Be realistic with your growth potential. Keep in mind that growing your business requires a growth in investment capital as well. Projecting too much growth in too short a time period can quickly deter potential investors.
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.
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.
The last excuse is the MOST important one. So many of us SAY we want to “take risks” and “start a business” for YEARS but never act. Why? We’re afraid of failing. Which really means we we’re afraid at what people will think of us for failing.
Know your business. Stay on top of what’s new or trendy in your business so your small business can stay competitive within the industry. Subscribe to periodicals or online newsletters to stay informed about current events in your small business’ industry. Staying at the cutting edge of your industry will help you draw customers away from competing businesses.
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.
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.
But most importantly, it helps you start to contextualize your ideas by how they will play in the real world. Not how you HOPE they will work out or not by what you’re the most excited about — but by what has the best chance of working.
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.
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.
You require money to start your business, but how much do you really need? Without a clear idea you run the risk of coming up with an unrealistic valuation of your business, which will put off investors and get your loan application rejected. So before you start wondering how you should raise money, you should focus on evaluating your funding requirements. How much do you need to get started? How exactly are you going to use the funds?
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.
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).
Always be looking for ways to improve your business and to make it stand out from the competition. Recognize that you don’t know everything and be open to new ideas and new approaches to your business. (For related reading, see: How do I determine my company’s competitive advantage?)
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.
Social media is another low-cost way to market your business. At the very least, you should get your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts up and running, and make sure that you’re posting at least a couple of times a week. You can post things like announcements for events and sales, pictures of the products you’re offering, or even fun things like famous quotes that relate to your business. Be sure to use hashtags and tag appropriate people in your posts, which increases the likelihood of getting more shares and likes. If you’re feeling stuck, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all have guides on how to use their platforms to market your business.
Do you want to grow your business rapidly and profitably? If so, the only way to start is with an honest assessment of your business as it exists right now. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll schedule a time to talk.
Start by setting up the main accounts to monitor. Separate your assets, liabilities, expenses, and equity. Assets are your cash on hand, inventory, accounts receivable, checking account, and savings account. Liabilities are your credit card and accounts payable (what you owe), then there are your general business expenses.
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.)
Seek venture capitalists or angel investors. Angels are high net worth individuals and venture capitalists are companies. Both fund a promising high risk venture for a stake (partnership) and often bring experience, management expertise and contacts to the table. They usually work through a network or association.
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.
Utilize your employees. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to employees. What you as a small business owner can’t forget is that delegating helps save you time, provides an opportunity for you to focus on your many other tasks and helps to ensure you keep your priorities in order. You can always start with delegating small tasks and increase the level of responsibility over time so that you can build confidence and trust together.
What do some entrepreneurs do differently that enables them to achieve almost mythical business success? This month we look at the characteristics that separate successful entrepreneurs from their peers.
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.
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?
Put your idea into writing. It is important to take the ideas in your head and get them down on paper. Most successful businesses offer a new product or service or fill an existing niche in the market. Whatever your reasons may be for starting a small business, make sure to clearly and concisely put them in writing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Depending on your industy, there’s plenty to consider in location-scouting beyond curb appeal. Look at zoning by-laws, and be sure to note any conditions that could impede your progress (or consider hiring a municipal lawyer). Conduct a traffic analysis to ensure customers can actually get to you. And be sure to consider nearby competition. Would you want to open an electronics shop next door to an Apple Store?
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.
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.