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.
Know your business. Stay on top of what’s new or trendy in your business so your small business can stay competitive within the industry. Subscribe to periodicals or online newsletters to stay informed about current events in your small business’ industry. Staying at the cutting edge of your industry will help you draw customers away from competing businesses.
Also, when delegating responsibilities, make sure you are assigning oversight of a specific function to a qualified individual. For example, you would not want an accountant representing you in a legal matter or a lawyer balancing your financial books. Thinking of your business functions in this way should also help you identify your needs when you are in the process of hiring employees.
Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you’ll need several of the following types of insurance: life, disability, partnership, critical illness, key person, property, contents, business interruption, general liability, product liability, or professional liability. If you’re unsure what you need, an insurance broker can help.
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.
Make use of benefits. The most valuable long-term benefit you can offer yourself and your employees is a retirement savings plan. In addition, find out how to provide insurance and other benefits and reduce your tax bill at the same time.
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.
Be realistic with your growth potential. Keep in mind that growing your business requires a growth in investment capital as well. Projecting too much growth in too short a time period can quickly deter potential investors.
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.
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.
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.
Make sure there are no prohibitive costs, such as equipment which is too expensive to make the business profitable. For example, cars didn’t take off until Ford figured out how to make them cheap by building more efficient equipment.
You do not necessarily need a full-time employee to handle financial responsibilities. For example, if you have a solid grasp on your inventory flow and cash flow management, you may only need a CPA when tax time comes around.
Use your website to reflect your personality In today’s world, your company’s website is often the first interaction you have with your potential customers. Your website provides a window into your business. Make sure your website makes the right first impression and communicates the message you want it to.
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.
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.
Think about why other businesses have failed. Oftentimes, it’s the wrong product, the wrong pricepoint, the wrong market, the wrong team, the wrong marketing, or the wrong entrepreneur, whose skills weren’t up to speed. Now is also the time to take a critical look at your finances. There might not be much money coming in to start. Can you sustain that?
If you are a retail operation, consider using a tablet with an app-based credit card processor like Square or Intuit GoPayment Reader instead of a bulky point-of-sale system at each register. You can synch your transaction data to your accounting software and utilize the tablets for other purposes as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now we come to crunch time — assigning specific dollar amounts to your lists. This process is always going to be a best guess, but be realistic and use past experience, research and advice from other entrepreneurs to guide your cost estimates. Organizations such as SCORE and your local Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Development Center can provide free and valuable advice about how to calculate your start-up costs.
Be accessible. Make sure potential clients and customers can get in touch with you and your business whenever they may need to. The best way to grow your reputation as a respectable business is to be responsive to your customers’ needs.
You should also be looking to the future here. Will your payments processing device grow with your business and keep you current with the latest in secure payments technologies? Toward that end, get a reader that can accept EMV chip cards.
Develop a passion for learning. As your business changes and grows, you need to change and grow along with it — particularly as you transition to manager. The one common denominator you find in all successful business owners is a passion for learning.
Cash transactions are easiest to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but are often difficult to track over longer periods. Also, dealing with cash makes securing your company’s incoming cash flow more difficult, as it is easier for employees to steal from a cash-based businesses.
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.
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.
Your Square Dashboard also has your historical sales information. This is particularly helpful when it comes to future planning. You can look at how business went last December, for example, to be strategic about what you want to do this December. You could re-up on your best-selling items from previous years, or spot trends in your peak sales times to be smart about planning your hours and staffing. Read our post on 5 Ways Square Analytics Can Help You Run Your Business to see what other insights you can glean.
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.
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.
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.
If you are planning to get into a completely new business, it would really help if you got a second opinion from someone who knows the market and the challenges involved. A business idea that looks good on paper may not be that attractive when you actually get into it. An expert’s opinion may help you look at things from a different perspective and gain more knowledge that you may lack.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.”
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.
Remember that nothing happens until a sale is made. How many good products go nowhere because they don’t reach the shelves? Sales are what drive your business. You need a crackerjack marketing plan that details how you intend to package, promote, distribute, price, and sell your product or service.
It can also be useful to include questions in drafts of your business plan. Identifying what you don’t know is as helpful as listing things you are sure about. You do not want to present a business plan with unanswered questions to potential investors, but laying out relevant questions in your initial drafts will help you identify questions that require answering in your final business plan.
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.
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.
Keep in mind that quality takes only moments to lose and years to regain. Quality isn’t a destination but rather a never-ending journey. After you’ve strayed from quality’s path, your journey may be sidetracked forever.
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.
Candidly, if you’re struggling financially, I would not try to start a business first. I would get a good job, get financially stable, THEN try to create one. I have tons of free material around finding your dream job here — just use the free material for now.