The Start-Up Dilemma: How Entrepreneurs Can Thrive in Today's Economic Climate
Launching a business has its challenges, but there are plenty of pros, as well. Check out some of the resources available today for business-minded folks.
With economic uncertainty continuing to rise, the American entrepreneur may feel discouraged when it comes to starting, owning or running a small business. There are a multitude of factors that play into these feelings of doubt, such as the probability of a recession, the possibility of a presidential impeachment and the string of recently failed IPOs.
Further, the costs of tariffs and the changing trade policy are likely to affect the cost of materials and supply chain. The National Small Business Association recently reported that about 37% of small businesses surveyed stated the tariffs have raised their costs of doing business.
Despite these factors, small businesses and entrepreneurial efforts are extremely important to the economy — they have always played an essential role in our country. The U.S. Small Business Administration also reported that small businesses account for 44% of U.S. economic activity and create two-thirds of new jobs.
In today’s tumultuous economic environment, small-business owners and entrepreneurs may have stronger doubts now than ever before. However, there are resources every entrepreneur should consider that can help them either launch or continue growing their business successfully.
Small Biz Pro No. 1: Today's Tax Environment and Interest Rates
Today’s tax environment is very favorable due to the major tax cuts that were introduced through the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This act allows for small businesses to benefit as it enables sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations to deduct 20% of their qualified business income, with limitations.
Additionally, business owners can roll existing capital gains into businesses formed in opportunity zones. Opportunity zones allow three tax breaks: deferral of gain until 2027, reduction of gain if held for five (10%) or seven (15%) years and non-tax of future additional gains if held for 10 years. This has the potential to save a small-business owner a fair amount of money.
Another change that specifically benefits tech start-ups and other entrepreneurs is the lower C corporation rate. C corporations have been given a tremendous advantage seeing that their corporate tax rate is now only 21%, as opposed to the previous 35%, and that the corporate AMT (alternative minimum tax) has been repealed. Additionally, the TCJA also gives businesses other opportunities to improve cash flow through more liberal depreciation rules and expanded use of cash accounting methods.
The current low interest rates on loans are excellent for start-ups or existing businesses that are expanding and in need of capital. These lower floating and fixed interest rates make it easier for many businesses to afford monthly loan payments and to pay them off.
Small Biz Pro No. 2: Funding Options Available
Depending on the nature of your business and financial security, you might obtain funding through banks, credit markets, public markets or the venture capital market. It is essential to choose the right funding options and business structure for your company as it will influence your overall success down the line.
There are two main sources of capital companies rely on: debt and equity. In general, debt investors require a fixed return through interest payments and a repayment of the debt at a specified date. Equity investors on the other hand offer capital in exchange for a percentage of your company. Something to consider throughout this process is the differences in funding and risk between your options.
The right equity investors can add value to your new company through high-quality strategic advice, open doors to new networks and markets, and provide more capital in the future if needed. However, this capital comes with potential pitfalls: dilution of your ownership stake and potentially losing decision-making ability and control over your company. Professional investors will be adept at advocating for their interests, so you’ll need good advisers as you negotiate with potential investors to bring them on board your team.
With interest rates near historic lows, the debt markets are potentially more attractive than ever. Owners should evaluate the covenants and collateral offered by prospective creditors very carefully and run various “what-if” scenarios under various economic cycles and profitability levels to ensure that the terms and the amount of debt owed are appropriate for your business.
Given how complicated the funding process can be, entrepreneurs or new business owners should always have a backup plan for both their personal and professional finances in the case that something goes awry. Since there are no guarantees of business success, it makes sense to have a plan to prevent bankruptcy or personal financial ruin, such as making sure you have sufficient savings to support you and your family in the case of a financial emergency.
Small Biz Pro No. 3: Growing A Small Business Is More Affordable Than Ever
Every company needs funding to launch and conduct daily operations. After obtaining the financing you need, the way that money is used will be a major factor in your business success. Having a solid financial plan in place with a budget that allows for optimal capital allocation will help keep expenses down, grow top-line revenue and grow your business.
Hiring a CPA early on to join your team is a great idea to introduce another set of trustworthy eyes on your business finances. The right CPA can also help identify tax saving opportunities, and have a firm understanding of where the business’ finances should stand, while freeing up more of your time to focus on other aspects of the business beyond the finances.
An additional way to save money if you’re a business owner on a tighter budget is to hire virtual employees. Online employees can help lower overhead costs. It enables you to pay only for the hours you need work done instead of paying full-time salaries. It also provides access to a much wider talent pool. Getting good advice from your employment attorney is key to this strategy, as virtual employees in other states or jurisdictions can potentially trigger all sorts of employment regulations, filing requirements and taxes.
A co-working space is also another option to decrease overhead costs. This option, or using agile work, could help you retain employees. In fact, the American Management Association reported that it resulted in a 63% reduction in absenteeism. The study also discovered that teleworkers are as much as 35% to 40% more productive.
Final Word: Be Aware, But Go Forward
There are certainly economic factors to be aware of that can negatively affect small or new businesses. However, there are also many reasons that prove today’s economic climate is now, more than ever, the time for entrepreneurs to continue launching and growing their businesses. American small-business owners are key in helping sustain and grow the U.S. economy, and will continue to be for years to come.
About the Author
Managing Partner, Sincerus Advisory
David Flores Wilson, CFP®, CFA, CEPA is a Managing Partner at Sincerus Advisory, a Registered Investment Adviser providing holistic, fee-only financial planning and wealth management services to families and individuals in the New York Metro area and nationwide.