Starting A Business? You Need a “BAIL” Team
Thinking of starting a business? Maybe you want to own a food truck. Maybe you want to sell products on the Internet. Maybe you have an opportunity to buy an existing business. Well, no matter what your business idea or ambition may be, you need a “BAIL” Team to help you be successful.
At SCORE, when our business mentors talk to our clients about a “BAIL” Team, we are not referring to people who can get you out of jail. We are talking about a team of professionals who can advise and guide you in some of the most important aspects of starting and managing a successful business.
“B” stands for Banker. It is important to have a personal relationship with a banker. This is true whether or not you need a business loan. When you start a business, you need to open a business checking account and obtain a credit or debit card for that account. Make your banker aware of who you are and what your business plans are. Get on their radar. Once your account is set up, manage it well. Always pay your credit card bill on time. (Important Note: NEVER charge personal expenses to your business credit card.) Show that you can handle your finances responsibly. By doing this, if one day you do need a loan, you have a lender who knows you, is familiar with your business, and sees you as a good financial risk.
“A” stands for Accountant. It is critical to keep accurate business records. When starting a business, it is tempting to keep records on paper and only worry about organizing them at tax time. This is not a good plan. Right from the start, you should manage your business like it was already a large, successful enterprise. To help you do that, you should obtain business management software like QuickBooks, FreshBooks, Xero, or Sage. These tools help you organize your business, capture your revenue and expense transactions, generate key financial and management reports, and prepare your tax returns. Choose an Accountant or Bookkeeper who is an expert with the software you choose. They will help you set up your books (also known as your Chart of Accounts) and show you how to properly enter your business transactions. At tax time, you can simply send an electronic copy of your records to your accounting professional so they can prepare your returns.
“I” stands for Insurance. You probably have auto insurance, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and possibly life insurance. These policies do not provide coverage for your business. Agents who sell auto, home and life insurance may not be knowledgeable about business insurance. For that, you need a Commercial Insurance Agent. The most common forms of business insurance are Professional Liability, Property, Home-based Business, Product Liability, Vehicle, and Business Interruption Insurance. You may not need all these coverages for your particular business. Work with your commercial insurance agent to determine what coverages you need to protect your business and you.
“L” stands for Lawyer. You may have never dealt with a lawyer before and may think of them as an unnecessary expense. In business, this is not true. Many companies, no matter how small, need legal documents that govern its operations. You may need a Partnership Agreement, Client Services Agreement, Employee Non-Compete Agreement, or agreements to protect your Intellectual Property. A lawyer can help you do it right. You can work with a local lawyer or you could consider using an online legal services company like LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer. Whatever option you choose, be sure you get the written documents you need to establish and protect your business interests and yourself.
Besides your “BAIL” team, there is one more expert you should have on your small business support team: a SCORE Mentor. SCORE is the nation’s largest provider of free small business mentoring services to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. Over the last few years, Savannah SCORE has helped create hundreds of new local businesses and new non-owner jobs. If you would like to schedule a free meeting with a Savannah SCORE Mentor, visit our website at https://savannah.score.org and click on “Find A Mentor”.