9 essential business tasks that take an hour or less

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a small business owner. Your inbox is probably overflowing, your to-do list is a mile long, and every task seems essential.

With so much to do, you might put off some things that don’t immediately contribute to the day-to-day success of your business. But some of these things are essential for the long-term health of your business, which means you’ll have to do them at some point.

In minutes, you can take the following nine steps to formalize your business, strengthen your cybersecurity, and nurture good relationships with your customers and staff.

1. Apply for an employer identification number

An employer identification number is like a social security number for your business. The IRS requires EINs for certain businesses, including those that have employees and those that file taxes as corporations. You may also need it to open a business bank account or apply for a business loan.

You can apply for an EIN on the IRS website in minutes, as long as you know the legal structure of your business and provide your address and social security number or individual tax identification number.

If you want a more formal structure and extra protection for your personal finances, consider setting up a business entity like an LLC or corporation, although it will likely take more than an hour.

For Jason Emery – head of US partnerships at online insurance marketplace Simply Business – turning his consulting business into an LLC has provided “that level of protection where I can live my life without worrying that everything will screw up in any way. either then puts me in a position where my assets are at risk.

2. Apply for a business bank account

A business bank account is a key tool for separating your business income and expenses from your personal income. You can open a business checking account online by providing basic information about your business – such as your EIN – and about yourself, such as your driver’s license.

3. Switch to a password manager

Using strong passwords is one of the easiest ways to protect your business from cyberattacks.

“Using the same short password across multiple websites is a bad idea,” Thomas Muth, director of advisory banking solutions at digital advisory firm SoftServe, said in an email. “If a site is hacked, it can be used to log into your account elsewhere.”

The easiest way to create and store unique passwords is to use a password wallet like LastPass or 1Password. These services allow you to store all your passwords behind another password. Once you have an account, you can use your browser or password wallet to generate a new random password for each new account, then save it to your wallet – you don’t even have to to write.

4. Get professional insurance

Getting a quote and buying a policy from an online insurance provider can take as little as 10 minutes. Not only does insurance protect your business’ finances after an accident or disaster, but it’s also required by many leases, contracts and supplier agreements.

Getting business insurance “is something you need to do to really allow your business to grow, let alone protect it,” says Emery.

5. Connect to local resources

A quick online search should tell you if your area has a small business development center or a SCORE chapter — both US Small Business Administration-funded programs offer free business coaching — or a business incubator.

If you find one, sign up for their newsletter or follow them on social media. By connecting to local resources now, you’ll be able to reach out when you need advice and stay up to date on networking events, grant funding opportunities and more.

6. Survey your customers

Collecting data about your customers’ preferences doesn’t have to be a heavy burden. Free tools like Google Forms and SurveyMonkey make it easy to create an email survey in minutes.

“The low-tech version of [gathering customer data] that is, just send a survey to your customers,” says Reed Switzer, founder and CEO of payments platform Hopscotch. “Some of our vendors have done this with us…and we end up having a better experience.”

7. Back up your data

If a cyberattack hits your files stored in the cloud, recovering them can be difficult. Regularly saving a copy of critical business data to an external drive can help protect you.

“As soon as your on-premises environment is compromised, it could also affect your cloud data,” Muth said. An offline backup “will allow you to recover much faster in case your files are attacked”.

8. Install a grammar plugin

Switzer uses Grammarly, a browser extension that flags grammatical errors and complicated sentences, to ensure its emails are clear and easy to read.

“Communication with your team and with your customers is probably the most important thing for any small business owner,” says Switzer. “All of this really builds confidence on both sides.”

9. Go through your bank statement regularly

It’s easy to miss a price increase on something like your payment software or internet bill. Reviewing your bank statement regularly can help you notice and respond to these changes.

“Make sure you have a really good idea of ​​where you’re spending [and] where you can cut costs,” says Switzer. “If there are ancillary fees, like transaction fees, look for services that have no fees.”

While you’re at it, if you’re using accounting software, make sure it picks up all your transactions and categorizes them correctly. The sooner you spot an error, the easier it can be to fix it.

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Rosalie Murphy writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]

The article 9 Essential Job Tasks That Take An Hour Or Less originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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