Five Things You Need To Remember Before Starting a Small Business


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Everyone knows someone who has decided to go into small business but did you know that 70% of all small businesses fail within the first 12 months of operation. In some countries that failure rate is as high as 85 to 90%. Small Business is one of the toughest industries you can ever decide to take on and most people who go into small business go into it for the wrong reason.

I have started 4 small businesses over the last 10 years and every single one of them has been started from scratch and survived into a thriving business. Just recently I have decided to sell one of the businesses off cause it had done what I expected it to do which is the first issue you need to think about.

Issue 1. Have a Clear Understanding of What You Want To Achieve In Your Business

The majority of people, who actually go into business, go into it for the wrong reasons. Even I have been guilty of that. So what is this wrong reason, most people start a small business because they believe they can do a better job then their current boss. Maybe this is true, maybe it is not but what most people really want is better working conditions and better pay. No one can blame you for wanting that. If that is all you want, then I strongly suggest you stay away from small business.

One of the key issues you must remember before evening thinking about starting a small business is this. Do you know what your business will look like? If you were walking down the street, how would you want to be found? What impression do you want to give to your clients? What clearly do you what to achieve in this business?

The second clear understanding you must have of your business is, when will you know when it is finished? When you have built what you want to achieve and more importantly, how will you get out?

See most people when they go into business have no exit strategy and that is one of the worst things you can do. Before you ever start a business, the first thing you must work out is how you are going to get out of the business.

Two years ago, I started a small car cleaning business. My wife and I both started it because she wanted to see if she could build a business. Our exit strategy was to sell the business once it was done. How we would sell it was something we were not sure of?

See we could have taken a number of approaches to this. Our exit strategy could have been to franchise the business, sell it to a single owner or to float it on the stock market. We chose that we only wanted to sell it to another owner, but we still built the business in such a way that there was still plenty of growth and opportunity in the business for the new owner, but we had removed the risk for them on how to run the business by clearly documenting everything they needed to do to run that business.

Before ever starting a business, always think about how you will exit the business, when you have achieved your objective for that business. If you do not have an exit strategy in mind, then you will never get out of the business.

Issue 2. Keep a Strict Schedule

Small business is consuming. Unlike in large corporations where you can hire many people to do a range of tasks, small business requires the small business owner to do many of the tasks themselves. Some of the tasks include doing your books, lodging trademarks, doing the ordering etc. Often when you start in small business, you can not afford to hire people to do these tasks.

What I have personally found is that if you do not keep a tight schedule and document your meetings and tasks you have to do then it will not take very long before you will be swamped by all the things you have to do in the business every day. It is this phenomenon that often leads small business owners to quit and fail in the first twelve months. Let me tell you this, the warning signs that this is starting is when you say to your wife on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon that you are going down to the office to catch up on paperwork for a few hours. Once you get into this habit, you will never stop doing it and the business will consume you really quickly.

I strongly recommend all small business owners keep a diary. My preference is to use Microsoft Outlook, simply because it includes a calendar and you can make sure that each day you schedule your work plus your appointments to make sure you do not forget anything. If you do this, then you will find over time you can get through this plus you will learn how long it should take to do the various jobs that make up your business and whether it is worthwhile in getting someone to actually do those tasks for you.

Issue 3. Build Your Own Mastermind Group

I read a book a little while ago called Think and Grow Rich and is written by a gentleman called Napoleon Hill and he talks about the thirteen secrets to success and obscene wealth. One of the things that I learned both from this book and being a small business owner was that I needed a Mastermind Group.

The Mastermind Group is simply a group of professionals who can help me achieve my objectives for my business. Literally anyone can be part of your mastermind group and some of those would be people like a lawyer, an accountant and other people like your peers who can help you in building your business but it may also include people who are not in business as well to help you keep that balance. The Mastermind Group are really those people you turn to for advice and direction. You do not necessarily have to take their advice but a good mastermind group will allow you run through scenarios on what is happening and the potential outcomes.

Issue 4. Have one night when you do something on your own for you!

One of the big issues that I have had over the last ten years is that I have not been doing every single week is something on my own but I say that I am in the process of changing that. Often when you start in business, with the excitement of building your own business you get so consumed that you forget about a life outside of your business and your business becomes your life.

This is really not a good thing nor is it healthy. Even multi-billionaires do things for themselves outside of business. Look do not get me wrong, business is fantastic and fun and can be both enjoyable and a nightmare however there are other things out there outside of business.

When you start a small business, do not neglect your sports, do not neglect doing something social, if you do, in the long run you will find that you business suffers. Plus, in small business it is very easy to become bitter and twisted but by maintaining those none business activities it will help you to balance your life.

Issue 5. Don’t neglect Your Partner or your Family

I would love to see the divorce statistics for small business owner’s because I am quite sure that the divorce rate in small business would have to be about 70 or 80%. The majority of married couples (and I am talking about 90% of the small business people I Know) that I know who have gone into small business in their 30’s have actually been divorced within 18 months of them starting the business.

Look there are lots of reasons why this happens, but in a lot of the cases, the partner who has gone into business neglects their family and money gets tight. In the partners case it is not their fault it is simply because the person gets consumed into the business and they forget they have a life outside of the business.

If you have a family, make sure that you do at least one activity a week as a family. Whether it is having a family night at home such as a video night or games night, or even just going to the park to play once a week, make sure that you do it. PLUS, you must ensure that at least one night a week must be for just you and your partner. If you do not do that your marriage or relationship will suffer.

One thing I share with all the people who come through our training business is that if you want to go into business that is cool but you must be prepared to accept two things –

1. You must be prepared to start from scratch if your business does not work
that is you must be prepared to start with just the shirt on your back.

2. You must have 100% support of your partner and family

If you cannot accept these two things, then do not go into business because too many people who I see that start on this journey fail and end up miserable and have such a downward spiral which leads them to doing something silly, like take up drinking, drugs or try to commit suicide. Remember, 70% of all small businesses fail within the first 12 months. If you were a betting man would you back something that only had a 30% chance of winning, not likely, yet people still go into small business.

The bottom line is this, small business can be the most awesome ride of your life, but it can be also the most difficult and when you choose to go into small business, take your time and plan what you want to achieve. Remember the old saying if your Fail to Plan, you Plan to Fail.

Starting Up a Small Business Concerns

Volatility

In a previous article I dug a bit deeper into small business volatility but it is worth mentioning again especially in the context of getting a business started. Small business exists because large business has carved out a method to meeting the needs that doesn’t reach everyone in a market place. In other words small business is small business because large business has deemed the pursuit of such market places not worth the effort. Large businesses seek opportunities that exist in well-established mature markets. These would be markets that yield smaller margins but are also less volatile. Consequently this leaves the more dynamic and volatile markets for the small businesses. This is part of why small businesses don’t last long, they compete in an ever changing market place.

So, what does this mean for you? It means that the opportunities that will exist for you and the business you aspire to open will be opportunities that require quality and custom solutions quickly. This also means there will be a good deal of work involved in order to gain market share for you niche. Abandon any idea of providing a single product or service, you will need to diversify your products/service, customers, and possibly industries. To combat the ebb and flow of the small market place you will need diversify all aspects of your company.

Alignment

Ok, now that you understand a little about the realities of the small business market place the next thing to look into is how well your potential business aligns with who you are. In the beginning stages of a business the founder is the business and the business is the founder. To offer the most value the business should be the embodiment of you and you should be the embodiment of the business. The realization of a single opportunity should not be the only deciding metric for starting a business. As an example; A few years ago I had the opportunity to start a frozen yogurt shop in my town that would have been modeled after a profitable model that was doing well in other cities. I did my homework and found that for $40,000.00 I could have everything I needed to open the doors and start selling yogurt. I decided against it for two reasons, 1. I live in a four season’s area and I did not want to have a feast or famine demand and 2. I am not that crazy about yogurt. Now, the opportunity was there, and since then many of these shops have opened, but I didn’t want to invest 80 hours a week into a frozen yogurt business.

Market Positioning

So you have an idea that aligns with who you are, and you have come to understand the nature of the small business market place, how are you going to position your product or service? How are you going to meet the needs of the customer? The answer is somewhat laid out above, but because of the nature of the small business market place you will need to become a high quality, quick turnaround company. Small businesses have the advantage in small volume custom areas. Your competitive advantage will be your ability to cater to the specific needs of your customer. As a small business you have no business competing on price.

Margin

You are your business, and chances are you do not have much capital behind you. This means that achieving a positive cash flow situation as quickly as possible is key. Cash is king and without it you don’t have a business. The upside is small volume high quality work demands top dollar. That’s right, by being a small business you are competing in a large margin arena. The mark up on your products and services can and should be high. The market will let you know when you are too far out of range, but a healthy profit margin is to be expected with small businesses. Individuals that fail to understand this begin to lower their prices in hopes of gaining some sales but what they don’t realize is they are diluting the market and putting themselves out of business. So, don’t be afraid to charge for your work!
Growth Strategy

The last thing I will mention for those looking to start a small business is that a growth strategy is imperative. You need to have an idea of where you are going if you ever expect to make it as a business owner. By nature small businesses should only remain small for a while, if you company is not growing it is dying. Markets mature, customer needs mature, and guess what… your business should also be maturing. Knowing where your business is headed will allow you to take the appropriate measures today to set up for tomorrow’s market. A growth strategy can be vague. You don’t need to define every variable, but you should use your intuition to determine where you should position your company.

If you are planning on starting a small business understand it is a lot of hard work and there are no rules. There is no one telling you what to and not to do, you will be responsible for your success or your failure. You must be persistent and willing to invest more of yourself than the next guy in line. If it were easy everyone would do it, but because it is demanding there are only a few to compete with.

Small Business CRM Is Here To Stay

If you ask most small business owners what priority CRM has in their short-term business plans, chances are you’ll get more than one blank stare. The fact is that most small business owners don’t even know what CRM is not to mention how significantly it can benefit their growing company. This prevailing ignorance of small business CRM (customer relationship management) usually stems from just a few basic causes.

Excuses not to invest in small business CRM

The first and most common reason for disinterest in small business CRM is the very nature of small business. With limited financial and personnel resources at their disposal, business owners believe they can’t afford the money or time that a small business CRM system would require to show a significant ROI. Often times the chief concern is just staying afloat long enough to sign that big contract or receive a large product order.

Still other owners of new businesses believe that they can build and maintain quality customer relations simply by the virtue of the their cordial personality or particular market niche. They see small business CRM as an unessential luxury to be enjoyed exclusively by their larger competitors. What these owners often find is that without sufficient small business CRM support their business will never expand beyond the number of customer names they can remember. The problem is compounded when the company expands into internet sales (an essential move by any growing company) and suddenly finds its present customer tracking system overwhelmed by the sheer amount of incoming customer information.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line, as all successful small business owners have learned, is that it takes more than one good idea to build long-term business growth and stability. You may be great at attracting new customers to your business, but if you fail to care for, track, and understand your customer base, not only will you hemorrhage your hard-won clientele, you will also fail to capitalize on future opportunities by not anticipating future market trends.

The Solution

The good news about small business CRM is that there is an increasing number of automated systems available at prices that most smaller companies can afford without too much difficulty, usually around $2000 a year. Some CRM companies, effectively eliminating the need for small business owners to micromanage their CRM system, largely manage newer small business CRM systems. Now small business owners can reap the benefits of a smooth running CRM system with a minimal time/financial investment.

Features to look for in a small business CRM system
There are many features available to small business CRM users designed to not only track sales, but also cause sales. Here are some features to look for.

· Power Dialing-This feature allows your outbound sales agents to place 300%-400% as many sales calls, effectively quadrupling your workforce.

· Voice Messaging System-Allows you to automatically record and send sales calls designed to elicit a customer call back.

· Custom Fax and Email-Following up on leads with timely fax and email can mean the difference between closing sales and missing out on potential revenue.

Other ‘must-have’ features include:

· Calendaring

· Marketing management

· Sales management

· Order and quote management

· Service management

With the ability to outsource these business functions, small business owners can concentrate on implementing strategies that they’ve had to hold off on due to lack of customer information and/or time.