Online Resources for Small Businesses
Serving as a small business owner is both a daring and noble endeavor. It is daring because it takes a lot of courage to enter the marketplace and put forth a product or service that furthers the good of others. At the same time, it is a noble endeavor because the successful small business creates jobs for people and furthers the economic well being of the country.
Succeeding as a small business owner depends on being informed about a wide variety of business-related issues. Today, getting and staying informed is quite easy for the small business owner due to the amount of data and resources online dedicated to helping owners understand the ins and outs of running a business. Keeping up on planning, accounting, marketing, legal requirements, and more is easy for anyone who has Internet access, and this resource is designed to help business owners find the best online tools for assistance in running their business effectively.
A successful business requires both the development of a product or service that people want or need and a strategic plan to help the owner deal with the ups and downs of the market, lay a foundation for growth, and deal with the owner’s eventual exit from the business. Without a good business plan, companies can find themselves wandering aimlessly or even working themselves, unintentionally, into extinction. These resources can help both start-ups and established businesses develop a strategy for success over the long haul.
• Exit a Business — The basics of exiting a business along with helpful resources on closing up shop can be found here.
• My Business Exit Strategy — This is a helpful article from an experienced business owner on her business exit strategy.
• Some Guidance on Business Planning — Those interested in starting a small business can benefit from this guide on starting a business from NASA.
• Starting a Business — Here is a good outline for any small business plan from the Howard University Small Business Center
• Write a Business Plan — The U.S. Small Business Administration offers this excellent page on how to write a business plan.
Starting a Business
Even with a great idea, starting a successful business can be a significant challenge to the most industrious of people. Getting the proper forms in order and preparing for initial risks that all new companies must face is a must. Fortunately, there are many good sites online that talk about the risks and needs of start-up companies, preparing owners for their companies’ first few months of existence.
• Buying a Business: A Checklist — The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center provides this good checklist that describes what is involved when buying a business.
• How to Start a Business — Various options that are available to those who want to start a business are listed on this page, and the pros and cons of each are also discussed.
• Information about Franchise Startup Costs — There are a variety of costs that must be considered when starting a franchise, and this article summarizes them helpfully.
• IRS: Starting a Business — Things that business start-ups should keep in mind about U.S. federal income taxes when a company is started are found on this page.
• Starting a Home Business: Pros and Cons — The University of Maine offers this helpful resource on the pros and cons of starting a business at home.
Proper financing helps every business deal with the ups and downs of cash flow and grow its market share in a sustainable manner. Small business loans, credit cards, issuing stock, and more are all ways that companies can acquire funding for starting and maintaining a company. Here is some information on the variety of small business financing options that are available.
• Business Credit — This is a good one-stop resource for information on business credit cards and other related matters.
• Business Government Loans — Ten U.S. government loans designed for small businesses are listed on this page, along with their requirements and other important information.
• Financing Your Business — Rutgers University Business Library has put together this comprehensive guide to starting a business that includes a lot of good information on financing the company.
• SCORE: Financing Your Business — Here is a comprehensive listing of links and resources related to financing a privately owned business.
• Walton College of Business: Financing — The University of Arkansas offers this comprehensive page on business financing and the documents required to obtain it.
Operating a business legally requires constant attention to government licenses, federal and state labor laws, and much more. In the past, it was often difficult for small businesses to keep up with all the regulations on the books, but that is no longer the case due to the proliferation of Internet sites that help companies of every size understand business law. These are some of the best resources online for helping small businesses understand how they may comply with existing laws.
• Intellectual Property Laws — The University of Pittsburgh maintains this database and links page that directs users to up-to-date information on U.S. Intellectual Property Law.
• Non-Profit Articles of Incorporation — Reasons why a not-for-profit business might want to incorporate and resources on putting together articles of incorporation can be found here.
• Red Flags Rule — Some of the lesser-known business legal requirements are the privacy requirements imposed by the Federal Trade Commission. This page offers guidance on making sure a business complies with these regulations.
• State Business Licenses — Residents of all 50 U.S. states can find the paperwork needed to apply for a business license in their jurisdiction on this page.
• U.S. Department of Labor — The U.S. Department of Labor makes sure that businesses know labor laws and enforce them properly.
Employment & HR
Whether a business employs one or one hundred people, attracting and retaining the best talent requires company owners to offer competitive and cost-effective employee benefits. Owners are also responsible to make sure that payroll taxes are paid and that other federal wage and benefit laws are followed. Here are some good sites that can help any company meet their employment and human resource challenges.
• American Payroll Association — The American Payroll Association provides help to companies with all their payroll-related needs and questions.
• Current Strategies and Tactics in Staffing — This page offers some valuable tips in staffing a business with the best employees.
• Electronic Federal Tax Payment System — The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System is designed to help companies and individuals pay their federal taxes electronically.
• Frequently Asked Questions About Benefits — This FAQ section from the Employee Benefit Research Institute is a helpful overview and discussion of employee benefits.
• Staffing in Three Parts — Although this page uses the farm industry as an example, its principles on staffing a business can be applied to any industry.
Taxes, Accounting, and Money Management
Informed business owners need to be well versed in accounting systems and practices even if they employ accountants and others to keep watch over company income and expenses for them. The more one knows about federal tax law, accounting methods, budgeting strategies, and more, the better one will be to deal with any monetary issues that will arise in the course of doing business. Many good tools and overview pages exist online to help business owners understand this important aspect of their business.
• Accounting and Bookkeeping FAQs — Answers to the most frequently asked questions about accounting and bookkeeping for businesses can be found here.
• Budgeting Strategies — The Kauffman Foundation has put together this helpful page on developing company budgets.
• Federal Taxes — This is a good beginning page on federal tax planning in the United States.
• Small Business Legal Audit — Many of the questions on this audit are helpful for business owners who want to get and keep their accounting issues under control.
• Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center — Small businesses can find out everything they want to know about taxes from the IRS on this page.
Internet & E-Commerce
No matter the good or service that a company happens to provide, Internet marketing, and selling, can help them grow their market share. Developing an e-commerce site, advertising online effectively, and more may seem difficult to those business owners who are not computer experts, but any company can make good use of the Internet with just some basic information and tips about online storefronts and marketing. Business owners should read these tools for a better understanding of how to make the Internet work for their business.
• E-Commerce Toolbox — This government-sponsored site will be especially helpful for business owners who want to make their products and services available worldwide via the Internet.
• Field Guide to Effective Online Marketing — Although this site focuses on realtors, the principles of marketing and links on this page will benefit any savvy business owner.
• Online Advertising and Profitability — This brief article talks about the pros and cons of advertising online versus advertising in traditional media.
• Online Selling Association — The Online Selling Association is an association of e-commerce providers that provides a platform for them to offer advice to one another and other resources.
• Website 101 — An experienced writer describes some of the things that must be kept in mind when starting a business website.
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