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.
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.
Get an office. You will need a space from which to run your business. This can be a home office if you require little space and will not have employees, or it can require an entire workshop or warehouse. Look at renting in a low cost neighborhood or business incubators instead of a fancy address. Some universities make space available at a low rent for new business ventures based on an innovative scientific idea. It depends on what you will be doing and how big you intend your business to be. Make sure the space is coded and legal for how you intend to use it and within your budget.
Now on to accounting reports. At a minimum, there are three key reports you should be keeping. The first is your income statement, which details how much money your business has made or lost over a period of time. It generally has three parts: total revenue, total expenses, and net income. The hope is that revenue is greater than expenses, resulting in a positive net income.
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.
Solve your customers’ problems. The best way to satisfy your customers is not by selling them products or services but by providing solutions to their problems. Understand the difference and market your products and services accordingly.
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.
If you find that you’re unable to keep up with day-to-day operations, it’s time to bring on employees. You can find good candidates through referrals, job posting sites, or local institutions like colleges and universities. When you bring someone on board, make sure you comply with relevant employment and labour laws.
Know your limits. Understand how much you’re willing to work to keep your company successful and where you’ll likely draw the line. Your willingness and capacity may change over time, such as if you’re emotionally prepared to work every waking hour for the first year you’re in business, but that you expect to take regular vacations once your company is established.
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.
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.
Whether or not your primary objective in running a business is to earn a lot of money, you must must make enough to keep your company afloat. To be financially sustainable, a small business must take in more revenue than expenditures on basic operating expenses. Even if you’re not practiced and comfortable with business bookkeeping, you can develop basic skills to help you understand what is going on with your business financials.
Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter have changed the way entrepreneurs are raising money to fund their new businesses. Whether you want to sell a new software tool or set up an organic noodle bar, you can get people to invest in your business.
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.
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.
Hire superstars. If you intend to create a growing business, your number one duty is to assemble a team of superstar employees in your game-breaker positions. Game-breaker positions are key positions, such as the president/CEO (that’s you), the financial person, the sales manager, the marketing manager, the production manager, the office manager, the purchasing agent, the art director, and so on, that will make or break your company.
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.)
Being a small business owner comes with challenges unique to the size and function of the business. The small business owner has to handle all the challenges of selling, delivering, financing, managing and growing the business with little or no staff, while trying to make it a success. The most important of all is to retain the interest of all stakeholders like customers, vendors and team to build momentum in a short span of time. Running a small business can be hugely rewarding both personally and financially.
In addition to a secure payments processor, you can streamline your operations using a variety of software. There are affordable tools to help you manage inventory, employee schedules, payroll, email marketing, and invoicing.
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.
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.
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.
Luckily, if you sell with Square, we have a bounty of sophisticated tools to help you streamline your operations. If inventory is a problem, for example, you can set up inventory alerts in your Square Dashboard to be notified when things are running low. You can also hook up your Square account to a variety of inventory management tools in Square App Marketplace.
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.
Discover the reason for the employee’s laziness. Sometimes a shift in management style or communication with an employee will help you yield more positive results. Making sure your employees are both heard and properly incentivized will help make a productive work environment. The employee may simply have a lazy work ethic, or abuse a workplace when he/she doesn’t have the right consequences or supervision. Make sure your employees know the expectations, and the consequences of not fulfilling said expectations (whether it be a warning, a demotion, or possibly termination). There has to be a reward for if they surpass expectations as well (whether it be a bonus, commission, praise, promotion, time off, or simply increasing your trust in the employee).
You will want to be sure that you are using marketing which is appropriate to the type of people you expect to be interested in your product or services. There is little point in using social media to, for example, advertise a 55+ only cruise line. Meanwhile, if you’re advertising for your new dance club, a printed newspaper is probably not going to be your best bet. There is also no point in advertising a business only available in Chicago to people in Seattle, so consider physical location as well.
Large businesses can afford to be unresponsive and lose a handful of customers from time to time. Small businesses cannot. As a small business owner, it is up to you to make yourself and your company accessible to potential clients and your customer base. This may require you to make your personal cell phone number or email address accessible to clients as you attempt to grow your business.
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.
Lack of funds, however, should not deter you from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. You just need to have confidence in your idea and a clear vision about how you are going to execute it. Once you have that covered, getting the funds to support your dream may not be as difficult as it seems.
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.
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.
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.
As a would-be small-business owner, you might be eligible for an influx of funding from various government grants. Do your homework. Don’t just look for “grants,” by the way, but also awards, rebates, tax credits, industry-specific incentives, or non-repayable loans. You won’t want to overlook any potential source of funding.
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?
Use banking options against one another to secure the largest upfront capital and lowest interest rates. For example, if one bank offers you a $10,000 loan at an interest rate of 4%, you may be able to take that offer to a competing bank to see if they can provide more upfront capital or a lower interest rate.
Leadership skills are critical to the success of a new venture. Do you have them? Whether or not you think you’re a gifted leader, you should consider putting management theories aside and focus on common sense as you build your business.
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.
Set up an online system. If you plan to have products for sale online you will need to make sure to set up an accord online payment system. Services like PayPal make this incredibly easy. Research to find out which method is best for you. However, make sure that whatever system you use is secure. You don’t want either your information or your customer’s information to be hacked or taken advantage of.