The good news is that as a small business, there’s a bunch you can write off on your taxes—potentially things like your vehicle, office space, or even equipment. Work with an accountant to determine what you can write off, and make sure you’re keeping any necessary receipts or documentation throughout the year. It could save you a lot of money come tax time.
There are countless apps and plug-ins that allow you to connect multiple platforms to enable your different systems to talk to one another. Cloud-based customer relationship management tools like Salesforce.com and Oracle, project management platforms like SmartSheet or 5pm and accounting programs like QuickBooks or FreshBooks make it easy for you to utilize available technology no matter where your office is located or what type of computer your employees are using. (Well, assuming your computer was developed and purchased within the last 5 years.)
Here, it useful to ask questions of your service or product. For example, you may want to ask questions like, does my product/service appeal to younger or older people? Is my product/service affordable for lower-income consumers or is it a high-end purchase? Does my product/service appeal to people in specific environments? You won’t be selling many snow tires in Hawaii or beach towels in Alaska, so be realistic about the appeal of your product.
Take credit cards. Very few people consistently pay for products or services with cash any more. It will be much easier for your business, as well as records keeping and accounting, if you accept credit and debit cards. If you want to save yourself ridiculous fees or keep your business more mobile, consider using the Square. This device plugs into a smartphone or tablet and lets you swipe customer’s card.
1. Find 1 person — JUST ONE! — who might be interested in your idea. You can do this via email or in person. If you’re not sure, ask ANYONE that’s close to you, even your parents. We’re not aiming for perfection right now, just people.
Talk with your bank. Talk with a bank with whom you already have a positive relationship. Ask about what kind of business start-up loans they offer and how they can benefit your business. By using a bank you already know, the bank will have easy access to your financial records and will be more confident in investing with you.
It should be as easy as possible for you and your staff to ring up customers. That means you should be accepting credit cards. Why? For starters, statistics show that people are using cash less and less. So sending people to the nearest ATM if they don’t have enough cash on hand is not the best customer experience. Plus, accepting credit cards can help you make more sales and improve your cash flow.
There is no formal education required to start your own business. Many successful business owners created their companies when they had little or no formal education. There is still value in formal education and, in addition to business classes, many schools now offer courses on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Don’t go it alone. Tap into resources, such as small-business peers, mentors, and trade associations, that can help take some of the energy-draining trial and error out of starting and running your business.
To store and share files, there are programs like Dropbox or Box.com. To measure your website’s online performance, there’s Google Analytics. To communicate with your customers, there are email service providers like MailChimp. There are even free resources to calculate employee payroll, like Intuit’s Snap Payroll app. Check out additional free business resources [hyperlink: http://www.slideshare.net/FitSmallBusiness/top-25-free-business-software] compiled by FitSmallBusiness.com.
Be accessible. Make sure potential clients and customers can get in touch with you and your business whenever they may need to. The best way to grow your reputation as a respectable business is to be responsive to your customers’ needs.
Get your license. Remember to register and acquire your small business license in the particular industry of your business. This step is important to ensuring that you’re running your business legally and according to industry regulations. Be sure to register for permits related to particular services you offer, like home repair or tax preparation, which could require registration and certification. You will not be able to hire effective employees if your business is not operating with the appropriate licenses and permits.
When you’re running your business, you should always be looking for areas where you could be more efficient. And if you’re doing everything manually, there’s a good chance there are a lot of things that fall into that category.
It will be very tough for a younger person to gain credibility when it comes to dealing with potential customers willing to pay big money for your services or product. It would be best to learn your trade or product extremely well . At first, the new entrepreneur will have to reduce his/her prices, and perhaps even give some stuff away as a form of advertising. You must also be patient, it takes a while for a business to become successful.
To manage accounting, make a budget and a long-term financial plan that you can stick to. You should also run regular reports that detail your income, balance, and cash flow. It may make sense to consult with a professional accountant.
For small business owners, there are two different categories of time – clock time and real time. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough real time to get things done and effectively manage a business. The truth is for small business owners, time is irrelevant. It’s all about doing what you need to and when you need to in order to meet the needs of the current project, product or customer.
Communicate clearly with your loved ones about how your business will affect your home life. Understand their level of tolerance and understanding, and enlist extra help, if necessary, such as child care for your family, or additional employees for your business.
Do you ever find yourself wondering if you are the leader your employees need? Or perhaps their actions don’t seem to line up with your expectations. Paul Adams shows you how you can become a smart leader with these simple steps.
Assess your own capacity for financial risk. There aren’t any right or wrong answers as to the right amount of capital to put up, but you’ll be well-positioned if you have a clear sense of how much you’re willing to invest, and of how you’ll regroup financially if things don’t go as planned.
Social media is the best way to promote your business on the cheap. Beyond that, it really depends on what your business is. Roadside advertisements are a great way to attract consumers, but not particularly effective if you are a wholesale company. The first step is to identify your clients, and figure out the best way to reach them, for consumers, the best ways are social media, road side adds, TV commercials, and good customer service has been shown to get more word of mouth. For a wholesale or investment business, the best ways to promote vary greatly, so just identify your clientele and think about how other businesses advertise to them. Also, never be afraid to self promote.
From managing to marketing and everything in between, the world of small business can be both exciting and overwhelming. It’s a place where no two workdays are exactly the same and where unpredictable things happen. If you’re thinking about starting (or you already run and manage) your own business, check out the following list of tips to improve your chances of success.
There are several loan programs aimed at helping first time entrepreneurs set up their business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) operates the loan programs offered by the U.S. government. To qualify for the loan, your business must meet some criteria such as your business must operate in the United States, your business must qualify as a small business according to SBA guidelines, you must operate for profit and you should have a good credit score.
Similarly, if you decide to establish social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., make sure you are ready to make the commitment to the relationship. It is not enough to simply create a profile and post a picture every now and then. Your social media profile information needs to be accurate, your posts need to be consistent and you need to participate in the conversations with your audiences. A strong online presence helps encourage customers to do business with you in person.
Create ideas fitting your budget. Once you know how much money you have, research the costs of different types of marketing and come up with ideas which fit those methods and are effective for the price range. If you have a lot of money to spend on marketing, for example, you can consider shooting a commercial. If you have almost none, you’ll want to think about ways to use social media effectively, which is very effective for requiring little money.
Promote a positive work environment and communicate. Surround yourself with good people, and take the time to engage and build a rapport with your team. Have established standards and clearly communicate your company’s vision through goals and objectives that help empower your staff. A simple tip – set up a standing meeting for coffee or lunch with individual employees. It seems simple, however, it’s often times the simple things that presents opportunities to engage with your team –to find out where things are at, what’s on their mind and keep aware of any issues. This also provides an informal surrounding that makes it comfortable for them to open up and share. When you and your employees are all committed and focused on the target, you have a higher probability of achieving it.
With over 85,000 Twitter followers and a book that hit the bestseller list as it came off the presses, you will want to hear what Scott Stratten has to say about how small businesses can use social media and unmarketing.
Always start small, meaning start online, and only produce what you are sure you can sell. You can always make more if demand increases. Start by marketing yourself on social media, and start a virtual store front on a site like Etsy or eBay.
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It is easy to come up with an idea to start a business, but not so easy to actually launch and build a profitable business. Eighty per cent of businesses fail in the first five years. Before you take the risk of starting a business, make sure:
If invoicing is a constant hassle (a common gripe among many business owners), get set up with Square Invoices, which lets you easily send and track digital invoices right from your Dashboard. (Which means no more stacks of paper to sift through.)
Have great customer service skills. Be good at interacting with people. Practice reading between the lines of what people say. Learn how to meet needs they didn’t know they had. Figure out how to make people happy. Be charming. Most importantly, be humble. The customer may not always be right but you need to be able to let them think they are.
First, you must locate the root of the problem. Is it an issue with your employees or the quality of the products? Identify it. Then you must ask yourself how the problem started and how it could be solved. Make a plan and execute.
Leaving customer feedback strictly in the hands of your employees is a dangerous managerial tactic. Employees may benefit from presenting you with skewed information about customer satisfaction or product usefulness, which, in turn, will lead you to make bad managerial decisions for the company as a whole. As such, do not simply accept what your employees tell you about your business without seeing evidence of their claims. It is your company and you have put yourself in a position of risk, so be proactive in overseeing business results.
Certify employees. Employ individuals with certification in your business’ field, like certified public accounting or electrical repair technician. Having certifications for all employees will ensure that your employees are skilled at the highest level and will increase your client’s confidence in your business.
Require payment. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Require payment within a specific window of time (whatever is appropriate for what you do). Invoice people as soon as you possibly can. If someone is late in a payment, talk to them. If you ignore these problems hoping that they go away, you will find yourself working for free and your business in the tank.
Celebrate milestones Everyone deserves a win. So when you get one, acknowledge it! Don’t become so busy and focused on results that you forget to stop celebrate when you have achieved those results or reached a milestone along the way. Even a small success deserves recognition. This positive thinking will generate more enthusiasm from you and your employees, inspiring more enthusiasm on the next project and leading to even more successes.
Remember that nothing happens until a sale is made. How many good products go nowhere because they don’t reach the shelves? Sales are what drive your business. You need a crackerjack marketing plan that details how you intend to package, promote, distribute, price, and sell your product or service.
Credit cards and debit cards are generally the most secure forms of payments, but accepting them requires your to take on additional fees paid to various credit card companies which, depending on the size and complexity of your business, may not be worthwhile.
Project growth. All successful small businesses need to grow their customer base and production capabilities over the first few years of operating. Make sure you have identified how your business can and will respond to growth potential.
Without a steady stream of customers, you won’t have a business at all. So you need to employ some marketing strategies to get your business on people’s radar. There are many ways to approach marketing, and they run the gamut from grassroots tactics to spendier, more involved campaigns.
The most successful people I know have the most failures. Because they take the most chances. To get in the right mindset, let me tell you about the time we shelved a course we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on.
Cash transactions are easiest to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but are often difficult to track over longer periods. Also, dealing with cash makes securing your company’s incoming cash flow more difficult, as it is easier for employees to steal from a cash-based businesses.
Offer free samples of what you do to the right people, in order to get people saying good things about what you have to offer. Word of mouth (i.e. good PR) is the best way to attract new customers. If you get bad reviews or negative feedback, respond positively and fix the problem. People will be much less judgmental about mistakes if you’re willing to fix them.