SCORE WITH BEST BUSINESS PRACTICES

SCORE volunteer Katherine D. Sullivan speaks at the NCTA May 2008 meeting about how to start up and successfully run a small business.  BY RAFFAELLA BUSCHIAZZO

The spring General Meeting took place on May 10, 2008 at the LGBT conference center in downtown San Francisco. Association Secretary Stafford Hemmer opened the meeting at 1:30 p.m. after the customary orientation session for new members presented by NCTA Vice President Yves Avérous. Stafford provided the latest news, promoted the new membership directory, talked about the full calendar of events that the Association offers regularly-upcoming workshops and monthly happy hours in Oakland and SF-and transmitted his enthusiasm about the major event of the year that we are preparing for the fall: the celebration of the NCTA’s 30th anniversary. A survey was also sent to our members in order to get their suggstions regarding this event.

SCORE

We are always looking for useful topics to present to our members (please feel free to contact us with hints at events@ncta.org), and for this meeting we got in touch with the local chapter of SCORE (www.score.org), Counselors to America’s Small Business. SCORE is a non-profit organization dedicated to the formation, growth, and success of small businesses, providing free and confidential public service through 389 chapter offices and 10,500 volunteer counselors with over 600 business skills.

We contacted Katherine D. Sullivan and asked her to present an overview of best business practices. K.D. Sullivan has volunteered with SCORE-San Francisco since 2000 and served as Chapter Chair. She is an internationally recognized authority on proofreading, as well as an authority on entrepreneurial business. She is the author and coauthor of a number of books including Go Ahead…Proof It! A Cure for the Common Word, and of the upcoming In the Driver’s Seat: A Roadmap to Freelancing. She recently sold the proofreading and editorial agency she founded, and is currently creating three new businesses.

Best Business Practices

The presentation highlighted six main topics and provided an overview of what you need to set up a business and maintain it. The first step, according to K.D. Sullivan, is to develop a business plan to help clarify your ideas, get organized, provide a roadmap, and make a scorecard to measure your success. As she pointed out, it is better to make mistakes on paper than with money! A business plan should include a definition of the product to sell, the target market, how to reach it, evaluation of the competition, how to operate and to structure your business, how much money you need, what the success factors are, and when you expect to make a profit.

Every business involves legal definitions and requirements. K.D. Sullivan explained how you should consider liability, tax basis/filings, profit allocation/distribution, and management allocation. She underlined the legal differences between employees and independent contractors and provided several guidelines to keep contractor status: Retain control of your work, look like an independent business meaning use a fictitious business name instead of your name, maintain a separate bank account only for your business, obtain licenses and permits necessary for your profession, carry a business insurance, don’t accept employment benefits and a few others.

Another must-have when you have your own business is insurance. K.D. Sullivan suggests having liability insurance above all to protect you from errors you may make.

Our speaker then discusssed the issue of bookkeeping and noted that when she was running her business, automatically-generated reports, created when using accounting software, helped her break her activities down into subcategories. This made it easier to know on which areas of her business she needed to focus more. K.D. Sullivan discusssed types of deductions we have the right to make and recommended using a business credit card to keep track of expenses. This simplifies bookkeeping enormously.

K.D. Sullivan continued her presentation by talking about marketing. The concept behind marketing is the same as it was years ago when she started her career-it is an ongoing process to grow your business-but naturally the means have evolved. The Internet offers ever easier and cheaper ways to promote your business. When she started creating her Web site,  she looked around and picked up whatever she liked on the Web and adapted it to her business. Email is another way to market your business.

Our speaker concluded her presentation with a discussion of ways to finance your business in order to expand it. Micro loans are good types of financing, whereas credit cards are highly discouraged.

I would like to sincerely thank K.D. Sullivan on behalf of the NCTA for having very successfully covered material sufficient for several multi-hour workshops in a single and very engaging presentation.

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