As a military spouse entrepreneur, a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move becomes extra complicated as you're faced with not just relocating your home and family, but also your business. Even if your business is digital only, you still must tackle the logistics of moving your bookkeeping and possibly even your licenses and registration to a new place.
Things can get even more complicated if you're relocating overseas. In addition to the other considerations faced by every other military spouse business owner, you also must sort through rules around living and working in a foreign country.
Listen now: PCSing With Your Military Spouse Small Business (with Lakesha Cole)
Marine Corps spouse and business owner Lakesha Cole knows how to navigate those issues because she's personally done it. In an episode of the PCS with Military.com podcast, she shared some of her best advice for relocating your business. Here's some of what she said.
Be prepared to invest in yourself and your business. One of the biggest mistakes Cole sees military spouse business owners make is not properly understanding or leveraging the financial side of their operations. From creating a financial plan to knowing when to plus-up what you're doing, getting comfortable with talking about money is imperative.
"You know, most spouses in our space don't like to talk about the money. They don't want to have the money conversation. But it has to happen when you're talking about growing your business. Because, yes, we are entrepreneurs; we're natural problem solvers. And that's why so many of us start businesses. But if your business isn't profitable, is it really a business?" she said. "Some of the mistakes that I made early on were not looking close enough at the numbers. ... And I didn't examine that information early on. Had I done that early on, I would have scaled to six figures much quicker than I did. I would have been way more successful."
Understand the cost of moving your business. Cole said location matters more than business owners realize. For those with any in-person services, a change to the customer base brought by a new location has an obvious impact. But even those who operate digitally need to know how moving can help or hinder their bottom line.
"You definitely want to determine the costs when you're relocating, and the cost includes more than just expenses," she said. "You want to find out what the tax advantages or disadvantages you might have [are] in your new state or country. In most cases, your sales tax rate will change, which could lead to an increase in prices for your customers. You want to know all these things before you start selling."
Know the rules at your new base or region. The impacts on your business become even more important if you're moving overseas, she warned. While Cole said she believes that spouses can operate their own businesses from whatever country they're in so long as they do their homework, she also knows there will be major financial considerations.
"If you're overseas, you want to check that status of forces agreement that specifically talks about how you can and cannot conduct commercial activity," she said. "Figure out what that line is for you and pursue it."
Spouses located stateside need to do similar homework, especially if they are living on base, she said.
"The rules and regulations differ from base to base," she said. "If you choose to live on base, it's important to follow your local housing authority's policies and guidance, as well as any state and local requirements. Just because we're military spouses does not mean we are exempt or have any type of privilege over any of those rules and regulations."
Network for success. Cole said growing and leveraging your personal business network can have a huge positive impact on your ability to keep your business going, no matter where you are located.
"I always like to say, ‘Your business should arrive before you do,’" she said. "Whether you sell a product or service, networking with other business owners is really the key to your success."
Cole suggested military spouse business owners look to Facebook for location-specific social networks and to their local chamber of commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes in-person program, Military Spouse Professional Network.
"There's so many different little organizational groups in these areas and on these installations that can help you figure out what this information should be for your business," she said.
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