Category Archives for "Small Business"

Some People Just Don’t Have a Work Ethic

By Randall Orser | Small Business

staffmoraleOften a manager will come across an employee who doesn’t seem to make as much of an effort as others. Perhaps he will even show up late, have a poor attendance record or seem to take his job less seriously than everyone else. Maybe the manager will even talk to the employee regarding his less than stellar job performance. Unfortunately, some people just don’t have a work ethic.

A manager might talk to the subordinate a number of times about coming in late or goofing off or whatever his problems may be. Yet the subordinate doesn’t modify his behavior. He just doesn’t seem to “get it.” Perhaps he may not get it any time soon. The fact is that he may just never get it.

A good work ethic is often viewed as someone caring about the quality of his work and making an honest effort to do his job to the best of his abilities. That employee will show up on time and will maintain a good attendance record. Obviously this is the total opposite approach of the person who seems to lack a good work ethic. But why is this? A person with a good work ethic feels guilty when he falls short on his job performance whereas the one without might not feel bad at all.

Quite often, a work ethic is something that is developed prior to adulthood. It is a frame of thought and a way of thinking. Somehow, the individual either acquired a good work ethic in his youth or didn’t. A boss can’t instill a work ethic into his employees. That quite often is the job of the worker’s parents during his childhood or the end result of the employee’s upbringing.

Perhaps the employee’s parents never required him to do anything around the house when he was growing up. Yet they gave him everything he wanted. This may have led him to believe that his whole life would be like that. That he would never really have to work in order to receive anything. Then he reaches adulthood. Now, all of a sudden, he is actually expected to do something before he receives rewards or compensation. Imagine the nerve of his boss! Actually expecting him to work for his salary! What nerve!

Now someone like that may eventually develop a decent work ethic but it usually takes a while for that occur. It usually takes the loss of a job or two. Then they may go through a period of self analyses. They may eventually come to the conclusion that maybe it’s not the rest of the world that is wrong. Maybe there is something wrong with them. A termination or two actually serves as a wakeup call.

If that individual doesn’t change after you, as a concerned manager, inform him of his shortcomings. You just might have one of those individuals who has not yet gone through that period of self analyses. Perhaps the loss of his current job may serve as the catalyst for him to want to modify his approach to work. At any rate, you probably aren’t going to instill a work ethic into this person as he continues to work for you.

The telltale sign would be a lack of repentance. If they aren’t going to take you serious after a few reprimands for the same offenses, chances are they never will. After a while, if the employee is often warned of consequences that never seem to happen, he just won’t take any of the warnings serious at all. You may then have no other choice at that point other than terminating the employee.

The consequences of not terminating an individual who doesn’t take his job serious are many. Those working around him may think that there is no point in working hard themselves if he is allowed to get away with his sloppy work ethic. If you are expecting everyone else to pick up the slack, then you are, in fact, being unfair to those of whom you are requiring to work harder.

You tried to correct the problem. It didn’t work. It’s time to cut this person loose. It’s not your fault. It’s just that some people don’t have a work ethic.

Gearing Up for the Busy Season

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Business concepts TNWhether you are in an industry that gets busier in some seasons or experiences fluctuations year round, there are some times when you will be busier than others. There are things that you as a manager can do to gear up for those busy times and perhaps find better ways of operating during the busy days. The best time to devise a strategy to deal with this is during the slow times.

When things get hectic, all of the problems seem to be magnified. What was a slight problem in the slow times became a huge nightmare when things got busy. What you and your subordinates need to do at that time is to keep track of all of those problems. Chances are they will show themselves once again the next time things get busy. That is, if no changes are made to prevent it from happening again.

When things get slow, inform all your subordinates that you would like them to think of everything that went wrong and every problem they encountered when things got busy. Tell them to compile a list. Also to write down everything they can think of that can be done to resolve the issue or to at least improve the situation. Then arrange a meeting where everyone will have an opportunity to present the information they have to offer.

During the meeting, go around to each person and give them the opportunity to present their information to the group. The group should then discuss the issues presented by that person and then move on to the next person in the group. Do this until you are finished.

You will probably notice that more than one person may have encountered each issue and each person may have something to offer as a suggestion for the resolution of the problem. Perhaps some changes can be made that may require some sort of authorization from upper management or certain details have to be researched. You may need another meeting later after those things are addressed.

After the various problems are addressed and there are different procedures or changes in the methods of operation, you may have to have some form of formal training sessions where everyone can learn of the details regarding the changes. Again, this all takes place during the slow periods.

Now when things pick up again, see how the new changes in operation work out for you. Things will probably improve but you may now notice other problems or bottlenecks that weren’t as noticeable because of the more noticeable ones that were worse, the last time around. You may even have new bottlenecks now because the old ones were resolved. Keep track of those problems. The important thing is to work out all of the kinks in your day to day operations and to streamline whatever processes you can.

After this busy period is over, repeat the process. Do this over and over again on a continual basis. This will help you to develop better operating procedures and operate more efficiently. You may even be able to address safety issues or other concerns. Hiring issues may come into play. Perhaps you should hire people with a different skill set than you’ve already been hiring. Perhaps skills that would enable future employees to perform the various job duties better or more efficiently.

The point is to constantly strive to improve upon the methods and procedures you use in your day to day operations. Once these improved procedures are developed, each member of your team can be trained in them. After that, every new hire should be taught how to use the new and improved methods. However, that should not be the end of it. New hires come with different backgrounds and experiences, and may themselves have unique ideas for improvements to offer. It’s all a little something for everyone to do, to gear up for the busy season.

Accomplishing More Through Setting a Time Limit

By Randall Orser | Small Business

critical thinking-TNAmong the many methods that professionals use in time management is what’s called “Time framing”. In a nutshell it’s giving yourself a limit on the time you employ to do a certain task. For example, if you need to write a report, you give yourself no more than an hour to complete the task. If you finish the report within that time frame, you have the extra time that can be employed for another task. Or you can reward yourself in some way for accomplishing the job so soon. If the job takes longer, you drop the assignment and move on to the next assignment you have scheduled. You can give your first task time to develop overnight until you schedule it for another time. You don’t abandon your report; you’ve only given it a time limit.

This method of setting a time limit can be used anytime for most projects, excluding those that simply must be finished by a deadline set by your peers. Of course, this method won’t work for a surgeon who can’t leave the operating table in the middle of performing a heart bypass. But time boxing is effective for most short-term projects and those requiring a few days for completion. In both cases, creativity is enhanced and the act enforces discipline.

Working this way has several advantages. Among them:

More Creativity

The closer your set deadline approaches the more likely you are to find a creative way to complete the project to your satisfaction. That sense of urgency helps stimulate your creative faculties to find effective methods to complete the task within the allotted time frame. It’s likely you’ll finish the project much sooner than you anticipated.

A Better Way to Find a Solution

There’s no shame in delaying a project if it doesn’t meet your deadline. A breather before taking up the project can help you find a solution that you wouldn’t otherwise discover if you bulled your way through the project. We all tend to see the proverbial forest for the trees. Solutions often come at those moments when you’re most relaxed.

A Sense of Urgency

Once you’ve given the job a time limit, you’ve created an atmosphere of urgency. This allows you to give full attention to the job and removes distractions. For those projects that require more than a day, the unfinished task creates an urgency that must be resolved. Writers often use this technique, stopping at a point where they know what follows next. This gives them the incentive to pick up where they left off and continue the momentum from the day before. While stopping a project in the middle of the task may keep you awake at night, you won’t lack for creativeness and imagination.

Enhances Organization Skills

If you’ve placed a time frame on your project, you’re better organized. It makes scheduling easier. Many business people wear many hats, so they must organize their time for maximum effectiveness. They have to schedule their tasks around those areas where they have little control. Staff and executive meetings can’t be delayed waiting for them to finish off a project past the start of the business meeting. The benefit of time framing is that it allows you the comfort of not having to work overtime hours. Carrying work home with you will likely mark you as inefficient. Overtime should be reserved to projects that have short time limits set by your employer or company, which you cannot control.

Establishes professionalism

If you consistently finish your projects ahead of your set deadline, you’ll likely impress your boss. Promotion and higher pay are the rewards for those who use their time wisely. Time framing enforces discipline. All successful people have learned the habit of discipline. They’ve increased their sense of self-importance and become an asset to their employer as well as their families.

So the next time you tackle a project, set yourself a time limit to complete it unless that time limit is enforced by your employer. You will find more joy in accomplishment and create a sense of happy fulfillment.

Why a Joint Venture Could Save Your Small Business

By Randall Orser | Small Business

joint venture solution 10-14 TNIf you are a solo entrepreneur, creating a Joint Venture with other businesses can give your business access to needed resources and can help you to grow your business at a much faster rate than you can do alone. Joint Ventures allow each business involved in the project to maintain business integrity, while gaining the benefits of working within larger organisations.

Many internet entrepreneurs have created joint ventures with other entrepreneurs to expand access to customer databases and to generate mutually beneficial sales leads. While many entrepreneurs started a Joint Venture to combat the tiny marketing and advertising budget available, some of the millionaire entrepreneurs continue to use Joint Ventures even when a larger advertising budget becomes available. This means there are other benefits to working within a joint venture.

A joint venture may give you access to a wealth of ideas and a collaborative team spirit that can help you to take your own business to the next level. You can use the joint venture to gain credibility, data lists, and access to advertising. If you have a brilliant product idea, and are starting out your small business to sell your product, a joint venture with a respected company in the industry can help you to get your product out into the public sphere or into a new market.

Usually, a company will recommend your product, in return for a sales commission when you sell. This means you can enter a joint venture with no money upfront and no risk. Joint ventures can save you money as a solo entrepreneur and you may not need to borrow money from banks to advertise and market your product.

You need to make sure the joint venture is mutually beneficial, so negotiating a win-win situation with the company you are proposing to enter into a joint venture agreement is essential. Research is the most important first step in setting up a joint venture, as the right research will ensure you know the business you are planning to have as a partner. If you want to establish business credibility for your product, you need to be sure your business partner has the consumer credibility you want.

If you are entering a joint venture with a business offering a product or service, ensure the product is quality and suits your own company’s market list. A joint venture is reliant on trust. If you are recommending another company or product to your customers, you need to be sure that the company will deliver on the promises made; otherwise, your customers may leave you too.

When you are discussing a joint venture proposal with a prospective business, you need to clearly outline each partner’s responsibilities, roles, and the rules surrounding profit sharing within the joint venture.

Build a quality joint venture relationship based on trust, solid ethics, and mutual understanding. Your joint venture partnership may continue for many years, so put the effort into establishing and maintaining a trustworthy relationship with your new business partner.

A joint venture could save your small business, especially in this economic climate. Mutually beneficial joint ventures can make a big difference to your cash flow, credibility with customers, and building a reputation for delivering quality products.

Are You Ready for the Unexpected?

By Randall Orser | Small Business

business growth TNThere have been many events and disasters over the last decade that have highlighted the need for business continuity and basic planning to assist in incident management and business recovery following events that have threatened to end business operations for good. Events and incidents like severe weather, natural disasters, terrorist attack or even just sickness, theft and vandalism can have devastating effects on business operations, making effective plans for dealing with their occurrence an essential consideration for every modern business.

The business world is networked and intertwined, with business being done across borders, time zones and currencies. Every business is in some way reliant upon the people it employs, the environment it operates within and the customers and partners it deals with. It’s imperative then that every business understands the impact of all manner of potential situations.

For many, business continuity is not regarded as a core business consideration. It’s seen as a subject that’s intrinsically linked to catastrophic events like floods or storm damage, fire damage or even terrorism, but business continuity needs to cover a much wider consideration. For many, their business insurance is what they believe they will fall back on if such events occur, but in practice this will only seek to pay out to a business that has already suffered and had to recover. Insurance is almost always of use after-the-fact and it provides little in the way of instant reaction to restore business operations.

While it’s important to have a plan around how you would recommence or restore operations if your business was attacked, flooded or burned down, you also need to be able to consider the impact of such events on your business if they actually happened to another company or set of individuals.

How would your company cope with a crisis-hit key supplier or an outbreak of disease? What if your building became unsafe for any reason? Could you recover the situation and maintain normal operations? How would your business cope with a major power failure in the local area? Could you continue with operations if the telecoms and IT connection to the world was lost for any significant period of time? For most businesses, such events could spell disaster; such is the modern reliance on services like power, telecoms and IT. It’s therefore imperative that any business continuity planning your business undertakes is capable of providing a plan for each eventuality that your business believes could threaten it’s effectiveness or existence.

The importance of business continuity planning cannot be understated, especially in the modern age of interconnected business and IT. An event on the other side of the world could affect your business tomorrow and you need to be ready to react. Business continuity planning will never give you step by step instructions for every different risk that your business is exposed to, but it can help establish a broad set of preparatory steps and actions that you know will be effective in a number of situations allowing you to react to the particular event or situation much more quickly than if you had no plan at all.

You Must Include These 10 Essential Elements in Your Business Plan

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Business Plan Puzzle TNWriting a business plan can be a daunting experience for anyone who has never done it before but it needn’t be so. For most people it’s actually the thought of having their plan rejected by investors or the bank that makes them nervous about writing one. The very process of writing a business plan should be what gives you confidence that you either have a viable proposition or not.

By working your way towards a comprehensive business plan, you’ll answer most, if not all, of the questions that potential investors will ask. The key to success is in making sure you know what questions will be asked so you can have your answer and proposal ready.

A business plan is a document that you will use for a number of purposes. Primarily, it’s to record your idea and business proposal, but it’s also a tool to use to convince investors and stakeholders that you know what you’re doing and that they should trust you and your plan for the business.

There are therefore a number of key elements that any business plan will need to address. You can choose in which order they appear in your plan, but you should make sure you cover all of them.

The nature of your business

The first thing you’ll need to be able to do, even before you set pen to paper, is describe what your business is being set up to do. If it’s based upon a product or a service, can you describe that and can you say why your product or service has merit or is unique?

Your strategy and business aims

Describing what your business will do may be relatively easy, but ask yourself whether you can articulate the direction your business is heading in and what your aspirations are for the future. When laying out your business strategy, you will need to set it in the context of the market and environment around it, taking account of influencing factors and dependencies. Potential investors will want to know what you are planning for in the future, what the future direction of the business will be and ultimately what you intend to achieve.

The market

Every business sits within a market. Whether it’s your customer base or your competitors that represent your biggest challenge or opportunity, you need to be able to articulate where your business will sit and fit in the marketplace.

Your plan should discuss the sector that you will operate in, the demand for your product or service and where your business will sit in relation to customers and competitors. How strong are you or your products in comparison to those of the competition? Will you be able to carve out a market share? If so, how and why?

It’s vital to deal with how you will promote your business within your chosen market. Make sure you can describe what your marketing approach will be and that you demonstrate your understanding of routes to that market as well as areas for potential growth.

Revenue

From where will the business get its money? Not the investment money to get moving, but the day to day sales revenue, the life-blood of the business.

When discussing revenue in the plan, you should consider where the money will come from. Is it through sales of products and services or are you expecting to rely on some other earning stream? How much are you expecting to receive either annually, monthly or even weekly and what do you see the growth of revenue being over time?

To make your information easy to understand, use graphs and charts as well the more established accountancy table formats. This lets the reader see your estimations quickly without having to wade through text to get a feel for your overall forecast.

Cost Base

Before you can predict profit in any way based on the revenue you described, you will have to work out what it is going to cost you to run the business. Your business’s cost base is the normal expected cost of running the operation. It’s not about the amount of money you need to get started. You can cover that elsewhere in the plan.

Make sure you look at the cost of accommodation, salaries for any staff you may have, utilities costs and the costs of raw materials or goods you may be purchasing on a regular basis. Make sure you lay this information out in a way that can be easily understood and always check your assumptions.

If you are heavily reliant on manpower, make your staff levels clear and show how they will grow with time. It’s also a good idea to spend give a brief outline of the roles you envisage being needed and what skills they will require.

Investment

This is the amount of money, or capital, that your business will need injected into it to get off the ground or to expand. Potential investors will want to know how much money is needed and for how long you will need it. What is equally important, but often missed in business plans, is what you will do with that money and what impact you expect it to have on the business. Consider very carefully what you will do with the investment you are asking others to make and ask yourself if they will understand your strategy and agree with your approach.

You can also consider splitting the investment requirements to reflect what you need in the short term to achieve some initial goals and what you will need for the longer term to meet strategic aims. This gives investors an indication of your level of foresight and your ability to set long term, achievable goals for your business.

Profit and return on investment

If you are asking people or institutions to invest money in your business venture, you will have to be able to tell them what they will receive in return. At a basic level, this will be a description and an estimation of what returns you will give them for what will effectively be the loan of their money.

Examine payback periods, particularly for initial investments and be clear about how long you think it will be before the investment breaks even and starts to make money for you and the investors. If the main purpose of your business plan is to attract private investment, rather than banking facilities, you may want to consider mentioning what other methods might be possible for return on the investments made. This could include taking a share in the business or profit-taking after a set period for example.

Take your revenue and costbase estimations into account and forecast the profit levels your business might make over the period of your plan. Bear in mind that for new businesses, profits may not be available immediately and getting the business into a profitable state may take time. If this is the case for your business, try to be as clear as possible on how long this might take and on what it may depend.

Cashflow

Many a sound business has gone to the wall through cashflow problems. It’s one of the fundamental issues that faces every business and must be addressed in a business plan. If need be, get some help from an accountant to estimate cashflow and get advice on how to present it in your plan. If you try to produce a business plan that does not sufficiently address cashflow, it’s almost certain that you will be turned down for investment of any kind. The main points you will need to consider from an investor’s point of view will be the maximum cash exposure, so that you can see the maximum amount you are likely to be out of pocket at any point in time, and for how long will this exposure last.

Risk

Few businesses, if any, are risk free. If someone tells you they have a no-risk business proposition, it’s more than likely that they’re either lying or just haven’t considered where the risks actually lie. Don’t expect potential investors to fall for the no-risk argument. Think about the things that could impact your business. What are the factors or events that would cause your business to fail or be held back in some way? List them along with an indication of the probability of them actually occurring. Beside each risk describe actions that can be taken to mitigate the risk either completely or partially. Where these mitigation actions have costs, estimate them. You should also consider what you will do if the risk occurs. This is common project management practice and is known as the fallback position. Since launching or developing your business is a project, it makes sense to use project management techniques. Again, where these fallback actions have costs associated, state what they are.

Management capability and background

Lastly, investors will want to know who is running the business and what it is that makes them the right person to do so. If it’s you who will be running the business, include your resume, or CV, and explain why you are the right person with the right skills and experience. Investors will want to establish the credentials of whoever will be managing their investment.

There are lots of other elements of a business plan that help to ensure it’s a comprehensive document that shows your business proposition in the best light possible, but these ten are absolutely essential. If you cover these, you’ll be well on the way to having a plan that covers every point investors could want to query.

Automate Your Business to Grow!

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Business concept TNMention “business process automation” and for most people, it’s the complex IT systems of the bigger business establishments that first come to mind. Yet the smaller businesses, even the start-ups and home-based enterprises, can make use of and benefit from business process automation. Number Crunchers® is going through this process right now. We’re looking at how we can get more efficient and productive using automation with a web-based software called Infusionsoft.

What is Business Process Automation?

Business process automation refers to the use of technology and software applications in operating a business. It is the complete or partial automation of repetitive tasks and regular business processes so that labour is better utilized and costs are contained.

Tools to automate a business are aplenty: tools for accounting, inventory tracking, email marketing, order taking, customer relations, and many more. A good example is the automation of inbound calls to a company. Do you remember years ago when a telephone operator was a must for most firms? These days, callers interact with a voice response system that takes care of standard calls or inquiries and routes specific calls to the right person or department.

Benefits of Automating Your Home Business

Automation has become necessary for businesses of all types and sizes. Consider the following benefits you are bound to gain by automating your business processes:

  1. Business process automation will save you time.

If you are a one-person operation, you can be freed from handling the everyday routine tasks and devote your time instead towards marketing and growing your home business.

  1. Business process automation will cut down your costs.

By automating many of your processes, you can streamline your operations so you will not need to hire as many employees as you would if your operations were run manually.

  1. Business process automation will minimize errors.

Human errors can be costly and can lead to financial losses or poor customer service. Automated accounting systems, for instance, guarantee accuracy in computations, ensure timeliness of sending billing statements and improve the efficiency of your inventory management.

  1. Business process automation will help you manage information better.

As business owner, you need to be informed about all aspects of your business operation. With automation, information is sorted, classified, and ready for your retrieval anytime you need it.

  1. Business process automation will facilitate communication.

With correct and timely information, you get to know exactly what your customers want. You can communicate directly with your customers to address their needs or resolve their problem with your product or service.

How You Can Automate Your Home Business

If you are not yet sure which of your business processes to automate and what automation tools to use, you may want to take stock of your various business processes and learn which can be automated. Make sure to break them down where needed so you can decide on the appropriate software or application.

Take for example your marketing process. You can break it down to the following tasks: generating leads, distributing marketing materials, sending out sales letters, following up on leads, conducting surveys, and gathering feedback. For lead generation, you can design your website to include a subscription form or an opt-in box where visitors can submit their contact information. The pooled data go to your mailing list, which you then feed to your email auto responder that will in turn generate automatic responses to the email inquiries or send out pre-scheduled messages, newsletters, or sales pitches to those in your customers’ list.

With the right apps on your website, you can engage in e-commerce and run your online store where everything is automated from the order taking to receipt of payment and processing of shipment. If you have affiliates or if you advertise on other websites, you can also monitor their performance using a tracking system. Your accounting system can incorporate bookkeeping, invoicing, inventory management, payroll, voucher preparation, and so forth.

In the end, it is a matter of identifying the unique needs of your business and choosing the appropriate business process automation tools. Depending on your budget and the degree of automation that you want, you can hire an IT professional to develop an automated system for you or you can purchase one of the many canned programs that are readily available. A few solutions that you can download for free are available if your needs are simple and your volume is low.

Tough Luck, You’re Not Going to Get Rich Quickly in Your New Business

By Randall Orser | Small Business

revamping-TNIn starting up your own business there are some things you must do if you want to succeed. If you go through these steps and decide at the end of it that you are not ready, you have saved yourself a lot of money and frustration. On the other hand, if you have all these answers and are still keen, you have a much better chance of making it work. There are a lot of people, self-help books and websites out there to assist.

The Business

  • Decide exactly what your business is to do. Are you selling products? Services? Consulting? Advisory? Buying? Define it in ten words or less. Then define your objective within ten words, e.g. ‘Be a world-leading producer of top class music recordings’. This is where your dream gets expressed and you should imagine the best results that you can.
  • What skills, qualifications and work experience do you bring to the business?   Having work experience in another business of the same type will give you a good start and enhance your chances of success. It will also inspire more confidence in your investors or bank that you know what you are doing.
  • Prepare your Business Plan. This includes everything about how you intend to achieve the objective. It is how you will make money with your business and how much over how long a period. It states how you are going to set the business up and what you will need to use (people, money, materials, time, machinery, etc), what risks you anticipate, what hurdles must be surmounted, and your best estimate of how much money you expect the business to spend and to bring in over the course of one, two, and three years. This is important for deciding a lot of these details for yourself but, if you wish to borrow money, a lender will also want a copy. It is proof that you have thought it through thoroughly and that it is feasible to expect to end up with more in receipts than payments. Wherever possible use lists to keep things succinct. Even if you think you are ‘no good at numbers’ you still need a plan. Just get on with writing down all the things you have worked out in your head or get help, but don’t just skip over it. The bank might be able to give you a template, or you could find one with a bit of research in the library or on the Internet.
  • You also need to put thought into ‘what if I succeed?’ What if the business is still running well next year? In five years? Are there any ongoing costs to take into account, e.g. maintenance or equipment replacement? A fun one is ‘what if I am a raging success?’, but it’s worth a thought about ‘get more staff, move premises, acquire more equipment’ or whatever would be needed if you got more work than you could handle. It will uncover any areas where a trap might loom.
  • If you’re going to be selling things, how are you going to buy or make whatever you will sell? If you are buying anything in, you will need a plan for purchasing, transport, quality control, delivery, payment, and storage. If you are making things, your supply plan will include raw materials and equipment and you will need a quality management plan. Don’t forget the insurance and maintenance plans for the equipment. You will also need a contingency plan; what if you can’t get your supplies or your equipment doesn’t arrive in time? There is a wealth of valuable advice available relating to supply, stock management, and storage (warehousing) that is worth looking at before you decide to jump in.
  • Are you hiring anyone? It is a good idea to already have 6-12 months wages in the bank. There are rules and regulations about hiring (and firing) and about maintaining a safe and healthy working environment, e.g. some jurisdictions require display of the Health & Safety Regulations in the workplace. You need to understand these requirements and be able to comply.
  • If you want a limited liability company, you will need to get your lawyer or accountant to set it up for you. Be prepared – a registered company has legal obligations, such as filing annual accounts with the Companies House. This will need an accountant and must be included in your budget. You are also obliged to keep accounts – a strict record of what goes out and what comes in. There are a number of small business accounting software packages on the market. It’s worth asking your accountant if he/she has a recommendation. For example, if they use software that will only need your backup copy for the accountant to do the annual accounts, it will save you a lot of time and hassle. But you will need to use that particular software to be able to do it that way.

Finances

  • You need money to start with. Where’s it coming from? Do you have enough savings, are you borrowing from the bank, or is someone else investing? How much money is enough is very dependent on what you are planning to do. If you can cover your first year of operation you are in a very good position, provided you expect to make more money during that time. If you are planning to borrow, you need to know exactly how much you require and how long you think it will take to repay. The lender will need to be convinced that you can make your proposed business idea work and have researched it and identified your market.
  • What’s your budget?   What income do you expect and what do you expect to pay out? Don’t forget the overheads like phone, broadband, rent, rates, electricity, water, cleaner, window cleaner, gardener, etc. You will need to include (and earn) some money to pay yourself a living wage, so this goes into the budget as well. Some banks offer a ‘new business’ package, which includes guidance on keeping your accounts. Break down the budget so you know how much income per month you need to earn in order to keep your head above water. It is also useful to develop a payments plan at the same time. This uses the same information as the budget but lists the payments that you expect to make each month. This will show the effect of the quarterly and annual payments on your bank balance and whether you will need to negotiate an overdraft facility to cover any difficult spots.
  • Who is going to do your accounts? You will need an accountant for the annual returns but what about the day-to-day bookkeeping? Some businesses simply record and collect all receipts and payments and hand the records to the accountant who then provides financial reports. Some hire a part-time bookkeeper that comes in once or more times a week just to do the bookkeeping. You can do it yourself and be more on top of the numbers, but the time you spend doing it is time spent away from earning money and doing the job that you love doing. A daily update of a small business accounting package is not hard, however, and will save you money if you can do it easily yourself.

Marketing

  • Research your market. Are there enough people who want to buy what you are selling? Will they come back again or could you run out of customers in a year or two? Who are your likely customers – young people, middle-aged men, elderly folk, and other small businesses? The answers to these questions belong in your Marketing Plan along with the answers to the next question. This is another useful document for the bank, as part of your Business Plan.
  • Why should people buy what you are selling? Is it something they need (like care services, chiropractic services or shoes)? Is it the best quality on the market? Is it the only blue one in the world? You need to identify what makes your product or service special. This is your Unique Selling Point (or ‘USP’) and should be a part of any advertising you do.
  • What is your plan for telling the world about your business? People will not come through the door unless they know it’s there. Review every option you can find. Are you going to use Internet marketing? Are other people recommending you? If you are planning on an advertising campaign, it is very important to know how much it will cost, before you commit to it. Having identified your market (above), where will those people see your advertisement? Watch out for con artists who tell you they can earn you millions of pounds over the Internet with their ‘special software’ or similar. If you don’t understand exactly how it will work, you probably don’t want to get involved, however attractive the £ signs might appear. There are exceptions but, as a general rule, you should be able to approve a copy of any advertising or directory entries before you pay anything.
  • Do you need a venue? If so, is it easy to access? Do you need a spot where you will get ‘passing trade’ (people walking past the door)? If passing trade is important then location is critical. It is usually a plus if there are other similar businesses close by as people will come looking in that area for what you offer. You also need to assess how ready the space is for starting business. Does it have all the necessary amenities? (e.g. Toilets for you and staff, sink with drinking water, facility for making tea/coffee, security locks, Fire Exit signs, power supplies for equipment). Check the insurance cost and what the rates will be. If customers will be visiting, your venue needs to feel welcoming – clean, light, comfortable, smart and business-like. Don’t overdo the smells. A clean smell is good but strong bleach is off-putting. Incense and other fragrances can trigger allergies in some people, which might stop them at your door.

Once you’ve started…

  • Keep your personal money and the business accounts totally separate. You may have to lend money to the business to get it going. Make sure it is properly recorded in the accounts as a loan. It is a debt that the business owes you and can pay back without you having to pay extra taxes on it. But this will only be if you have properly recorded it and kept everything separate. There is no such thing as ‘just taking that back out of the cash box’. If you have a limited liability company, the law requires you to regard the business as a totally separate thing – like another person. Anything that passes from it to you will be wages, ‘director’s emoluments’, loans or ‘drawings’. If in doubt, don’t touch and consult your accountant.
  • Update your accounts regularly. Once a day is excellent, once a week is good, once a month is rarely enough.   The further in the past things are, the harder they are to remember or track down. Doing the bookkeeping frequently will make it easy. It also means you are very much in touch with how your business is doing and can address problems before they become too big.
  • Keep an eye on whether you are making money or losing it. From month to month the figures will vary but you must know if your plan is working out in reality and identify any issues that can be corrected. If the numbers show that more is going out than is coming in, you will need to increase the income and/or decrease the outgoings to stay in business. A monthly review is usually sufficient to know what’s happening and soon enough to apply remedial measures. This is another important reason for keeping the accounts up-to-date. Badly maintained records increase the chances of an expensive mistake.
  • Step back and take an overview that is as objective as you can make it. A monthly review of how close you are to your objective should keep you on track, e.g. ‘How close am I to being a world leading producer of music recordings? It means that you have worked out how to measure the activities in your objective and are keeping tabs on it. If your objective has ‘quality’ in it somewhere, do you have someone else measuring the quality? Are you getting reviews on it on your website? Are they good or bad? Are you 5-star or ‘no comment’? If you want to be world leading, which magazine should be talking about you?   This review should tell you if you are out of focus or if you should really be producing boots instead of shoes because you do that better and like it better.
  • Keep a notebook. Write down everything that happens – receipts, payments, and agreements with people, phone queries that you make, decisions you make. You will have what you need when you have to check up on ‘what did I say?’, ‘the tax people told me something about this’, or ‘I didn’t agree to that, did I?’ Also, it is a reference point when you are doing the weekly accounts and need to clarify something. Don’t duplicate effort and let the receipt book be the receipts record, but have everything recorded somewhere. Using your memory is unreliable and clutters it up when you need to be focussed on the job.
  • It’s sad, but you can’t expect business colleagues or contacts to be your friend. They are in it for the business and will be very nice to you but don’t try borrowing money from them or expect them to hang around waiting for money you should have paid them. The basic rule is to keep your personal life quite separate from business. It’s what everyone else is doing, so you need to understand it and fit into the flow. If you get a ‘nasty’ letter, don’t let it upset you, just see it as someone ‘doing business’. Getting advice before you respond could also prevent you making a mistake based on an emotional reaction.
  • Similarly, you shouldn’t accept poor service or low quality just because you want to ‘be nice’.   It’s not doing anyone a favour to let them sell you something that’s not fair value. Some people will try to sell you nothing for something and it’s to their benefit as well as yours to just not play that game. You can be nice as you do it, but people will respect you more for being firm about what you want.
  • Market, market, market. If people don’t know you are there, how will you get business? There are a lot of companies that will help you with marketing (for a price) but there are many things you can do for yourself. Prepare a professional-looking website and a brochure that can be handed out or posted. A website won’t be enough by itself – what prompts people to look at it? Where would you expect to see your sort of service and what are other people doing? Get some professional photographs of what you sell and put them on the website and into your brochure. Where will you advertise? The local Chamber of Commerce may have advice or there are a number of government or local council initiatives that could assist.   Look at other opportunities e.g. fairs, a display case, magazine advertising, local papers, brochures in the local hairdressers, or a notice up in the library.
  • Look smart. A tunic or apron is appropriate for some jobs but in any event you need to look well cared-for and as though you are successful at what you do.   Clothes must look clean and tidy. Holes in jeans may be the ultimate fashion at the time, but not many customers would be impressed by it. Make sure your hands and nails are clean, keep a nailbrush on the hand basin and use it. If you work with your hands and keeping them clean is impossible on the job, wash them thoroughly before you are in front of customers.
  • Celebrate your successes and see mistakes as challenges and opportunities to know how to get it right next time, when it might be more important. There will be times when it looks too hard, but it gets easier if you can look back to your high points.
  • Pay all the right taxes. Don’t pay any more than you should, but don’t try to cheat. Cheating is not smart because (a) you’ll get caught and it will be far more expensive than paying the right amount in the first place would have been, and (b) it takes you off-focus for succeeding at what you do best and want to do in your business.   If you’re paying taxes, you must be earning money. The UK government Revenue and Customs website has a lot of very helpful information about what you can claim as expenses when you are self-employed and they provide free training courses.

And – tough luck – don’t expect to get rich quickly. It’s more about doing something you love doing and being your own boss while you do it. You might get rich if you do whatever it is very well. The more you believe in it, and the more you work towards doing well, the more likely you are to succeed.

 

Before You Even Start Your Business You Need to Ask These 4 Questions

By Randall Orser | Small Business

business strategy on a wall and running businessman TNIn light of the past economic recession, when companies all over the country are downsizing and finding a good job is next to impossible, millions of people have taken to starting their own businesses and are hoping to earn a considerable income through their own efforts. While many individuals have succeeded as small business owners, some were met with failure simply because of inadequate planning. The truth is that starting a new business takes a lot of time and effort; you need to consider certain factors before launching a business. If you’re toying with a business idea you think is going to be a hit, ask yourself a few questions before you take the plunge into the business world.

Do you have time to run your business?

So many people mistakenly assume that just because they will be running their business from home, it means they will have a lot of free time on their hands. On the contrary, quite the opposite is true. Most home-based business owners need to work a lot more and a lot harder to match the income they used to make when they were working in a traditional office. This is particularly true during the first few months of running the business. Once your business has taken off, however, you may be able to relax a bit and work less hours. Before this happens, you will probably have to work extra long hours, so that’s an important factor you have to consider.

Are you qualified?

Quite often, people think they have a brilliant business idea and find out too late they aren’t qualified to offer that particular service. Let’s assume you’re a mom of four and you’ve just started a business that involves child care. Being a mother of four, you’re quite confident in your capabilities in this field. Your potential clients, however, are likely going to look for an individual who is not only experienced but certified in child care as well. In this case, you will have to get the certification or come up with another business idea where your skills will be put to better use.

Do you have room for your business?

Many home businesses start out small. Once your business takes off, however, you may find yourself in need of bigger space for your supplies or your products. Unless you have extra space in your home (e.g., a spare room or garage), you may soon have to expand outside by renting storage space, which is obviously an additional expense. If you don’t want to deal with such problems, think ahead when you are still in the business planning stage

Are you financially capable of running the business?

Money is one of the most significant factors you have to consider before starting a business. Many people underestimate the costs required to set up a business. Even if they take out a loan, sometimes it isn’t enough to cover all the initial expenses. To avoid these hassles and to increase your chances of business success, plan your finances thoroughly.

Business Insurance Just Might Save Your A$$!

By Randall Orser | Small Business

broken piggy bank TNBusiness insurance is essentially a requirement for all businesses. The benefits of business insurance definitely outweigh the costs, and it is worth paying for whether it is a corporation or a small business. Business insurance does cost money, and there will likely be some annual or monthly fees for the service, but the cost is still small compared to the amount that the business would have to pay if there were a costly lawsuit. The main reason why business insurance is necessary is because it protects the business from liabilities like theft, vandalism, lawsuits, storms, fires, and more. Going without business insurance will expose the company to a lot of liability and potentially cause the company to haemorrhage money if and when something happens.

What is business insurance?

Business insurance is like any other type of insurance, and the only difference is that it is designed to protect businesses. Business insurance is different depending on the business, their needs, and the insurance provider, but it can include things like property insurance, auto insurance, workers compensation coverage, and general liability insurance. Business insurance is designed to protect the business in the event that something damages the building, their products, equipment, employees, or even customers.

Why do you need business insurance?

All businesses need business insurance whether they are large corporations or small businesses. It is generally not required in most provinces and many start-up and home businesses may not have any insurance in the beginning. Since business insurance does cost money, some entrepreneurs will forgo getting insurance until they have become profitable, and that is understandable. However, it is important that they obtain a good insurance policy shortly after they start because any type of disaster could cost them thousands or even millions of dollars in damages. For example, if a new store opened without business insurance and a customer slipped and fell on the floor, they could be sued for thousands or even millions of dollars for an injury. If the store had business insurance, then they would be protected and they would only have to pay the insurance costs as opposed to all of the money for the damages since the insurance company would resolve the matter.

Since there are other types of business insurance, they still provide protection for a number of scenarios. General liability insurance and property insurance helps provide coverage for fires, thefts, natural disasters, accidents, and etc. Workers compensation insurance is designed to provide protection for the business if an employee makes a workers compensation claim or if they try to sue the company. There is product liability insurance. Product liability insurance is available for companies that make products and it protects them in case a product is defective or injures someone. Auto insurance can protect all of the company vehicles and provide coverage if a car is damaged by another party or if an employee gets into an accident or damages a vehicle.

Business insurance may actually be required for certain types of business depending on the province. Some provinces may require medical related businesses such as hospitals and doctors offices to carry malpractice insurance in case a patient gets injured. Many financial businesses such as investment firms, banks, and credit unions are required to have a certain type of insurance policy as well. Umbrella insurance is also available as a package deal of sorts because it combines all of the different types of coverage into one policy. A business can work with an insurance company to create a policy that will fit all of their needs and include different types of coverage.

How to save money on business insurance

Business insurance costs can change due to a number of factors, so there are some ways to reduce costs. The first thing that businesses should do is compare quotes across the board and meet with different insurance providers to get the best rates. Try to negotiate with them and make sure that all of your needs are met in the policy that you create because you are not obligated to accept a standard policy. Sometimes a business can reduce their insurance rates by increasing their credit rating and just improving their standing as a legitimate business by signing up with the chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau. Generally, with most policies if the business gets a low deductible there will be a high premium and if they get a high deductible there will be a low premium. Take some time to look around and never accept the first offer.

The benefits of insurance does outweigh the costs because the costs of lawsuits, natural disasters, or a fire could be so devastating that the company may close down altogether if they cannot afford to pay the entire bill on their own. In this day and age, business insurance is really a necessity, and it is just part of the cost of doing business.

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