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.)
Offer references. Compile a list of satisfied clients that are willing to serve as references to potential clients. This will give future customers the ability to verify your work and customer service.
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.
To avoid any derailing issues, you should also take some time to make sure you’re good to go with all your legal and tax obligations as a small business. It’s a good idea to consult with a reputable lawyer and accountant to ensure you’re not missing anything and are filing everything on time. You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve taken care of all the permits or fees that are required to do business in your province. You don’t want any future surprises that could eat up your budget. Ensuring you have all these things set will save you both minor and major headaches that take you away from running your business.
Now that you have a plan, it’s time to put it through the ringer. Though the oft-cited statistic that 80 per cent of businesses fail in their first five years is false – the U.S. Bureau of Labor reports the five-year failure rate is actually around 50 per cent – it’s still a tricky feat to launch a new business.
Expenses. These are the costs for operations that occur during the start-up phase. They include tax-deductible costs such as travel, payroll, rent, office supplies, marketing materials, etc. They also include initial organizational costs like legal fees and state incorporation fees. Many (but not all) of these costs are tax deductible, up to $5,000 in the first year of doing business. You can deduct the remaining costs in equal instalments over a period of 180 months (starting with the month in which your business opens).
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.
Candidly, if you’re struggling financially, I would not try to start a business first. I would get a good job, get financially stable, THEN try to create one. I have tons of free material around finding your dream job here — just use the free material for now.
To run a business smoothly, you need a solid foundation. First and foremost, that means you have a business plan in place that serves as a blueprint for both you and any potential investors you may want to tap for financing. If you don’t have a business plan, it’s time to get cracking. We have a detailed description of how to write a business plan in our guide “How to Start a Business,” but at a high level, the sections to include are an executive summary, a business description, market analysis, competitive analysis, service and product line, operations and management, and financial considerations. With a plan in place, running your business from day to day is a whole lot easier and less scattered.
Make sure there are no prohibitive costs, such as equipment which is too expensive to make the business profitable. For example, cars didn’t take off until Ford figured out how to make them cheap by building more efficient equipment.
Meet with your local Small Business Development Center. SBDC’s provide help during all stages of the business life cycle. They can help you create a stellar business plan to approach a lender with and their counseling is always free.
Approach friends and relatives. People who know you for a long time are most likely to have faith in your ability and intentions. These are also the people who are likely to stand by you if the going gets tough in the initial stages of your venture or you need to raise more money. However, make it clear the money is intended as risk capital and they might lose it completely or may not be returned in the short term.
“If you’re going to make serious money, a corporation gives you real tax advantages,” said Consulting Canada CEO Barry Sharp. “If you’re providing a product or service that has a significant liability risk, I’d be incorporated.”
You should also be looking to the future here. Will your payments processing device grow with your business and keep you current with the latest in secure payments technologies? Toward that end, get a reader that can accept EMV chip cards.
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.)
Shubhomita Bose is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers key studies and surveys about the small business market, along with general small business news. She draws on 8 years of experience in copywriting, marketing and communications, having worked extensively on creating content for small and medium sized enterprises.
Plan timing and location of marketing. Once you know what kind of marketing you intend to do, think about the most effective places to advertise and what time of day, month or year are going to work best to reach your target market.
Also, when delegating responsibilities, make sure you are assigning oversight of a specific function to a qualified individual. For example, you would not want an accountant representing you in a legal matter or a lawyer balancing your financial books. Thinking of your business functions in this way should also help you identify your needs when you are in the process of hiring employees.
There are many ways for a small business to be successful, from financial return, to work-life balance, to making the world a better place. To run a successful small business, first develop a clear idea of what success looks like to you. As you work out the mechanics of running your company, keep this vision in mind and make choices that will advance you along this path.
Keep costs low As a startup or small business, you know the importance of spending less to earn more. Big businesses operate on this same philosophy. While big businesses are often able to leverage buying power to reduce expenses, there are many no- or low-cost resources small businesses can take advantage of.
Recognize that getting your business off the ground will take time. Most businesses don’t become profitable right away, so plan for that in your personal life too. You will be making sacrifices to be your own boss.
Inventory management is often dictated by the “shelf-life” of the product you are selling. For example, if you are dealing with perishable items, it is critical to move the oldest products out of your inventory first to maximize the profits of your business.
How will your product or service generate money? How much money will it generate? How much does it cost to produce your product or service? How do you intend to pay operational costs and employees? These, and others, are critical question you need to answer in planning your small business’ financial future.
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually. Would Google have become the world’s most ubiquitous search engine by its original name, BackRub? When brainstorming, consider what sort of associations your business name evokes. Is it catchy, unique and memorable? Does it cast your company in the right light? You can make sure your name isn’t taken by creating a Nuans report.
If it does not exist, create it. If you have an idea-ideas or skills, think of how to use your ideas or skills to create a business and to put it out there to see what it can attract and what you can create. Many successful businesses started with an idea and that idea has become a success “from one person business to global corporations”. Failure is an attempt at success, if you don’t give up and modify each attempt, then each attempt can become a success.
Consider if it is possible. Before going too far, think about how plausible your idea is. Is it something that people would actually pay for? Will it turn enough of a profit to be worth spending your time to do it? You will also need to be sure that it is possible to put into action. While it would be great to have a computer which makes food magically appear out of thin air, this is simply impossible (unless you’re Patrick Stewart.)
Who am I? I’m New York Times bestselling author Ramit Sethi, and I’ve created more than 15 products that generate tens of millions of dollars a year. I’ve helped tens of thousands of students build businesses so profitable they can leave their full time job.
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.
If you are a retail operation, consider using a tablet with an app-based credit card processor like Square or Intuit GoPayment Reader instead of a bulky point-of-sale system at each register. You can synch your transaction data to your accounting software and utilize the tablets for other purposes as well.
When starting a business, there are important differences between starting from scratch, buying a privately owned business and buying a franchise. To know what steps you need to take be sure to read these articles:
Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You hear about some super successful friend or famous person and you immediately tell yourself that they had some special advantage that let them be successful.
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.
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.
Identify your customer base. In your business plan, you need to identify who you think will buy your product or service. Why would these individuals need or want your product or service? The answer to these questions should help to determine all other aspects of your business’ operations.
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.
Make use of marketing and PR. You will want to reach out to potential customers in ways that make them want to use your business. This is especially important when you are first starting, before you have an established, regular customer base.
Keep in mind that quality takes only moments to lose and years to regain. Quality isn’t a destination but rather a never-ending journey. After you’ve strayed from quality’s path, your journey may be sidetracked forever.
Try to find the reason that your income has slowed and act accordingly. Look at your audience and situations. For example, ice cream won’t sell as well in the winter as it will in the summer. To circumvent this, you could serve something else that would do better in the winter, such as hot chocolate.
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.
Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you’ll need several of the following types of insurance: life, disability, partnership, critical illness, key person, property, contents, business interruption, general liability, product liability, or professional liability. If you’re unsure what you need, an insurance broker can help.