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.
Want to be sure if your business idea is indeed unique? Run a test and find out. A pilot will give you the confidence you need to take your idea to the next level and mitigate risk. You can start on a small scale by giving away some freebies to a few people in your target audience group to see how they respond.
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.
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 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.
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.
It should be as easy as possible for you and your staff to ring up customers. That means you should be accepting credit cards. Why? For starters, statistics show that people are using cash less and less. So sending people to the nearest ATM if they don’t have enough cash on hand is not the best customer experience. Plus, accepting credit cards can help you make more sales and improve your cash flow.
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.
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.
Create ideas fitting your budget. Once you know how much money you have, research the costs of different types of marketing and come up with ideas which fit those methods and are effective for the price range. If you have a lot of money to spend on marketing, for example, you can consider shooting a commercial. If you have almost none, you’ll want to think about ways to use social media effectively, which is very effective for requiring little money.
Coming up with a great business idea is just the beginning of your journey as an entrepreneur. There are many more steps that you need to take before you can get started. Fleshing out your business idea is one of them, and it’s very critical to the success of your venture.
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.
There are many successful businesses that forget that providing great customer service is important. If you provide better service for your customers, they’ll be more inclined to come to you the next time they need something instead of going to your competition.
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.
When it comes to taxes, make sure you’re filing everything correctly and on time. The website for Governement of Canada has a section of its website dedicated to a checklist for new small businesses and their fiscal obligations and their implications—it’s a good idea to spend some time there to make sure you’re compliant.
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.
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 crowd-funding. If you still can’t drum up enough funding, use websites to raise the money you need to start. These funding sources have several benefits: you will not have to pay interest on the money you get (since it is money which is used to provide actual product or services) and it will help you not only gauge interest in what you have to offer but also help you build a customer base. You’ll start business with hundreds or thousands of customers already lined up and ready to tell other people about what you have to offer.
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.
All successful businesses keep detailed records. By keeping detailed records, you’ll know where the business stands financially and what potential challenges you could be facing. Just knowing this gives you time to create strategies to overcome those challenges.
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 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.
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.
Manage your inventory efficiently. Inventory management can make or break a small retail business, so manage it carefully to ensure that you’re maximizing every dollar spent. Invest in small inventory quantities at first and continuously monitor inventory numbers so you know what’s selling and what isn’t. Rotate inventory frequently to remove slow sellers and replace them with new items.
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.
Another best friend as you’re running your business? Data. Being intimately familiar with how your business is going on a day-to-day basis is crucial to making informed decisions about how to run things. In your Square Dashboard, you can check all your sales data (across all your locations) and see which items are selling the best, which can help you plan your inventory. You can also see how many customers were new versus returning that day. This is all information you can access on the go, which means you can keep track of your business from anywhere.
Project growth. All successful small businesses need to grow their customer base and production capabilities over the first few years of operating. Make sure you have identified how your business can and will respond to growth potential.
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.
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.
Evaluate your competition; if their market share or product offering is too strong and stable, then you will have a very hard time breaking into the market. No one will want to buy an equally priced or more expensive version of a perfectly good product or service which already exists.
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.
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.
Make your bank work for you. Run your small business with financial efficiency by exploring all the options that banks offer small business owners and choosing the right bank for your business’ financial plan. Many financial institutions offer accounts with low fees, loans with discounted rates or free direct deposit programs for small business account holders. Banking with the institution that gives you the best deals will help you stretch every dollar.
Communicate clearly with your loved ones about how your business will affect your home life. Understand their level of tolerance and understanding, and enlist extra help, if necessary, such as child care for your family, or additional employees for your business.
Before you do any estimating, it’s important to understand how start-up costs are categorized. All start-up costs (meaning costs in the period before you start generating income) include two kinds of spending: expenses and capital expenditures.
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.
It’s totally normal. Each day my inbox is filled with people telling me why they haven’t started a business yet. And each day I offer solutions so they can adopt the mindsets and systems needed to reach their goals. That’s why we’re going to smash the common roadblocks and show you how to get past it all so you can get right to living a Rich Life.
Use technology to your advantage Successful big businesses know how to use available technology to increase their productivity and streamline their operations. Doing the same for your small business does not mean you have to spend thousands of dollars on the most high-end equipment available. But you do need to be smart about the technology you choose to implement in your business.
Be sure it’s unique. Whatever your idea is, be sure it’s as unique as possible. This will help you eliminate or significantly combat competition, which will make your business more successful. Simply putting a small spin on a currently existing product (making blue Red vines or something like that) is not usually enough to build a business on, so push the envelope!
And lastly, you should keep a cash flow statement, which highlights how much money has moved in and out of your business in a given period of time. It, too, is made up of three sections: cash flow from operations, investing, and financing.
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.
With over 85,000 Twitter followers and a book that hit the bestseller list as it came off the presses, you will want to hear what Scott Stratten has to say about how small businesses can use social media and unmarketing.
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.
There are several loan programs aimed at helping first time entrepreneurs set up their business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) operates the loan programs offered by the U.S. government. To qualify for the loan, your business must meet some criteria such as your business must operate in the United States, your business must qualify as a small business according to SBA guidelines, you must operate for profit and you should have a good credit score.