A group of 750 small business owners regularly surveyed for the Discover Small Business Watch offered the following 10 tips for 2010 based on the lessons learned last year:

1. Start Preparing Your Taxes Now: Organize tax information early or it can distract you from running your business: 46 percent of small business owners say that finding and organizing the documents they need to prepare their taxes is very or somewhat difficult, and 77 percent of small business owners find the tax preparation and documentation process very or somewhat time consuming, which only takes them away from tending to their bottom lines.

2. Cut Personal Expenses: Find ways to cut costs outside of the business, because you’ll likely have to take home less pay and even go into your savings: 69 percent of small business owners say that current economic conditions are forcing them to reduce the amount of money they take home from their businesses, and 61 percent think they are very or somewhat likely to use their personal assets in the next year to keep their businesses afloat.

3. Think Green: Small business owners think the following business segments have the best opportunities for post-recovery growth, in order of importance: green industries, business services, technology and energy.

4. Have a Long-Term Plan: 43 percent of small business owners who have been hurt by the current economy say that it will be more than 12 months before their businesses rebound, followed by another 24 percent who expect that it will take six to 12 months to be in the clear.

5. Don’t Focus on the Money: Only 12 percent of entrepreneurs say that “making more money” is the biggest reason they became a small business owner; while 46 percent say they are motivated by having “more flexibility with their time” and by “being their own boss.”

6. Use the Web: 32 percent of small business owners who are part of an online networking community say that their biggest benefit from social networking is “getting new business leads.” Moreover, 47 percent of 3,000 consumers surveyed say they are more likely to use a small business that has a Web site.

7. Rely on Yourself: Don’t overextend yourself by borrowing too much in the beginning: 64 percent of small business owners say that they did not need financial capital to start their businesses. Among those who did need the capital, 45 percent received it from their personal savings, and another 16 percent borrowed from family and friends.

8. Focus on Sales: One way to stay on course is to keep a sharp focus on sales: Owners say that sales generation is the biggest issue facing their businesses today, followed by taxes, operating costs, health insurance, access to capital and inflation.

9. Stay in Touch with Family: 31 percent of small business owners say that they are very likely or somewhat likely to borrow money from family and friends in the next 12 months in order to stay in business.

10. Stay Healthy: Preventive medicine and taking care of yourself are important, given that 65 percent of small business owners report that it is somewhat or very difficult to obtain affordable health care for themselves and their employees.

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