Six Steps to Small Business Success

How to Start, Manage, and Sell Your Business

By Bert Doerhoff, CPA, Lowell Lillge, CPA, David Lucier, CPA, R. Sean Manning, CPA, and C. Gregory Orcutt, CPA

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938548-21-5 / 270 pages / $21.95
ePub ISBN: 978-1-938548-22-2 / $9.99
Kindle ASIN: B011SLXZTW / $9.99
ePDF ISBN: 978-1-938548-23-9 / $9.99

Five CPAs bring their extensive experience to help you start and grow your business

Offers step-by-step advice covering the complete small business life cycle

First edition was the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants’ 2011 Book of the Year

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Many entrepreneurs fail, not because they have a bad idea, but because they don’t have the knowledge and skills it takes to convert their ideas into success. Six Steps to Small Business Success offers a series of simple steps that business owners should take as they work to convert their dreams into reality. These steps are:

  1. Pre-Business Planning. Learn from others who have succeeded how a little front end planning can ensure that your dream becomes a reality.
  2. Start-Up: Finances, Budgets, and Numbers. Discover the key fundamentals that must be put in place to keep things on track for the business to grow.
  3. Human Resources (People). Learn best practices in hiring, training, managing, and even terminating employees.
  4. Operations: Work Flow, Customers, and Sales. Get answers to questions that will lead to good decisions about products and customers.
  5. Building a Salable Business and the Sale. Successful entrepreneurs often sell their businesses and move on. Learn how to plan for that eventual sale.
  6. Transitioning to Life after Business. Finally, learn how to plan for life after work—personal adjustments, wealth management, leaving a legacy.

The first edition of this book won the prestigious 2011 Book of the Year Award presented by the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants.

In Six Steps to Small Business Success, five seasoned CPAs combine over one hundred years of experience in order to provide practical advice, step-by-step guidance, and proven ideas for entrepreneurs ready to embark on the exciting journey of starting and managing a successful business. – Tim Nolan, President, Professional Association of Small Business Accountants

About the Authors

Bert Doerhoff - David Lucier - R. Sean Manning - C. Gregory Orcutt

Bert Doerhoff, CPA, started his own CPA firm in 1978, which was later named one of the top fifty most innovative firms in the nation by CPA Digest.

Lowell G. Lillge, CPA, started his own accounting firm in 1983, specializing in bookkeeping, tax preparation, and accounting, and he has worked with hundreds of clients.

David J. Lucier, CPA, is an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and business adviser who has worked with hundreds of start-up and emerging companies over the past thirty years.

R. Sean Manning, CPA, owns an accounting firm as well as several other businesses. In 2008 his firm was awarded Innovative Accounting Firm of the Year from the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants.

C. Gregory Orcutt, CPA, has owned an accounting firm for over twenty-five years. He was recently awarded the Small Firm of the Year from the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants.

Table of Contents

Before You Read This Book

Step One — Pre-Business Planning
1. The Dream: Running Your Own Business with Integrity
2. Pick the Right Business for You
3. Self-Evaluation for Small-Business Success
4. Advisers for Your Business
5. Buying a Franchise or Starting from the Ground Up
6. The Business Plan: Creating Your Map to Success
7. Strategic Marketing Planning
8. Partnerships and Agreements for Multiple Owners
9. Business Formats and Tax Structures
10. Business, Family, and Personal Relationships: Making Them Work

Step Two — Start-Up: Finances, Budgets, and Numbers
11. Business Loans: A General Overview
12. Another Use for Your Business Plan
13. How to Read Financial Statements
14. Key Operating Statistics (Vitals)
15. Comparing Your Key Operating Statistics to Industry Standards
16. Tax Planning
17. Real Estate and Your Business
18. Insurance: A General Overview

Step Three — Human Resources: The People Factor
19. Assembling Your Team
20. Compensation and Benefits
21. Training Employees
22. Managing Employees
23. Terminating Employees

Step Four — Operations: Work Flow, Customers, and Sales
24. Managing Daily Operations
25. Managing Customers: Credit, Collections, and Service
26. Managing Marketing and Sales: Some Low-Cost Tactics
27. Managing Growth and Expansion

Step Five — Building a Salable Business and the Sale

28. Is It Time to Sell?
29. Valuing Your Business to Sell
30. Tax Planning for the Sale
31. Who Are the Buyers?
32. Negotiating the Sale
33. Sale Documents and Escrows for Contingencies
34. Transitioning Customers and Employees through the Sale

Step Six — Transitioning to Life After Business
35. Wealth Management and Investments
36. Lifestyle Changes
37. Leaving a Legacy of Values

Further Reading
Recommended Websites



We intentionally designed this book so that you can jump in and start with the chapter that fits where your business is today. Whether you’re just developing a business idea or you’re looking to sell your ongoing enterprise, the sections of the book can be used as you see fit.

Of course, we think everyone can probably gain from reading the whole book, because there are lots of golden nuggets throughout. However, to get the most immediate impact, you might want to ask yourself the following questions to get a sense of where you may need the most help. In general, your answer to the questions will help you determine the steps and chapters of the book that may be of most interest to you. For example, what consumes most of your time in your current business? Is it managing employees, trying to grow sales, or putting out day-to-day fires? If you decide employees are your biggest problems, then skip to Step Three on human resources to get some immediate relief. Then you can go back and pick up on other key areas. Now let’s look at the six key steps of the book and examples of day-to-day questions that each step will address.

STEP ONE: Pre-Business Planning
First, there is the excitement of all the planning that goes into starting your own business. A little planning on the front end goes a long way to ensuring that the dream you pictured becomes a reality. Many businesses fail because the entrepreneur is a technician skilled at producing a particular business service or good but not necessarily a capable businessperson. So if you’re starting a new business, take a few minutes and learn from the experiences of others who have succeeded there. Step One will help you answer these questions:

  • Do you know what type of business or service best fits your dream?
  • Have you selected the right business for you?
  • Have you evaluated yourself for small-business success?
  • Do you have the right form of doing business (corporation, sole proprietorship, etc.)?
  • Do you have the right advisers supporting you?
  • Should you look at a franchise, buy another business, or start from scratch?
  • Do you have a business plan in place?
  • Do you have a strategic marketing plan in place?
  • Do you have the correct partnership agreements in place for multiple owners?
  • Do you have the right tax structure for your business to minimize income taxes?
  • How do you coordinate business and family life?

STEP TWO: Start-Up: Finances, Budgets, and Numbers
Once you start the business, there are certain key fundamentals and tracking mechanisms you must put in place to keep things on track and grow the business. Business success is a constantly moving target, so you have to take the time to learn what your tracking mechanisms and your customers are telling you. Step Two will help you answer these questions:

  • Do you have the right type of financing and business loans?
  • Do you know how to read financial statements and understand what they can tell you about your business?
  • Do you know what the key operating statistics are for your business?
  • Do you know how you compare to industry standards?
  • Do you know what your tax liability will be for the current year?
  • Have you considered your options for commercial real estate?
  • Do you have the right insurance coverage?

STEP THREE: Human Resources: The People Factor
Hiring, training, and firing employees are all necessary parts of running a business. Step Three will help you answer these questions:

  • How do you go about screening, interviewing, and hiring employees?
  • Are you paying a fair wage and competitive benefits?
  • How are you training your new employees?
  • Are you managing your employees effectively?
  • Do you know the right way to terminate an employee to protect yourself?

STEP FOUR: Operations: Work Flow, Customers, and Sales
Daily operations involve numerous decisions about your products, services, and customers. Step Four will help you answer these questions:

  • Do you have systems in place so that your product or service is consistent?
  • How do you manage your customers, grant credit, and respond to customer service issues?
  • Do you have a sales and marketing plan in place, and do you adjust for market changes?
  • Do you know when to expand your business?

STEP FIVE: Building a Salable Business and the Sale
Once you have the business running smoothly, you need to plan for the eventual sale. Growing that salable business takes some planning. Then, once you decide to sell the business, there is a whole new set of issues: What is it worth? How do I transfer the customers to the buyer? What about the employees? How do I negotiate the terms of the sale? Step Five will help you answer these questions:

  • Does your business run smoothly without you?
  • What is your business worth?
  • Have you managed your debt so that you can afford to sell your business?
  • How can you minimize the tax consequences of a sale?
  • Who are the buyers for your business?
  • What do you need to know to negotiate a sale contract, and who should be involved?
  • How do you transition your customers to a new owner of your business?
  • How do you transition your employees to a new owner of your business?
  • What should you expect in the sale documents, and how will you structure the monetary transaction?

STEP SIX: Transitioning to Life after Business
Once you’ve made the decision to sell, how do you manage the transition for everyone involved? How will you adjust to your life after the business? Step Six will help you answer these questions:

  • What do you need to know about wealth management?
  • How do you adjust to life after work?
  • How do you pass your values on to your kids?
  • How do you leave a legacy after you’re gone?

Now pick the area that will have the most immediate impact for you, and start reading.

One last thought: Dream big, but always break down your dreams into small steps, because small steps are easy to achieve, and a lot of small steps equal one big step, and a lot of big steps equal your dream.

Excerpted from Six Steps to Small Business Success by Bert Doerhoff, Lowell Lillge, David Lucier, R. Sean Manning, and C. Gregory Orcutt. Copyright ©2014 by Biz Books, LLC. Published by Maven House Press, Palmyra, VA. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

As a small business owner it is often difficult to find good resources to help me run my business, not because they don’t exist, but because of the massive number of books in print on the subject. What I love most about this book is the straight forward approach and the rich information on key issues I run into every day. I keep this book on my desk and reread it often.
PIXIE WILLOW, Founder of Pixie Willow Designs, from NetGalley

I haven’t found a book that covers so much useful information for small business owners and . . . I think it deserves a place in your library. It will definitely make starting, running, and selling your business much easier.

Six Steps is a must read for every would be entrepreneur. It’s a comprehensive, practical, and insightful compilation of the issues, strategies, and hurdles that business owners will likely encounter during and after their reign.
NED A. MINOR, Founder of Minor & Brown and author of Deciding to Sell Your Business: The Key to Wealth and Freedom

I’ve read college level textbooks on business, but this will be my “go to.” It’s an easy read, but written with great competence. I’ll recommend it to others I know who are starting small businesses. I love the way it covers both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ topics needed for success.

From pre-start-up through exit strategies, this work runs the gamut of a complete life cycle. A tremendous reference full of desirable linkages. Would heavily recommend for all entrepreneur 101 type folks. Helps to avoid mistakes.

The authors of Six Steps to Small Business Success represent a group of experts worth listening to. The book is packed with applied lessons, real-life experiences, and proven strategies that if employed appropriately will assist small business owners in developing thriving, profitable organizations. It’s a practical guide that every small business owner should own.
DARREN ROOT, CPA.CITP, President of Root & Associates and author of The E-Myth Accountant