Last and not least my top tip is – Don’t procrastinate! If you’ve invented the next best thing since sliced bread, the longer you wait to go to market, the more costs you will incur and the more chance there is of being usurped by a competitor, or missing that ‘gap in the market’ you’ve identified. You want to make sure you have a good and sound product or service to sell, but don’t wait until it is ‘perfect’ as that time may never happen, just go for it and reap the rewards.
I’ve already blogged about keeping records for your business and choosing appropriate methods. It is essential that you choose appropriate equipment, software and tools for your business.
Do you really need that smartphone on contract at £100/month? Possibly if you want to be checking your emails on the move.
Do you want a dedicated phone number with a 24 hour virtual receptionist? Possibly if calls could come in any time of the day.
Do you need that all singing-all dancing laptop with touch screen? (well I fell for that one!) Probably not.
Do you need a new printer/copier/scanner? Or could you get a second-hand one?
What vehicle do you need to best serve your business? A new Van with a logo? Possibly, if you need reliability and will spend a lot of time in it.
Do you really need to spend money on advertising in the local paper? Possibly if you have a one-off promotion in the local area.
Choose your stuff wisely and appropriately, don’t be fooled by flashy websites or promises or increasing your web traffic and your Google rankings, keep it simple!
(have you noticed – I’m an accountant and hate spending money)
Talking about the right tools, there are endless software packages and apps out there to help you be more efficient, some are free and some are very expensive. However one crucial thing to remember is that after customers, DATA is one of your most critical assets and it should be protected at all costs. For more reading on this subject visit my good friend at http://byteofdata.com/
Marketing is a dark arts to me, but essentially you need to make sure that your “brand” (effectively you and your business) are perceived in the market place correctly and appropriately with your goals and aims. A nice logo, fancy printed material or a flashy website are all well and good but it all needs to be consistent and give the complete picture. My tips are to keep it simple and low cost to start with , keep the message clear about what your business is about and follow this through to all channels (including LinkedIn profiling, Facebook, twitter). Don’t ignore the detail, if you change registered/trading offices then TELL People and make sure all your contact details are correct. If you change your logo – then make sure all material is updated, fresh and new. If you have email (essential these days), it is advisable to have business names incorporated into the email, rather than use personal emails. Take yourself seriously and others will too.
Take care of the pennies and the pounds...well you know the score. Many small businesses fail to keep track of expenses and don’t even know how much they need to sell every month to cover all their costs. If you aren’t making a profit or positive cash flow then why are you in business?
My tips are:
Don’t auto-renew any contracts, shop around or haggle with your supplier for a better deal (eg insurances, software, maintenance contracts, even bank accounts and phones)
Don’t tie yourself up in long-term agreements, make sure you are clear about the terms and conditions including any get-out clauses or cancellation penalties.
Make sure you know what your employees are spending on your behalf, it is not unheard of for employees to defraud their employers!
Revenues have to exceed costs, else you have no business, keep regular records tracking costs and income and updated cashflow forecasts with bank reconciliations, if you can’t do this by yourself, then seek assistance from a proactive Accountant (such as myself)
It is very hard to run a business single-handedly and at some point you will need assistance in order to complete that two-man job or that rush job that is due by Friday. It is essential that you employ people that you TRUST to be ambassadors for your company especially if they are customer-facing. Remember it’s your reputation on the line so be clear and honest with your sub-contractors or employees what standards you expect. If you are sub-contracting make sure you have clear agreements in place, especially covering client confidentiality or disclosure.
Author: Catherine Wainwright
Useful stuff to help small business owners be more effective.