Big Company, Small Package

I read an article today at Entrepreneur.com today as I was perusing today’s articles. The author @LEWatrous discusses 6 ways to make your small business look bigger than it is. (See the entire article HERE). I am not going to rehash the entire article; instead I wanted to share my experiences using all 6 of these ways.

I know what you are saying. I am an accountant. What am I doing talking about business development and growth? Well, I would have you know that your neighborhood accountant (that’s me) is concerned about all facets of your business. Accountants are not just limited to debits and credits but our clients reach out to us for a plethora of other business concerns. Because I am also a small business, I have lived through many of the same trials and tribulations that many of my clients have faced. This makes me an expert per say, of trying to create something big out of something small.

The 6 ways to make your business look big while still growing in include:

  1. Get a central business address
  2. Use larger invoice numbers
  3. Use a virtual private branch exchange (PBX)
  4. Don’t use a formal title on your business card
  5. Pay special attention to your website
  6. Convert your sole proprietorship to an LLC

I have done all of these things with my own business. I want to go through each of them and share my experiences with you. First of all, I actually had a brick and mortar office so I was able to use that address for all of my business correspondence. Notice that I said “had”. Now that I have relocated to St. Louis, I no longer have that brick and mortar. I have settled for an address that leads directly to my local UPS location. It’s an actual address (vs a PO Box number that you receive if you have a box at the USPS) and it just makes my business look more professional. I have thought about renting some virtual office space, but since I am still looking for my new brick and mortal establishment, I did not go that route.

You can find many virtual office spaces for rent on craigslist.com under housing/office and commercial. To help better your search, you can also type the word “virtual” in the Craigslist search bar. To give you an example of a virtual office, here is a listing that I found:

Wouldn’t you like to project a professional image while you work from home? Become a Virtual Tenant at American West Office Suites!

From mailboxes, to conference room usage, to personalized phone answering, to admin support …. AWOS can help bring your business to the next level! Packages start at $50/month.

Beautifully designed ‘Class A’ professional office building on
Professional business address (no PO Box numbers)
Private, locked mailbox w/key and 24/7 accessibility
Full-time receptionist to greet your clients and sign for your packages/mail
Four conference rooms available
Lobby Directory signage available
Designated business phone number with live personalized answering service available
Administrative services available
Access to copier, scanner, fax, postage machines and more
Virtual packages start at $50/month for Mail Identity or ….
…. we can customize a package around YOUR specific business needs!

As you can see from the description, it’s just like having an office without really having an office! The cool thing about virtual offices is that, for someone who is mobile but want to have a professional meeting that doesn’t always happen at Panera Bread, it’s right up your alley. Your client never has to know that your business doesn’t reside there on a day to day basis. It’s the image that counts!

Since I am an accountant, I know all about invoice numbers! Even I loathe at businesses that send me an invoice that with an invoice number of 5. I immediately think that I have put my trust in an unfounded, unstable, fly by night business. Not to say that it’s actually true, but first impressions do count. It’s so easy to set the invoice starting number in QuickBooks or Nero (or any other small business accounting system you have). And to take it one step further, I always start on an odd number. I don’t know why, I just do. So, instead of my first invoice being 1000, its 1001.

Now, my biggest issue that I had with my small business is a dedicated phone line. I did not want everyone calling me on my personal cell phone. I started out, actually, using a Google Voice phone number. This was when it was still in Beta testing and it was by invitation only. I was able to select my area code and Google Voice gave me a number. When someone calls my Google Voice phone number, it automatically rings my cell phone. The best part about it is, when I answer, the nice Google lady tells me that I have a phone call coming in and if I want to answer it press 1, and if I want to send to voice mail, press 2.

This is a great feature because I want to know who is calling me from my Google Voice phone number versus someone calling me directly to my personal cell phone. When I moved into my brick and mortar office, I wanted an even more professional image. I did not want to have to take phone calls on my cell phone, and an office line was much too expensive. In drops in NetTalk. NetTalk is a lot like MagicJack but I believe that it has more phone calling features than MagicJack. Since I was already paying for internet access in my office (which I feel is expensive for business) I could use this NetTalk device to hook up to my modem, connect a phone and Viola! Now I have a phone! The NetTalk service is only $39.99 a year and includes the following features:

  • Free calling to the US & Canada
  • Phone number included
  • Backed by live chat & customer call back support
  • Voicemail, Call Waiting, Caller ID, 3-Way Calling, 411, e-911, and more

For the price, I couldn’t beat it. The price includes the NetTalk Duo device that you hook up to your modem. I found that the calls were clear, and I was also able to select my local area code for the phone number.

I can’t say that I have done #4 on my list, as my business card does state that I am the “Proprietor”. Perhaps I will change it, perhaps not.

I spend a lot of time looking over my website for spelling errors, punctuation issue and the sort. Because it is so easy to put a website up, I cannot for the life of me understand why businesses still use outdated, static website templates from circa 2010. There are so many websites that office free dynamic websites today. Using a platform like WordPress, which is super easy to use, it is very easy to create a professional website that you can update yourself. My go to place for domains is GoDaddy.com. I am sure now there are many many places that you can get your domain name, but I’ve been using GoDaddy for 15 years and all of my domains are there. I just like having things in one place. If you want, you can forgo creating a WordPress site and obtaining domain name separating and instead create your website using WIX, SquareSpace and Weebly. For a small monthly fee, you can have your website hosting and domain together under these applications. The applications allow easy website building capabilities using a ‘drag and drop approach and a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. In a nutshell, you don’t have to be a programmer to have a beautiful, professional website.

And last, but certainly not least, changing your legal entity. For some of you, you already have an LLC. For the rest of us, (myself including) we have to convert our sole proprietorship into an LLC. For those who have to convert, let me tell you now. If you have an EIN from the IRS for your sole proprietorship, you will have to obtain another one if you want to convert to an LLC. I know that sounds like a lot of work but it’s what the government wants. For more information about obtaining a new EIN visit the IRS.GOV website. For sole proprietors, here is the info:

Sole Proprietors

You will be required to obtain a new EIN if any of the following statements are true.

  • You are subject to a bankruptcy proceeding.
  • You incorporate.
  • You take in partners and operate as a partnership.
  • You purchase or inherit an existing business that you operate as a sole proprietorship.

You will not be required to obtain a new EIN if any of the following statements are true.

  • You change the name of your business.
  • You change your location and/or add other locations.
  • You operate multiple businesses.

I know that sucks, but its true. For more information about obtaining a new EIN visit the IRS.GOV website. In addition, if you had a business bank account under your sole proprietorship, you will have to close that account and open a new account for the newly formed LLC. Again, more work but it is what you have to do.

I actually created my LLC paperwork myself and my operating agreement at www.rocketlawyer.com. I thought it be super easy and affordable. Plus, you can get a 7 day free trial where you can have access to your documents. RocketLawyer also files your LLC paperwork for you. Easy.

So, these are some of my experiences in trying to make something big out of something small. I hope that this information helps you on your journey to being the best entrepreneur you can be. Until next time.

Your Neighborhood Accountant

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