Tips for Getting (and Keeping) Your Small Business Off the Ground

Being a manager, business owner, and business coach/consultant for the past thirty five years has taught me a lot! Starting up and maintaining a business is a challenge, even for many seasoned entrepreneurs, which is why the majority of businesses fail in their first year. Challenging…but possible with the right tools.

For all you current (and future) business owners out there, here are some tips to help you successfully launch and maintain your business:

1. Search diligently for ways to keep your costs down. 

Simply put, you need more cash coming in than going out—especially when you are starting out. With all of the excitement, it can be tempting to outfit your business with new, top of the line equipment. After all, you want to impress customers (or investors), right? It is possible to purchase quality equipment, supplies, furniture and other items without having to pay retail. For example, consider looking for gently used furniture or refurbished or “open box” electronics or supplies to save some green. You can also offer to pay up front if a vendor is willing to negotiate the price. Take advantage of bartering programs when available to offer your product or service in exchange for a product/service you need.

2. Cater products/services to your buyer. 

Many times people start a business based on what they think is a good product, not what the market has an appetite for. Focus on a general demand and create a niche product or service within it.  It’s better to have a small slice of a large pie than to have a large slice of nothing!

3. Get the cash flowing immediately. 

That part is obvious, but accomplishing it is a little more tricky. Depending on your business, you will want to look for ways to charge up front. For example, if you provide a professional service, bill for deposits at the beginning of the project or service. For retail, follow the same approach, especially for high-end or specialty products. Consider it “added value” to guarantee delivery by a certain date. Also, think about creating private labels for generic items or ongoing programs where customers pay monthly or consistently up front for continuing products or services.

4. Err on the side of caution with your estimations. 

When you are planning and hammering out your monthly budget, estimate your expenses to be higher than expected (by at least 25%) and revenue to be lower than expected.  This doesn’t mean that you need to lower the bar on your expectations; it just helps you prepare for lean months.

5. Focus on your sales and marketing from the get go. 

You need leads to get sales, and for leads you’ll want to have solid sales and marketing plans in place. Not finished working on your brand? Doesn’t matter. Most business owners can’t afford to wait until they have perfected branding to start reaching out to potential customers.

6. Invest in a professional looking website. 

This tip piggy-backs on the previous tip. The world has gone digital. Nowadays, potential customers don’t necessarily follow the traditional sales funnel where they contact or visit you, ask questions, and make their decision on whether or not to make a purchase. Instead, savvy consumers do online research and will often go to your website to find the information they are looking for. If you don’t have a presentable website with valuable information, complete with forms so you can be contacted, you are missing out on a tremendous amount of lead potential.

7. Enlist the help of a qualified business coach. 

It doesn’t have to be formal business coaching, but you do want to find someone who knows the ins and outs of starting up a business and making it thrive. This person should be able to help you structure your business processes and troubleshoot issues that arise after you get going. Not a new business owner? An objective business coach can analyze your current situation and offer suggestions to get you out of that rut and provide guidance for tangible growth!

Following these tips will help you start your business off on the right foot. Need more help? We’ve got you covered! Our small business coaching services in Cleveland offer the tools and guidance you need to be a savvy, successful business owner. Not in the Cleveland area? No problem. Our business and executive coaching services are available via phone conference, web conference, or in person, depending on your location and preference. Contact us today to learn about our current special offers or to get started.

*image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net