish you the best! 


What makes this strategy so effective is the fact that it isn’t intrusive at all. I say that because between you and the other user, it isn’t really you who showed the first interest. It was him/her by checking out your profile.

What’s next?

What are some of the LinkedIn marketing tips that you can share with our readers? If there are strategies on how to use LinkedIn for business that you feel should be a part of this list, then please share them in the comments section below.


DIY Small Business Accounting 101

Taking control of your own business accounting process can give you peace of mind and alleviate the stress of someone else having access to your private financial information. As you’re planning to take your accounting in-house, here are some basic steps to ensure you’re on the right path.

Find what works for your business

The first step is to look for a program that works for your specific field and business style. Much like you would want to hire a lawyer or CPA who specializes in your specific industry, you want to choose an accounting program that caters to your needs. Some accounting software may include unnecessary features, such as tracking inventory; others may not have enough, such as a feature that calculates quarterly taxes.

Test out different software so you can pinpoint exactly what your business needs and ignore the rest. There’s no need to waste time on something that doesn’t work, and you’ll want to find the best fit as soon as possible.

DIY accounting requires a system

Since you’ve chosen to tackle your own small business accounting, you must set up—and stick to—a regular bookkeeping routine. Tasks like categorizing expenses, paying invoices, and preparing reports have to be completed on a daily and monthly basis. So it’s important to implement a system for checking these tasks off the list.

Otherwise it’s far too easy to get behind and find yourself in the midst of financial disorganization and needing to hire help to get through the mess. Having unorganized finances can also cause you to miss out on important tax deductions, making regular tax payments, and ultimately cause you to lose your hard-earned money to pay for late fees and a high tax bill.

Adhere to the basics

As long as you know the basics of small business accounting, everything else becomes relatively simple. Start by understanding these basic accounting terms, as these are things your CPA will require you to prepare and print off at the end of the year when filing your taxes.

   •     Accounts Receivable: Also known as AR, this account includes money you bill out to customers or vendors and are          expecting payment for.
   •     Accounts Payable: Also known as AP, this account includes          invoices and bills you receive and are required to pay.
   •     Assets: This account holds both tangible and intangible items          you own that are of value to the business, such as equipment,          property, tools, trademarks, patents, and stocks.
   •     Balance Sheet: This report is an overview of your company’s          financial status and includes assets, liabilities, and equity in          relation to the business.
   •     General Ledger: This report houses a complete recording of all          the transactions, income, and expenses your business has          incurred since its inception.
   •     Journal: A journal includes entries and accounts, sometimes          called “journal entries,” and is where all your transactions are recorded, whether imported from your bank directly or          added manually.
   •     Liabilities: This is the opposite of your assets and includes all long-term and short-term debt owed by the business.
   •     Profit and Loss Statement: Also known as P&L, this report lists all of the company’s gross earnings, expenses, and net          profit.

Stick with the basics and you’ll be able to grasp nearly any accounting term or phrase that your CPA throws at you. This will help you save money by being able to expertly handle the bookkeeping tasks yourself.

Don’t forget to pay taxes

Above all things, it’s important to prioritize setting aside money for tax payments. This is the one thing that can really get your business into trouble, both with the IRS and by having cash flow issues, so don’t let this slip from your to-do list.

Depending on your type of small business, you’ll have to pay quarterly taxes and possibly have to submit payroll taxes and reports on behalf of any employees. Most accounting programs already have features built-in where you can quickly calculate quarterly or payroll taxes, and include specific guidelines for paying them. In this case, it may be best to prep the taxes and reports and then hand everything over to a CPA or tax professional.

When considering whether or not to take your accounting system in-house, these steps will make it easier for you to save money and time, while still producing your desired results.

Know When to Fold ‘Em: 3 Signs it’s Time to Sell Your Business

As the Kenny Rogers song goes, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away.” These lines likely ring true for any small business owner.

Entrepreneurs start businesses to solve problems and put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and long hours in the process. Eventually, thoughts of selling come up. The decision to sell is not always the result of a problem within the business. There are many reasons entrepreneurs choose to sell. The founding partners may be ready to move on. It may be part of a long-term business plan or a necessity for financial reasons. Sometimes, it’s simply too difficult to keep up with the competition or changes in the marketplace.

Whatever the reason, selling is a big—and personal—decision that requires an in-depth look at the industry of the specific business, the market, existing and pending competition, and the individual company’s finances. Here are three signs that it may be time to walk away:

1. Lack of resources to take it to the next level

Just as starting a business takes capital, growing the business takes even more capital. Depending on the business, growth may require investing in new technology, adding employees, expanding skill sets, upping production, or anticipating market changes. Not all small businesses have the resources to take things to the next level.

If a business is poised for growth, it may attract possible buyers who can invest sufficient capital, bring in a new set of business acumen, and expand the business.

2. Founder burnout

Getting businesses off the ground is tough. It takes a lot of hard work, risk, sacrifice, and stress. Each stage of setting up a business comes with its own set of issues. In the early stages, founders often try to do everything themselves, and, later, it might be personnel issues. This can lead to the founders feeling burned out or simply ready for a change.

Feeling unhappy, unfulfilled or even exhausted may be signs that it’s time to sell.

3. An offer that’s too good to pass up

Entrepreneurs and small business owners may dream about Google or another large corporation buying their company and becoming billionaires. This might seem like a fantasy, but it’s possible that an offer might come out of nowhere and be too good to pass up.

Even if selling hadn’t seemed like a possibility, receiving an unexpected offer can give entrepreneurs the opportunity to evaluate their business plan, examine the market, and think about the future. If an offer is received, especially a multi-million dollar one, it’s a good idea to give it some serious consideration.

It’s best for the sale of a business to always be on the seller’s terms. Though this may not always be possible, entrepreneurs should remember all of their hard work as they look to sell, take stock of the business, and try to anticipate what’s best for the future of the business and business owner.

When Should You Bring on a Partner as a Small Business Owner

You’re a small business owner and feeling stuck. This happens at all stages—during idea brainstorm sessions, product development, and even after you’ve made thousands in profits. And right now you’re not sure which direction you want to take your small business.

So to clear the fog, it can be appropriate to bring in another head; one who isn’t stuck in the stuck-zone.

This person? Your business partner. Someone with expertise and a history of results; investors, and friends with big solutions. But when is the time to introduce a business partner to your small business?

1. When business is booming

When profits are coming in from every avenue, the success is amazing. But it’s also overwhelming. The stronger your sales become, the higher your revenue, and the more responsibility you have as a small business owner.

If the responsibility isn’t handled correctly, you may find yourself:

   •   Burned out
   •   Stressed out
   •   Tired out

While you might spend 60-80+ hours in the office now, it’s not necessary. Bringing on a partner to help with the influx of orders, customers, and product inventory can bring relief while also strengthening the business. And the two of you can construct a business plan to manage all new customers and orders more effectively than if you were on your own.

2. When business is slowing

On the opposite scale, when business begins to slow down, a partner can help speed things up.

A slower season—especially if your small business is season-dependent—provides you ample time to address current needs and weak points in your business model.

Strengths and weaknesses might be hard to pinpoint; however, your partner—depending on their expertise—may have an easier time identifying aspects of your small business that is causing a shortage of sales.

Together, you can also implement a new (digital) marketing strategy to ramp up customer engagement and increase product outreach to other businesses.

3. When business is expanding

Or you’re looking to expand it.

Expansion can come in many ways; partnering with other businesses in your industry, creation of a new product in a similar and/or new niche, or opening more stores across the state or country.

Expansions rely on flowing revenue streams, additional product inventory, product development, thorough communication, and marketing plans. While expanding, you may also have to hire new team members and co-workers. But implementing these changes will be a headache to handle by yourself.

You’re only one person. Although you may think that you have unlimited mental and physical capabilities, you may be burning yourself out. Hiring a partner to help offset changes, developments, and responsibilities will take a load off you while also aiding the expansion.

But when it’s time for you to decide on a partner to develop your small business further, it’s best to hire an expert in your field. Be wary of choosing a friend or family member because close relationships cause an imbalance of power, communication issues, and additional complications if the partnership doesn’t work out in the end.

7 Outrageously Unique Perks Offered by Different Companies

Last month, I was at the salon for a hair trim. My hairdresser, who also owns the place, lamented that a branch of hers outside town just closed shop. When I asked why, she said her employees have all left.

Sad story, indeed, and the sadder part is it happens to a lot of businesses.

Unique employee perks from different companies

Recruiting new talent is no walk in the park. It requires time and manpower. The costs can easily pile up, too, especially if your turnover rate is high. Once they’re on board, the challenge is retaining the high-performing ones. They’re your company’s backbone, after all.

The solution? Add handsome employee perks into your compensation plan.

Speaking of handsome, we’ve found some of the best, if not most unique, employee perks offered by different companies.

Netflix: no regular working hours

At Netflix, employees are free to come when they please, provided they get the job done. Work hours are not tracked. No standard number of days per year is required, and even vacation days aren’t logged. As long as employees deliver the performance required of them, big vacations are not a problem.

Google: 50% salary after an employee’s death

Google’s acceptance rate is a measly 0.2%, according to a 2015 report by Business Insider – about 7,000 from the more than 3 million applications they receive worldwide each year.

Aside from Google being Google and its employee perks among the most sought-after, the company’s death benefit package warrants that should an employee pass away, the surviving spouse or partner receive a check amounting to 50% of the Googler’s yearly salary for the next 10 years.

Accenture: gender reassignment

Accenture follows a strict non-discriminatory policy within the organization. As part of its commitment to uphold equality in the workplace, the company supports initiatives that promote the well-being of their LGBT employees, including domestic-partner benefits in some countries. Its enhanced health package also covers gender reassignment procedures.

Airbnb: $2,000 annual travel stipend

Airbnb employees are entitled to a $2,000 yearly travel coupon they can use anywhere in the world, as long as they stay in an Airbnb listing.

Scripps Health: on-site massages

Medical, vision, and dental benefits form part of Scripps Health’s employee health and wellness plan. Healthy living and preventive care programs include health coaching and workshops, screening and assessments, and even on-site massages.

Salesforce: paid volunteer time-off

Salesforce encourages its employees to give back to their communities through volunteering. Each employee is entitled to a seven-day paid volunteer time-off per year. When they max out their volunteer hours, they’re awarded a $1,000 champion grant they can donate to the cause they care about.

Facebook: $4,000 baby cash

Aside from “baby cash” amounting to $4,000, parents at Facebook get 16 weeks of paid parental leave. Parental leave covers maternity, paternity, and adoption leave.

Final word

Keeping your employees happy revolves around two things: lots and lots of appreciation and a fun work environment. And if you’re much too small a business to afford lavish employee perks, the key is to craft a benefits plan, as well as nurture a company culture, that shows you value your employees on a personal level.

7 Online Education Resources that Will Help SMBs Succeed

Most small to medium-sized businesses will need all the help they can get to survive in a very competitive marketplace. Because many neither have the capital nor the manpower to bring their businesses to greater heights, they need to be much more creative to succeed. That means reading up on different online education resources to help them understand the best business practices to grow their business at an accelerated rate despite any shortcomings.

As an SMB owner, you need to absorb as much information as possible from the best and most trustworthy online education resources. The following are good places to start.

Harvard Business Review
The site is chockful of news about the latest business trends and events. There are also thought-provoking pieces about numerous industries, some of which will provide you with a deeper understanding of how your business works within your market.

Catering specifically to startups and small businesses, is your go-to place for information about the most recent developments in the startup market. The site is also known for the Inc. 5000, which lists down the fastest growing private startups and SMBs in the US. This list is a great place to see the needle movers in your industry, as well as potential competitors and business partners you need to watch out for.

The site features a more diverse list of topics that are not limited to the business spectrum. Nonetheless, Forbes has very vibrant entrepreneur, business, and technology sections with influential and accomplished contributors sharing their tips and advice regarding success in their respective fields.

iTunes U
This app brings the classroom to students through their Apple devices. Educators can develop lessons, compile reading materials, and mediate discussions among students, and more. SMB owners can access content from open universities related to their industries. The materials available from the iTunes U app provide SMB owners with lots of information and opportunities to help them achieve success.

Known as one of the best platforms for offering online courses, Coursera allows SMBs to choose free or paid courses related to their industries. They can take the online classes at their pace but within a specified period. Once students pass a course, their success is recognized with an official certificate, which they can share with friends, colleagues, and employers.

Similar to Coursera, Udemy is an online course marketplace designed to help people improve their skills and knowledge about a topic. However, whereas Coursera offers mostly academic-oriented courses, Udemy provides more practical courses for professionals and SMB owners to help them gain an edge in the workplace, if not their market.

With the tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading,” TED puts itself in a unique position over other online education resources for SMBs. The TED Talks, which are videos from industry leaders who discuss thought-provoking ideas in front of a live audience, will help inspire you to rethink and approach subjects related to your market in different ways. TED videos are short—18 minutes or less.

Real Estate for Small Business Owners

Whether to lease, purchase or build a location for their venture is among the most important decisions a small business owner makes. Each has its pros and cons.

Buying vs. leasing

All things being equal, deciding whether to buy or lease property usually boils down to how long you intend to remain at the location. If you think the property will suit your needs for a minimum of seven years, you’ll save money by purchasing the space. Buying is more expensive, but you build equity in the property and the value should appreciate. You have a better idea of your ongoing monthly costs if you have a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. Rental rates are more subject to market forces and are less predictable.

However, things aren’t always equal, so consider whether you want to tie up your capital with a mortgage rather than rent and use those funds to grow your business. Future expansion is another consideration. If a purchased property doesn’t easily lend itself to expansion, you’re better off leasing. The bottom line is always whether a particular investment helps your business grow.

Tax considerations

You can deduct all or most of your lease expenses. If you buy, you can deduct your interest payments, but nonresidential real property depreciation expenses are written off over 39 years. Ask your attorney or accountant whether leasing or buying makes the best financial sense for your situation.

Location, location, location

Location can make or break a retail business. It’s a situation where you usually get one chance to do it right. Do your homework, and identify your customer demographic and where they are likely to shop or use your services. For your type of business, how important is customer proximity? While competition is good, you don’t want a location where you have too many direct competitors. You pay a premium for a top location, but it also drives your business.

When considering a location, do some traffic monitoring at peak hours for your operation. If the volume isn’t appropriate for your needs, look elsewhere.

Site history is important. There are places where no one stays in business very long. Find out what businesses were previously in the location, and what happened to them. Success or failure doesn’t just lie in management; certain areas just aren’t conducive to retail establishments.

Obviously, if your business doesn’t need walk-in traffic, location is less crucial. That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need convenient access to major roadways or other requirements dependent on the nature of your enterprise. Industrial or office parks may offer better opportunities and costs than buildings located on main corridors.


Building an office or store exactly to your specifications is probably the dream of most small business owners. New businesses may have high tech needs that an older building’s infrastructure can’t accommodate. If it’s an option, pursue it, but consider the downside. Building is time-consuming, and you may need approvals from local planning or zoning boards. Environmental or other property issues can stop a project in its tracks—perhaps permanently. Cost overruns are a given.

Commercial real estate broker

You’ll save yourself a lot of valuable time with a good commercial realtor. Unless you have expertise in negotiating leases, you aren’t likely to save money forgoing a realtor and finding and leasing property on your own. You want a realtor whose sole—or at least major—representation involves commercial tenants. As with other professionals, word-of-mouth helps find a reputable realtor. So does asking local businesses in your intended area which broker they used and whether they would recommend the person. Brokers often specialize, so find a person familiar with your type of business and its needs. A broker should know about any municipal ordinances or zoning that could affect your business—issues you certainly don’t want to discover after you’ve signed the lease or purchased the property.