Three Small Business Tips to Plan for the Unexpected

Time to plan

I cofounded my business NutraBella, Inc. in 2005 after hearing my pregnant friends complain about horse-pill-sized prenatal vitamins. We dreamed of giving women better vitamin options with Bellybar, our brand of prenatal snacks and vitamins.

So my business partner and I launched our business with passion, dreams and optimism, expecting that we would be wildly successful.

What we never could have predicted were all of the hurdles we would encounter year after year. Owning a small business is a daily challenge – you really can’t plan for everything. But here are three small business tips on how to plan for the unexpected. They can make your road to success quite a bit smoother.

    1. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

    When I was pregnant with my daughter, I did not respond well when a family member recommended that we write a will. A will? I wanted to focus on the nursery, cute onesies and baby names – not on the doom and gloom of a will. But I came around, mostly because I convinced myself that if I had a will, nothing bad would happen.

    And the same is true for your business. (Which I often refer to as my first baby.) Although we always want to remain focused on growth and opportunity, it pays to think about the roadblocks that your business might hit along the way. When we launched our company in 2005, we could not have foreseen that our economy would enter the worst recession in our lifetime just a few years later. Women held off on having babies, causing a direct challenge to our prenatal vitamin business. It was a scary time.

    Take the time to prepare for life’s curveballs. Whether it’s a rainy day fund or a plan for how to bring in more cash, talk about these things early on and make plans. Do it when you can think clearly so when the going gets tough (and it will), you have a solid plan in place.

    2. Protect yourself.

    Things will happen that you can’t control. But you want to make sure that your business can survive the curveballs. First, talk with your insurance agent about how you can insure your business against the unexpected.

    Also consult an attorney. The attorney with whom I worked took care of everything from establishing our LLC, setting up a partnership agreement and reviewing important contracts. I never expected that we would need a line item in our budget for lawyers. And I really wish services like LegalZoom had been around when we started. They can save you a lot of money by providing legal templates.

    3. Respect yourself.

    As owners, we’re often working long hours with few vacations and not a lot of sleep. It’s a recipe for burnout, which can seriously impact your potential for success. As they say on the airlines, put your oxygen mask on first before you help others. Set up systems and processes in your business so that you can step away. It seems basic, but how many of us really do it? Take care of yourself by making sure that you can take a vacation or care for a sick child when needed. Make sure that things won’t fall apart if you step away for a moment.

Owning a business is thrilling for so many reasons: You get to be your own boss, you see the direct fruit of your labors and you get to follow your passion. But do it the smart way by protecting yourself from the unexpected. It’s never too late–so do it today!

Leslie Barber is the Small Business Engagement Officer at Intuit QuickBooks. As a small business owner herself, Barber understands the daily challenges and sweet successes of the small business owner. She joined Intuit to share her experiences with others and to help make running their businesses easier with QuickBooks. You can read more of her small business tips at and on Twitter @lsbarber.

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