The 194 Top Responsibilities of Small Business Owners (Ha!)

The job of a small business owner seems to get bigger and bigger every year.  Once upon a time, someone could decide they wanted to have a window-installation business, and five minutes later they had traded a donkey for three months’ worth of storefront rent and six panes of glass and they were in business.*

Oh, how things have changed.

While I’m not going to actually list 194 responsibilities, when you break each of these down into a task list, the number is probably not an exaggeration. I’m only going to focus on two areas of responsibility today – licensing and marketing.

Making It Right With the Gub’mint

There has never in human history been such a list of certifications, licenses and insurance necessary to open up a business than there is today in the United States.  The days of six panes of glass and a storefront have gone the way of the donkey.  While the different political parties can argue day in and out whether there is too much government oversight or not enough, at the end of the day the responsibility still falls on the shoulders of the small business owner to make sure their paperwork is in order.

  • Federal Filings.  You may need federal licenses, depending on what your business is
  • State corporate filings.  Whether you are filing as a sole proprietor or as an LLC, LLP, etc., your Secretary of State’s office for your state should have a list of what you have to do to comply.
  • Local filings. Your city/county may require you to fill out a small business license and/or other documents.
  • Business-specific licenses.  If you are operating a commercial kitchen, there’s a license for that.  If you are buying and reselling you need a Reseller’s Permit.  In most states you need a food handler’s license to operate a food truck or commercial kitchen as well.   And if your business is in the technical, industrial, importing, alcohol and beverage control side of things, the list is almost endless.  Check with your city/county to find out what licenses and permits you need to operate your business within the law.
  • Employment law.  If you have employees, there’s a whole additional category of things you have to deal with.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

While the need for marketing is actually something that hasn’t changed since the days of yore, the way a small business owner goes about it today is very, very different.  Here are just some of the things you should have given passing thought to:

  • Storefront marketing.  Do you have any potential for walk-in traffic?  Make sure your sign is simple, readable, and makes it very clear what types of services or products you offer.  If you have substantial pedestrian traffic, it’s an opportunity for regular promotions through your storefront windows.
  • Newspaper and yellowpages marketing.  While I have made fun of this in the past, there is still a subset of the population who uses the yellowpages, i.e. people who are 60+.  If those folks are in your desired demographic, a yellowpages ad may actually be worth the investment.  But if you do that, do yourself a favor and ask new customers where they heard of you.  If nobody ever says “the yellowpages”, save your money.
  • Newsletter/postcard marketing.  If you have a physical mailing list, this is a great way to get your promotions out to your customers.
  • Email promotions.  The same as with a street mailing list, an email list targeted at past customers or people who have shown interest in your company is golden.  These people are far more likely to buy from you than someone who is unfamiliar with your company.
  • Your website.  In today’s day and age, you absolutely cannot afford to neglect your website.  It’s your digital storefront.  For most people today, when they look for a product or service, they do it by typing what they want into a search engine.  Which means that your website needs to be search engine optimized.
  • Social media.  This is the area of responsibility that small business owners have the most trouble with.  And no wonder.  A recent survey found that even the professionals in the field of social media marketing or digital marketing don’t believe they know enough about it, even as the need for social media marketing grows.  How is a small business owner supposed to keep up in an area that changes so fast that the professionals can’t keep up?

A combination of all of these marketing strategies needs to be in your business plan.  While your business may not need to do all of them, you should be considering doing most of them.  And if you neglect your website, you will live to regret it.

*This is basically my great, great grandfather’s business story.

MJW LinkedIn photoMegan J. Wilson is a professional ghostblogger, commercial freelance writer and social marketing consultant.  She also blogs at Dirt Totem Productions, where she is an avid cheerleader for social media marketing for independent films.