Category Archives: Small Business

Essential Tactics to Start a Business the Right Way

My wife, Meg, and I never set-out to be entrepreneurs after college. It was never part of the plan for two music education majors. But as the saying goes, life happens when we’re busy making plans. Meg was the first to start a business when she launched her own music lesson studio while we were still in college. To say she has been successful would honestly be an understatement.

And in the last year six months I have been steadily building this blog and my real estate business with the end goal of replacing and eclipsing my current teacher’s salary. Both business pursuits are great fits for my personality and skills. I enjoy teaching people and helping them solve problems so much that both jobs rarely feel like work.

That’s the beautiful thing about the decision to start a business. It can free you from a stressful, draining job and give you a greater sense of purpose by allowing you to make money doing what you love.

You won’t be able to start a business overnight – at least not a business that replaces your full-time income. But if you’re willing to put in the hours in the early morning, late nights, and weekends, you can do it!

The choice to start a business is one of the smartest moves anyone can make. Your tactics will determine whether you succeed or fail, so choose them wisely! Your business marketing plan will be key, and so will separating your personal and business finances, forming a business entity, having a presence on the web and on social media, and ensuring that your business is active in the local community. We'll show you how to start a business that will succeed!

Key Tactics to Start a Business the Right Way

In this post, I am sharing with you the exact tactics we have used recently in our businesses. They have put us on a path to have the freedom to quit our current day jobs in the near future.

If you’re planning to start a business soon or simply looking to improve your existing business, we’re confident they will help you.

Keep start-up costs low

The decision to start a business can be very emotional. Many business owners have undoubtedly gotten excited, gone all-in, and put the cart before the horse over the years when it comes to spending money to support their launch.

To be honest, I have never understood why. Yes, it is necessary to spend money to make money in many cases, and I get that. However, it is never a good idea to push to spend more than is necessary on start-up costs.

For example, I watched a client in one of my former consulting positions doom their new family business because they spent way too much money right out of the gate. From material costs and marketing to staffing costs, they were spending far more money than necessary for a new business.

I no longer am a consultant with this business, but I ran into a mutual contact of ours last week. The business is no longer open after only a few months of operation.

If you can minimize your start-up costs, you’ll fare much better. If you can make it work, start your business at home and also take advantage of the home office deduction at tax time.

Use your knowledge and skills to your advantage

When many people decide to start a business, they overlook the obvious. I don’t mean to insinuate that you should start a business doing exactly what you’re doing now. It’s not a bad idea if you can make more money working for yourself, but you have other options, too.

You don’t necessarily have to do what you already know, but you can use those skills in a different way.

For example, I’ve always had a knack for writing since high school. My classmates complained about writing long papers, while I was able to crank out long papers in short time and actually have fun doing it. I also have had a successful teaching career. This blog is the perfect way to leverage and combine these skills.

Side note: If you are open to sharing your unique skills with others and helping them solve problems, you need to start a blog. I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help start your blog. It includes help with the technical components of building a blog from scratch, creating interesting content that will get noticed and shared, and marketing your new blog effectively. As a FinanceSuperhero reader, you can use this link to start a blog with Bluehost for only $3.95 and receive a FREE domain name for one year.

Get your finances in order right away

When you start a business, many things can get lost in the shuffle if you’re not careful. Depending upon your niche and services of your business, the paperwork alone can be a full-time job just to complete.

After all, you need to open separate checking and savings accounts, along with a credit card, for most businesses. This can take several hours for even the most experienced business people. And if you plan to form an LLC or other business entity, you’re in for hours and hours of paperwork.

Fortunately, there are a few good companies out there who aim to help make starting a business easier.

Checking out Spark Business is a smart move for anyone who starts a business. Unlike most local banks, who want to charge outrageous fees to business owners for simply starting a checking and savings account, Spark is all about the customer.

Check out just a few of their benefits for business customers:

With no fees, no transaction limits, 40, free ATMS, free online bill pay, and free online invoicing, it doesn’t get any better! You can open an account with Spark by clicking here.

After you’ve separated your personal finances from those of your business, the next logical step may be to form a legal business entity. In the past, formation of an LLC or other legal business entity was extremely time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive in most states.

The team at MyNewCompany has made the process as simple as three easy steps in many cases. Their Basic Package starts at only $79 and includes the preparation and filing of Articles of Organization, which many people consider the most stressful aspect of forming an LLC. They can also help you form a Federal Tax ID, secure Registered Agent Service, help you create a personalized LLC Operating Agreement, and much more.

Market yourself everywhere

If you disregarded all of the tactics shared so far, be sure you don’t miss this one. It truly has the ability to make or break your efforts to start a business the right way and achieve success.

The simple truth is that when you start a business nobody knows unless you tell them! It is critical that you do everything you can to get the word out about your business.

The following suggestions can help you get started:

  • Tell friends and family in person, over the phone, etc.
  • Create a social media presence for your business (start with Facebook)
  • Create your own website (or hire someone else to do it if you don’t have time)
  • Create business cards, pens, magnets, calendars, etc. and give them away
  • Formulate a plan and send out mailers locally
  • Sponsor a local team or event
  • Join the local chamber of commerce or business groups

Finally, this must be said: no, marketing won’t be free. It won’t even be cheap. But investing even a small amount of your start-up costs in this area will pay dividends.

Be efficient with the small things

When you start a business, it will feel like a million tasks are constantly competing for your time and attention. It is important to maximize your  time and productivity in every way possible.

Start by taking an inventory of all of the apps on your mobile device. If you don’t have Waze, Google Calendar, Personal Capital, Evernote, PayPal, and MileIQ (if you drive frequently your business miles will add up in a hurry, and the IRS requires you to track them rather than estimate them) you should download them right away. These simple apps will help you save enormous amounts of time each week.

Hustle, hustle, hustle

If anyone ever told you it was easy to start a business, they were lying. It is hard work, and it often requires sacrifice.

Work other jobs if you need to pull in cash to support your start-up. You can make money driving for Uber, taking surveys, pet sitting, mowing lawns, or even delivering food on your bike. This is the time to get creative and do what ever you have to do to make it!

For most people, it will make sense to launch your business while still keeping your current job. The sad reality is that you won’t know for sure if the new business is viable long-term right away – at least not in most cases. You might have to cut out watching TV, going out every weekend with friends, and playing fantasy football.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Engineer Your Layoff!

Of all the steps involved in starting your own business, this one may be the most important: for goodness sake, don’t just quit your day job – engineer your layoff instead!

This bold strategy is exactly what allowed Sam Dogen, the founder of FinancialSamurai, to leave his corporate job and avoid the pressure of finding another job. Instead, a steady stream of severance money allowed Sam to focus on building a stream of passive income through wise investments and also create a profitable blog that welcomes millions of readers each year.

You can download Sam’s newly-updated book, How to Engineer Your Layoff eBook, using this link. The cost may be tax-deductible for business owners (check with your CPA to be sure), and if not, it is still well-worth every single penny. If you can gain severance money it will help you stay afloat during the early stages of your start-up.

Click here to visit the Financial Samurai Store.

Get started on your business plan today!

You won’t be able to start a business that becomes a well-oiled machine overnight, but if you have the determination, desire, and willingness to do whatever it takes to grow, you can be successful! The above tips have helped my wife and I build three profitable businesses.

The best part of our choices to start our businesses is that we may soon have the choice to walk away from our day jobs and experience an incredible new level of freedom. You can have that opportunity, too, but like all journeys, this one starts with a single step.

Business owners (bloggers included), how would you describe your decision to start a business?

What barriers stand in the way of your desire to start a business? How can you overcome them?

Entrepreneur or Employee – Find Your Best Career Path

What factors determine whether YOU are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee?

For more than four decades, my Grandpa awoke at the crack of dawn each morning and headed to work. He was an employee of Continental Motors, one of the largest producers of engines in the first half of the 20th century. After his hours of service as an employee, Grandpa underwent a daily transformation into an entrepreneur in a matter of minutes. While many of his co-workers went fishing or retired to their homes for the day, Grandpa could be found painting, flipping vehicles or utility trailers which needed repair, or even helping operate the family market. Grandpa likely never paid any thought to whether he should be an employee or entrepreneur; why choose just one role when he could pursue both?

I think of Grandpa’s example often when contemplating life as an entrepreneur or employee. He was a rare individual who could successfully manage both pursuits while remaining the ultimate father and husband.

The world was different in the 20th century. Yet today, as it did in the past, life as an entrepreneur or employee offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. This is especially true in today’s competitive, rapidly  changing marketplace.

Many factors determine whether you are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee. Your mindset, goals, personality, and habits are good indicators.

Personal Perspective

What qualifies me to write about the advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur or employee? I’ve lived both lives in the past, and I’m currently living them now. I am a public school teacher by day, a real estate agent in the afternoon, and I run FinanceSuperhero at night. I have experienced the joys and sorrows of being “the boss,” being an employee, and being my own boss.

What does all this mean?

You’re going to get straight, no frills insight.

The Entrepreneur Advantage

As an entrepreneur, you are in the driver’s seat 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Your business depends solely upon you, your vision, and your leadership. You are in full control.

An entrepreneur rarely faces the same slate of challenges day in and day out. In the role of entrepreneur, you will be the lead agent of change and growth of your business. Each day is unique. 

Furthermore, you possess the ultimate freedom to do as you please with your business. You are the lead creative genius. You may set your own agenda, work hours, and timelines. The world is your office, in many cases, so you can work anywhere!

Lastly, your profitability and earnings are largely determined by the success of your business. If you’re business thrives, there is often a direct correlation in growth of your income. Hard work typically pays off.

Employee Perks

As an employee, you find yourself in a world which is much more defined. Your job description, responsibilities, work hours, salary, insurance benefits, and retirement plans are all established when you are hired. These benefits are typically stable.

As a result of such definition, each day often follows a routine structure. Meetings, projects, and other tasks are assigned to you. Work is more predictable.

Additionally, the life of an employee often offers increased opportunities for collaboration and the development of relationships. Over time, you and your colleagues may develop strong working relationships. You may even be able to depend upon them in times of need.

Entrepreneurial Annoyances

While life as an entrepreneur has its benefits, the disadvantages are also plentiful. When you are in control of your business, the only throat to choke when something goes awry is your own. For some, this responsibility is a heavy burden to bear.

Many factors determine whether you are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee. Your mindset, goals, personality, and habits are good indicators.The entrepreneur also faces a bevy of additional challenges:

*Remaining competitive in a changing marketplace

*Building and maintaining a client base

*Marketing and branding the business with sensitivity to return on investment

*Maintaining focus and direction while being pulled and stretched at all times

*Maintaining personal relationships and boundaries

Employee Blues

Of course, life as an employee is not always full of rainbows and butterflies. You may be forced to deal with the insufferable demands of a clueless boss. Inefficiency in your department may create more work for you at every turn. Perhaps there is little motivation or financial incentive for you to work harder or increase your production.

Entrepreneur or Employee – Which is right for you?

I am a firm believer that your initial reactions to the above advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur or employee, respectively, may be a great indicator of which role is right for you. For example, if the thought of being in full control scares you more than it excites you, perhaps the role of entrepreneur is not right for you. Similarly, if the idea of predictable, structured work sounds like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, perhaps the role of employee is not right for you.

With a few exceptions, the following personality characteristics, mindsets, habits, goals, and preferences may help you find the role which is best for you.

Entrepreneur Characteristics

*Highly-motivated to start new endeavors (A “Go-Getter”)


*Self-driven and motivated

*Mindset which asks “What’s next” and “What is it time for now?”

*Willing to make mistakes and learn from them (An entrepreneur always embraces failure!)

*Recognized by yourself or others as a “Jack of All Trades,” or a generalist

*More likely to have friends in all walks of life and professions

Employee Characteristics

*Enjoys following directions and orders to complete tasks

*Patient and accepting in the face of occasional mistreatment (your job depends on staying in line and doing what you’re told in most cases, yet this does not bother you)

*Values the safety of a guaranteed hourly rate or salary

*Fears mistakes and strives to maintain the status quo

*Tendency to be a specialist vs. a generalist (highly-trained in a specific niche)

*More likely to associate with people similar to them in lifestyle and professions

Entrepreneur or Employee – The Final Decision

Lee Eclov, pastor, author, and one of the wisest teachers I have ever known, is fond of reminding people to paint with the colors they are given. This metaphor is not only applicable in the context of ministry or other public service – it is equally valid in the business world. We should all strive to recognize our natural talents and abilities and seek to maximize them, whether we are an an entrepreneur or employee.

Ultimately, the choice to be an entrepreneur or employee – or both – comes down to knowing and honoring yourself and your abilities. Seize the opportunity that fits you best and aligns best with you, your values, and your goals. As Dave Matthews wrote,

Make the most of what you’ve got
Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not
Fill up your head & fill up your heart, take your shot
Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not

Are you an entrepreneur, employee, or both? Do you feel you are in the role which best suits you? If money were not a consideration, what would be your ideal role?

If you are interested in quitting your job as an employee to become an entrepreneur, don’t quit – engineer your layoff by following the tried-and-true advice of FinancialSamurai. 

5 Small Business Tips: Save Money and Boost Efficiency

In today’s competitive market place, implementation of money-saving, efficiency-boosting small business tips can be the difference between profit and loss. Though my wife and I are young entrepreneurs, we have learned many important lessons over the past few years.

In July, my talented and hard working wife, Mrs. Superhero, shared a guest post, 10 Tips for Self-Starter Entrepreneurs. To date, it remains one of the most-popular articles on In the past two months, I have received many follow-up questions and requests for further advice based upon the tips shared in the article. In this post, I will share 5 additional tips which will aim to build upon the advice previously shared.

Small Business Tips

Simple Small Business Tips

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to services and products which may be beneficial to small business owners. 

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 28 million small businesses in the U.S. account for 54% of sales while also providing 55% of all jobs since the 1970s. Small businesses, regardless of their size, are a  major player in the American and even global economy. Launching a small business is relatively easy, yet building and sustaining a successful business model can be challenging.

Without further adieu, here are 5 additional small business tips to save you money and boost efficiency.

1. Structure Your Small Business To Protect Yourself

On the surface, this suggestion appears very obvious. However, in the midst of other start-up activities, consideration of legal structure for a new business is often placed on the back burner.

For many new businesses, in particular those run by sole proprietors, operating under a DBA (“doing business as”) arrangement may suffice. The advantage in doing so is simple: minimal costs and typically simple tax returns. However, operation as a sole proprietor may increase exposure to liability.

In order to minimize exposure to risk and liability, the formation of a corporate entity, such as an LLC (limited liability company), may be advisable. This process can be expensive and time-consuming, which leads most experts to recommend holding off on this process for a short time.

Small Business TipsHowever, for those wanting to take this step, INCFILE.COM offers a simple and affordable process to do so. In my home state of Illinois, the package rate for forming an LLC begins at $49. The Illinois Secretary of State also charges a $500 LLC registration fee.

How does forming an LLC save you money? By taking legal steps to limit your overall liability, you are protecting your personal assets. For example, if you are a musician, forming an LLC may be a wise move to protect valuable assets, such as antique grand pianos, professional-quality string and woodwind instruments, and other valuable equipment.

The scope of this article does not allow a full discussion of the merits of DBA and LLC designations. For more information on this topic, I recommend further reading on the topic.

Related – Limited Liability Corporation Versus a Sole Proprietorship – Bloom, Bloom, and Associates, P.C.

2. Track Your Mileage

If your business requires frequent driving to meet clients, you could be missing out on significant tax savings. For 2016, the IRS established a rate of $0.54 per mile. Please note the following:

*If you are tracking your mileage, you may not also use any depreciation method on your vehicle. This will surely trigger the alarms at the IRS.

*In lieu of tracking mileage and claiming this deduction, you can choose instead to track the actual costs of operating your vehicle in a business capacity. This can be more complicated, which leads many business owners to track mileage instead.

Small Business Tips to Save Money and Boost EfficiencyIf you prefer tracking mileage, I highly recommend utilizing an app such as MileIQ to streamline the process. In August 2016, I used it to track my mileage for my real estate business. The app classified 265.2 miles of business driving, a value of $143.23. It worked in the background on my iPhone without requiring any prompting or effort on my part.

The app is very intelligent and intuitive to use; drives can be classified as personal or business with a swipe of your finger, and frequently-driven routes may be auto-classified, based on your preferences. You can download mileage reports in Excel or PDF format at any time, which makes record keeping very easy.

If you will be classifying 40 or fewer drives per month, you may use the app at no cost! Beyond that, the paid version offers tremendous value when the time saved on tracking mileage in a manner detailed enough to satisfy the IRS is considered.

As an added bonus for FinanceSuperhero readers, if you sign-up for MileIQ using this link, you will save 20% on the regular annual rate of $59.99.

Small Business Tips to Save Money and Boost Efficiency

3. Keep an Electronic Calendar

Few mistakes can be as devastating to your business’s reputation as missing an appointment or failing to follow-up with a client. Depending upon your specific business, the “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” mantra remains very applicable.

In order to make sure we do not miss appointments for our side jobs, Mrs. Superhero and I maintain a free shared Google Calendar. The app is very user-friendly, simple to maintain, and allows for event notifications to be established via e-mail or text. Our shared calendar allows us to stay on the same page, balance priorities in a centralized location, and avoid double-booking ourselves.

4. Maintain Accurate Records For Free

While many small businesses may prefer their tried and true use of programs such as Quick Books, many free, user-friendly alternatives are available today. I have created Excel templates which I utilize to organize all income and expenditures for Mrs. Superhero’s music studio, but I may soon look into alternatives to streamline my processes.

One promising alternative is Wave, a free accounting software platform designed specifically for small businesses with fewer than nine employees, independent contractors, and sole proprietors. The interface allows users to track sales/income, expenses, create and manage invoices, and scan receipts – all for free! It syncs with your business accounts to eliminate the need for manual data entry, generates professional accounting reports (accounts receivable, accounts payable, balance sheets), and creates invoices with ease.

For a small cost, payroll and credit card processing are also supported. Simply put, there is a reason why over 1.7 million people use Wave today.

5. Utilize Amazon Prime to Save

If you are a lean enterprise (think sole proprietor), chances are you spend a great deal of time running errands and picking up last minute items. This also wastes earning potential. After all, time is money!

Amazon DashI highly recommend an Amazon Prime membership in order to minimize wasted time and improve your efficiency. With Prime, you receive free two-day shipping, no minimum order size, and also will enjoy access to streaming music and video. You can establish recurring orders for items which you need regularly, such as ink, paper, envelopes, and a variety of other office supplies using the Subscribe and Save or Amazon Dash programs – no more last minute trips for office supplies!

If you’re on the fence, I recommend taking advantage of the Amazon Prime Free 30-Day Trial, which can be cancelled at anytime. 

Final Recommendations

By following the five small business tips above, you can improve the efficiency of your business and save money. They will free up your time to focus upon prospecting, improving your services, and meeting the needs of your clients.

What small business tips do you recommend? Which of the small business tips mentioned above do you implement?