CIT and Operation HOPE Join Forces to Help Small Businesses Launch + Grow To celebrate Financial Literacy Month, CIT and Operation HOPE are partnering to educate and empower small businesses with tools and tips for success. Hear inspiring stories from a diverse group of small business owners at
Have a website. The world has moved online. Any business that wants to survive the next ten years is going to have a website. People will use it to contact you, find your location, learn your operating hours, ask you questions, make suggestions, and maybe even buy your products or services. In having a website and services which are available over the internet, you will be able to expand your service area out across your region or even the world.
Realize that not everyone is cut out to be a small-business owner. Take the time to explore whether you’re compatible with running your own business. Some people are happier (and better off financially) on the other end of a paycheck.
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?)
Pay attention to all small-business-related regulatory issues. Federal, state, and local government agencies require an array of licenses, registrations, and permits. Obey them or face stiff penalties, including possible closure of your business.
Be involved. Once you have decided who should be responsible for the duties in your business, you need to remain involved to make sure all of your employees are following through with the tasks that have been assigned to them. Also, you need to be responsive to the needs of your customers. Make sure you are aware of customer needs and feedback and don’t back away from engaging with your customer base, even if that duty has been assigned to an employee.
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.
Organizing weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings between you and your staff can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and will help you avoid wasted time or overlap in the various responsibilities of your team members. Meetings can also help you analyze who is and who is not adequately performing the duties assigned to them.
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.
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.
With over 400,000,000 active users worldwide, Facebook is a marketing channel like few others. These tips will help you understand how to put the power of Facebook’s user base to work for your business.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s not up to them to approve of your idea or let you know whether starting a business is right for you. Only YOU can do that. This is very different from what we were taught as kids. Starting in kindergarten, we had to raise our hand. “Mrs. Kundle, can I go to the bathroom?” “Yeah, you can go to the bathroom, Timmy.”
Playworks is a nonprofit that leverages the power of play to transform children’s social and emotional health. During the 2017-2018 school year, Playworks will ensure that 1 million children from over 2,000 schools experience safe and healthy play every day.
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.
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.
This is a very simple way of taking your ideas and figuring out what is worth your time. As you can tell, you want ideas in the “Golden Goose” quadrant, one where there are lots of potential customers and a high price. Plotting your ideas on this matrix help you to not fall in love with your first idea, something we call “idea one-itis.”
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.
Know which hats you wear best. In the early months and years of your business, you’ll have to acquire many skills. Gain the background you need to oversee all the facets of your business, but also determine what tasks you should outsource or hire employees to manage.
Network as much as possible. Gain the support of other local small businesses by networking with other small business owners. Join small business associations and participate in community events to raise awareness of your business. Participate in community functions so potential clients will be aware of the services you offer.
Is your business idea really unique? What value will it generate? Is it something your target audience really wants? Or is it something you think they’d want? Getting answers to these questions is important to determine whether or not your idea works.
In order to maintain this success and achieve positive growth for your small business, you need to approach some aspects of your job from the mindset of a Fortune 500 CEO. If you think small, you will most likely remain small. But if you think big, your company will realize big results.
It is helpful to think of promotions and marketing relative to the capacity of your business. Paying to run a commercial on a national network does you little good if your business is only designed to operate at the local level.
You will, of course, need to spend extra hours and work harder. But the transition from being an employee to a business owner will be far smoother as you won’t have additional expenses to worry about.
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.
“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.”
When you don’t have money to start your business, it’s essential you find the right people who can help. You may attend events and trade shows where you can find potential investors. You may also join various online forums on social networking sites where you can find useful tips and resources to bring your business to life.
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.
Stay organized. Organization of your time, employees, finances and inventory is one of the keys to successfully run a small business. Develop a spreadsheet that helps you keep track of all the important details so you don’t have to keep them straight in your head, and make time — at least once a week — to review everything.
Don’t think you need bankers and investors at the outset. The vast majority of small-business start-ups are bootstrapped (self-financed). Consider your own savings, investments, and salable assets and then talk to your friends and family before you look to outside sources.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Very informative post. Even having a huge capital upfront to start a business does not guarantee the success of that business. So these are great tips to start with nothing and step by step make things happen. Thanks for sharing.
As an entrepreneur, there’s a tendency to want to do everything yourself. But if you’re finding yourself unable to keep up, it’s time to bring in some help. Hiring employees is not something to take lightly. In fact, many great leaders cite smart hiring as the key to their success. And as you grow, it becomes more and more important. With the right people in place, you’re able to scale. With the wrong people, you get stuck in your tracks. To make sure you’re being as strategic as possible when building your team, read our tips on how to hire great employees.
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.
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.
The best place to begin is with the stuff that’s low cost. Start with the community—oftentimes, organic, word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective. Make an effort to be visible in your neighborhood. That includes things like introducing yourself to fellow business owners, participating in any local events, and asking to put up flyers at places where potential customers might be hanging out. If you have positive relationships with the people in your neighborhood, they’re more likely to recommend your business to others.
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).
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.
But that’s simplistic, and it’s an excuse to stay in your current state and do nothing differently. Instead of thinking of the reason they succeeded, ask what you can do TODAY to get closer to your goal. The fact that a famous entrepreneur went to Harvard has NOTHING to do with you finding your first customer or testing your first idea.
Starting a business is no small feat. But running it is when the real fun begins. This guide walks you through the basics of running a business, covering everything from managing your finances to planning your marketing efforts and hiring employees.
If you ask people about an idea they will all say “YEAH! THAT SOUNDS GREAT!” And then they don’t buy. Get past this base level of feedback. To figure out if your idea has legs it helps to plot it on a demand matrix like the one below:
At a minimum, your customers should be able to identify your company’s products and services and your brand’s value proposition. Then, your website should be easy to navigate, pleasing to look at and contain enough valuable content to keep readers engaged.
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.