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Article Contributed by Kara Masterson

Planning to take that crucial first step towards becoming a new business owner? If you build your business properly, there’s no limit to how successful you could be. It’s unlikely that you’re going to “get rich quick,” but if you’re willing to put in the work and you know what you’re doing, it’s certainly possible to create the business of your dreams.

When you’re a budding entrepreneur, knowledge is power. It’s important to learn from both the successes and failures of previous business owners. Here are four pointers to get you started on the right track.

Find Your Unique Selling Proposition

Your unique selling proposition (USP) is how you differentiate your business from its competition. If you don’t have one, why would a customer choose you over all their other options?

Think about what you can offer to your customers that your competition doesn’t have. Maybe that’s a special product feature – M&M’s set themselves apart by using a hard sugar coating to prevent their chocolates from melting. Or it could be your pricing – Southwest Airlines did this by offering no fees on your first two checked bags at a time when all other airlines were going the opposite direction.

Take Your Time Putting Together Your Business Plan

Too many entrepreneurs are in a rush to get their businesses launched and spend minimal time on their business plans as a result. Then, they waste time and money on issues that could have been avoided with proper planning.

Your business plan should include your USP, your startup costs, your target market, your profitability estimates and your plans for the early stages of the business. You should spend at least a day putting this together, and you may want to spend a week putting it together and revising it.

Surround Yourself with the Right People

There’s a saying that you are the average of the five or six people you surround yourself with the most. If those people are ambitious and have positive mindsets, they will likely help you succeed. If they’re lazy and negative, they’ll only hold you back from achieving your dreams.

It’s especially important to find the right people in terms of business partners and employees. You want people who are just as driven as you are and who you can trust. When you’re launching a business, you also need to find people who have versatile skillsets and can fulfill many different roles.

Hone in on Your Target Market

Just like you need to know what your business offers that’s unique, you also need to know who exactly you’re targeting with your products or services. The more you narrow this down, the better, because it makes your marketing easier. You wouldn’t use the same marketing methods on teenagers that you would on senior citizens, which is why you need a precise target market.

An example of a target market that would be far too broad is “women ages 18 to 45.” You’d want to narrow that down to something like “women ages 24 to 32 with a bachelor’s degree or higher and annual income of $60,000 to $100,000,” which will give you a more specific profile to use as the focus of your marketing efforts.

You shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes when it comes to starting a business, but you shouldn’t be eager to make them, either. Remember that even large and successful companies with a history of good customer service can have their names dragged through the mud, like during the supposed ACN scam, so a little adversity is to be expected. When you keep these four pointers in mind as you start your business, you can avoid some of the most common mistakes and have a far better chance at success.


 
 

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Article Contributed by Noah Y. Rue

It’s no secret that starting a new business is stressful. There’s a lot to plan for, a lot to pay for, and an endless stream of potentially unforeseen circumstances.

It’s also easier than ever to start a small business, and that means more people are doing it. Not without cause, either! 91 percent of startup founders surveyed by First Round Capital agree that now is a great time to start a small business.

More people starting businesses equals more competition among entrepreneurs. The pressure is on to create a profitable business that will outlast the others in the market. In the frenzy of getting your doors open, it can be easy to get caught up in the immediacy of it all and forget to forecast for the future.

If you just focus on the present, though, and don’t have a plan for scaling your business up as you grow, you may make it past opening day and then have no direction. While you’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on your business plan, keep a few things in mind to set you up for success down the road.

Plan for Efficiency

Nothing will curtail your business like spending time and energy when you don’t have to. It may seem simple (and cost effective) to just do everything yourself, but it can lead to major pitfalls down the road.

As a business owner, it will behoove you to automate whatever processes you can afford to, though don’t assume this means you can ignore them. You’ll still need to keep an eye on the processes to make sure everything’s running smoothly. However, with the magic of computerized payroll systems, predetermined monthly supply shipments, and scheduled email blasts, you’ll be able to concentrate on growing the bulk of your business.

While your business is small, take the time to standardize as much as possible. Any intake papers, forms, quotes, etc., should look the same. Having uniform templates will ensure that all the necessary information is gathered for a given task. You’ll minimize the likelihood of something getting overlooked or of key details being missed out on.

Have one of your first employees write everything down. And I do mean everything. As business processes get refined and put into regular practice, document what the steps are and keep an up-to-date version of office processes available. This will help with future training materials as your business grows, cutting down on the time needed to go back and create these documents retroactively.

Cultivate Company Culture

As soon as your company grows, you’ll have to hire. It’s a mixed blessing for new companies — on one hand, you’re growing. On the other hand … who likes sorting through resumes?

Employees are the lifeblood of a company, and the type of people you hire now will have a massive impact on the type of company you become.

Millennials are redefining the workplace, and one of their massive sticking points is culture. The way a job feels and the prevailing attitude of management is a determinant in whether or not they’ll stick with a company. In order to recruit the top talent, you’ll need to create a desirable company culture.

While it may seem daunting, the task of cultivating culture may be easier than you think.

Primarily, hire wisely. This goes back to employees being your company’s lifeblood — hire the type of people you want your company built on. Be picky; don’t feel like you have to settle just because you’re a new business. You may not be able to hire the top in the industry, but look for passionate, dedicated, curious people who align with your company’s goals. And remember, when your company is small, every new hire has an impact — personalities are important.

Second, once you’ve hired people, treat them well. Millennials are looking for management that is transparent, honest, and available. Be available to your employees when they have questions, be transparent about the business and their progress as employees, and generally just treat your employees like people. Never underestimate the power of a thank you.

Finally, make work fun. This doesn’t mean everything has to be a game or that productivity has to suffer. Provide incentives like a monthly learning lunch, company snacks, or seasonal events for employees to enjoy, and don’t make them dependent on merit or competition. Creating events where employees can bond and form friendships will go a long way towards solidifying your company’s culture.

Check Your Legality

No one wants to think about legal trouble — that’s only for shady businesses, right?

Unfortunately, no. An uncomfortably large percentage of new businesses will end up with legal trouble at some point in their tenure, and no amount of company culture can wish that away if it comes for you.

A good place to start is to look up other businesses within your niche and see what they’ve had trouble with. Learn from other people’s’ mistakes (or unfortunate circumstances) so that you can cover your bases and make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you. Additionally, ask other business owners what kind of insurance they have and what they’d recommend — you may be surprised at what business insurance can cover.

Make sure all of your company practices and documents are up to snuff. This includes hiring practices, employee agreements, workplace conduct, and other regulations. It may be worth consulting a lawyer to make sure you’re covered in the event of a suit.

Finally, when dealing with clients, create airtight invoices and contracts — no company wants to end up in small claims court for balances that a client refuses to pay. It takes time and resources away from other business functions and defers getting paid for longer than some new businesses can handle.

Go Forth and Conquer!

Starting a business is a big endeavor, and it can be hard to see more than a few weeks ahead. Don’t let the pressure overwhelm your judgement. If you plan for your future now, you’ll be leagues ahead of your competitors once you’re more established. Following the tips in this article will makes sure that you’re not playing catch up a year from now.


Business is not for the timid, but for the brave and resourceful. Courage is necessary because it’s difficult for you to anticipate all possible contingencies. It’s almost impossible to prepare ahead of time on what you need to know to make the best decisions when a peril or opportunity opens up. Similarly, resourcefulness is necessary to make ends meet when you are starting a business. It isn’t uncommon for entrepreneurs to go without a paycheck for a length of time while the business gets off the ground and to have to work side jobs to keep the business afloat.

Here are two ways of coping with a financial crisis early in your business: one, for working with a problem with a recognizable cause; the other, for working on a problem whose cause eludes you:

How to Deal with a Known Cause

If you know the cause of the problem because it’s obvious, you need to evaluate the scope of the financial problem so that you can arrive at the best solution.

The financial constraints you’re facing may not be as bad as you imagine. An unexpected spike in your overhead might be compensated for by an increase in sales revenue. Perhaps, too, it’s a minor issue that can be resolved by using a payday loan alternative to get your business back on track. For instance, you might feel inclined to panic if your single business vehicle, a delivery van, has broken down — but with a few hundred dollars worth of repairs, you’ll be back to serving your customers.

Conversely, the problem may appear minor, tempting you to ignore it, but it will get worse if you do nothing about it. For instance, it’s easy to overlook a slump in sales volume for a particular quarter, but this might be the symptoms of a deeper malaise, a shift in the market or a problem with the way your sales team is closing sales.

Either way, whether it looks bad but can be easily remedied or it looks mild but can get worse, assessing the scope of the problem will give you a realistic picture so that you can then find the best solution.

How to Deal with an Unknown Cause

Financial problems are not random events, but symptoms of an underlying cause, a business process that is malfunctioning. If the reason for the problem is obvious, you can move toward a solution, but if you don’t know the actual reason why your business is losing money, then you obviously can’t even begin to think about possible solutions.

Naturally, if you know the cause of the problem, you can work towards a solution. If the salaries you’re offering candidates are below market value, then you can raise them. If there are certain company policies that people consider unfair, you can revise them. However, what do you do if you don’t know the cause? In cases when you don’t know why a problem exists, it’s necessary to resort to applying some problem-solving methodologies or hiring outside experts to help you with the detective work necessary for identifying the unknown cause.

As an example, let’s suppose your HR department has begun to notice that your business has a high staff turnover. Since you spend so much money training new staff, watching them quit soon after working for your company is a cause for financial concern.

Here are 4 steps you can take:

  • First, define the problem, getting clear on why a certain situation is problematic.
  • Second, get some metrics on what has happened and forecast what will happen if the problem continues.
  • Third, research all possible causes until you find the root cause that is responsible for the diverse problems your business is experiencing. A single issue may be manifesting in different ways.
  • Fourth, implement a solution and be sure to test it for awhile to see if it works well enough to put the problem behind you.

Problems and Processes

What known and unknown business problems have in common is that they both cause financial distress because they arise from a broken business process. Through patient inquiry and methodically trying out the best solutions that occur to you, they can be resolved. If it’s a discrepancy in cash flow, you can raise the money to resume business operations, or if it’s a problem within the company, then you can use problem-solving methods to identify the hidden cause and set things right again.


Ah yes: your point-of-sale (POS) system. That piece of advanced technology that you spent a significant amount of money on, so that you could boost customer experience and increase sales. What’s not to love?

Well, unless you’ve checked to make sure (actually, double-check), then there’s a chance that your employees aren’t in love with your POS. In fact, they might fear, loathe and dread it. Here are the four reasons why:

  1. It’s s-l-o-w.

A slow POS system turns what should be a rapid touch point into a tedious, awkward and frustrating process for customers; one that that makes employees — and the businesses and brands they represent — look bad, and stuck in the last century. Yes, retro is in, but old school is out. Slow POS systems are the latter. Heck, you might as well be using Internet Explorer (sorry, I’ll take that back — there’s no need to hit below the belt).

  1. It’s unreliable.

Few things — actually, make that almost nothing — embarrasses customers more than having their transaction declined. But you know what? Nothing irritates or even infuriates them more than learning that this rejection was because a POS system didn’t want to work and play well with their perfectly valid payment card. Sadly, employees are on the front lines of this unhappiness, and make very easy targets.

  1. It’s needlessly complex.

Customers shouldn’t feel as though they need to watch a how-to video in order to figure out which button is for checking and which is for savings, or how to leave a tip (presuming that they don’t talk themselves out of leaving one after such an uphill climb). Again, employees are on the front lines here, and even if they politely and professionally guide customers on what buttons to press, it’s not a pleasant experience — and hardly fits into the “omnichannel, seamless, gap-free end-to-end buying experience” that retailers promise, and that customers expect.

  1. It’s not mobile.

Handing customers a POS system attached to a coiled wire is about as high-tech and impressive as going to the gas station, and getting a key with a hub cap attached (so that you can’t steal it — the key that is, not the hub cap). It’s easy to understand why employees and customers dislike twisting and turning to accommodate wires. It’s harder to understand why businesses use a wired POS system in the first place! Companies like Retail Management Solutions offer a secure, wireless solution that enables employees to turn any area into a payment hub — even outside at the curb (which is ideal for retailers like pharmacies).

The Bottom Line

Your POS system needs to be an ally in the fight for customer loyalty and increased sales — not an enemy. Don’t get misled by marketing hype or vendor promises. Speak with your employees to see if the “S” in POS experience doesn’t really stand for “sale”, but for another 4-letter s-word (yeah, that one). If so, then you know that upgrading to something better is a top priority.


Article Contributed by Dan Razak

Although getting a high-end equipment and hiring the right people helps make your business more productive, there is much more to it than these two aspects alone. The key to the success of your business lies in your startup’s work organization, which is not a small matter. In order to be able to unleash its full potential, your business needs to run like a well-oiled machine but to achieve this, every single cog needs to be in its place. With this in mind, here are three simple tips that can help improve your startup’s work organization significantly.

1.      Encourage employee autonomy

The first thing you need to realize if you want to expand your business is the fact that you won’t be able to micro-manage everything forever. Even with an assistant, you can’t be everywhere at the same time, which means that you should start trusting your employees. In the very first sentence of this article, we’ve mentioned the importance of hiring the right people for the job. Well, if you handpick and train your employees the right way, all that is left for you is to trust them.

They are more than capable handling tasks they are appointed with, which is why you need to encourage employee autonomy whenever you can. Of course, when it comes to major managerial issues, you still need to be the one calling all the shots.

2.      Outsource non-vital tasks

The next thing you should be focusing on is improving the productivity of your team in its core tasks. Here, we are usually talking about your production or sales team. At the end of the day, the aspect of your business that interests your clients the most is how good your product/service is. Because of this, you need to focus on it as much as possible and make it your priority.

Unfortunately, new entrepreneurs usually get exhausted by issues they are not as skilled in, such as IT, HR and customer support that they get barely any time or energy left for these core-departments. In order to remedy this situation, you might want to consider outsourcing. Moreover, you might even want to consider offshoring in order to get the highest quality of service at the most competitive prices. While India is one of the greatest outsourcing hubs in the world, outsourcing Jordan companies are currently on a steep rise, as well.

3.      Improve your communication channels

Finally, in order to make your business run as smoothly as possible, you need to work hard on improving your communication channels. This goes two ways. First, your management needs to become much more honest towards the staff and let them know exactly what is going on. Regardless of what some may believe, even people at entry-level jobs can benefit from seeing the bigger picture. Furthermore, you need to create an atmosphere in which people won’t be afraid to speak their minds. Sure, it may not be the best idea to fraternize with your employees but they shouldn’t be afraid of you either. This kind of situation can backfire in more than a few ways.

Conclusion

By working on these three issues alone, you stand to make your business much more automated. What a lot of people aren’t aware of is the fact that one of the most common reasons SMBs fail is the fact that the entrepreneur that started it simply burned out. Running a one-man show may currently seem as your only option but keep in mind that this usually isn’t a healthy business practice. By hiring others to relieve you of at least some of your duties, you will be able to allocate your talents, time and resources where they can be useful the most.

Author Bio

Dan Radak is a marketing professional with eleven years of experience. He is a coauthor on several websites and regular contributor to BizzMark Blog. Currently, he is working with a number of companies in the field of digital marketing, closely collaborating with a couple of e-commerce companies.



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