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.
And then there’s email marketing—a proven driver of sales for small businesses. Things like events, promotions, and announcements are ripe for email marketing, as are holidays and changes in the season. If you’re a pie shop, for example, you could send an email letting your customers know about your Thanksgiving offerings. If you’re a cleaning service, you could send a reminder that spring-cleaning time is just around the corner. Always be looking for opportunities to keep your business fresh in people’s minds with strategically timed email campaigns.
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.
Do you ever find yourself wondering if you are the leader your employees need? Or perhaps their actions don’t seem to line up with your expectations. Paul Adams shows you how you can become a smart leader with these simple steps.
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.”
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:
Approach friends and relatives. People who know you for a long time are most likely to have faith in your ability and intentions. These are also the people who are likely to stand by you if the going gets tough in the initial stages of your venture or you need to raise more money. However, make it clear the money is intended as risk capital and they might lose it completely or may not be returned in the short term.
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.
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.
Inventory management is often dictated by the “shelf-life” of the product you are selling. For example, if you are dealing with perishable items, it is critical to move the oldest products out of your inventory first to maximize the profits of your business.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are already successful because you have realized your dream and started your business. Congratulations! Now, how do you take your new business and make it great?
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.
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!
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.
Require payment. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Require payment within a specific window of time (whatever is appropriate for what you do). Invoice people as soon as you possibly can. If someone is late in a payment, talk to them. If you ignore these problems hoping that they go away, you will find yourself working for free and your business in the tank.
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.
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.
Consider using a credit control app. These are apps that help small businesses improve their cash flow through better management of day-to-day cash collection and customer credit control tasks. This would allow you to take-on new customers or monitor existing ones, chasing invoice payment or running cash collection more safely. There are several software providers that can help you with this such as iKMC from where you can also get a free trial.
Shubhomita Bose is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers key studies and surveys about the small business market, along with general small business news. She draws on 8 years of experience in copywriting, marketing and communications, having worked extensively on creating content for small and medium sized enterprises.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Talk with your bank. Talk with a bank with whom you already have a positive relationship. Ask about what kind of business start-up loans they offer and how they can benefit your business. By using a bank you already know, the bank will have easy access to your financial records and will be more confident in investing with you.
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.
2. “Test” for language using this script: “I’m thinking of starting some kind of website around [YOUR IDEA]. When you talk to your friends about it, what do you say? What’s the biggest problem around [YOUR IDEA]?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Report. No matter which source you raise funds from, be sure to provide key operating, strategic and accounting information to your financiers periodically, usually twice a year. It’s a good idea to hold a board meeting if everyone can physically attend. If not, do it via teleconference.
I would like to help my husband feel he has worth. He does not have a college education but has a super high IQ. He has medical issues that keep him from getting a regular job. He is contacted from time to time by the gov. to correct blue prints and schematics. How can we turn that into a business for him? What would I advertise?
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.
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.
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.
Consider hiring a financial professional. It may be fiscally worthwhile for you to hire a dedicated staff member who can control the financial affairs of your small business. Accountants can help you identify areas of your business that are not running efficiently from a fiscal standpoint, allowing you to maximize your profits.
Offer references. Compile a list of satisfied clients that are willing to serve as references to potential clients. This will give future customers the ability to verify your work and customer service.
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.
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.
Founded in 2003, Small Business Trends is an award-winning online publication for small business owners, entrepreneurs and the people who interact with them. It is one of the most popular independent small business publications on the web.
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.
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.
If you really want all those things, you need learn to dig deep into what your customers really want and put their needs first. This takes work, and you need to be prepared to dedicate time EVERY week to make it happen.
There are countless apps and plug-ins that allow you to connect multiple platforms to enable your different systems to talk to one another. Cloud-based customer relationship management tools like Salesforce.com and Oracle, project management platforms like SmartSheet or 5pm and accounting programs like QuickBooks or FreshBooks make it easy for you to utilize available technology no matter where your office is located or what type of computer your employees are using. (Well, assuming your computer was developed and purchased within the last 5 years.)
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.
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.
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.
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.