By John Swanciger of Manta
Owning a small business isn’t just a full-time job. For many, it’s more like five or six full-time jobs.
Accounting, marketing, vendor management, customer service — these are only a few of the responsibilities that fall under small business owners’ purview. Recently, one obligation has monopolized a growing share of owners’ attention: regulatory compliance.
A surge of new federal and local legislation — from the Affordable Care Act and expansion of overtime pay, to city-specific minimum wage hikes and hourly worker protections — has small business owners scrambling to adapt their operations (and manage a full calendar of enforcement deadlines).
The intention behind many of these regulatory shuffles is to improve working conditions for employees, but Manta’s latest Wellness Index research shows that many small businesses bear the brunt of changing compliance requirements. Today, 41 percent of small business owners feel their companies have been negatively affected by national and local regulations.
Too Much Change, Too Little Time
Preparing a small business to comply with even one regulatory shift demands careful planning, paperwork and a series of process improvements. Regardless of where your small business is located, chances are you’re grappling with more than one regulatory issue.
On a national scale, small business owners highlight taxes, the Affordable Care Act and the SEC’s new crowdsourcing rules as the most challenging to navigate. Owners also rank taxes as the most difficult state-specific regulations they wrestle with, followed by local licensing and labor rules.
Addressing these changes requires a scarce resource: time. Twenty-one percent of small business owners spend at least six hours a week trying to make sense of these changes and get their operations in full compliance, according to the Wellness Index.
Staying up to date with regulatory requirements is an essential part of running a successful small business, but it’s not the only burden owners shoulder. With the pace of new legislation expected to hold steady, business owners need smarter ways of tackling compliance. Here are a few ways to start:
Surround yourself (and your business) with experts. Despite the complexities of complying with new regulations, a surprising amount of small business owners attempt to face them alone. Only 27 percent of owners turn to professional advisors, 22 percent to online communities, and 11 percent to their local governments for regulatory assistance. As a small business owner, it’s unlikely that you’re a verified expert on sales tax nexus rules or Main Street investing — but it’s smart practice to surround yourself with those who are. Third-party support, be it accountants and attorneys, municipal chambers of commerce or local Small Business Administration mentors, can go a long way to help minimize the hours owners spend deciphering regulations.
Look for industry-specific support. Labor regulations, tax rules and healthcare reform often impact businesses regardless of industry, but the ways to achieve compliance often vary depending on the sector. Joining an industry association — such as the National Retail Federation, the National Restaurant Association or the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing — gives owners access to a wealth of resources tailored to your company’s regulatory needs. Association membership comes with plenty of other perks, such as events, networking opportunities and notifications about when pertinent regulations are being debated at the state and federal level.
Supplement with technology. Adapting to new regulations can be a hassle, but it also gives small business owners an opportunity to identify internal processes due for an upgrade. For instance, many small businesses still rely on manual processes for employee time-tracking and shift management. With the new overtime threshold going into effect Dec. 1, now is the time for owners to consider tools that automate these processes. Technology can not only help small business comply with legislation quicker, but also free up owners and managers to focus on more pressing tasks.
The past two years have marked a dramatic shift in the small business regulatory landscape, with more changes likely on the way. Small business owners need to find efficient, cost-effective ways to keep up with — rather than be swallowed by — this evolution of compliance.
John Swanciger is a seasoned technology executive with vast experience in team building, product marketing and strategic partner development. As CEO, he leads Manta to strengthen its current offerings, while expanding products and services for a growing customer base of small business owners. John brings more than 15 years of industry experience working with high-growth business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies, including Accenture, Hotwire and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Most recently, he was responsible for product marketing, sales, business development and partner relations as Switchfly’s chief commercial officer. John is a board director at Liftopia and received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston College.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.