We’ve all heard, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”  This is particularly true in business, where it can be easy to develop tunnel vision and focus on your own expertise at the expense of the company.

Accepting the premise that you don’t know what you don’t know, we can extrapolate that you can’t get what you don’t realize you need.  Everyone knows they need sales avenues, customers, etc.  But there are other business essentials which, though not as well-known, are utterly necessary.  Here are five things businesses need (which you might not have thought of yet).

1. General Liability Insurance

It’s no wonder that no one likes to think about getting insurance for their business.  Buying personal insurance, for your house, car, or health is enough of a hassle.  Getting quotes and comparing premiums and benefits for your business?  That’s just piling on.

However, general liability insurance for your business is an absolute essential.  You can hope to never need it (I’m sure you’re never planning to get sued) but, in the eventuality that you do, you will be grateful for it.  Depending on the nature of your business, Commercial Property Insurance might be a recommendation, as well.

2.  Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Even more insurance!  Laws vary by state but, in North Carolina, you are required to carry Workers’ Comp if you have three or more employees, or if you have at least one employee and your business works with radiation.  (If your business works with radiation, you’ll definitely want those general liability and commercial property insurance policies, as well.)

Many employers try to avoid purchasing workers’ compensation policies, but it is not a wise choice.  Not carrying coverage opens you up to charges of fraud, huge fines and, in some cases, even jail time.

Now let’s move away from insurance and segue into something else that can protect you from being sued by employees or the government…

3.  A Good Payroll Provider

Unless your business is large enough for an in-house full-scale accounting department (in which case, we’re flattered you’re reading our blog), you need to be outsourcing your payroll.  Running payroll manually is intensely time-consuming, and very risky.  If you do not have a payroll expert on your staff, you are taking a big gamble with your tax withholdings and filings.  According to the IRS, 40% or small businesses pay an average of $845 per year for late or incorrect filings or payments.  (That’s over a third of small businesses.)

Furthermore, outsourced payroll services have become ridiculously inexpensive and painless.  We at The Bookkeeper are huge fans of Gusto Payroll, and frequently recommend them to clients.  Their customer service is excellent, the interface is user-friendly (even for avowed Luddites), and packages start at less than $40 a month.  And Gusto is one of many simple, affordable payroll solutions.

Please, do not take on the headache and risk of penalities associated with payroll, without researching your provider options first.

And while we’re on the subject of taxes…

4.  Sales & Use Tax

Who has to file sales and use tax?  According to the North Carolina Department of Revenue, “Every person engaged in the business of selling tangible personal property at retail, selling certain digital property at retail, renting or leasing taxable tangible personal property in this State, operating a laundry, dry cleaning plant or similar business, or operating a hotel, motel or similar business in this State must register with the Department and obtain a Certificate of Registration. This includes a person who sells tangible personal property and certain digital property, or provides a taxable service at a specialty market, flea market, fair, festival, sporting event, or another event or function.”

Needless to say, there are many, many people who should be paying sales tax who aren’t.  So if you are selling a tangible good, even if it’s just from a booth at the fairgrounds on Saturdays, you should be filing sales and use tax.  And if you do not know to do so, contact someone who does.  If you are caught not paying sales tax, you may be assessed penaltyand interest.  The risk is simply not worth it.

Now that we’ve bummed everyone else by talking about insurance and taxes for four entries, let’s move on to what’s surely going to be the most controversial item on this list…

5.  A Website

In 2016, in order to maintain credibility, your business needs a website.  (No, a Facebook page doesn’t count, though it’s better than no web presence at all.)  A website (preferably with a unique, personally-owned URL, and not through a “freebie” site-building service) shows your customers and potential customers that you a legitimate, solid company.  Your website is the first place people will go to look for information about your business.  Not having any sort of web presence at all can read as very suspicious.

Furthermore, you are doing yourself a huge marketing disservice by not having a website.  Web marketing provides the absolute most “bang for your buck” out of any form of advertising.  Even if you have a successful business without a website, you could be reaching so many more potential customers and be more available to current customers.

Are there any other little-known business essentials you would add to this list?  Let us know, and we’ll amend accordingly.