The lead-up to starting a business is hard work, but after you open your doors, your work has just begun. In many cases, you have to put in more time than you would if you were working for someone else, which may mean spending less time with family and friends to be successful.
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.
Now we come to crunch time — assigning specific dollar amounts to your lists. This process is always going to be a best guess, but be realistic and use past experience, research and advice from other entrepreneurs to guide your cost estimates. Organizations such as SCORE and your local Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Development Center can provide free and valuable advice about how to calculate your start-up costs.
Secure a loan or other type of investment. Successful businesses need capital to get off their feet. Be sure that you have arranged and secured enough fiscal backing to cover all of your small business’ operating, production, and marketing costs until your business is in a position to generate and operate on its own profits.
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.)
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.
Even if you’ve hired excellent people, you have to know how to manage them. Effective management is one of the most important skills for a small business owner. It’s a skill to be honed throughout a lifetime, but if you’re new at this, there are tons of resources out there to help you—from online classes (check places like Coursera for free online courses) to books (there are countless titles to choose from) and articles like this one from the Harvard Business Review. To get you started, we also have an article outlining 5 Management Skills to Help You Become an Effective Leader and a guide on How to Motivate Your Employees.
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.
Use your resources effectively. It’s important to be confident in those things you do well, and realize there are resources to help with those parts of running a business that are not as comfortable. Invest in the equipment you need to help get your business off to a good start. If you don’t have the equipment in-house, look for business resource centers that can help with services needed to run your business such as packing, shipping, printing, and other business service needs. We often hear about the importance of time management, and learning more about available resources can help us better manage our time.
You’ll also want a payments device that can accept mobile payments like Apple Pay, which is ultimately where everything is headed. Contactless (NFC) payments like Apple Pay are by far the best customer experience. They’re convenient, secure, and fast, so you can check people out in seconds. Having the latest and greatest payments processing technology allows you to securely accept any form of payment that comes across your counter.
Advertise in a way that catches customers attention at a minimum and hopefully goes beyond to capture their imagination. Be creative and appeal to the right aspects of the customers you want to use your business.
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.
Use free resources. Your local library contains numerous useful references regarding incorporation, writing business plans, marketing, as well as information specific to your industry. The Small Business Association, Chambers of Commerce, AMEX Small Business website, associations for your industry, associations by ethnicity…all of these offer training, materials, networking and sometimes financing. Another good option is SCORE, a group of retired executives who provide business start-up advice.
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.
Deliver what you promise. Your small business will need to offer a product or service of some kind to be successful. However, if you want to grow your business by growing your customer base, you have to give people not only what they want, but what you promised them. If your product or service does not match what you advertise consistently, you will have incredible difficulty in growing your customer base.
Some days might seem longer or shorter than others, but with effective and efficient time management, you can maximize those 24 hours to their full potential. Planning is key and will allow you to be productive with the management of your business. Implementing daily habits to improve your efficiency will not only help with the day-to-day tasks, but also with your sustained success looking forward. It’s never too late to make those operation decisions and updates within your business to ensure both current and future success.
You do not necessarily need a full-time employee to handle financial responsibilities. For example, if you have a solid grasp on your inventory flow and cash flow management, you may only need a CPA when tax time comes around.
Consider hiring a financial professional. It may be fiscally worthwhile for you to hire a dedicated staff member who can control the financial affairs of your small business. Accountants can help you identify areas of your business that are not running efficiently from a fiscal standpoint, allowing you to maximize your profits.
To help you stay on top of your bookkeeping, you can integrate your Square account to a number of tools in our Square App Marketplace (QuickBooks Online and Xero, for example). If you’re shooting in the dark on these things (or tackling finances for the first time), it may be a good idea to take a course on the basics of small business accounting and bookkeeping at a local university or online. If you have the budget, working with a reputable accountant is a great option.
If your services are seasonal you will want to consider what the best time of year would be to advertise. Also, television advertisements will need to be timed so that the right demographics will be watching when they air.
Use a little old fashioned networking. Go to conferences, charity galas, meetings with complementary businesses and anywhere where your customers are likely to be highly concentrated. In other words: get out in public and interact with people. Use your friends connections to meet people who may be able to help you. This kind of interaction is very important for starting a business. You can’t exist in a vacuum after all.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are already successful because you have realized your dream and started your business. Congratulations! Now, how do you take your new business and make it great?
We do this all the time. We see a famous CEO and point out how “he took 5 companies public and got a Harvard MBA.” We see a successful children’s book author and point out how “she already knew 4 publishers, so her book got published immediately.”
Create a records system. From doing taxes to figuring out why you’re mysteriously missing $2,000 to searching through customer records to find out if Mrs. Jones did in fact pay her bill, you’re going to want a good records system to help your business run smoothly and efficiently. Invest in file cabinets, labels and digital records software to keep you organized and on top of things.
Put profitability first and rewards second. Beware of the small business that treats itself to hefty salaries, high-priced consultants, and waterfalls in the lobby. In small business, profitability must come first. To understand profitability, you must first measure your cash flow and understand your key financial ratios.
The old saying, “Rome was not built in a day,” applies here. Just because you open a business doesn’t mean you’re going to immediately start making money. It takes time to let people know who you are, so stay focused on achieving your short-term goals.
From time to time you will need to hire or fire an employee. Make sure you are aware of all state and federal laws that deal with employment equality and anti-discrimination laws in your area as they pertain to the hiring, firing, disciplining and treatment of employees.
Use your website to reflect your personality In today’s world, your company’s website is often the first interaction you have with your potential customers. Your website provides a window into your business. Make sure your website makes the right first impression and communicates the message you want it to.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Making heroes of employees is common practice with many well-managed progressive companies. In this article Dr. Paul Adams looks at the advantages – as well as the possible pitfalls – of using rewards to motivate your employees.
Use mistakes and setbacks to implement positive change. Understand that mistakes are going to happen. Use these setbacks as an opportunity to help improve your business. Incorporate your learnings into updates in your instructions and policies going forward.
Capital Expenditures. Also known as capital expenses, these are the one-time costs of buying assets such as inventory, property, vehicles or equipment as well as making upfront payments for security deposits. These start-up assets don’t usually qualify for deduction, but some can be written off through depreciation at tax time.
I need funds for state filing and office equipment. I am also a paraplegic so my mobility is very limited but a home-based business would be ideal for me. Does anyone have any specific suggestions for me to raise funds for this. I need about $3500.
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Competition breeds the best results. To be successful, you can’t be afraid to study and learn from your competitors. After all, they may be doing something right that you can implement in your business to make more money.
Determine your potential market. Be realistic. How many people will realistically use your business? How much will they pay to use your services? If either number is too small in comparison to how much it will cost you to stay in business, then you should reconsider or change your plans.
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.
Come up with an idea. You will need an idea for a business before you do anything else. You can conduct a market research to have a clear image. This should be something you are passionate about, since your new business will consume a great deal of your time and money.
And then there’s email marketing—a proven driver of sales for small businesses. Things like events, promotions, and announcements are ripe for email marketing, as are holidays and changes in the season. If you’re a pie shop, for example, you could send an email letting your customers know about your Thanksgiving offerings. If you’re a cleaning service, you could send a reminder that spring-cleaning time is just around the corner. Always be looking for opportunities to keep your business fresh in people’s minds with strategically timed email campaigns.
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.