Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category
I talk a lot about building a business around your life. I do so because I think it’s so darn important. As women after 50 we have probably raised our children but we may still have aging parents who need our help. As in the title of this article, it certainly does take faith, action and the determination not to throw in the towel and quit when times get challenging.
It is worth moving through these challenges to get what you want. If you want a business you are in control of you can absolutely have that, but you need to be conscience of designing it the way you want it to run. Can you do this all alone? Probably you can. I wouldn’t suggest it though. It’s really hard to build the business you want in a vacuum, all by yourself in your home office in front of your computer. Faith, action and determination need support!
I can tell you now; there is never the perfect time to start your business. If we all waited till we had enough time or had enough money or had things ‘in place’, no business would ever get off the ground!
There is always going to be risk. There is risk in starting your own business. There is risk when you get hired by someone else because you never know how long you will be there.
Faith: Do you have faith enough in yourself, confidence enough, to believe that you can do this?
Action: Are you ready and willing to get into action not sometime later but now?
Determination: Are you determined enough to do whatever it takes to make this business sing?
I suggest you know your basics. Who do you want to serve? How will you reach them and in what ways? How many hours do you want to work per week?
Even if you start out on your kitchen table a few hours a week and you do this consistently, if you know what you’re doing your business will grow over time. But even if you can take this time at the kitchen table, if you don’t know where to start, ask for help.
I spoke with a woman today with a very successful business and she told me what a big step it was for her to call me because it’s so hard to ask for help. The ironic part of this is, she helps and serves all kinds of people. People come to her for help in various areas, but it’s hard for her to ask for the same thing. I was glad she asked.
A small business, whether it is brand new or has been around awhile has to be financially frugal. You need to be competitive but don’t always have the big market budgets of corporations. Here are some tips that should help find customers and increase sales.
- Search your local opportunities - A small business budget does not allow for flashy news advertisements, TV commercials and radio ads. We have to be more creative with our marketing budget. You can design and print your own brochures, flyers and even business cards. If you have a nominal budget you can also search for a free-lance marketer to help move you along. When you do advertise, offer something to make people want to stop by your store or go to your website. It can be a newsletter, white paper or small widget; it all depends on what you can afford.
- Customer service is your way in - Large companies may have a call center and toll-free number, but it’s not the same as going directly to the owner and asking how this thing goes together, works or sets up. I’d rather answer someone’s question and salvage a sale then let them get frustrated at something and never buy from me again. Make sure all of our printed brochures, stationery, business cards and website give multiple ways to contact you or your representatives.
- Market on the Internet - If you haven’t already put up a website, consider doing so. A professional web designer can analyze not only your business but that of your competition and then offer you the best solutions. You don’t have to have a 50-page site. Sometimes having 3 or 4 quality pages that gives customers answers and solutions to their problems is all you need. Clear contact information and even pricing can help. Your website is what many people now go to instead of just picking up a phone book. I stress that you should consider hiring a professional web designer. This way you will be assured that your website can be easily updated as your business grows. A qualified Web Designer should show you this in their presentation. I’ve created websites for as little as $750 for a startup that grew as business allowed and eventually added shopping carts, blogs and more interaction once the business was fully established.
- Check out your competition - Check to see if your competitors have a website. If they do you can learn what they are doing to get and keep business. Check out social media as well. Are they on Twitter or LinkedIn? Do they have a large following? Study what they are doing right and then set up your own plan. You can’t copy someone else’s business plan and make it work for you. Different personalities and mission statements will make your business and clients react differently. By checking out the competition you might find an innovative idea or two that will increase your profitability while avoiding competition.
these four suggestions and you should see more activity and good lead generation in your store and online. This takes time, but you need to do this to stay up with your competition.
Is your company doing well? Are you profitable? How much longer will it be until you are? Where can you cut expenses? What are your most profitable products or services? Which are the least profitable? What the shelf-life of a particular product? How effective is your marketing strategy?
As business leaders, this type of information is the type of information that we need to have on hand in order to make decisions about the company. Planning solely on what is in the bank, or focusing only on one aspect of what makes your company a) successful or b) keeps it out of closing is a very poor way of operating. This is pure tunnel vision.
If you consider, for a moment, two tools that are widely used in the business world – Porter’s Five Forces and the SWOT analysis, you’ll notice that part of the analysis is based on things that impact the business – are outside of the business’s control. As business leaders, you know that strategically, this cannot occur just in exercise, but must exist in the way that you do business. Monitoring, making adjustments and acting must be an ongoing mentality if your goal is to build an extraordinary business.
Several recommendations we have made to clients include:
- Understand what questions you want to answer. Here are some samples:
- How do we know when we can purchase a new building or expand capacity
- How do we know how effective our sales people are
- How do we know how effective our marketing and other business development activities are
- Understand what kind of data you need to collect in order to make your decisions. Typically, these are going to be things such as your financials – sales, cost of goods sold, expenses, profit, investments, interest and taxes, your business development activities, manufacturing costs and rates, etc.
- Determine how to collect the data – including what is feasible. Take into consideration how you operate – does it need to be mobile? does the information need to be housed in a cloud?
- Determine how the data needs to be delivered. If you have a ton of data and like to drill down from “high level” analysis down to the details, perhaps you want something more visual. If you like to play with the numbers yourself and run scenarios, perhaps you like to play with the raw data.
- Decide how much your level of investment. Consider this:
- No Investment – If you don’t get the data to make decisions, the likelihood of success is minimalized.
- Your Time – If you collect and mine the data yourself, what else could or should you be doing to build or grow the business.
- Your Resources – You could have a qualified employee collect and mine the data for you.
- Your Money – You could invest in a software solution – be it customized, off the shelf, or a combination of the two – that could collect the data. We have used and recommend a product called Work, Etc., to centrally house most transaction that occur in the business in order to give us a single data-collection source.