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.
Choose a business structure that makes sense for your ownership arrangement, such as a partnership, if you’re starting your business with one friend. Consult a lawyer about the best structure for your particular circumstances.
Delivering what you promise begins with how you tailor your approach to sales. If you or your sales team is offering or promising too much, your customers will be understandably disappointed when they receive or use your product or service, leading to negative reviews and bad word-of-mouth about your business. Remember, good sales tactics should be centered around identifying and understanding your customer’s needs and making them see the realized benefits that your product has, not lying to your customers and clients about the potential of your product.
Ensure collection methods are in place. Be sure to account for how your business will collect on bills due and outstanding debts to your company. A successful business needs constant cash flow. Being unable to accept customer payments or waiting on those who owe you money will disrupt your business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Assess your own capacity for financial risk. There aren’t any right or wrong answers as to the right amount of capital to put up, but you’ll be well-positioned if you have a clear sense of how much you’re willing to invest, and of how you’ll regroup financially if things don’t go as planned.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The most successful people I know have the most failures. Because they take the most chances. To get in the right mindset, let me tell you about the time we shelved a course we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on.
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.”
Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You hear about some super successful friend or famous person and you immediately tell yourself that they had some special advantage that let them be successful.
Get your license. Remember to register and acquire your small business license in the particular industry of your business. This step is important to ensuring that you’re running your business legally and according to industry regulations. Be sure to register for permits related to particular services you offer, like home repair or tax preparation, which could require registration and certification. You will not be able to hire effective employees if your business is not operating with the appropriate licenses and permits.
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.
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.
Keep costs low As a startup or small business, you know the importance of spending less to earn more. Big businesses operate on this same philosophy. While big businesses are often able to leverage buying power to reduce expenses, there are many no- or low-cost resources small businesses can take advantage of.
1. Find 1 person — JUST ONE! — who might be interested in your idea. You can do this via email or in person. If you’re not sure, ask ANYONE that’s close to you, even your parents. We’re not aiming for perfection right now, just people.
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.
To succeed in business today, you need to be flexible and have good planning and organizational skills. Many people start a business thinking that they’ll turn on their computers or open their doors and start making money, only to find that making money in a business is much more difficult than they thought. You can avoid this in your business ventures by taking your time and planning out all the necessary steps you need to achieve success.
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.
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.
Certify employees. Employ individuals with certification in your business’ field, like certified public accounting or electrical repair technician. Having certifications for all employees will ensure that your employees are skilled at the highest level and will increase your client’s confidence in your business.
To figure out which area to prioritize first, think about the day-to-day tasks that eat up the most time. Is it ordering inventory? Managing your employees’ schedules? Setting appointments? Running payroll? If you find yourself spending more time than you’d like on any of these things, it’s time to search for some technology to help.
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:
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 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.)
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.
Get local investors. If the bank loans will not be enough, look into local investors. There may be a local business tycoon or other similarly wealthy person who would have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. Research people in your area who may have the funds and motivation to help you.
There are many ways for a small business to be successful, from financial return, to work-life balance, to making the world a better place. To run a successful small business, first develop a clear idea of what success looks like to you. As you work out the mechanics of running your company, keep this vision in mind and make choices that will advance you along this path.
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.
To estimate your start-up costs, begin by creating two lists — one of things you’ll treat as expenses, one for your assets. Don’t forget to consider items such as brochures, business cards and website development costs or any security deposits you need to make. Consider whether you need the help of a consultant, tax adviser or lawyer to get started. Next, categorize these items as essential or optional — do you really need to spend money on these before you start making any kind of income?
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.