If you are new at business, these tips will help you focus your creativity and passion into a productive enterprise. If you're already a business owner, read on to learn ways to focus your business.
Start With a Basic Business Plan
Although some can justify not writing up a business plan and instead keep it all in their head, the reality is few can do this well. Consider what your business will look like if all goes as planned, what happens if you get sidetracked, and how will you scale? When formulating your plan, consider these questions:
- How will you fund the first 12 months of your business?
- What is your competition doing well right now that you could learn from?
- What could your competition do that could put you out of business?
- Is there technology in your space that is worth learning to use in order to streamline your business?
- What makes you unique in your industry?
- What will you do to sustainably scale your business in order to deliver consistent excellence in the areas of customer experience, service, and results?
Your business plan will become a key tool in the decision-making process for the bank, should you decide to pursue business financing. This will show them precisely how you plan to create profit and they will take your request more seriously.
1. Start Small and Skip Debt
You cannot save yourself (or your business) into profitability but you can spend yourself (and your business) into bankruptcy. Keep this in mind as you consider budgets. Be ruthlessly efficient in saving on costs as long as it isn't penny wise and pound foolish. At the same time, be keenly focused on growing profit margins alongside revenues. The former will contribute to the latter. Doing both of these well will equip your business for sustainable growth and/or scale. A mistake here can mark the end of your business.
2. Don’t Get Overwhelmed
It’s easy to get distracted when work piles up. We get focused on producing for our clients and begin to work “for” our business as opposed to working “on” our business. Make sure you take time every week to assess and plan where the business is going. Regularly focusing on constantly improving your business will do just that. Try to be just 1% better every day. Making small adjustments can make an exponential difference in the long run.
Business might not always be booming; be prepared for the slow season. Book a time on your calendar early on in your day to work 'on' your business every week, and let nothing interrupt this time. This will be the most important part of your week.
3. Get Insurance
Talk to a representative that you know, like and trust. Ask them what types of insurance you need. Your conversation with the representative will likely discuss workers compensation, liability, and errors & omissions, as well as possibly other forms of insurance. Make sure the representative has the heart of a teacher. If they don't, find another who has the characteristic of helping you learn about insurance. Get multiple opinions and prices.
4. Get LegalShield
LegalShield is a cheap way to have a lawyer back you up. If you do things the right way, do good work, and treat people well...your chances of needing a lawyer go WAY down. Just the same, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Position Yourself As Quality Over Budget
Never participate in a 'race to the bottom' on pricing. Undervaluing your services is a sure way to get you overworked, stressed out, and for your business to fail.
The moment you find yourself booked out a few weeks or a month, consider incremental price adjustments to increase profits. You may begin to lose a job or two, but done correctly your bottom line will be more profitable, and you will end up making more money for the same amount of work.
Below are a few tips that will give credibility to your business and justify your higher prices. Let’s review simple tweaks to get your customers excited to work with you, even if you are a bit more expensive.
5. Dress the Part
Wear polo and jeans/khakis for estimations (better if branded) and wear clean clothes for work day. Keep your shirt on. If you smoke, do so offsite and pick up your butts. Throwing a cigarette butt down on someone's property is akin to littering.
6. Be Courteous
This doesn't cost a dime and pays big dividends. Be kind, polite, positive, and engaging. These are free, but their value is immeasurable.
Clients will be grateful for communication throughout your engagement with them. From start to finish,set expectations and be sure to exceed them. Being honest with clients, especially when it’s not convenient, will build trust and increase referrals.
8. Be Clean
Show up clean. Notice the condition of the area you will be working in. Return it to the customer cleaner than you found it.
9. Promote Reviews
Customers will pay more for professionals they trust, and nothing earns more trust than referrals, references, testimonials, and reviews. Testimonials and reviews are the life-blood of a premium service provider.
10. Create a Premium Brand
While it’s tempting to make your own logo and build a Facebook page instead of a website, you run the risk of seeming too small or unprofessional to be trusted with big contracts. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive; you just need basic business information and a careers page. Fiverr & Squarespace can be a great option to get these assets at a reasonable price.
Getting Quality Leads
At the end of the day, you must serve clients to fuel your business. Having clients is good, but serving the right clients is fantastic. Depending on your financial picture, you may need to serve any client that wants to contract your services at the start of your venture. Plan on being more intentional about who you want to serve and resist the temptation to busy yourself with work that distracts you from your goals.
11. Educate Yourself
You can gain a better, more in-depth education than a college course offers with just a library card (free), the 'Overdrive' app, and/or an Audible subscription. Find ways to be an expert in your space that makes you uniquely qualified and a clear standout amongst your competition.
12. Learn How to Speak Effectively
Consider Toastmasters or another speaking improvement method. Being able to speak effectively with or 'in conversation' with individuals, small groups and in front of audiences will help you win more business.
13. Get a Mentor or Coach
Growing a business is neither easy nor intuitive. Get intentional and find someone who can help you do it more efficiently than you could accomplish by yourself.
14. Digital Marketing & Getting Set Up On Google
We live in a digital world, and even if your business has been fueled by word of mouth, you are missing out on opportunities if you don’t properly engage in digital marketing efforts. I say again, even if you are booked out 3 months, take the time to focus on the right clients that will grow your business.
15. Running Ads & SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
While both are important to digital marketing, don’t waste your money partnering with “experts” who will fail you. Make sure anyone you work with is both vetted and comes highly recommended. It’s all too easy to waste thousands of dollars here if you are not careful, but this can also be a powerful way to get in touch with the right customers who will fuel your growth.
It’s also important to remember that SEO is like a good diet: it takes time, but is healthy for your brand. Running ads is like a shot of adrenaline — a temporary boost that can get you visibility — but the effect fades as soon as your campaign ends.
16. Build a Referral Program
Incentivizing your clients to spread the word, especially in the high-ticket market, is a premium way to become the go-to for your service in your desired market. It can be as simple as a gift card to a restaurant, doughnut shop or cup of coffee. Ask for an 'introduction' and not a 'referral.' Introductions are easy for folks to make. The word 'referral' has a connotation that the person making the 'referral' must vouch for you. This goes a long way to building gratitude and positioning your business as trustworthy.
Get out and meet people. The more folks that you meet in a meaningful way and stay in touch with, the more your business will grow. Try networking groups like BNI to rapidly expand your network.