For many people, the dream of entrepreneurship is compelling. Fulfilling a vision, setting your own schedule and seeing your ideas flourish are just a few of the perks of owning a small business. Whether you are preparing to launch a new business or have an established company, there are some requirements. Here are four things every small business needs.
With the vast majority of your customers using technology to make their purchasing decisions, it’s imperative to create a technology-friendly company. You can set up your website to optimize for various browsers — mobile, tablet and desktop — and you can ensure your presence on social media is kept current. Customers seeking your product or services often begin a search online, and keeping your website and social media up to date puts your company in the best light for consumers.
Technology can also make doing business a less arduous task. You can find tools and software for almost everything: inventory management, billing and invoicing, payroll, accounting, marketing, sales, email campaigns and much more. Purchasing business tools like QuickBooks Pro for managing your finances or CRM software for your sales team can give you a good return for your investment. You’ll save time and money in the long run by creating more efficient processes.
2. Competitor Knowledge
When things are running smoothly, it’s easy to get in a routine and set your business on cruise control for a while. While you do that, however, your competitors may be getting an edge. It’s essential to keep an eye on what other companies are doing. Are they launching new products or services? Are their ideas catching on in your market? Industries can evolve over time, and business owners need to keep up with changes to stay profitable.
If you don’t have direct competitors in your market, indirect competitors may gain a foothold. If you are the only one in your area who sells handmade goat-milk soap, for example, an indirect competitor can be a store that sells organic bath products, even if they don’t sell handmade goat-milk soap.
Small-business owners can feel inundated with advertising choices. Direct-mail campaigns, live video streams on social media, online coupons — it can leave a business owner wondering where to invest and how to get the biggest bang for the buck.
If you are unsure where to begin advertising, start by asking your customers. Find out where they learned about your business. Ask what social media they use and if they visit your website. There are many inexpensive and free marketing options available online for companies, including website tracking, analytics tools and social media posts. Exploring free and low-cost options can save you from sinking money into expensive campaigns. Higher-cost options, however, may pay off for you later on, and it’s wise to consider them down the road.
While trying to make a profit, new companies can also have business loans, building leases, employee payroll and many other expenses requiring a piece of the pie. That’s why it is critical for business owners to manage their budgets. While you don’t want to cut corners where you shouldn’t, keeping a close eye on expenses is a good idea no matter what stage your business is in. Take time to establish a budget based on your current needs while also planning for future growth:
- Sum up all of your income sources
- List your fixed expenses (rent, utilities, payroll, etc.)
- List your variable expenses (shipping costs, fuel, etc.) and determine fluctuation ranges
- Forecast one-time expenses (equipment purchases, remodeling, etc.)
- Subtract expenses from income and determine your profit
Once you know your profit margin, you can make better spending and investing decisions. You may discover you need to hold off on buying new computers, for example, or that you can afford to hire another sales representative.
Running a small business can be a fulfilling endeavor. If you keep up with your company’s essentials, you are on your way to success now and in the future.