Face it: many of us dream of leaving the 9-to-5 behind and going into business for ourselves. Who wouldn’t like being their own boss? Thing is, if you’re about to go all in on your killer business idea, you’re probably feeling equal parts exhilarated and overwhelmed. How do you get started?
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.
Employ targeted promotional and marketing campaigns. It is important to get the word out about your company. Make sure the money you set aside for marketing is well-spent by conducting demographic research. This will help you tailor your marketing plan to be as effective as possible.
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.
Starting your own business is one of the most powerful ways to take control of your life and make extra money month after month. You can start with just a few hours a week. And best of all, you get to choose your hours, pick projects you find exciting, and meet interesting people.
From managing to marketing and everything in between, the world of small business can be both exciting and overwhelming. It’s a place where no two workdays are exactly the same and where unpredictable things happen. If you’re thinking about starting (or you already run and manage) your own business, check out the following list of tips to improve your chances of success.
Manage your time. Real time is hard to come by and it’s easy to get interrupted and lose focus on the task at hand. Set aside blocks of time during the week to catch up and consider which tasks can be delegated to be most effective. For example, administrative tasks with no immediate deadlines can be delegated or scheduled at times outside of peak hours. It can be difficult to find the time, but it’s important to schedule time to make sure you are working on your business in addition to in your business.
Come up with an idea. You will need an idea for a business before you do anything else. You can conduct a market research to have a clear image. This should be something you are passionate about, since your new business will consume a great deal of your time and money.
To be successful in business you need to be organized. Organization will help you complete tasks and stay on top of things to be done. A good way to do this is to create a to-do list each day. As you complete each item, check it off your list. This will ensure that you’re not forgetting anything and you’re completing all the tasks that are essential to the survival of 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.
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.
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.
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Running your own business is a stressful but good career and life choice. It demands your time and focus. Start by expecting to live your work until it is established, so it can get off the ground. There are many different opinions about how to start a business. Below are some basic ideas and guidelines to get you started.
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?
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It will be very tough for a younger person to gain credibility when it comes to dealing with potential customers willing to pay big money for your services or product. It would be best to learn your trade or product extremely well . At first, the new entrepreneur will have to reduce his/her prices, and perhaps even give some stuff away as a form of advertising. You must also be patient, it takes a while for a business to become successful.
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.
In a sole proprietorship, all the profits and decisions are yours – but so is the liability, which is unlimited. A partnership – where two or more people create a non-incorporated business – allows you to share startup costs and management, but again liability is unlimited and you’re financially responsible for your partner’s decisions. In the rarer co-operative, members own and control the business, limiting liability but making decisions more time-consuming. Finally, in a corporation – where the business is a legal entity – liability is limited, but regulations are tight and getting started is expensive.
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.
Offer free samples of what you do to the right people, in order to get people saying good things about what you have to offer. Word of mouth (i.e. good PR) is the best way to attract new customers. If you get bad reviews or negative feedback, respond positively and fix the problem. People will be much less judgmental about mistakes if you’re willing to fix them.
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.
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 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.
The good news is that as a small business, there’s a bunch you can write off on your taxes—potentially things like your vehicle, office space, or even equipment. Work with an accountant to determine what you can write off, and make sure you’re keeping any necessary receipts or documentation throughout the year. It could save you a lot of money come tax time.
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.
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.
For small business owners, there are two different categories of time – clock time and real time. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough real time to get things done and effectively manage a business. The truth is for small business owners, time is irrelevant. It’s all about doing what you need to and when you need to in order to meet the needs of the current project, product or customer.
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.
Celebrate milestones Everyone deserves a win. So when you get one, acknowledge it! Don’t become so busy and focused on results that you forget to stop celebrate when you have achieved those results or reached a milestone along the way. Even a small success deserves recognition. This positive thinking will generate more enthusiasm from you and your employees, inspiring more enthusiasm on the next project and leading to even more successes.
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.
Being practical is extremely important when you are toying with the idea of starting a business. You need a steady source of income before you can set up your business, so it’s advisable to hold onto your current job. By retaining your present job, you will be more secured when you need to take risks.
Don’t go it alone. Tap into resources, such as small-business peers, mentors, and trade associations, that can help take some of the energy-draining trial and error out of starting and running your business.
Promote a positive work environment and communicate. Surround yourself with good people, and take the time to engage and build a rapport with your team. Have established standards and clearly communicate your company’s vision through goals and objectives that help empower your staff. A simple tip – set up a standing meeting for coffee or lunch with individual employees. It seems simple, however, it’s often times the simple things that presents opportunities to engage with your team –to find out where things are at, what’s on their mind and keep aware of any issues. This also provides an informal surrounding that makes it comfortable for them to open up and share. When you and your employees are all committed and focused on the target, you have a higher probability of achieving it.
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.
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.
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).
Unless you’re running a solo business from a home computer you already own, it’s likely that you’ll need some financing to start your business as well as periodic infusions during slow periods or when your company is growing.