May is Small Business Appreciation month and as a Houstonian, small business owner and wealth management advisor, I understand firsthand the questions, considerations and challenges involved with navigating the nuanced world of small business ventures.
In 2005, I started RSF Wealth Management with my business partner. RSF Wealth Management is a Houston-based firm of Northwestern Mutual focused on comprehensive, collaborative and educational financial planning.
Understanding that every startup is different, I believe there are a few key strategies to keep in mind when starting a business.
1. Create a comprehensive business plan
Any lucrative, viable business has to start with a good plan that outlines what you will need to grow revenue and thrive long-term. Creating this strategic business outline will serve as a roadmap for your beginning years as well as a marketing tool when finding investors. The business plan should highlight what your outlook is for the next five years, how you will leverage your product to make profit, and how much money you will need to achieve and maintain financial success—no matter what scenario may come your way.
2. Establish a solid financial foundation
As most startup businesses take up to five years to turn over profit, it is important to receive funding or set aside extra cash, even if it’s a small amount. My advice to small business owners is to make sure you have at least six months to a years’ worth of liquidity before starting a business venture. Emergency savings funds and other cash reserves can help to cover the operational and overhead costs to startups. If you don’t have enough in your personal savings or cash reserves, there are loan options for small businesses, including the paycheck protection program loan, economic injury disaster loan, traditional SBA 7(A) loan and SBA express bridge loan.
3. Verify everything is documented
Documenting everything is crucial when building the foundation of your business for both legal and tax purposes. Not only will this help if something goes wrong with your business, but it will also keep formal structure between you and your business partner. All startups should complete a buy-sell agreement, which details how your partners’ share will be obtained by the remaining partners in case of their death or leave. I also recommend filing a morality clause contract, which requires all employees to comply to behavioral standards during the life of their contract.
4. Review your insurance and tax options
Small business owners should be regularly reviewing their tax and insurance options to ensure they are updated to reflect changing business needs. For instance, the SECURE Act 2.0 tax credit is a new incentive designed to make it easy and affordable for small businesses to offer employer-sponsored retirement plans. The new legislation allows increased tax credits to small businesses to encourage plan sponsorship and improve retirement readiness.
Additionally, business insurance for startups can help cover costs associated with property damage or liability claims. For example, disability overhead expense insurance provides your business with money to pay for everyday operational expenses in the event you’re unable to work due to an illness or injury. Generally, if you provide coverage for employees and cover the premium, you will be able to deduct those costs as a business expense.
Despite the difficulties of making the jump from employee to entrepreneur, 5 million new businesses were created in 2022 according to a study by the US Census Bureau. New businesses are being created every day and with the excitement of starting a new business also comes the complexities and challenges associated with a new business venture.
Financial advisors and industry experts can help you create a plan, understand what loan option is right for you and how much you will need to have in cash reserves to ensure you can securely and stably run your new business. No matter the size or operation of your business, financial advisors can help document your finances and connect you with the right attorney or accountant to set you up for long-term success.
Keith Rollins is a wealth management advisor with Northwestern Mutual and a founding partner of RSF Wealth Management.