The following is a guest post by Roy Rasmussen, co-author of “Publishing for Publicity.” Roy is a freelance copywriter who helps small businesses get more customers and make more sales.
Starting up and growing a business is an intensive process that involves many tasks. One important step is setting up essential services that your business needs to get up and running. Knowing what these services are is a prerequisite for performing this task. Choosing the right service providers can be a bigger challenge when there are often so many options to choose from. Here’s a guide to help you know what services you need to run your business and how to find the right service providers.
Office Space and Mailing Address Setup
One fundamental step in setting up a business is setting up your office space and obtaining a business mailing address. Depending on the nature of your business, a number of options are available. If you work from home, you can have your office in your home and use your home address or a PO Box. However, if you want to create a more professional image, if you need a place to meet clients, or if you don’t run your business out of your home, you may need to consider other options.
One option is using a mailbox rental service from a provider who allows you to use a street address instead of a PO Box, such as USPS, UPS or Mail Boxes Etc. Another option is traditional office space rental. If you want to avoid the cost of renting a full-time office, you can use virtual office services, also known as executive suite services, which allow you part-time access to office services including receptionist services and use of meeting space. A similar option is coworking space, where you share space with other companies and split the cost. Sites such as OfficeFinder can help you locate a virtual office, executive suite or coworking space provider near you and compare the cost of these options with that of traditional office space rental.
Setting up a business bank account is another key step in getting your company up and running. A business bank account can allow you to segregate your business and personal finances, write business checks, use a business credit card, obtain financing and file tax paperwork.
When choosing a business banking provider, you should first consider what services you need from your financial institution, advises accounting software provider Intuit. Are you only interested in having a business checking or savings account? Are you seeking a business loan or line of credit? Do you want services such as merchant payment processing or automatic bill payment? Decide what services you need first before comparing providers’ pricing and reputations.
Choosing an accountant is another important decision in the set-up process. Businesses often make mistakes when choosing an accounting service. It’s important to choose an accountant who not only knows how to crunch numbers but also has experience that matches your needs, understands your business model and can perform financial analysis to advise you of issues such as cash-flow problems.
Directories such as CPA Finder can help you locate qualified, certified accounting professionals in your area. You can also consult your own contacts and local business associates to obtain referrals.
As a startup, you probably don’t need to hire a full-time accountant. Many accounting services offer rates based on how many hours of work you actually need. Providers who use cloud-based accounting tools that automate syncing of your financial data and bookkeeping can greatly reduce the number of billable hours you need to pay for while increasing your efficiency.
In a mobile-oriented economy, choosing a telecommunications provider is another crucial business decision. One issue to consider is whether your company would best be served by a mobile phone, VoIP, virtual phone or traditional landline service. Consider also what phone services you need, how many lines you need for your staff and what your estimated call volume and data usage will be.
Your hardware and software equipment is another consideration. Some providers may require you to use certain types of equipment. If you have existing equipment, you will need to consider compatibility. If you want to leave room for flexibility as your business grows, a good option is using prepaid phones that allow you to change services as needed. Last but not least, consider price and plan options. Study contract terms carefully before getting locked into a long-term commitment.
Choosing the right IT provider for web hosting and other IT services is also vital. A good IT provider will ask you questions about your business needs to develop a customized plan that fits you instead of offering a one-size-fits-all approach. A good provider will also be willing to answer questions about their certification, experience, skill sets, support methods and uptime guarantees.
It’s also important to ask your provider about their reliability and security, such as how much uptime they guarantee. Best-in-class providers offer uptime of 99.999 percent or higher, known as “five nines” or “high availability.” As with telecommunications providers, be sure to thoroughly understand contract terms before entering into a long-term agreement.
Setting up your office space and business mailing address, creating a banking account, arranging accounting services, selecting a telecommunications provider and choosing an IT provider are five essential tasks involved in getting your company up and running. Taking the time to choose the right service providers for these items will avoid headaches down the road and make running your business easier and more rewarding and profitable.