Small Business 101
The way the world does business has changed.
New businesses are sprouting up overnight with the influx of brilliant ideas from a bevy of resourceful minds, scaling revenue models that were not even envisioned, eventually guided by wise investors and thus laying the foundation for the spurt in small businesses.
The point is, every John Doe out there has an idea in the shower that he thinks is worth millions. But how to get going on that million-dollar idea is a whole other ball game.
What we have here for you is a quick yet informative guide on how to start your business.
Plan your business
This does not have to be an elaborate process but it’s important to jot down your business goal, action steps, financial planning and strategy. This stage of business planning with financial process is more crucial than your business itself. Planning your business has to be a continuous process and not just at the time of starting up. It’s important to keep reviewing those figures and the goal so that the vision is always in sight. Moreover, this document becomes even more important at the time of funding.
Choose a business structure
The type of business structure you choose will depend on three primary factors: liability, taxation, and record keeping. Most small business owners begin their commercial life as a sole proprietor because it’s the easiest way to get started. Sure, you are entitled to all the profits of your business but also responsible for all its debts, losses and liabilities.
Choose the right brand name
Since your business name is often the first thing potential customers will see or hear, think of it as one of your key tools for leaving a lasting impression. The right name, plays a big role in your brand’s perception. So make sure it’s strong, catchy, and unique, but most importantly sends the right message about your business.
When starting out – set up a separate business bank account from day one. If you don’t know your cash flow, you’ll never be able to really understand how your business is doing. When looking for funding, the first thing asked for is after your business is your financial records. So, be meticulous.
All business no matter how young or old it is requires licenses and permits do your due deligience and find out from your lawyer or accountant the practices followed and protect your business right from the start. You don’t want to be stuck in a paper mess when your business is booming.
Once you are legally covered, look around your business – be it your store, your employees or your warehouse and get it insured so that it covers you should you be exposed to any kind of risk or natural hazard. It’s a small price to pay with big returns when you need it.
Location & Visibility
Who are your customers? Get to know this well and choose a location that is easy for them to see you and visit you. If you’re an online portal, the best way to get seen is to optimise your website content so that you show up first when someone is looking.
The element of design
People are visual creatures. A clear, consistent design will ensure that you attract your ideal customer into your business by delivering a subconscious uniform message.
Equipment & Technology
Explore what is out there – there are high-quality, affordable technologies that are specifically geared towards helping small, local businesses owners improve the day-to-day operations. This includes point of sale systems, tax software, bookkeeping software, employee scheduling and payroll programs, inventory tracking tools, customer loyalty programs, gift card technology, e-commerce opportunities, website builders, email marketing software, social media management tools, and the list goes on.
Product Mix & Inventory
Now that your business is up and running, mix it up a bit. Get new products in, add more to your profile and mostly make sure your stocks are always in check. Be fair on pricing and give this a good thought before putting it up there. It is significantly easier to lower prices than to raise them, so start high. Competing on price is a race to the bottom that is only ever won by those who can ship the biggest volume. The way to win in small business is to compete on value, originality and personality – never on price.
Employee & Customer
Your staff are your direct interface with customers. Choose quality over quantity. Compensate fairly and add perks that encourage them to boost your business for you. Spend time training your staff and mostly make sure they believe in your product as much as you do. Keep an eye on managing the paperwork involved in hiring employees like insurance, employee benefits etc.
Most small businesses tend to neglect marketing as it comes with a price and sometimes the ROI is not quite clear. However, marketing has changed. Tools now exist that can help track customer relationships from an ad placed on Google, right through to a successful sale. This offers small business owners a unique chance to be entirely data-driven in their marketing approach. Every single aspect of your small business can be tweaked and optimized to ensure that you are enticing customers, up selling where possible, and encouraging people to spread the word about your business.
Don’t get complacent in the small business rut. Push the boundaries, go online. These days if you are not online, you don’t exist. Go back to your business plan and do a SWOT analysis The successful small business owner is always looking for the incremental improvements in their business that when added up, make all the difference.
The key to running a successful business is having clear processes written down, promoting from within wherever possible, and remaining open to change. You’ll want to balance your desire to educate your manager on how to manage your business with an openness to feedback and new ways of doing things. You’ll also want to take advantage of the technology available to keep you abreast of things like real-time sales data for all your locations, no matter where you are.
Managing the business on your fingertips was never so easy!