500+ Big Ideas for Your Small Business: A Resource Guide for Owners Short on Time

By at 4 January, 2021, 5:28 pm

by Barbara Weltman-

With only so many hours in the day, owners may find it impossible to stay up on ever-changing rules and opportunities for their businesses. This eBook links you to more than more than 500 ideas to help in finances, operations, staffing, marketing, taxes, technology, the environment, and your personal growth.

The following ideas are partial excerpts taken from each chapter in the book:

Your Finances

Separate your business and personal finances. This will make things easier for tax return preparation and for other purposes. Use a separate business bank account and obtain a separate business credit card.

Understand the types of payments you can accept. Funding Circle explains the types of payments you can use in your business (what they are; how they work; the pros and cons). It also contains fraud prevention and mitigation tips (e.g., how to avoid data breaches).

Build your business credit. Creating and maintaining good business credit is vital to the success of your company. NAV explains how to establish and build small business credit. It also gives you free access to your business credit score gleaned from Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian, as well as tools for building strong business credit and more. CapitalOne BusinessWise offers a free credit report based on info from LexisNexis.

Find grants. Grants are awards made to businesses and can be just the cash needed for a special project or activity. For example, LendingTree offers links on where to find small business grants.

Your Operations

Write a business plan. The plan serves as a roadmap for running your business; check your progress against the goals you set. The document isn’t static and should continually be adapted to changes in your business. Find business plans, some of which are free, from Bplans.

Get certified. If your business is woman-owned, socially or economically disadvantaged, or disabled veteran-owned, you may obtain special certification that gives you better access to government contracts and is a good marketing tool as well. Check with the SBA for details. Watch for new rules for women-owned and economically-disadvantaged women-owned businesses that became effective July 15, 2020.

Make sure you have proper insurance coverage. Learn about various types of coverage for small business from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The site also lists the questions to ask before buying any coverage.

Get help from the SBA ombudsman. If you need help with unfair or excessive federal regulatory compliance or enforcement issues, the SBA’s National Ombudsman may be able to help. File a complaint and specify the outcome you’re seeking. Contact the ombudsman’s office at or call 888-734-3247.

Understand supply chain issues. This is a sequence of events from production or acquisition of inventory to the distribution of your products. To handle inventory optimally, be sure to address each step in your supply chain. The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals lists definitions and a glossary of key terminology for supply chain management (SCM). 

Your Staffing

Classify workers correctly.  Is someone working for you an employee or independent contractor? Only employee status triggers employer legal obligations. But you can’t arbitrarily label a worker as an independent contractor if you exercise sufficient control to make the worker an employee. Check IRS common law rules on worker classification for federal tax purposes and the DOL proposed rule for purposes of the FLSA. But don’t ignore state-level rules as well (e.g., California’s ABC test).

Watch out for FLSA violations. The U.S. Department of Labor is continually looking for violations of minimum wage and overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Wage and Hour Division offers compliance assistance by listing various rules and resources. For example, you can’t give comp time in lieu of overtime pay that’s due to an employee.

Create a PTO policy. Personal time off (PTO), for vacation, sick, or personal days, with pay is a common practice. What’s not common is how much PTO is offered by companies. You can offer a set number of vacation days (the amount is usually tied to longevity with the company) that’s separate from sick or personal days. Or you can enable employees to accrue time off based on time worked. Paycor offers a sample PTO policy for small businesses.

Offer no-cost fringe benefits. Many benefits cost a company little or nothing. For example, permitting pets at work or negotiating discounts for employees from local merchants may be highly appreciated. Work-life balance arrangements, such as flextime, relaxed dress codes, and summer hours don’t cost the company anything. 

Your Marketing

Budget for marketing. How much can or should you pay on your marketing efforts? There’s no simple answer. It depends in part on what you do. An often-quoted rule of thumb for spending on marketing is 5% of revenue, but you can adapt this rule to what meets your needs and your pocketbook. The SBE Council found that nearly one-third of small businesses spend $500 or more on digital advertising each month. Be sure to factor your marketing into your budget.

Do your market research. This helps you define your target customers so you can craft your marketing strategies to capture them. You can find much information through the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ciradar has a list of other free market research tools and resources.

Take a social media marketing course. The SBA offers a free 30-minute self-conducted course that shows you how social media can increase the sales of your products or services. The course includes 2 worksheets: a social media marketing design checklist and a social media marketing action plan. Launch the course here.

Your Taxes

Enroll in This free online site lets you pay federal taxes electronically. You can schedule payments in advance so you never miss a deadline. Enrollment usually takes 5 business days so don’t wait until a payment deadline to act.

Work with a CPA or other tax adviser. While there are many things you can do on your own, it’s helpful to work with a tax pro. Learn ways to save on taxes, find refund opportunities, and meet compliance requirements.

Track carryovers so you don’t waste them. If you use a paid preparer, likely this is done for you. But if you do your own taxes or change preparers, be sure to keep records on carryovers for capital losses, charitable contributions, general business credits, home office deductions, investment interest, and net operating losses. 

Your Technology

Understand digital disruption. If you’ve heard the term but don’t know what it means, you can learn about it in a free guide from IQS Directory. Digital disruption has been defined as “a transformation that is caused by emerging digital technologies and business models. It’s the use of the internet, computers, and technology to change and revolutionize businesses.” What are the positive and negative effects? What does it mean to you? Check out the guide.

Upgrade your computer. Plan to upgrade and replace your computer on a fairly-regular schedule. The reason: technology makes newer computers work faster (e.g., an improved processor; longer battery life in a laptop) and may have better security features. The typical life of a computer is 3 to 5 years, depending on usage and other factors. Budget ahead for needed replacement.

Optimize your mobile workforce. Communicate better and enable workers in the field to access schedules and other information via an app. For example, Beekeeper is an app designed to maximize productivity by reducing the time that workers spend on accessing contacts and other information. 

Your Environment

Get certified “green.” You can’t just call yourself a green business. You need official certification. Learn more from the Green Business League.  Once you are certified, include it in your marketing materials. Consumers want to support companies ”doing good.”

Use green products. You can opt for green office supplies, including green pencils, office storage, and work bags. Find some green office-related products from The Ultimate Green Store.

Look for state-level incentives for renewables and efficiency. DSIRE is a database for policies and incentives. Incentives include tax credits, sales tax exemptions, and special metering. Search by zip code to find opportunities near you.

Your Personal Growth

Determine what success means to you. Knowing what success means to you becomes a goal to which you aim. It may be creating and bringing to market a new product or concept. It may be building up your company to a certain amount of annual revenue. It may be hiring your first employee or expanding your staff considerably. It may be building relationships with customers, vendors, and other business owners. It may be becoming meaningful to your local community. It may simply mean being able to earn enough to support yourself (and your family if applicable).

Get yourself a mentor. Mentored small businesses have twice the survival rate after five years than non-mentored ones, according to a UPS survey a number of years ago. January is National Mentoring Month, which is designed to spur action in this regard. There are several resources for finding a mentor, including, which is a network to match mentees with mentors.

Support Small Business Advocacy OrganizationsThe Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) and the NFIB are groups that are the voice of small business and work on issues important to the small business community. 

Final Thought

Many of the tips in the book are derived from Idea of the Day®, which has been published daily for more than 10 years. Others have been created especially for the book. Submissions for new ideas are welcome.

Barbara Weltman is a member of SBE Council’s advisory board, and has been a leading consultant for small businesses of every kind for over twenty years. She’s the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business® and has written numerous books on small business operations, including J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, and The Rational Guide to Building Small Business Credit. Follow Barbara on Twitter @BigIdeas4SB.



News and Media Releases