Small Business Marketing Strategies for Oregon Businesses

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Oregon Businesses

Small business owners often don’t have big marketing budgets to work with, which can make promoting products or services a challenge. The good news is that there are many ways to market your company that cost little or nothing but can still significantly impact your bottom line.

Below are our top small business marketing strategies.

1. Set Up a Google My Business Listing

Having a Google Business profile is one of the most effective and free marketing strategies available for local businesses. This allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches. 

For your business profile to show up higher on Google Maps or local results, you’ll need to optimize it by claiming verified ownership—which can be done through your Google My Business account.

With a Google My Business profile, you can share details and photos of your business, including its location, contact information, and services and products offered. Whether you’re looking for foot traffic or web traffic, Google is the ultimate search referrer and helps people find your business when looking for products and services like yours in their area.

Your Google Business profile also allows customers to share reviews and ratings about their experience with your business, which helps attract potential customers through their Google search results. Be sure to share your Google My Business link with your customers and encourage them to leave reviews.

You can set up your Google My Business profile here

2. Make the Most of Social Media Marketing

Having a prominent social media presence is no longer optional for small businesses—it’s a marketing must. Social media helps define your image, promote your business, gain clientele, and build relationships.

It’s best to start with one or two social channels that cater to your target market and ideal audience instead of trying to master all the different platforms at once. Once you learn one and do it well, add another. Be sure to leverage the latest trends on your platforms, like posting Facebook Stories, Instagram Reels, etc.

Some ideas on what to post include promoting your blog posts to drive traffic to your website, running polls and requesting feedback, and sharing client testimonials. 

While it’s OK to post recycled content once in a while, be sure to publish original content, too, including your own videos and photos, and share valuable tips and information. 

Tagging your loyal customers, partners, and vendors on social networks can broaden your business’s organic reach to a new potential audience, help you grow your following, and potentially attract new customers. 

When creating the “About” section on your business social media pages, make sure you get it right. This means creating a compelling description and optimizing the text by utilizing keywords that boost its SEO rank.

Managing multiple social media accounts, creating engaging content, posting consistently, responding to user comments and questions, and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job. Consider hiring an experienced social media manager or outsourcing the work.

3. Engage Your Audience Via Email and Text Marketing

Sending messages about your products or services via email and text is a powerful way to turn leads into customers and foster loyalty. Building successful email/SMS marketing campaigns is critical for any company and is the most effective method for reaching people interested in what your business is offering.

As a small business owner, your email list, including current and prospective customers, is one of your most valuable assets. That’s why building a customer contact list should always be a top priority. 

For customers, it’s easy to click “Follow” on social media, but they aren’t always eager to give out their email address. To get more emails and phone numbers, offer an email/text opt-in on your website, start a monthly email newsletter, and offer discount codes in exchange for providing their contact information.

When it comes to email and SMS marketing, prioritize quality over quantity. An inbox flooded with promotional messages is likely to annoy a customer into unsubscribing, while a small number of messages with valuable content can boost engagement. One of the best ways to do this is to place a coupon in your messages.

Still, great content doesn’t guarantee that recipients will open your message. To improve audience engagement, open rates, and conversions, put thought and effort into the subject line, call to action, and the email’s design. 

Before sending out a marketing email, always send a test email to yourself to preview what it will look like from a customer’s perspective. This ensures that any formatting issues get caught and addressed before the email goes out to your entire list.

4. Deliver Promotions Through Direct Mail Campaigns

Direct mail may be more costly than email marketing, but if you have a targeted list and promote appealing offers, it can be very effective—and profitable. Direct mail also has a longer life span than email marketing, which has a life span of just a few seconds. RetailWire reports that direct mail’s average life span is 17 days.

Some marketing ideas for direct mail include sending a postcard or brochure promoting your business, discount coupons, a gift card, or small branded items with your company’s logo. People hang on to things they can use, so putting your logo on items like magnets, pens, notebooks, and stress balls means more exposure for your business.

You can also time your direct mail campaigns around your customers’ birthdays. Send them special coupons or promo codes to acknowledge their big day. You can send both email and direct mail birthday coupons and compare the results. You may get a better response from an email campaign, but promotional emails often get lost in people’s busy inboxes.

5. Reward Existing Customers and Create a Referral Program

Your current customers are your most valuable resource, especially as they are your primary source of referrals and reviews. A referral from a current customer is the best kind of lead you can get, and a positive review from that customer can pay dividends for years.

One of the best ways to source new leads is to tap your existing network. Reward your repeat customers with loyalty programs that incentivize referrals and discounts. 

To encourage current and past clients to refer you to their family, friends, and co-workers, offer them an incentive, like a gift card, free product or service, or another reward that will motivate them to send referrals your way. 

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most trusted and powerful strategies for growing your small business.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners throughout the state. Visit OregonSBDC.org to locate a Center near you and access our no-cost advising services today!

Setting Your Small Business Up as a Sole Proprietorship

Setting Your Small Business Up as a Sole Proprietorship

Operating as a sole proprietor is the easiest route to starting your own business compared with forming another type of business structure, like an LLC (limited liability company). Sole proprietorships are popular among solo business owners, consultants, and freelancers, who can conduct business under their own names because creating a separate business or trade name isn’t needed.

Read on to learn the basics of a sole proprietorship, its advantages and disadvantages over other business structures, how to set up your business, and what you need to know to operate your business as a sole proprietor.

What Is a Sole Proprietorship Business?

A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business with just one owner.

A sole proprietorship is easy to form and gives you complete control of your business. You’re automatically considered a sole proprietor if you perform business activities but have not registered as any other type of business, like an LLC or a C Corp.

Sole proprietorships are not a separate business entity. This means your business assets and liabilities are not separate from your personal assets and liabilities. Therefore, you can be held personally liable for your business debts and obligations.

Sole proprietorships can be a good choice for consultants, businesses with very low risk, and those who want to test their business first before committing to the time and costs of forming a more formal business structure.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Sole Proprietor?

The most significant benefits of a sole proprietorship are the ease of creating one, its pass-through tax advantage, and the low fees for establishing the business.

With a sole proprietorship, you need to register the business with the state only if you are using a name other than your legal name (“real and true” name). However, depending on the kind of business you operate, you may be required to obtain a license or permit. With a sole proprietorship, you can get your business up and running quickly and with less hassle and cost.

The tax process is easier, too, as you are not required to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS unless you have employees. You can also use your Social Security number to file and pay taxes.

The disadvantages of a sole proprietorship include the unlimited liabilities and potential difficulties in obtaining business funding from a bank or investors due to being in the early stages of business.

Because a sole proprietorship is not a separate business entity, any business liability can become your own. For example, business creditors could seize your personal assets. Because a sole proprietorship offers no liability protection, you could go personally bankrupt if your business doesn’t succeed or faces unexpected challenges.

Obtaining financing can also be a hurdle with a sole proprietorship. Banks prefer to work with businesses that have a proven financial track record, and sole proprietorships are often start-ups. As an individual starting out, you appear as higher risk to bank lenders. Getting equity from investors can also be difficult, as many prefer to fund more refined start-ups.

However, many entrepreneurs and small business owners begin as sole proprietorships. As their business grows, they can register to become a limited liability entity, such as an LLC, LLP, or a corporation.

Sole Proprietorship vs. LLC: How to Choose?

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be wondering if it would be better to create a sole proprietorship or an LLC. A sole proprietorship is usually a good fit for small businesses with low risk, low profits, and a small customer or client base.

An LLC may be the better fit if your business is associated with some risks, there’s the possibility of raking in large profits, you have a large customer base, you have employees, or you’re in a position where you could benefit from certain tax structures.

How Do You Set Up a Sole Proprietorship in Oregon?

In Oregon, you can start a sole proprietorship without filing any paperwork with the state government, unless you choose an assumed business name, need licenses and permits to operate, or will be hiring employees. Review the steps below to take the necessary actions, if any apply to your sole proprietorship business:

1. Choose a business name.

In Oregon, a sole proprietor may use their own “real and true” name or use a trade name. If you plan to use a business name or a trade name, state law requires that the name be distinguishable from other company names on record. You also want to choose a name that is not too similar to another registered business because of common and federal law trademark protections. To make sure your business name is available, run a search in the following government databases:

2. File an assumed business name.

If you use a business name different from your legal name, Oregon requires you to register an assumed business name with the Secretary of State’s Office. This is a mandatory requirement in Oregon. To file your assumed name, you must fill out the Online Assumed Business Name Registry from the Secretary of State Business Registration Service. There is a $50 filing fee.

3. Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.

Your business may need licenses depending on its business activities. Oregon provides a directory of every profession and occupation requiring a license, and you can obtain this information by visiting the Oregon License Directory. In addition, local regulations—including licenses, building permits, and zoning clearances—may apply to your business. You will need to check with your city and county governments for more information.

4. Obtain an EIN if hiring employees.

Sole proprietors who want to have employees need to obtain an EIN (employer identification number). This is a number issued by the IRS for tax reporting purposes. All businesses with employees must report wages to the IRS using their EIN. You can register for an EIN through the IRS website. Sole proprietors with no employees are not required to have an EIN because they can use their Social Security number to file and pay taxes.

How Do You File Taxes as a Sole Proprietor?

To file taxes as a sole proprietor, you’re required to complete a Schedule C to report your business’s profits and losses when you complete your Form 1040 for personal income taxes. The amount of taxes you owe will be based on the combined income reported on these forms.

The Bottom Line

A sole proprietorship is a straightforward way for individuals to start their own business. In some situations, it does not require registering with your state or obtaining an EIN with the IRS. However, keep in mind the risks involved and the liabilities that can be passed from the business to you personally. But if you operate a low-risk business, being a sole proprietor presents a quick, easy, and low-cost way to get your business up and running.

For professional guidance specific to your situation, contact your attorney or CPA.

Need Assistance?

The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is committed to helping build Oregon’s best businesses. Our 20 regional Centers and Global Trade Center assist small businesses throughout Oregon with advising, classes, and access to the resources they need to be successful. Each Center is backed by our statewide support network, helping small businesses access the proper assistance wherever they are in Oregon. Connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

Why You Need Small Business Insurance

Why You Need Small Business Insurance

Small business insurance, also commonly referred to as commercial insurance, is designed to protect the business you’ve invested your time, money, and effort into building. Having insurance assures small business owners that they’ll be safeguarded against claims and lawsuits.

Why Do You Need Small Business Insurance?

Business insurance is highly recommended for all businesses. In fact, it is required by law for certain professional fields, such as healthcare, which also requires professional liability coverage. This is also known as malpractice insurance. In other professions, a contract may require that businesses be insured.

Unfortunately, businesses can be sued for almost anything, even if they’ve done nothing wrong. For instance, if someone slips and falls in a place of business, or if a client feels that they were not provided the services committed to them, a business could find themselves facing an insurance claim or possible lawsuit.

Without the protection of insurance, a small business owner would likely have to pay out of pocket when facing insurance claims. Should your small business not have the resources to be self-insured or the capital to cover such claims, it could lead to business failure.

The good news is that business insurance may cover the majority of these expenses, including legal defense for the business owner. This is why small business insurance is an important and necessary investment to protect a business and its assets.

What Kind of Business Insurance Do You Need and How Much Does it Cost?

The business insurance a company needs depends on the type of business it is. Most businesses need general liability insurance. If you offer professional guidance, you may also need professional liability insurance. If you own equipment to operate your business, like computers or machinery, you may consider a business owner’s policy (BOP) which combines general liability with business property coverage. Small business insurance costs depend on the business type and size, the policy and coverages selected, and many other factors.

The 10 Most Common Types of Small Business Insurance

These are the top 10 types of insurance coverage to consider for your small business, some of which may be required by Oregon state law:

1. General liability insurance

General liability insurance helps protect businesses from claims relating to bodily injury or damage to someone else’s property. For example, if a customer gets injured in your store, this coverage may help to pay for their medical costs.

Many small business owners get a general liability policy that includes product liability insurance. This can protect your business against bodily injury or property damage claims caused by your company’s products.

2. Professional liability insurance

Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance or E&O insurance, can cover claims on mistakes made in the professional services your business provides. Doctors, accountants, lawyers, and architects are often targets for these types of claims.

This is because the errors made by these professionals end up being quite expensive for their clients to resolve. If a client or customer sues your business, professional liability insurance can help cover your legal costs.

3. Business income coverage

Business income coverage, also known as business interruption insurance, can help replace lost income if your business becomes unable to operate due to property damage caused by a fire, storm, or theft. For example, a florist whose flowers die after their refrigerator malfunctions may be able to recoup lost income with this type of insurance.

4. Commercial property insurance

Commercial property insurance, also called hazard insurance, can cover your owned or rented business space and the equipment used to conduct your business. For instance, if someone breaks into your office and steals your business computers, commercial property insurance can help cover the costs to replace this equipment.

5. Workers’ compensation insurance

Many states, including Oregon, require businesses with full-time or part-time employees to have workers’ compensation insurance. This kind of insurance can cover medical bills for on-the-job injuries and work-related illnesses and provides disability benefits to employees. Many policies include employers liability insurance, which may help to cover costs when an employee blames their employer’s negligence as the cause of their injury.

For business owners who do not have employees, you may need to self-insure for worker’s compensation depending on your industry. Be sure to address your individual needs with an insurance professional.

6. Commercial auto insurance

In Oregon, all business-owned vehicles must have a commercial auto insurance policy, which covers the cost of accidents involving work vehicles. Oregon has minimum requirements for auto liability insurance, which include:

  • Bodily injury liability
  • Property damage liability
  • Uninsured motorist coverage
  • Personal injury protection

The minimum requirements may not suffice, though, so be sure to get the right amount of coverage for your individual business needs. Trucking companies may need additional coverage to comply with state regulations.

If a business owner or their employees use their personal vehicles for work purposes, you may also consider hired and non-owned auto (HNOA) insurance, as personal auto policies usually exclude business use. This coverage can be added to commercial general liability insurance or business owner’s policies (BOPs).

7. Data breach insurance

Data breach insurance, also called cyber liability insurance, can help your business respond to a breach of personally identifiable information getting lost or stolen. It helps cover costs for actions such as notifying impacted customers or clients, running a public relations campaign to repair your business’s reputation, and/or offering credit monitoring services.

8. Commercial umbrella insurance

Commercial umbrella insurance extends the limits of certain liability policies that your business already has. For instance, if a claim’s cost exceeds your policy’s limit, a commercial umbrella policy can help cover the difference.

9. Employment practices liability insurance

Employment practices liability insurance, also referred to as employers’ liability insurance, helps cover the costs resulting from employment-related claims, such as discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination.

10. Business owner’s policy

A business owner’s policy (BOP) is one of the most common types of business insurance. It combines general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and business income insurance into one policy.

Do I Need Insurance for My Oregon Small Business?

The short answer is yes. Most small businesses may need some type of coverage that protects against:

  • Bodily injuries
  • Property damage
  • Car accidents
  • Lawsuits

Your home and your business are likely your largest investments, and having the right business insurance is just as important as protecting your home with homeowners insurance. Without insurance, you risk financial losses or even the shutdown of your business.

How to Get Small Business Insurance

The following steps can help you find an insurance policy that best meets the needs of your business:

1. Conduct a risk assessment.

Determine what kind of accidents, natural disasters, or lawsuits could damage your business. Once you assess your risks, it can help you determine what aspects of your business need the most protection.

2. Find a licensed insurance agent.

Commercial insurance agents can help you find the coverage that best matches your business’s needs. Remember that insurance agents receive a commission from insurance companies they sell policies for, so it’s essential to find a licensed agent who keeps your best interests in mind. It’s recommended that you meet with your insurance agent on an annual basis to review your policies and find the right coverage as your business continues to evolve and grow.

3. Shop around.

Insurance quotes can vary significantly from one insurance provider and policy to the next. You should always compare the rates, terms, and benefits of various policies from multiple agents. If you choose not to work with a licensed insurance agent, it’s recommended that you get at least three business insurance quotes to find the best rate for the coverage you’re seeking.

4. Reevaluate each year.

The more your business grows, the bigger your liabilities become. If you have purchased or replaced equipment or expanded your operations, you’ll need to inform your insurance agent of these changes and how they may affect your coverage and insurance costs. Be sure to include this as part of your annual business plan review!

Need More Advice?

Having small business insurance is a crucial aspect of protecting your business. Be sure to seek expert advice from your licensed insurance agent for any questions relating to your unique needs as a small business owner.
The Oregon Small Business Development Center Network is committed to building Oregon’s best businesses. Our 20 regional Centers and Global Trade Center assist small businesses throughout Oregon with advising, classes, and access to the resources they need to be successful. Each Center is backed by our statewide support network, helping small businesses access the proper assistance wherever they are in Oregon. Connect with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.

How to Prepare Your Business for Capital Funding

How to Prepare Your Business for Capital Funding

Financial Literacy Month

By Noah Brockman, Oregon SBDC Network Capital Access Team

There are several steps small business owners seeking funding should take to prepare for acquiring capital. In this article, you’ll find a checklist of “to-dos” for accessing capital. If you have questions or need support, the Oregon SBDC Capital Access Team is here to help!

Revisit Your Household Budget

Consider your monthly income and expenses. Have there been any changes recently? Think about how business income contributes to your household income, and make sure to review your personal and business credit. With these factors in mind, consider whether your financial profile will be acceptable to prospective lenders.

Get Clear About Your Funding Needs

Having clarity about how much you need and how funds will be used is vital as you prepare for business funding. How much cash do you already have available, and will you have sufficient personal and/or business cash reserves after your cash injection? It’s also important to think about the time frame for funding.

Create a Startup Budget

If you’re just starting your business and need funding to launch, this to-do is for you! If you haven’t already, make a startup monthly budget that indicates all revenues, cost of sales, and expenses. It’s helpful to prepare a list of any new business assets you need to get started, such as inventory and equipment.

Create a Project Budget

For those who are already in business and require capital to grow, make a project budget to outline your funding request by asset type—such as inventory, equipment, tenant improvements, and/or permanent working capital.

Evaluate Your Current Situation

Already in business? Need cash for working capital? Take a look at your business to see where you might already have some cash tied up, such as A/R or inventory. Review your fixed overhead expenses to assess any cuts you can make to reduce your cash expenditures. You may also want to look at your gross profit margin to see if it’s on par with your industry average and determine if you need to make any adjustments to COGS or pricing.

Determine Your Financial Projections and Cash Flow

Whether you’re starting or growing your business, it’s a good idea to put together at least a 12-month financial projection/cash flow budget showing anticipated revenue, cost of sales, expenses, profits, owner draws, and debt service payments to share with funders. If possible, a 24-month projection is even better. Try to be conservative, and make a list of your underlying assumptions.

Understand the Types of Funding Available to You

Familiarize yourself with different types of funding and how they fit with different scenarios. For an overview of traditional and nontraditional funding, click here.

Assess Your Position for Debt or Equity

Are you in a position to borrow? What collateral will the lender use to secure the loan? How will you pay it back? Pull your credit report to ensure that there are no hidden surprises. Consider whether you have owner equity (cash) to put in. Having at least 10% is a great start.

If you’re already in business, is the business profitable? If you’re not interested in taking on debt, are you seeking an equity investment? Ask yourself what return on investment you can offer to investors.

Develop or Update Your Business Plan

Whether you are starting or growing your business, it’s vital to develop a business plan to share alongside your financial projections to help funders understand your vision. At the Oregon SBDC Network, our business advisers can help you create a comprehensive plan to move your business forward.

Organize Your Business Documents and Paperwork

For existing businesses, make sure your financial statements are up to date, and gather past year-end business financials, as well as personal and business tax returns. For new businesses, gather your organizing documents, any industry-specific licenses, and any insurance or lease documentation.

If you are seeking guidance on the best path forward, the Oregon SBDC Network can provide assistance. Connect with your local Center and register for confidential, no-cost advising on your funding options and in all areas of your small business.

Small Business Accounting Basics

Small Business Accounting Basics

Operating your own small business and being your own boss comes with many benefits but also brings new responsibilities. One of the biggest burdens of being a small business owner is handling the accounting. This includes keeping a record of all income and expenses and accurately reporting your business financials when tax season rolls around.

This article covers the basics of how small businesses can set up an accounting system and manage their bookkeeping effectively.

What Is Small Business Accounting?

Small business accounting includes the process of tracking, recording, and analyzing your business’s financial transactions, including purchases, sales, expenses, payroll, and more. These numbers translate into a statement that provides a picture of your business’s profitability.

In short, small business accounting tracks the money that flows in and out of your business accounts and boils down to:

  • Bookkeeping (recording financial transactions)
  • Creating financial reports
  • Filing tax returns

Accounting also helps you determine the health and value of your company so you can adjust accordingly for short- and long-term success.

Below are some basic steps to help you to set up an effective accounting system for your small business.

Open a Business Bank Account

Once you’ve legally registered your business, you’ll need to have a separate bank account to cover all your business transactions. Not only does this make life easier come tax time, but it also protects your personal assets in the case of bankruptcy, lawsuits, or audits. Additionally, having a business bank account with detailed financial records can help you obtain funding from creditors or investors down the road.

Note that Oregon LLCs and sole proprietors don’t legally need to have a separate bank account, but it is highly recommended.

Start by opening a business checking account. It’s also a good idea to have a business savings account, which can help you organize funds and plan for taxes. For instance, if you automatically put a percentage of your business income into a savings account, you’ll have money set aside for your estimated taxes due each quarter. A good rule of thumb is to put aside 25% of your income, or perhaps more if you’re a high earner.

To open a business bank account, you’ll need a business name, and your business might have to be state-registered. Check with the individual bank on its requirements.

Consider a Business Credit Card

Having a business credit card can help build your company’s credit rating. And if you choose a card with benefits, you can earn cash-back rebates or travel points with your purchases.

Track Expenses

Accurate expense tracking is essential for monitoring business growth, developing financial statements, keeping track of deductible expenses, and preparing tax returns.

From the very beginning, your business needs to establish accounting methods for organizing receipts and other important records, which can be done manually or using accounting software.

What Expenses Do Small Businesses Need to Track?

The IRS requires that you keep documentation that proves income, credits, and deductions shown on your tax return. Although the records and receipts you need to save will depend on the nature of your business, generally you’ll want to keep the following:

  • Receipts
  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Bills
  • Canceled checks
  • Invoices
  • Proof of payments
  • Financial statements
  • Previous tax returns
  • W2 and 1099 forms
  • Any other documentation that supports an item of income, deduction, or credit shown on your tax return

The IRS does not require receipts for certain expenses under $75. You can keep digital or paper copies of receipts, and there are many apps and online storage services that make it incredibly easy to scan, organize, and store all your receipts.

Below are the types of business expenses you need to keep a record of:

  • Meals and entertainment
  • Out-of-town business travel
  • Auto-related expenses
  • Receipts for gifts
  • Home office receipts

Operating your business from your home helps keep overhead low and allows you to qualify for more tax deductions. The IRS allows you to deduct the portion of your home that’s used for business, as well as your internet and cell phone service, and transportation to and from work sites.

Any expense that’s for both business and personal use must reflect its mixed use. For instance, if you use one phone for both, you can deduct the percentage you use the device solely for business. Gas mileage costs are 100% deductible, so be sure to hold onto all records and keep a log of your business miles.

Develop a Bookkeeping System

Bookkeeping is the accounting process of recording transactions, categorizing them, and reconciling bank statements.
Accounting is the high-level process that provides an overview of your business progress and makes sense of the data compiled in your bookkeeping.

As a small business owner, you’ll need to determine how you want to manage your books:

  • You can use software like QuickBooks online or use a simple Excel spreadsheet.
  • You can outsource a part-time bookkeeper, one that’s local or cloud-based.
  • When your business grows, you can hire an in-house bookkeeper or accountant.

You also need to determine whether to use the cash or accrual accounting methods. These are the differences between the two:

  • Cash method. Revenues and expenses are recognized when they are actually received or paid.
  • Accrual method. Revenues and expenses are recognized when the transaction occurs (even if the cash hasn’t been paid or received yet), so it requires tracking accounts receivable and accounts payable.

U.S. business owners can use cash-based accounting if revenues are less than $5 million. Otherwise, the accrual method must be used.


Determine How You’ll Get Paid

Most business transactions these days are not done in cash. Therefore, you’ll need to decide on a payment solution that works best for your business. This will come down to whether you accept payments in person, through a point of sale (POS) system, or online.

  • POS system and in-person payments. If you accept both, consider getting a mobile credit card reader like Square. This is great for businesses that don’t expect to process a high volume of in-person purchases daily.
  • POS payments only. If you perform only POS sales, you can use a POS system that works with a cash register or just a credit card reader independent of any cash collection system. For the in-person payment methods—POS systems or credit card readers—you need to have a merchant account with your bank. This account acts as an intermediary between the payment system and your bank account to withdraw and deposit funds.
  • Online payments only. If you accept only online payments, PayPal and Shopify are two popular platforms for online retailers.

Set Up a Payroll System

When it makes sense for your small business to hire more help, you’ll need to determine whether you hire an employee or an independent contractor.

If you have employees, you’ll have to set up a payroll schedule and make sure you’re withholding the correct taxes. There are many services available to help with this, and if you use accounting software, many offer a payroll feature.

If you hire independent contractors, keep track of your payments to them, as you’ll be required to file a 1099 form for each contractor at the end of the year.

Tax Filing Obligations

The legal structure of your business determines your business’s tax obligations. If you’re a sole proprietor or your business is registered as an LLC or partnership, you’ll likely claim business income on your personal tax return. If you run a corporation, it’s considered a separate tax entity, and the income you receive from the corporation will be taxed independently, as though you were an employee.

Self-employed individuals need to withhold income tax the same way an employer withholds taxes from an employee’s paycheck. If you owe more than $1,000 in taxes for the year, you will need to pay quarterly estimated taxes four times a year.

When tax season comes around, technology is your friend! Understanding what business expenses you can deduct and using technology to track them will help to ensure you don’t pay more than you owe.

Be sure to have a program intended for business purposes, like QuickBooks, Sage, or Great Plains. While there are many “free” programs out there to track mileage and expenses, “Free is not free” when your data is lost!

Consider software that can help track:

  • Mileage
  • Travel and meal expenses
  • Personal use of a dedicated home office space
  • Receipts
  • Time

If your needs are more comprehensive, the Oregon SBDC Network provides classes on small business accounting, budgeting, cash flow management, and QuickBooks—one of the most extensive financial reporting and management programs on the market for small business accounting purposes.

If you’re new to QuickBooks, you can learn how to set up new customer and vendor accounts, create invoices, record sales, and enter payments. If you are already using the basic features of QuickBooks but want to master its other offerings, advanced classes are offered throughout the state.

QuickBooks training is available through your local Small Business Development Center and taught by experienced professionals who understand the software inside and out. To find a QuickBooks or small business accounting class near you, contact your local Center today.

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Social Media

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Social Media

Having a presence on social media can reap big rewards for your small business. Social networking sites allow you to reach your target audience in a cost-effective way while engaging current and past customers and attracting new business opportunities.

Social media users span all demographics, but the key is identifying which platforms your customers are using and how best to promote your product or service through those specific channels.

Let’s take a look at the benefits small business owners can gain through social media marketing and dive into the differences among the top sites, so you can determine which ones are the best fit for your company.

Top 3 Benefits of Using Social Media for Your Small Business

Social media offers free access to a vast audience of potential customers, providing endless opportunities to spread brand awareness, increase traffic to your business website, and generate sales.

If you’re a small business owner on a tight budget, or if your business is brand-new, having a presence on one or more social media platforms is a marketing tactic that makes sense. While there are many benefits to leveraging social media, we outline the top three benefits for small businesses below:

1. Boost Brand Awareness

When it comes to marketing, social media has a massive advantage over traditional media platforms like TV, radio, and print. With one social media post, you can immediately spread information about your business and potentially reach millions of people.

If you’re an online retailer or service-based business, you can expand your audience to people all over the country who could potentially be buyers of your product or services. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, you can target people who live in, or travel through, your specific Oregon location. There is no other form of advertising that can give you this type of reach for the cost.

2. Bring Traffic to Your Business Website

Another benefit of social media is that it’s easy to direct traffic to your own website by simply including a call to action in your posts, like “Visit our website to sign up now!” or “Get 10% off when you purchase online today!”

Encouraging social media followers to visit your website can improve the quality and quantity of your inbound traffic. Also, it’s an effective way to generate traffic without having to rely on SEO and Google Search.

3. Gain New Customers and Increase Sales

Another significant benefit for small businesses using social media is the ability to target your posts. You can take advantage of advertising tools that get your posts directly in front of your target audience and gain exposure to potential customers. With retargeting ads offered by most platforms, you can make sure your content is being seen by those who are most likely to patronize your business, based on demographics like age, gender, location, personal interests, and more.

Targeted posts are considered paid advertising on social media, but the good news is that on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you can choose between CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) models and set your own daily budget. It’s a great tool to attract new clients and help grow your small business.

Social Media for Small Business: 5 Major Platforms

One of the struggles small businesses have with social media is figuring out which platforms are right for the business and will provide the most value. Not every social networking site is a good fit, and trying to master each one is too time-consuming. Instead, it’s best to consider which one your target audience uses and focus your efforts there.

Facebook

Facebook is the world’s largest social media network, with over 2.9 billion active monthly users in 2021. Having a presence on Facebook is a must for every small business, regardless of what products or services your company offers.

Facebook statistics:

  • 200 million small companies are on Facebook.
  • 63% of Americans over 12 say they have a Facebook account.
  • 78% of consumers have found a product through Facebook.

Creating a business profile page is free, and you can customize your page with images and list your website URL, contact information, hours of operation, and the products and services your company offers. Once your profile is set up, you can create posts that share information, photos, videos, infographics, company news, blogs, and more. And with a Facebook Business account, you’ll gain access to advertising tools and in-depth analytics.

Instagram

Instagram is incredibly popular, with around 1.1 billion active users in 2021. What sets Instagram apart from other social media sites is that it is a visual platform dominated by photo and video posts. Therefore, it’s best for small businesses that have appealing visual content to share. Just ensure that your images and video are high quality.

Instagram statistics:

  • More than half of the global Instagram population worldwide is age 34 or younger, and it is especially popular with teens.
  • Instagram is also one of the most influential advertising channels among female Gen Z users when making purchasing decisions.
  • 90% of people on Instagram follow a business account.

From Instagram Live to Instagram Stories, small businesses can use Instagram’s tools to promote their offerings. It’s important to note that this platform is almost entirely mobile. It doesn’t allow you to take photos or create new posts on the desktop version unless you use a special social media management tool.

Twitter

Twitter currently has 396.5 million users and is best for sharing brief updates, engaging with followers, and sharing links to blog posts. You can share tweets—which are posts containing 240 characters or fewer—photos, videos, links, and more. You can also interact with others on the platform by mentioning users in your posts and liking and retweeting tweets from other users.

Twitter statistics:

  • 206 million users access Twitter daily.
  • Twitter is most popular among users age 25 to 34.
  • Worldwide, men use Twitter more than women.

If you have engaging content to share and can voice that content in a captivating way, Twitter can be a valuable platform for quickly spreading the word about your business. To boost your tweets, you can use hashtags, and when users retweet your posts, your content could go viral. When using Twitter, it’s essential to strike a balance between sharing your own content and retweeting relevant content from other users.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has 260 million monthly users and is the prime platform for professional social networking. This is the best social media channel to find and recruit talent for your company, position yourself as an industry leader, and promote your business to other professionals.

LinkedIn statistics:

  • Women account for 43.1% of LinkedIn users, while 56.9% of LinkedIn users are men.
  • The age group with the most LinkedIn users is between 25 and 34 at 60.1%.
  • 50% of internet users with a college degree or higher use LinkedIn.

Users on LinkedIn create their own profiles that showcase their skills and professional experience, similar to a resume. Businesses can create a company profile that showcases their offerings. LinkedIn is effective for posting job openings, information about your company culture, blogs related to your industry, and other content that would interest professionals. You can also join industry-specific LinkedIn Groups, which can help with brand recognition and introduce others to your company profile and website.

TikTok

TikTok is relatively new to the social media arena. On this platform, its 100 million active users can create and share short videos. It is mainly dominated by Gen Z users, and as it skews toward a younger audience, it may not be the right fit for your small business.

TikTok statistics:

  • 53% of TikTok users are male; and 47% are female.
  • Roughly 50% of TikTok’s global audience is under 34, with 32.5% between 10 and 19 years old.
  • TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2021, with 656 million downloads.

TikTok is known for posting memes, dance challenges, and viral moments. It can be a successful marketing platform for small businesses, but only if used properly. The good thing about TikTok is that it doesn’t just show you videos from those you follow. Instead, it offers a continuous stream of content, including videos from people you don’t follow but that the app thinks you might like. This means potential customers can see your content without going directly to your profile.

Get Started with Social Media for Your Small Business

Learning how to leverage social media for your small business can set you up for success.

The Oregon SBDC Network is here to help small business owners. Find the SBDC closest to you to access the resources you need to help your Oregon small business grow and thrive by visiting OregonSBDC.org.

How to Prepare a Small-Business Marketing Plan (2022)

How to Prepare a Small-Business Marketing Plan (2022)

What a SWOT Analysis Is, and How Best to Utilize It When Creating Your Marketing Strategy

One of the most valuable tools for Oregon entrepreneurs is a comprehensive small-business marketing plan. Why is it so critical to your success? Because without potential customers having awareness of your offerings, even the best product or best service will languish.

An effective small business marketing plan is not about having a big marketing budget—it’s about determining the right marketing strategies for your business, understanding your competitive advantages, and developing tactics to support your visibility and marketing goals.

In this guide, we’ll share some tips on preparing your small-business marketing plan, including how to:

  • Evaluate your business by creating a SWOT analysis
  • Determine your small-business marketing budget
  • Identify the target audience for your small business
  • Set marketing goals and build your marketing strategies
  • Finalize your small-business marketing plan

Evaluate Your Business by Creating a SWOT Analysis

The first step to creating a small-business marketing plan is to understand where your business stands. An honest assessment of internal and external factors will help you put together a strategic direction for your business.

One way to begin is by creating a SWOT analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

For Strengths, consider what your business does well. What qualities separate you from others in your industry? What internal resources do you have that serve as an advantage? What tangible assets do you have, such as intellectual property, capital, or proprietary technologies?

Under Weaknesses, write down what challenges you have, whether they are something your company lacks, limitations in resources, or advantages your competitors have over you.

Identify Opportunities for your business, such as underserved markets for your products or services, favorable market trends for your products or services, and other external factors that may have a positive impact on your business and industry.

For Threats, take a look at what factors can negatively impact your business and industry, such as emerging competitors, changes to laws and regulations, and changes to customer sentiment.

Generally speaking, strengths and weaknesses should speak to internal circumstances, and opportunities and threats will focus on external factors that affect your small business.

Determine Your Small-Business Marketing Budget

Marketing costs money, so once you have a clear understanding of the circumstances of your small business from creating a SWOT analysis, it’s time to set a budget for your marketing plan.

As you begin to determine your marketing budget, be realistic about what you should invest. If you own a new business that is working to establish itself, you might consider allocating a higher percentage of your gross revenue as compared with an established business.

In addition to setting a monetary budget, consider the amount of time you plan to spend marketing your business each week. Oftentimes, busy entrepreneurs put their marketing efforts on the back burner as they get bogged down by day-to-day tasks. It’s crucial to apply enough time and resources in this area to move the needle for your business.

If marketing is not your forte and you don’t have time to focus on executing marketing strategies on your own (or don’t have a dedicated staff member to help you), your budget might include hiring specialists to assist with your marketing efforts.

Identify the Target Audience for Your Small Business

With your SWOT analysis complete and a marketing budget in mind, the next step in how to prepare your small-business marketing plan is to identify who you will target through your marketing efforts.

A small business’s target market is determined by many factors. You can consider specific demographics such as:

  • Geographic location
  • Business type
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Marital or family status

You can also consider the psychographics of your target audience, which include:

  • Values
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Lifestyles
  • Behaviors

When you know who your target is, you can then determine which channels you will focus your marketing strategy on.

Set Marketing Goals and Determine Your Marketing Strategies

You’ve conducted a SWOT analysis. You know who your ideal customers are. Now it’s time to determine how you’ll reach them and set some benchmarks.

Some common examples of marketing goals include:

  • Increasing website traffic
  • Generating leads
  • Increasing social media followers
  • Growing an email list
  • Improving conversion rates

While setting specific goals is a vital aspect of the strategic planning process, it’s just as important to break down each objective into small, actionable steps to help you reach your goals.

Many small-business owners implement the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based), which can clarify each goal, focus your efforts, and efficiently allocate time and resources.

Consider these questions as you create your goals:

  • What is the goal? Be Specific.
  • How can my progress be Measured?
  • Do I have the skills and resources for this goal to be Attainable?
  • Why is this goal Relevant to my business needs?
  • What is the Timeframe for achieving this goal?

Once you have your goals in place, you can determine the best channels and marketing tactics to reach your target audience and make progress toward reaching your goal.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal, and some marketing tactics that can be employed:

Goal:
Increase unique website visitors by 10% in 2022.

Marketing Tactics:

  • Create a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
  • Create a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to drive new users to your website.
  • Implement a social media advertising campaign to create awareness and increase traffic.
  • Review progress on a monthly basis.
  • Finalize Your Small-Business Marketing Plan

The final task in the planning process of your small-business marketing plan is to prioritize the tasks you want to accomplish. Having a to-do list to reference takes the guesswork out of deploying your marketing initiatives while running your business.

As you finalize your plan, you may wish to have a mentor review your small-business marketing plan, particularly if you are a new business owner. The Oregon SBDC Network offers no-cost, confidential advising services in all areas of business to help Oregon entrepreneurs succeed.

For established businesses that anticipate growth, the network’s Market Research Institute provides customized, data-based reports to help business owners build a customized marketing plan based on their needs and goals at no direct cost.

Contact your local Center to get started!

Tips on How to Start a Small Business in Oregon in 2022

Tips on How to Start a Small Business in Oregon in 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Small Business

In order to become a successful entrepreneur in Oregon, it’s important to first understand how to start a small business.

While some of the steps to bring your small-business idea to market will depend on the type of industry you choose and the products or services you will be providing, every business will need to follow these essential steps:

  1. Identify your business idea.
  2. Research your idea.
  3. Refine and test your idea.
  4. Set up your business.
  5. Write your business plan.
  6. Get your finances in order.
  7. Choose a business location.
  8. Build your website.
  9. Find your customer base.
  10. Prepare for challenges.

Read on to learn more.

Identify Your Business Idea

When considering how to start a small business, it’s important to remember that a great business starts with a great idea. However, even in the ideation stage, there are several approaches you can consider.

When developing your small-business ideas, you can take something you’re passionate about—like a hobby—and turn it into a business. For example, if you love puzzles and care about quality and design, you might consider manufacturing your own brand of puzzles. If you love to bake, perhaps you have a dream to open your own bakery.

Another way to approach your small-business idea is by solving a problem. Perhaps your area is growing in tourism but doesn’t have enough accommodations. If you have extra space at your home or can buy an investment property, this may be an opportunity for you to explore hospitality as a business venture. Finding a need in your community is a fantastic place to start.

You can also generate small-business ideas through brainstorming. Write down any idea that comes to mind—big or small—and refine your idea in the next phase.

No matter how your business idea comes to mind, remember to be realistic about the demand and scalability of your potential business.

Research Your Idea

The next step in how to start a small business is to do some market research and take a hard look at the demand for your business idea in order to ensure that it’s viable before you spend time and money developing your business.

Questions you should seek answers to during this phase include:

  • Is there a need for this product or service?
  • What is currently available in the market?
  • How competitive is this industry, and who are my top competitors?
  • What is needed to turn my idea into a reality?

Conducting market research for your small-business idea will be helpful when you begin writing your business plan.

Refine and Test Your Idea

Testing your idea is a crucial aspect of starting your business. You can provide your service to a few people and get valuable feedback on how it’s working. If you are manufacturing a product, you can create a prototype and learn what works—and, just as importantly, what doesn’t. You can also find out how much potential customers might pay for your product or service. From there, you can refine your business idea.

Set Up Your Business

Next, it’s time to set up your small business, which has several steps within this phase.

You will first want to choose a business name. It’s important to choose a business name that is available for use in Oregon, which you can check through the Oregon Secretary of State’s website. Businesses can also obtain a federal trademark, so it’s a good idea to search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for similar business names to yours.

Next, you will need to choose your business structure. Your business structure will influence your registration requirements, your tax responsibilities, and your personal liability. Choosing the right business structure will provide the right balance of legal protections and benefits.

Common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • C corporation (C corp)
  • S corporation (S corp)
  • Benefit corporation (B corp)
  • Close corporation
  • Nonprofit corporation
  • Cooperative

Once you have identified your business name and business structure, you can apply online for your business’s federal employer identification number (EIN) through the IRS and register your business in Oregon. This will allow you to apply for the necessary business licenses and permits.

Write Your Business Plan

Writing a business plan is a crucial step to starting any business. It’s a foundational tool that helps to map out your plan for success and guides you through the stages of beginning and operating your business.

There is no right or wrong way to write a business plan—it simply needs to meet your needs and the needs of your business. It can cover anything from high-level overviews about various aspects of your business to more detailed information such as your operational plans and finances.

Topics you may consider including in your business plan include:

  • Executive summary
  • Overview of the company and its objectives
  • Market analysis
  • Company organization
  • Overview of services or products
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Logistics and operations
  • Financial projections

You should think of your business plan as a living document, designed to be reviewed and adjusted over time.

Get Your Finances in Order

Being able to manage your finances well will be critical to the success of your small business. One way to get off to the right start is to ensure that you separate your personal and business expenses.

Open a separate business checking account, which can be used to receive payments and to pay for business-related expenses and overhead. LLCs, partnerships, and corporations are required by law to have a separate bank account for business. While sole proprietors are not legally required to have a separate account, it’s highly recommended, and your future self will thank you come tax season!

You may also want to consider opening a business credit card and will be required to do so if your business structure is a corporation or an LLC. Building credit is important for having the ability to secure future funding should you need it.

You’ll then need to develop a bookkeeping system and set up important processes, such as how you’ll get paid by your customers.

At this stage, consider your knowledge, skills, and abilities to:

  • Keep accurate records
  • Analyze timely financial reports
  • Prepare sales forecasts and budgets
  • Track and analyze key financial indicators
  • Structure debt effectively

If you’re unsure about how to manage the day-to-day bookkeeping and accounting responsibilities for your business, you should know that the Oregon SBDC offers resources and ongoing classes for small-business owners to get a handle on their finances and accounting basics, including the Small Business Management Program, which provides a combination of a classroom setting and one-on-one coaching to help make you and your business more successful.

Additionally, businesses will need to secure external business financing through a line of credit, a small-business loan, or other means. The Oregon SBDC’s Capital Access Team can help you access the funding your business will need through specialized business advising.

Choose a Business Location

If you are planning to operate a brick-and-mortar business, choosing a business location is one of the most important decisions you will make before launch, because it will determine the taxes, zoning laws, and regulations your small business will be subject to.

Consider your business’s target market, your personal preferences, and the costs, benefits, and restrictions of different government agencies.

Costs that can vary significantly by location include:

  • Standard salaries
  • Minimum wages
  • Property values
  • Rental rates
  • Business insurance rates
  • Utilities
  • Government licenses and fees

Additionally, local zoning ordinances, taxes, and government incentives will also vary.

Build Your Website

Regardless of what type of small business you’ll be operating, having a website as part of your online presence will be important in building your credibility with your customer base.

As you prepare to build your business website, the first step is to obtain a good domain name. That means finding a URL that is easy to spell, as short as possible, and memorable. Be sure to research the domain name to see if a similar web address already exists. Additionally, check with the USPTO to ensure that you haven’t included any registered trademarks.

Your website should clearly showcase your business products or services in an memorable and engaging way that drives results. Beautiful graphics that are compressed and optimized for fast loading, easily accessible calls to action (such as “Buy now” or “Call now” buttons), and an intuitive navigation system should all be considered as you create your site. Implementing search engine optimization (SEO) practices to ensure that search engines index and rank your website will also help with your business’s visibility.

Find Your Customer Base

Now that the groundwork of how to start a small business has been laid out, it’s time to find your potential customers.

Before you can build your customer base, you will need to know who your ideal customers are. Develop a plan for acquiring customers by understanding how your typical customer would find a product or service like yours. This may include building a presence on social media, using email marketing, working with local newspapers, or finding in-person networking opportunities.

It’s also helpful to research successful competitors to see where they advertise and other strategies they use, as those may be beneficial for your own business efforts.

Prepare for Challenges

When you’re learning how to start a small business, one thing to keep in mind is that there will always be unforeseen obstacles. The market and technology are constantly changing, and the most successful entrepreneurs are ones who are flexible and willing to adapt to their customers’ needs.

As a new business owner, you may also learn that there are aspects of your business that you aren’t sure how to manage. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The Oregon SBDC is here to support entrepreneurs as they prepare to start their own businesses and can provide crucial business advising at no cost.

No matter the type of challenge you may be facing with opening your small business, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network can help you turn your small-business idea into a reality! Connect with your local SBDC to learn more at OregonSBDC.org.

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

Running a small business is never easy. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your own company for years, whether you have a few loyal clients or a whole lot, whether your overhead is minimal or substantial, running a successful and profitable business takes a lot of work—rewarding work for sure, but hard work nonetheless.

Luckily, there are some ways to make it easier. While the Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has loads of resources—some we’ll tell you about here—that can help small-business owners, the best step you can take to improve your odds of success is to plan properly. In this article, we’re outlining six strategies you can implement for successful business planning.

1. Start Planning Early

It’s never too early to start planning. Never. Whether you have an idea you want to turn into a business, you have a business ready to launch, or you already have a successful business and are thinking of what to do next, a strategic plan is crucial.

The Oregon SBDC is here to help with your business planning at any stage. From startup to scaling, our advisers have the tools to help you build a solid foundation for your business. Tools like LivePlan simplify business planning, budgeting, forecasting, and performance tracking for our clients.

GrowthWheel is another tool our advisers use that provides a visual toolbox to help business owners make better decisions and take action in their businesses. Both of these tools are offered free of charge exclusively to Oregon SBDC clients.

2. Set Your Goals

Your strategic business plan needs to include more than just ideas. While the vision of a business is an important component, a key factor to success is setting SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Oftentimes a big goal is tied to several smaller goals you need to achieve along the way. For this reason, some business owners set goals by month or quarter, while others set goals for the year. The right timeline to choose depends on you and your business goals.

3. Identify Your Staffing Needs

When people think about goals for businesses, they typically think about financial targets they want to hit, potential physical expansions, new strategies for upcoming product launches, and the like. But another factor that merits consideration and forward planning is your business’s future staffing needs, especially in today’s climate.

If your business goals include expanding your operations, the number of full-time, part-time, and/or contracted workers will likely change. The cost and time it will take to hire for your staffing needs requires planning.

4. Understand Your Financials

Awareness of your business and personal finances is a vital part of successful business planning. Even if you’re “in the black” and seeing profits, understanding your finances is important when making decisions and planning for the future of your business. And this means knowing more than just what’s in your bank account.

Understanding how much money is coming in and going out each month, product costs, the cost to manufacture, the cost of goods sold, labor costs, fixed and variable costs—these are all numbers you need to know so you can make decisions for your business. Your financial indicators are the drivers of your business, and if you don’t understand them, it can be easy to make a costly mistake.

5. Put Together Your Marketing Plan

A marketing plan may sound like the kind of thing that only big businesses with their own massive internal marketing departments need to do. But small, local businesses need a marketing plan, too. And just like any other part of running a business, your marketing requires a carefully thought out and meticulously detailed plan.

From the channels you will use to the creative you want to deploy to your monthly marketing budget—write it down. Building and implementing a successful marketing plan can help your business grow exposure and revenue.

6. Evaluate the Previous Year

When you’re running a small business, there are times when you’ll need to look back in order to move forward. Looking back can be fun, especially if you’ve experienced growth in your business and can count your wins over the year. It can also be hard, if you’ve experienced a challenging year that didn’t live up to your expectations.

What It Takes to Be a Successful Entrepreneur in 2021

What It Takes to Be a Successful Entrepreneur in 2021

For many, the American dream includes owning a business. At the Oregon Small Business Development Center, our mission is to help entrepreneurs realize that dream and their full potential by providing services like small business advising, business planning, and a variety of specialty programs that can help entrepreneurs in every area of business. But the first step in creating a profitable and thriving business is understanding what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in 2021.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by Fundera, approximately 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. By the end of the second year, it’s 30% of businesses, and by the end of the fifth year, about half will have failed. That’s why it’s smart to think through your business plan and consult with professionals who can help guide you before you start your business.

So what do you need to know before you set out on your first, or next, business venture?

Create a Business Plan

A business plan is crucial to the success of any small business. Whether you are a freelance graphic designer who contracts with different companies or a brick-and-mortar store with 15 employees, having a written plan for where you’re going and how you’re going to get there is a MUST!

At the Oregon SBDC, we use a tool called LivePlan to help business owners from start-up to scaling. LivePlan breaks the business planning process down into simple steps with instructions and examples and is fully customizable. LivePlan also makes budgeting and forecasting easy. All you have to do is enter your projected sales along with your anticipated expenses, and LivePlan will automatically create your financial statements.

SET S.M.A.R.T. Goals

The art of goal-setting doesn’t just take into account the end goal. It’s about breaking down that end goal into small, actionable steps that you implement daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. A common goal-setting method for small-business owners is the S.M.A.R.T. method (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based).

S.M.A.R.T. goals help you clarify your goal, focus your efforts, and use your time and resources productively to increase your chances of success.

If you’re having trouble achieving your goals by the time frame you’ve set, make sure to go back and review them. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this goal too broad?
  2. Does the goal need to be broken down more?
  3. Do I have the capacity to achieve this goal?
  4. Is this goal still a focus for my business?

As your business grows and changes, so will your goals—and that’s OK! There is nothing wrong with adjusting your goals as you move throughout the year.

Do Your Research

Market Research Institute to help with this process.
The Market Research Institute provides customized research reports and market intelligence for established businesses that anticipate growth. This data helps businesses identify opportunities, better understand the competitive landscape, refine their business plans, and make more informed business decisions.

Secure Funding

Although you can start some businesses on a scrappy budget with very little overhead and cost, having funding in place is a strategic move for businesses that require more capital to get off the ground. This is where small-business funding can help. Resources like business loans and crowdfunding can help alleviate the stress of startup costs. There are a range of options for accessing capital:

  • Government-funded small business loans (SBA)
  • Private business loans (banks, credit unions, etc.)
  • Angel investors
  • Crowdfunding
  • Income from a 9-to-5 job
  • Grants
  • Lines of credit

Each of these options will have its pros and cons and different requirements. Figure out which are best for you at each stage of your business and entrepreneurship journey.

Leverage Your Network

How can your network affect your net worth? Whether you’re launching a product- or service-based business, tapping into your network is one of the best ways to get it off the ground.

You never know what opportunities will come out of connecting with the people who already know, like, and trust you. Here are a few ways to leverage your network:

  • Attend networking events (virtual and in person) to meet potential clients.
  • Get the message out about your business by email.
  • Share about your business venture on social media.
  • Join organizations that complement your product or service.
  • Ask acquaintances for introductions to others in their network.

Be sure to be genuine and professional in these business relationships. Also, don’t forget that you need to add value to the lives of the other people in your professional network as well!

Seek Advice and Mentorship

Seeking professional advice and mentorship can help cut down on the hard lessons small-business owners often have to learn and help get your business started on the right foot. Connecting with the right business adviser or mentor can be an invaluable move for your business.

Oregon SBDC advisers are knowledgeable business professionals experienced in a variety of topics, including writing a business plan, analyzing cash flow, marketing, hiring, and intellectual property concerns. Our advisers understand how to do business in Oregon, and they can support you with valuable, relevant advice at every stage of your business venture.

Each of our 19 centers provides confidential, no-cost business advising to help you succeed. Advising requires filling out our online intake form and, at some centers, attending a free introductory workshop to see if advising is right for you.

Now that you understand what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s time to put the wheels into motion. Whether you’re at the beginning stages of planning your business, ready to launch, or a few months in, the Oregon Small Business Development Center is here to assist you. To learn more about our services, click here.