Category Archives for "Small Business"

The Holidays are Coming, Prepare Your Marketing

By Randall Orser | Small Business

As the holidays are quickly approaching, you shouldn’t be doing business as usual. Want to finish the year with stronger-than-expect earnings? Then the following tips will help.

Holiday Makeover for Your Website

Your website is important, so don’t be a Scrooge about it. Are your customers families? You can rewrite your headlines to draw attention to products that are great presents for teachers, bus drivers, and coaches. Are your customers into eco-friendly products/services? Think about a ‘green gift ideas’ link on your home page. Better yet, do you have pictures of your clients enjoying using your products/services? Maybe during prior holidays? Use those along with a testimonial; a video is even better. These could be a way to generate more sales.

Use a Limited Time Offer

Is there something in your business that you could offer during the holidays? A nursery, could sell specialty greens or decorative wreaths. If you sell food and beverage items, you could sell holiday-themed kitchenware. Are you in a service business, you could host a holiday-themed even with food and music – you could tie it to a local charity and donate a portion of the proceeds. Your goal is to increase sales in a celebratory way.

Put a Bow on it

Your holiday shoppers are busy, so why not help relief their stress by offering gift-wrap services. You could include a variety of paper choices, gift bag, gift receipt, and gift card. The bonus is you may be able to make some profit on this service.

Avert Shipping Snafus

The busiest time of the year is traditionally mid-December, so it’s best to avert any shipping catastrophes. With this time comes much more mail and that means sorting and transit times take longer, or worse more lost packages. You could encourage your customers to order soon, and hopefully more, by using early bird promotions such as discounts, buy-one-get-one deals, or free shipping. By doing this, you can decrease shipments you send out during the holiday rush.

Clearly State an “Order By” Deadline

You should setup an order deadline date for those last-minute shoppers in order for them to get their orders in time. Make sure this shows up on a prominent place on your website. What shipping options are you offering? If only ground, then you may want to add an express shipping option to pick up more last-minute orders.

Get into the Spirit of the Season

Surprise your customers with a gift in their order, think of something thoughtful and useful. A tote bag, bottle openers, letter openers, are low-cost promotional items that can be used regularly. Appreciative customers may become repeat customers as well as recommend your business to family and friends. Think about branding that item as well, it’s a good economical advertising tool, too!

Reward Social Media Shares

People today want to share their life with others and social media allows them to do that. Of course, when we get a gift we want everyone to know about it. When a customer shares your product on social media and tags your business, enter them into a sweepstakes. Your lucky customer wins a prize, and you get an increase in brand impressions.

During the holidays, there are many ways to energize your online business. You can do that with a festive website makeover, have a limited time offering, giving your distressed customers gift-wrap options, use early bird options to get your customers to order sooner and more, clearly state your “order by” deadline, use branded gifts to surprise your customers, and reward social media shares. Have a merrier bottom line by using holiday marketing.

Crucial Factors Your Online Business Needs

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Are you thinking about launching an online business? You see there’s potential for an e-commerce store, and believe you can make this business a success. Before you leap into this e-commerce business, it’s essential you come up with a business plan. Check out the critical business plan elements below to ensure you’re acquainted with your new venture.

Target Marketing

Your goal should be to build a long-term business, and to do that you need to understand the market you’re targeting. A marketing analysis overview built into your business plan will cultivate market opportunities or challenges. A farmer’s not going to sow seeds without know the soils condition, you shouldn’t build an online business without understanding the sector you wish to build in.

Marketing Plan

Having a marketing plan is crucial to your success. Posting haphazardly to social media and hoping something appeals to your potential customers is just pointless. You need to create a monthly and yearly marketing plan so you can see where the opportunities for long-term success are. Having a detailed marketing plan allows you to ramp up your seasonal growth initiatives in advance rather than being caught off guard due to poor planning.

Product Plan

Your business strategy must include a product plan. Do you know what your company’s monetization strategy is? You need to determine the long-term implications of your company’s products. Would your business’ viability be drastically impacted if market trends change? Is your product offering a one-time only sale, or can it be offered on a subscription basis? Developing a thorough product plan is a must or else your business ends up being a one-hit wonder with no repeat customers.

Financial Plan

This is an important aspect of your business as you want to avoid the dips in business revenues. By planning for future expenses such as taxes and inventory upgrades, you reduce the stresses of running your online venture. You need to develop a yearly plan to keep an eye on business growth, and having a five-year and ten-year plan can help you do that over the long-term.

Exit Strategy

It may seem like an odd thing to be doing at the beginning of your business, however, having an exit strategy is smart business. Are you going to run your business after you retire? Are you anticipating on selling your business to an interest investor or business partner? Knowing how you’ll exit your business is just as important as understanding why you started it in the first place.

Building an online business, or any business for that matter, that succeeds for many years is not easy. You need to be smart in planning your company’s development similarly as a brick-and-mortar business owner would plan its future. Are you going to integrate the above tips into your company’s business plans?

Six Growth Initiatives to Help Build a Long-term Business Strategy

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Building a profitable business is much more than launching a website and hoping for the best. The smart entrepreneur realizes he needs a plan, and a long-term one at that. Growth initiatives are definitely part of a premiere business strategy. Thinking about challenges and opportunities that could come up allows you to stack the odds of success in your favour. Here are six growth initiatives you should think about adopting in your business plan.

Managing Operating Costs

If you’re not watching your operating costs, they can get quite out of hand and quickly. You’re approving work orders, signing off on supply purchases, and hiring additional staff, which can add up noticeably. You need to have a definite plan together before these operational costs escalate. The profitability of your business greatly depends on you managing your operational costs.

Improving Profitability Ratios

How do you plan on improving profitability over time? Are you expecting reduced supply costs will just generally occur? It is critical that you plan for profitability improvements. Unless you want your revenue-to-expense margins to take a nosedive, you must develop a plan to address ways to increase company profits.

Maintaining Workforce Productivity

Workforce productivity is another key growth initiative that many business owners dread facing. It’s perfectly natural for your employees’ enthusiasm and job performance to slowly wane over time. In order to position your company for success, you need a strategic plan in place to address productivity. You could look at gamification to rewards-based incentive programs to keep your workers engaged and productive.

Inventory Management

To keep your business running smooth, you need an inventory management plan. You could be hurting your business with too much inventory, as well if you have too little; customers may go elsewhere if your inventory is too old, or you don’t have enough to meet demand. You should be prepared for supplier shortages as well as seasonal product demands, so you can ensure your sales don’t take an abrupt dip.

Product Development

To stay ahead of the competition, you need to incorporate product development into your growth initiatives. Realizing that your sales will stagnate if your business never innovates is an essential business truth you need to address. Constructing a product development strategy helps you to remain excited about your business growth opportunities and gives your sales people opportunities to look forward to.

Competitive Businesses

Once your business becomes profitable, you’re going to have competition. You could face local competitors and international knock-offs. Now, you won’t be able to stop the copycats from copying your business, however, you can plan for their arrival. Will you try to buyout your competitors and/or hire their staff? Will you patent your technology? Or trademark certain systems you’ve developed? That old cliché ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ was never truer than when it comes to your competition. You can deal with potential competitors by having a plan for such a strategy in place.

Putting growth initiatives into your business plans benefits your company’s readiness for success so you’re not blindsided by challenges you should’ve had the smarts to plan for. Your top priority should be to build a company that survives over the long-term. Unless you want a flash-in-the-pan business, you must have a strong growth strategy. Are you ready for the challenges above as you grow your business?

Five Ridiculously Simply Ways to Improve Your Christmas Marketing

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You’ve had a great year so far, you’re busy, sales have been solid, and you’re well on your way to a profitable year. You know your company has the holiday spirit and you want to highlight that come November and December; however, where do you start. There’s tons of ways, some won’t even cost you a penny, to tune up your normal marketing efforts to accentuate your businesses lighthearted mood. Which of the following ridiculously simple ways will attract those super shoppers to your business?

Seasonal Pinterest Board

On your board, share images of your holiday decorations, staff members in festive garb, or the latest products you brought in for the Christmas season. Festive quotes are another way to round out your collections, and you now have a holiday board perfectly poised to bring seasonal cheer to your customers. Publish local events, and use relevant keywords to attract local patrons to your Pinterest board and your business.

After Hours Holiday Event

This is a great way to thank your customers and perhaps get new customers. Have your guests register in the weeks leading up to the event by offering a drop box for their business cards or registration forms. You could even make it a by invite only event, or have a pre-party for your best customers. At the event, promote new products you’ll soon be launching or spotlight stock arrivals for spring and summer. Everyone is busy during the holidays, so ensure your event is captivating enough that they’ll make time in their packed schedules.

Local Charity Event

Is there a local charity everyone can get behind? The food bank is a great one, and they’re usually up for being part of your event. Tailor your event to what the charity’s greatest need is, and then adapt the event specially for those needs.

Create a Seasonal Video

A seasonal video is a great way to promote the business and post it to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The funnier you make your video the better the chances are for social shares. Maybe find a local Santa and have him talking and laughing with you about the naughty and nice employees in your business.

Video Contest

You may not feel comfortable doing your own video, maybe think about a video contest amongst your customers. The best video can win a gift certificate from your business, maybe a basket of your products, or something else. Your customers will have fun connecting with your company, plus you get a wealth of user-generated content for your website or YouTube channel.

Marketing for the holiday season doesn’t have to be hard as long as you get creative approach. What would resonate with your customers, and still give you a reasonable ROI for your efforts. Think creatively, and you’ll be able to conjure up lots of great ideas to fine-tune your marketing plans for the holiday season.

Drive Your Business to Success with Smart Outsourcing

By Randall Orser | Small Business

You’re going to go through many challenges while running your successful business all the while wearing multiple hats during your work week. There comes a point where you’re spread out so thin that it starts to harm the business, and you need to outsource some work to allow you to focus on the main reasons why you originally got into business. In your business where can you start outsourcing?

Credit Control

As a small business, you have the dilemma of being subservient to your cash flow, but probably don’t have the funds to have a department devoted to making customers pay on time. You could look at a factoring service (where you sell your invoices to a company), which solves the issue of outsourcing your credit control operations and the administration that goes with that. Invoice factoring also greatly strengthens your cash flow. With invoice factoring you get a part of the invoice right away, with the remainder paid upon collection less a fee. By combining the improvement in cash flow and lower administration costs makes credit control your first choice when outsourcing.

Staff Recruitment

Finding the right employees is the essence of a successful business, nevertheless finding and hiring able staff is tedious, and it’s usually not a skill most entrepreneurs have. A recruitment agency can help you find, interview, and select the best candidate for your business that’ll boost your human assets hugely, and for comparative little cost in both your time and money. Remember to hire slow and fire fast, don’t rush to hire someone just to fill a vacant position.

Digital Marketing

Your online presence via a website and social media as given rise to a new term, digital marketing. You could never be expected to keep on top of this whirlwind that is digital marketing, however, it’s a crucial part of success in today’s commerce. Finding the right agency will take time, and you probably will devote much time to finding that professional that is a fit; however, this can totally pay off by driving profitable business for years into the future.

Public Relations

While public relations is related to marketing it is a separate practice than can have a huge impact on your business success. A good public relations agency is continually on the lookout for ways to develop favourable publicity for your business, incorporating your reputation into the fibre of your niche. A PR agency has the expertise, experience, and carefully refined contacts list to promote your business in ways you probably wouldn’t have thought, thereby, allowing you to concentrate on getting your business ready to convert this exposure to profit.

Office Cleaning

You may not think it, but cleaning is a crucial approach to running your business, which is often underestimated as to its value. First impressions count whenever customers or others visit your establishment, and a messy office can suggest a carelessly managed enterprise. Now you’re probably thinking you don’t have the funds to hire a professional cleaner on your tight budget; however, when you do it yourself it’ll always drop down on your priority list. We all want our work place to be pleasant, and outsourcing the unglamourous activity of office cleaning to a professional cleaner can be cost-effective, and repay itself by improving your company’s image.

You started your business to carry out your passion and satisfy a drive and then these day-to-day nuts and bolts get in the way constraining your company when it should be flying. Smart outsourcing releases you, letting you concentrate your energies to drive your business forward toward success.

Cutting Payroll May End Up Hurting Sales

By Randall Orser | Small Business

According to recent studies by both the Harvard School of Business and the Wharton School of Business, striking the balance between too few and too many retail payroll hours is the key to increased retail sales. These studies run counter to the usual practice of cutting payroll when sales are down. 

The Harvard study, which focuses only on operations, suggests that increasing payroll yields up to seven percent in profit. The Wharton study, which includes customer satisfaction, suggests that increasing payroll, even moderately, yields up to 28 dollars in sales per one allocated payroll dollar.

The studies’ common denominator is that products do not sell themselves. Here are seven ways that automatically cutting retail payroll expenses often backfires and hurts retail sales.

In-stock reality. The Harvard study identified the weakest link in the supply chain as the front-line store. Even if shipments arrive on time, often they don’t make it to the floor due to reduced payroll hours. Similarly, items that are already on the floor cannot be replenished properly if retail shops don’t have the personnel to make it happen. A customer can’t buy a product that is not available.

In-stock perception

The Wharton study defines the term “in-stock” as more than availability. In-stock items are both available and sold by a knowledgeable associate, who can explain their benefits. This definition is based on study customers from over 500 unnamed stores. The question, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” is ultimately answered based on satisfaction rather than on actual availability. Hence, the customer may not know exactly what he or she is looking for until an associate explains the choices, benefits, and drawbacks. Fewer associates mean fewer one-on-one interactions with customers. According to Wharton, in-stock perception is the same as customer satisfaction.

Loss of seasoned associates

When hours are reduced, seasoned associates — those who have the most sales experience as well as the most product knowledge — move to greener pastures. This means that customers are assisted by those who neither know the product well nor know how to best maximize a sale. The result is a customer who is less satisfied by his or her shopping experience. Less satisfaction equals less in-stock perception. Customers are more likely to answer “no” to the “did you find everything” question when they do not interact with a knowledgeable associate.

Hiring and training

When seasoned employees leave, companies must hire new associates. The notoriously short lifespan for newly hired retail associates, especially those under 30, means that each new hire is a gamble. Companies must gamble with training dollars as well as with putting an inexperienced sales person on the floor. And if the new hire doesn’t work out, they must repeat this process again and again until they find a talented associate. Naturally, without sufficient hours, talented associates tend to look for more profitable work, exacerbating the vicious cycle.

Customer focus

Customers who bond with a particular associate will look for that person again and again to help them find the right product. If a customer finds that the trusted associate has moved on, the customer may be disappointed enough abandon the planned purchase altogether. In the same way, seasoned associates can inform regular customers of new merchandise and special deals, bringing customers into the store without expensive marketing. Without long-term associate/customer relationships, potential sales are lost.

Task management

Shelves and racks need to be restocked. Bathrooms need to be cleaned. Floors need vacuuming. Check-out lines need to be expedited. The sales floor needs to be tidy. And the stock room needs a full-time manager. When associates perform task management, they are not helping customers. On the other hand, if they neglect task management, the shop begins to look run-down and cheap. Both on task or off, too few employees drive customers to other stores.

Online competition

If associates cannot help customers in the store, then customers soon find no reason to leave home. Online operations are almost always fully stocked, never have a line at the cashier, and do not require a drive to the mall. Associates are the primary difference between brick-and-mortar stores and online merchants. If associates are unavailable, then customers will stay home.

The ways that retail sales are affected by reduced payroll can be summed up in five key areas:

  • The product is unavailable.
  • Associates are unavailable.
  • Associates are not knowledgeable.
  • Associates are distracted by task work and are too busy to be helpful.
  • Check out is difficult.
  • In order to maximize profits, retail businesses should reconsider automatically reducing payroll to save money. While it may be illogical to those at head office, reducing payroll too much actually hurts the bottom line while increasing it only slightly can make a significant difference to retail the bottom line — as much as 28 dollars in sales per one allocated payroll dollar.

    Grow Your Business Profits – Five Simple Tips

    By Randall Orser | Small Business

    A well-managed business has the capability of growing its revenue and profits, however, not all business types are profitable. There are countless elements that will determine your business success, including the nature of your business, target market, management, customer care and marketing. The following tips should give you some clarity in your business setup and allow you to prosper.

    Management

    Management can greatly contribute positively or negatively to your company’s growth, so take responsibility for the daily running of your business. Are you looking at hiring? Look for experienced professionals who have worked in your industry and are acquainted with the nature of your business. Can you motivate your employees? Probably not as well as you think you can. Good leaders lead by example, and get their employees on board quickly.

    What’s your company culture? Have you developed one? Find people that’ll fit into that culture. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees, or your customers, for suggestions on product or services development. You should be doing lots of research to enable you to make savvy business choices.

    Build Up Your Numbers

    You could increase your sales by spreading out your territory, whether geographic or demographic. The internet, especially social media, is a powerful tool which you need to embrace and expand your audience into other countries. Today it’s ensuring your online presence is set for mobile, this will allow you to tap into many more customers, especially the younger generations, as they’re mostly on mobile now. You need to boost your website ranking and visibility using Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

    Quality over Quantity

    If you want customers to return, you need to create quality products and package them professionally. Enhance your customers’ experience by offering your staff training in good customer etiquette. You could start a loyalty program for repeat customers, or offer gifts or discounts. Be very careful with discounts, as once you start offering them it can be very hard to stop. Of course, the most powerful form of marketing is ‘word of mouth’; give your customers a great experience and they’ll refer friends, family, etc.

    Expand to Other Market Segments

    Look around and see what products and/or services compliment what you’re doing. For example, an automobile dealership could grow sales by selling spare parts, a restaurant could offer catering services for special occasions, and a web designer could offer site hosting or server maintenance.

    Diversify

    You shouldn’t just offer one product or service, you need to look at creating new products and services to expand your market. Also, look at bundling existing products and/or services, and you’ll probably find you can charge more. What product and/or service can you find that’s ready for market, and allow you to grow your market share. Your best investment in those new products and/or services that will extend your reach.

    Reduce Expenses

    You need to look at your costs and audit them so you can maximize profits. This may require hiring someone, or perhaps your bookkeeper or accountant, however, that could be well worth the investment over time.

    Hire slow and fire fast. Do you have any unproductive employees? Get rid of the deadwood. If your energy bills are out of hand, look at alternative sources such as solar-powered water heating. Look for wherever there’s waste and seal those leakages. Do you have space you’re not using? Consider subletting it for extra revenue.

    Social Media

    Social media is pretty much a must in this day and age. It’s a great place to engage (that’s the operative word here) with your existing and potential customers. You need to figure out where your customers frequent and go there. If very few are on Facebook, that may not be the best place for your business. It all boils down to having a social media strategy, and hiring the right person who gets your business ethos, mission and vision.

    Social media is a great place to get feedback on your products and/or services, plus you find out where you can improve your offering. Be warned, people can be brutally honest on social media, and there are those that’ll diss you for no real reason. You can use social media to market to your new customers and respond appropriately when required. Social media is a great way to build trust and develop positive relationships by providing useful information to your audience.

    The point of all these strategies to is add value to your offering. You need to stop focusing on pricing and focus on value, which is what your customer is really looking at. Always be adding value, even when the price is high. Your customers are happy to spend more for what they feel as extra value, which leads to great profits despite the higher investment in cost.

    Your Passion as a Business? Some Things to Contemplate First

    By Randall Orser | Small Business

    Working from home on something you love while making enough money to thrive is many peoples’ dream. A freelance career is how many go for this ideal, and though the rewards can be grand, they can’t deny how much effort is really required building that thriving business.

    Making a business or career out of your passion, can create a whole set of problems. You need to do a meaningful mind shift; however, you probably won’t recognize that when first starting out. Below are some things to contemplate before taking that leap.

    It’s a Serious Business

    You must treat your freelance career as a serious business because in the end how talented you are doesn’t matter. You may be very talented and that will earn you lots of money, however, the everyday concerns of running your business are the building blocks to your success. Paperwork, government filings, invoicing, customer relations, time management, and more are just some of the less exciting aspects of the freelance life, but it’s necessary to get those right if you want to build a solid business, and not just follow a hobby.

    Self-discipline

    Are you working in a creative field? Your passion may involve following pipe dreams and having the ability to make mistakes. However, as a business you need to keep a tight focus on what acutally makes your business run. Of course, you should nourish your creativity when you can, but don’t overlook the fact that you need to please your clients, produce work that sells, and do so as cost effectively as you can, instead of letting your creativity run too wild.

    Prioritize Productivity

    Maintaining a firm hold on your productivity is a major part of self-discipline. You’re going to have days where you’re just not at peak performance, and when creating something useful is just too hard. You’ve seen and heard the clichés; however, few freelancers can simply afford to pack up and head to the beach when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. It’s not just about meeting deadlines, if you don’t put in the hours, then the money is coming either. At those times that your just not brimming with creativity, what will you do to be more productive?

    Workflow

    It is very important to setup a beneficial and constant workflow, which means creating systems for what you do. Your talent and instinct won’t get you through your working day. You need to have a framework to ensure you meet deadlines and produce good work, even when you’re not running at your best.

    Maintaining Passion

    Can you keep the passion no matter what? Many freelancers fail to foresee the passion going away once they turn it into a business, as that may just kill the enjoyment you got from it. Your passion could start to feel like a chore, even if it started out as relaxing and rewarding hobby. When the pressure mounts, or the lean times come, are you still going to be as excited and assured in your skills? When you lose your pastime as your outlet, is there something else that can take its place? A crappy work-life balance is a prevalent issue amongst freelancers, and can be a big problem if you combine your hobby and business.

    Don’t think that this is an argument against taking the freelancer path, quite the contrary. Most freelancers who started their own business would not want to go back to the nine-to-five grind, however, you need to begin with your eyes wide open. You can have a rewarding business if you have the talent, desire, and an enterprising mindset. Nonetheless, you must acknowledge that passion alone is never enough.

    Is it Time to Explore Getting a Partner? 

    By Randall Orser | Small Business

    Partnerships can be complex. Adding an employee can be disruptive enough, however, a partner can create an upheaval. That said, a partner can be indispensable to growing your business. Your partners aren’t just those working with you at the top, it’s your manufacturers, and such.

    Finding the right partner could let your business grow beyond your expectations or levels you might not reach by yourself. A partner also allows you to have someone you can empathize with, and divide the duties. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns. You need to be careful who you bring aboard as they may go from your greatest ally to your worst nightmare. Before you leap into that partnership, here are some things to consider.

    Trademarks

    You should always protect yourself legally, even if you’re getting along with your partner before joining forces. Too many people shy away from a legal contract with too much detail, believing such contracts exemplify an absence of trust. This just is not a good idea.

    If the partnership collapses, your partners’ responsibilities are to themselves or their investors to ensure they get the most out of the collapse as possible, as well as your responsibility. Your trademarks represent ownership of your company and what you do. By not protecting those trademarks, former partners can claim ownership, and while you might win the legal battle, you may lose the war by crippling your business with legal and other fees.

    If may be a good idea to have any trademarks owned by another company, and have your operating company pay the other company royalties or licensing fees.

    Secrets

    Whether your partner is human or a corporation, trust is mandatory for it to survive. That doesn’t mean you give away the farm (so to speak), so they don’t get to learn the many things about your business. After all, it’s still your small business. You should only give away what you must, however, be overly cold about it. Ask your potential partner what they need to know to ensure things to gently. For anything sensitive that you may need to share, get the new partner to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and anyone else relevant.

    Patents

    Ideas are at the heart of any small business, which makes them incredibly desirable. Be assured if you don’t protect your ideas, someone else will steal them. Potentials partners could take your ideas and start their own business, especially if they believe you can’t handle it, and if you don’t protect your ideas.

    It may not be something you’d think someone would do, but if someone can get an advantage, they’ll probably take a shot. Don’t let partners have the opportunity of using you as a jumping-off point; protect your ideas at all costs. There are ways to work around a patent, most notably if they were there from the beginning, however, the fact that patents exist can avert legal battles from cropping up in the first place.

    Due Diligence

    Having a partner means you’re putting your small businesses future in their hands. The same with a manufacturer, you put the quality of your product in their hands. You don’t want to let just anyone get a piece of your dream, so it just makes sense to do your due diligence. You need to do research on any potential partners. Get references from previous businesses or jobs they’ve worked with, and chat to them so you get a feel for how the will fit you and your small business. You may even want to do social media and background checks to ensure they’re on the up and up.

    Non-competes / Non-solicitations

    At some point in your business employees or partners will exit. That’s all-in course of running your business, and you do get used to it. What is harder to get used to is seeing them using their training and knowledge to join the competition right after the exit, or worse, starting their own business. It’s not just your ideas your former partners have their eyes on, it’s your top talent too. A non-competition or non-solicitation agreements limit the liability a former partner or employee represents, and can keep your company safe. Always get legal advice on any non-compete agreement you’re preparing.

    Partners can be a crucial component of your small business. Your partners, including the ones you do business with, embodies your potential growth and ability to do great things. Sadly, if the times turn bad they can turn on you too. Always work to protect yourself for most contingencies. It is your business after all.

    Renovating the Office? Here are Five Things to Think About

    By Randall Orser | Small Business

    Is your small business office getting tired? It may be a time for a change. Maybe you need to create space for new employees, or maybe it just needs an update look. Perhaps you’re just getting started and want your office to reflect your vision. Here are five things to consider before hitting the sledge.

    The Strength of the New Design

    While blending in and being part of the neighbourhood can be good, but not for your office. Your clients need to be able to find you, so make it as easy as pie. Your design should be readily distinguishable, matching your current branding, so people know it right away. For a lot of businesses, that seems to epitomize a large sign. That can be okay in some circumstances, however, you should be afraid to experiment.

    There is still value into fitting into the neighbourhood and surrounding area. If you stick out like a sore thumb, you seem too out of place and that you don’t really belong. While it can be a headache to not clash with fitting in and standing out, it may be worth thinking about that.

    Energy Efficiency

    Today being energy efficient is a big thing, and can work in your favour business wise. You’re just starting out, so you may not have tons of capital, so if you can save on utilities, then great, and energy consumption is a good place to begin.

    It isn’t just the wiring you need to check. If you’re in a colder clime, then ensuring the insulation is sufficient can save you on the heating costs. Upgrading your windows is a good way to keep the heat in and your costs down. Check into your local utilities energy credits or rebates for upgrading your home/office to become more energy efficient.

    Focus on the Most Important Change

    More than likely, you won’t be able to afford all the changes you wish to make, and that’s okay. You need to focus your resources on the most important areas first. Is there anything your new office just can’t do without?

    Analyze your office space. Do you really need to improve it? Will it do for now. Or does it affect company productivity? Is it bleak and putting off to customers? Check your budget, and see where improvements would give you the biggest bang.

    The People Affected

    You’re not alone in your business, nor is the space just for your workforce. You have to think about your customers and your neighbours. While you may think painting the building yellow is a great idea, that may annoy your neighbours, which could affect deals down the road, and there could be legal considerations (bylaws are the first thing that comes to mind).

    You need to have a chat with those involved. Are there any changes your employees may want? They would know what would work for them productivity wise. Of course, you need to go over the renovation plans with them, and how you’re going to deal with any disruptions. Consult your lawyers and see what laws you need to review. You also want to warn your neighbours about any disruptions that the renovation may cause.

    Costs

    Renovations don’t come cheap, and cutting corners is never a good idea. The old cliché holds true ‘you get what you pay for’, and a well-designed office will pay for itself eventually. Your bookkeeper or accountant should be able to help you develop a budget to get what you want, and keep those costs under control.

    Are you doing the work yourself? If you find you need some piece of equipment, rent it instead of buying it as you probably won’t use it again. Check in your network for a dependable contractor, and maybe you can work out a deal for reduced costs such as promising future work or referring them to others.

    Your office renovations can be a thrilling affair for your small business, however, it should be mildly. Rushing into a renovation and without care, could make the office worse than it was before. Take your time. This is your office you’re creating, so ensure it changes into what fits your vision and needs.


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