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The biggest mistake I made when launching my business

Sarah Bard Head of Communications
Published at | Updated:

As a former small business owner, the best advice that I give anyone thinking of launching their own business is to not repeat my mistake of waiting until tax season to hire an accountant. An accountant is your most important business advisor and the person who best understands your business and your goals.  

When I finally brought on my accountant, she helped me correct a number of mistakes I had been making. She also coached me in how to pursue what I was good at while delegating the more technical aspects of running a business. Most importantly, she helped empower me and build my confidence in my business and myself.

How it all started 

A few years ago, way before I joined Melio (more on that later), I was looking for a new professional challenge and a way to use my skills and knowledge of the market to help causes I felt passionate about. Several friends had recently launched their own businesses, and I was inspired by their independence and the professional challenge and decided to give it a go myself. 

Following my heart, I launched a small consulting firm out of Washington, D.C., focused on helping advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations. Like most small businesses, I started out at my kitchen table, without an office, employees, or business cards.

I wasn’t alone, though, as most small businesses look just like mine did. As of 2020, 81% of the 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S. did not have any employees.  

One of my biggest challenges was deciding how to divide my time between serving my existing clients, prospecting for new clients, and managing the nitty-gritty of running a business. Among the questions I was struggling with were: Does my business need a logo? A website? A newsletter? An office? Marketing materials? I decided to start with the bare minimum and build as I went. So, I went. 

Then came tax season

Several months had passed and I loved my work and my (very) small business. Spring and tax season were approaching, and I wasn’t worried about it. After all, I’ve been doing my own taxes for most of my adult life. But boy, was I wrong

I quickly realized that even though my business was relatively small and simple, this was no longer the case for my taxes. Naturally, I started to frantically call friends for recommendations, while simultaneously googling for help and cold calling accountants. Finally, I reached CPA Kim Bey of Bey & Associates.

I remember coming into Kim’s office with manilla envelopes of receipts, bank statements, and other documents. I was embarrassed and overwhelmed, but Kim had a special knack for helping first-time small business owners like myself. 

An accountant’s work doesn’t begin and end with tax season   

Over the next few months, Kim helped me completely reorganize my finances as well as my time. She helped me realize that no matter how organized you were as a private individual, running a business requires 10 times more planning and foresight. 

I learned from Kim that sole proprietors are required to file self-employment taxes quarterly, and she helped me set up a great system for that. She worked with me on an array of financial matters, from setting up a retirement plan and health insurance to helping me understand and manage deductions for my home office. She also talked me through all of the potential expenditures of my time and money and the business impact they would have. Together, we realized that I really didn’t need an office or expensive marketing materials at that stage. 

With the new sense of focus Kim gave me, I was able to spend most of my time serving my clients as I was now smarter about how to run my business. 

Continuing my journey at Melio

Becoming a small business owner changed my mentality and the way I thought about my self-worth, time, opportunities, and challenges. My experience as an entrepreneur was so transformative that I realized I wanted to focus on supporting other small businesses. That’s why I joined the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), to help more people start, build, and grow their own businesses. 

Recently, I found a new home at Melio. I felt deeply connected to our mission to keep small business in business by helping them simplify their payment process. As a small business owner, the two things you always need to manage are your time and your money. An hour spent manually paying business bills or standing in line at the post office to mail checks or at the bank to deposit them is an hour that your business and wallet lose. 

I wish Melio had been around a few years ago when I had my own business. But, I’m so happy it’s here now to help small business owners pay all their bills in just a few clicks. If you’re looking for a simple, cost-effective, and intuitive way to manage your accounts payable and receivable online, you should sign up for Melio and check it out for yourself.

*This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.
**Melio does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and you should consult with a professional advisor before making any financial decisions.