Starting a small business

A friend and I are starting a commercial real estate business in a few months. I’ve been tasked to get all of our “systems” running. If anyone has any suggestions on the following topics, I would love to know your experience or suggestions on what to use. Also, if anyone has any other general tips for running the operational side of a business/technology I would welcome any suggestions. Currently I have a 2012 Mac mini (Upgraded SSD and RAM) and iPhone 12 Pro. He has a 16" MBP and an iPhone X. We will be 2 people starting out and do not see expanding in the next 24 months.

  • Email Hosting (not Google)
  • Shared Project Management and/or share To-do List
  • Website building
  • Business Cards
  • Document storage
  • Backup solutions
  • Any other suggestions or items I missed?

Thanks!

I have owned my own corporation for a few decades. Here are my appproaches:

  • Email hosting – my own domain (mycorporation.dom) hosted at DreamHost
  • Corporate M365 account – and then the sharing of documents, action plans, etc., occur with M365 features. I access the Microsoft products via a Windows 10 VM under Parallels. The impetus for this is that all my clients over the years are Windows shops, and working in Windows with them just works better.
  • Website building – check around in your industry for services that might provide private branding websites. The last thing you want to do, IMO, is try to build your own website – it is a rat hole and time waster.
  • Business cards – I’ve always used Vistaprint and been satisfied with the results.
  • Document storage / Backup – this is a wide topic – there’s a lot of threads here about storage, backup, providers, etc. Rather than repeat that, I’d suggest browsing around here. (In line with the M365 account I mentioned above, I use OneDrive for business matters.)

Once you have registered your corporation or partnership, and have your tax registration(s) set up, then get a corporate credit card that you use only for “business purposes”. Find a good accountant to help you define what a “business purpose” is for tax purposes.

You can do all legal and tax paperwork by yourself – but don’t. I once had a major client (a former international accounting firm) that went bust and the trustee in bankruptcy demanded full repayment of everything I (and all other small business vendors) had been paid under the contract, and the court approved the claim. If I didn’t have a good attorney to negotiate a nominal settlement then I would have been bankrupt myself. Also, look into errors and omissions insurance for your business. You’ll be in a field that can attract mischief litigation; protect yourself.

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Thanks! This is incredibly helpful.

Thinking about the website, I was likely looking at something like Wix or Squarespace. Would you say this is still too much work or okay starting point?

Real estate is not my field, so you’ll want to speak to others in the field. If you search for “white label website for realtors” you’ll also find some firms, such as Inside Real Estate that appear to provide a platform for the agency business. Cost, effectiveness of these – I have no idea.

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Two points in addition to what @anon41602260 already mentioned.

  1. Website: it depends on the services you need to provide to your visitors, and are you working under one of the big brokerage? That will help you decide, because brokerage might have some additional services provided to their agents, like real estate listings and search.

  2. If you are a Hey user, and you said you will be starting in few months, they will be launching Hey for Work soon. I am mentioning it separately because it’s a new player in the market. Personally, I feel they might be a bit expensive compared to the value.

IMO; the best value will be MS Office 365, which will give you access to the full office suite + email hosting; which is a very solid choice.

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These are also great points. The website will ultimately be a place to showcase our investments and properties. For now it will be a place for people to find us and get to know us. Likely we’ll be starting a podcast or YouTube channel, which will have a section on the site with links.

Since my native language is German, I would only use Squarespace. :wink:

As for “too much” or “ok”: you are running a business, and you are not in the business of creating websites. Tinkering around with configurations or even HTML/CSS/PHP is time you are not earning money. Get Squarespace, set up a simple site and start from there. Do you need more than a “online business card” with contact info, business info, etc.? What is “real estate business”? Depending on that you will find out what features you need.

I see you wrote “showcase our investments and properties”: 10 properties or managing 500? It really boils down to the use case.

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I build website for a living and for my personal projects, I don’t want to deal too much on building a site or maintaining it that I parked my site on Squarespace.

Planning a website, it can be overwhelming thinking about the future content of the website but you don’t have anything yet. I suggest to just use it to tell people about your company, list your credentials, links and contact info. It can be just a single page at the start. Don’t overthink. I’ve had the same problem when I was starting and now I’m re-building because I now have the content and figured out what the website meant for my project.

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As an accountant, I would add bookkeeping/accounting software to that list. I’m not sure where you are based or exactly what you are likely to need, so it’s difficult to recommend anything specific, but if it’s available I would look at Xero as a first choice (I believe it is available in the US, I am Australia-based); it’s likely to integrate well with other systems you set up. There may be other options too of course. :slight_smile: