Manage your business or it will manage you

Keys to Your Business Managing You

    Hutch 115
  1. Desperately say “yes” to every opportunity.
  2. Assume everybody is doing what you told them to do.
  3. Assume everybody understood what you said.
  4. Procrastinate.
  5. Set yourself up as the only person that knows how to do it.
  6. Constantly allow exceptions to the rules.

That list comes from David Gaither of HSPG & Assoc. CPAs. At the Oklahoma Entrepreneurship Conference last week, he presented a great session, “Manage Your Business… Don’t Let It Manage You.” 

His central message was to find the right people to help you in your business. No matter how small or large your business is, you need to build a team of people you can trust and you can count on. Seek people who are honest and capable, willing to ask questions, and driven to succeed, Gaither said.

Small town people are good people
“I grew up in Henryetta,” Gaither said. “We have a lot of success in hiring people who came from rural Oklahoma and came through college. Because to them, they are in the big time.”

Empowerment is much more than just giving people the tools they need. It’s giving them them the responsiblity, accountability and constantly following up, Gaither said.

Finding service providers
You need a really good tax accountant, Gaither said. In his opinion, they give you the most breadth of experience for the least amount of money. They process things through a filter of how it will work on a tax return.

“When it comes to something to outsource in your business, you need to outsource your payroll,” Gaither said.

Payroll requirements are always changing, including frequent rule and rate changes. Errors in payroll tax, especially in withholding tax, are extremely serious matters with the IRS, Gaither said.

Unless you have a really unusual situation, you don’t need an attorney to write contracts, Gaither said. Your accountant can connect you with someone who has a similar contract that you can plagarize, he said.

He has an engagement letter with every single client. It outlines what work will be done, and what the cost will be. It takes a lot of finger pointing out of future discussions, he said.

IT is another good outsource, Gaither said. Find a good, knowledgeable tech person who knows your network. It’s expensive per hour, but worth it. Computer problems absolutely wear you slick, he said.

Get to know a banker long before you need to borrow. They need to know your story. They need to know you. Start with where you do your business banking. Talk to their business banker. Ask them about setting up a line of credit, before you need it, Gaither said.

Part time stay at home mom CPAs are the best and brightest, a bargain, and interested in working 25 hours a week, Gaither said. They are a good fit for small businesses. How do you find them? You talk to everybody you know.

You will outgrow your initial accounting setup, whether it’s a person or a software package, Gaither said. You will have to get over that and upgrade when you grow.

QuickBooks is easy, has lots of qualified users. He said he recommends it to all his small business clients.

Managing expectations
Any new business starts out with you personally spending a lot of time planning, setting goals, and communicating your direction for the business.

Desperately saying yes to every opportunity is one symptom of your business managing you, Gaither said. You may have to do that at the start, but then it becomes a trait. You get to a place where you don’t have to say yes to everything that comes in the door, if it’s not in your core competency. You have to develop the ability to evaluate every opportunity. Be willing to say no. People will respect that. They aren’t not going to call you next time. If you say yes to every opportunity, your business will run your life.

Chime in
Where do you agree, or disagree, with Gaither?

Photo of the business owner repairing bar stools himself at Carl’s Bar in Hutchinson, KS.

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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  1. says

    I think Gaither is dead on when it comes to the options available for small businesses’ accounting. It is also important to manage expectations, as well, but I think that the more often that you can say yes to opportunities, the more excited clients and customers will be to work with you.

  2. says

    I think these are great suggestions. The only one I’d hesitate to do is to plagiarize someone else’s contract language. When I needed to start writing contracts, I hired a small business lawyer to set up templates that were specific to my type of business. Then I was able to modify those templates for each job without needing to hire her to write each contract. Of course there is an initial cost involved, but she offered lower rates for small businesses, and it was well worth the expense to know that my contracts were appropriate to my industry.

  3. Anonymous says

    I can really appreciate Gaither’s six keys to being managed by your business. I seem to be in the hiring “tweens” (i.e. too much experience to fit firms’ budgets, too young for Social Security & Medicare). So, yes, I’ve become one of those reluctant entrepreneurs who is being dragged, kicking & screaming, into working for myself. I set up an LLC to capture part time, small contract offerings. Learned a lot already about what not to do!

    Even before your business really gets going, I recommend realistically assessing each opportunity, not only at the first offer, but each step along the negotiations path until the contract is signed.

    I got caught in a situation where I had the initial RFP response interview at end of October (“We’ll let you know next week.”), but did not get the offer call until Christmas week. B/c of holidays, we couldn’t meet again to negotiate contract until middle of January. I came down with bad cold by then, BUT this “October Group” couldn’t meet again until first of February. At each point I had reservations since this was supposed to be a Dec. – May job, but I needed income so I kept saying O.K.

    Finally, this group and I met Feb. 1. I looked over the details of the contract they were offering and they had changed in significant, and costly, ways from October! The pay was reduced by 15% and, of course, now they still wanted a six month job done in four. Most of the work would have to be front loaded, also, due to availabilities of people for interviews.

    Since October, though, I’d accepted two other 2-3 month jobs to get by. One of these places found more funding and wanted to up my hours and extend my contract period. They were willing to pay much better than the “October group”. Plus, there are a couple of other opportunities looming in April that will pay better.

    So, I weighed all the business, social, financial pros and cons during the week after our meeting. I realized I couldn’t fullfill the “October Group’s” needs and expectations at this point in time. Since we’d never signed a contract, I called them and said, “Sorry for the late notice, but I just don’t have the time to do your work.”

    Hard feelings all around, but the business necessity of my decision was clear.

  4. says

    Thursday, I agree there is value in delighting clients. Sometimes the best way to delight them is to find them the right person. In other words, to say no.

    Emily, I like your solution for contracts better than Gaither’s.

    Anonymous, it sounds like a tough situation all the way around. I hope that you’ll find success, even as a reluctant entrepreneur.

    Mike, agreed.