If you are a small business owner, you know by first hand experience that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Many days are just HARD because every buck stops with you. You learn to be a jack of all trades dabbling in fields such as marketing, office management, accounting, customer service and not to mention your own niche trade that got you in this place to begin with. Some days you feel on top of the world, marveling at the fact that you’ve gotten as far as you have. Other days you may want to curl up in a ball and pretend you’re in a dream. But don’t be fooled… You’d rather be nowhere else and doing nothing else.
To the future entrepreneur: don’t let fear keep you from pursuing your dreams. You will have good days, and you will have bad days. Don’t let the fear of those bad days keep you down. Rather, let them empower you to continue to grow and progress to a greater place. Let it motivate you to know that you are being molded and cast into a more refined and fulfilled state of being. After all “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” What are you waiting for?
Need more inspiration? Here are a few resources for you.
What are some things you could be doing to keep your customers coming back for more?
Building a base of loyal customers can be challenging for a small business and can take some effort and creativity.
One simple thing you can start doing now is to start listening to and caring for your customers.
My husband is a small business owner and one evening not too long ago, he did something that really struck me. He had spent a long day at work, we had just finished dinner, and we were playing with the kids. His phone rang and he knew that it was a customer wanting to discuss something with him. Instead of silencing the call and going about the rest of his evening, he took the phone call and conversed with his customer for about 20 minutes. He sat most of the time listening. While the phone call didn’t end in a direct sale, the customer ended that phone call feeling heard, encouraged, and cared for- like he had been given the time of day- and longing to do more business with my husband. In other words, it ended with a happy customer with a reinforced sense of loyalty.
While it may not be feasible for you to sit down and talk to each customer for 20 minutes at a given time, how can you leave your customers feeling heard and cared for after having interactions with you? Make them feel special. Listen to them. Treat them respectfully. They are, after all, one very important key to a successful business.
We’ve written before on why it is so important for your small business to have a website.
But if you’re just starting out and don’t have much in the way of funds, having a custom-made website may just be out of the question.
The good news? There are lots of resources for building your own website. As daunting as that may sound, creating your own website has only gotten easier over the last several years. There are countless websites filled with website themes compatible with WordPress that you can customize to your specifications. And they don’t cost an arm and a leg! Many of these website themes also come with great technical support from the author of the themes and tutorials (both written and video) if you should ever run into a problem. Not to mention, we also live in the age of YouTube, making it even more possible to DIY your website with the help of those who have gone before you.
Where can you start?
You can find themes directly on WordPress or for another example, Themeforest. We would suggest you write a list of features or appearance specifications you want for your website to help narrow it down.
You will also need to find a host for your website. GoDaddy is a popular one, or here is a list of additional hosts you can consider. Also, don’t forget to purchase your domain! Many hosting sites and WordPress offer a free domain with their services.
If you’re interested in creating a WordPress website (popular because of its easy to use interface), here is a great place to start with step-by-step prompts to help you get it done.
The whole process may still seem daunting, but there are SO many helpful resources that will make the job of creating your own website easier than it may seem. Happy “DIY”ing!
Going full time with your start-up business is both an exciting and scary journey. You may be leaving the security of an established career or job to taking a risk on your small business. Before you jump head first into your new venture, here are a few things you should be considering before you make the leap.
- How is your health insurance coverage going to change? Having a change in employment qualifies you for an open enrollment period to purchase a new insurance policy.
- Does your small business need to invest in a “Key Man” life insurance policy on you? If your business depends upon you for success, you may want to invest in a life insurance policy comparable to the value of your business to cover any losses should something happen to you.
- Have you analyzed a cash flow projection of your business? In other words, what does your bank account look like? What profit projections can you make if you were to work on your business full time? Do you have enough money in the bank to support yourself and grow your business?
- Where are you going to work? Are you going to work from home, rent an office, or open a store?
- Do you have heaps of personal debt that may interfere with the sustainability of running your business? In other words, would you be able to give yourself an adequate pay check to stay on top of any debt you may have? If not, you may want to consider paying down that debt before making the leap.
- Have you thought about what kind of hours you would be working once pursuing your business full time? Many entrepreneurs are familiar with long work weeks, but if you have too much on your plate (or not enough to do to fill your time) you may want to evaluate the sustainability of your business or think about contracting some simple tasks out (book keeping, marketing, website development, etc.).
- Starting your own business is an exciting time… and busy. Starting a business is like having a baby: it requires a lot of care and attention for the first few years of its life. Make sure you can carve out time to take care of yourself! Sleep, exercise, and good nutrition all play a role in your success.
Moving forward in going full time with your business is an exciting decision to make, but should also be a researched one. How can we assist you with your small business journey?
Gaining the courage, the finances, the preparation, and the perseverance to start your own small business is only half the battle. Once you take the leap to go out on your own, you can’t just expect new customers or clients to come streaming your way. That is why taking strides to market your small business is so important! Very few small businesses can succeed if no one knows about them. Here are just a few short and inexpensive tips to help get you started with small business marketing, or help you rethink your marketing strategy if you’ve been at the game for quite some time.
- Have a business website. It is getting easier and easier these days to build your own website. There are countless websites that provide templates you can purchase (for less than $100) along with a domain and customize to fit your specific needs. If you already have a website, make sure it is up-to-date! An outdated website is a useless website. If your website is updated and has been running for quite some time, make sure you put up fresh content to boost your SEO and search rankings. Looking for ways to get more traffic to your website? Here is a helpful article with several simple strategies you can use to get more feet through the “virtual door.”
- Use word of mouth to spread the news about your business. Get involved in some local business or professional organizations where you think your target market may be. Invest in some business cards to hand out to new people you meet. If those you meet can’t benefit from your goods or services, more than likely they will know someone who can. Exposure is key! You can also contact your local newspaper or magazine to explore ways you can gain a little PR by writing an article for them or introducing your new business to their readership. Need some more ideas? Here is an article from the SBA on how to spread word of mouth about your business.
- Set up a great referral program. If there is a way you can reward loyal customers and encourage them to share your business with their friends, find a way to do so. Here is a detailed article from inc.com on developing the referral process and how to do so in a tactful way that won’t scare off or offend your existing customers.
How can you use these marketing tips to take your business to the next level?
You know you have heard it before. Blogging for your small business can be very valuable. But as a small business owner or operator, we probably know what your thinking.
1. I don’t have time
2. I don’t know where to start
3. Nobody would want to read my blog posts
4. I have nothing valuable to offer readers
Your doubts about blogging are very understandable. Small business owners are under a lot of pressure, seemingly working around the clock and busy just trying to stay a-float of typical daily tasks.
However, you should reconsider. There are some incredibly convincing arguments as to why you should start a blog, even if it simply improves your search engine rankings. Here is an incredibly helpful article on why small businesses should start and maintain a blog. Dan Wang from the Shopify blog says it much better than we ever could. Can we get you to change your mind?
Copy and paste this link into your internet browser to view this great article.
Deciding where to open your first (or new) office is a tough decision. For many, location is key. But when searching for an office space for your small or medium-sized business, have you considered the benefits of a business center and the relationships you could form there?
If you’ve never set foot in the Buttonwood Business Center, let me give you an idea of what a business center is like. It’s almost like an apartment building for businesses. You share a common hall. You share access to a nice printer/copier/scanner machine. You even share a kitchen for storing lunches or grabbing a quick cup of coffee before starting your day.
You may be asking yourself, well what’s so great about that? Can’t I just put my own printer in my office, or my own coffee maker or refrigerator in my office? Well, sure you can. But then you and your small business miss out on opportunities for word of mouth marketing.
Business centers are great for being in close proximity to other small businesses and you may be surprised at the symbiotic relationship that can form. As you start meeting your neighbors in the hallway or kitchen and sharing about your business, it’s a great way to start getting your business name out there.
Here is just one example to give you a better idea. Say you are an accountant who just moved into a business center. After being there a few days and meeting a few neighbors, you meet a marketing consultation firm just down the hall and it just so happens they are in need of an accountant to do their payroll and tax work! What an easy way to gain business! Not only that, but you could swap services and use them to help market your new accounting firm.
Word of mouth referral is a huge driving factor of sales for small businesses. What better way to take full advantage of this than to position your small business in a business center where there are ample opportunities to get your business name out there?
Being an entrepreneur is hard work, especially if you still have a separate full time job, a family, and a life outside of work. My husband and I just recently became part of a start-up business and speaking from experience, it is not easy. In the world of an entrepreneur, there is no 40 hour work week, no 9am to 5pm schedule, and very little initial reward. Some days I would liken it to the schedule of a doctor- you’re on call 24/7 and generally kissing evenings and weekends goodbye. The cost is great, the risk is high, but you have great reward to look forward to if you survive the early stages: running a business that you are passionate about and hoping to make your full time endeavor. I wanted to share just a few tips that I have found helpful to maintain my sanity through these initial stages of our start-up.
- Time-management- Learn how to manage your time well. Make lists, prioritize, and weed out time wasters (*cough cough, Facebook or social media being one of those)
- Make time for yourself- this may look like some quiet time in the morning, carving out time to exercise, reading a book, hanging out with friends, etc.
- Spousal/Family support are huge- having the help and support from your spouse and/or family makes a big difference and they can certainly make your life a bit easier by helping you with tasks that you don’t have time for or just provide moral support and understanding through your start-up stage.
- Set goals- Make short, medium, and long term goals. The sky is the limit! But make sure your short term goals are attainable so that you don’t constantly feel like a failure if you don’t always meet them.
- Always keep the larger picture in mind- If you are dreading the extra work that needs to be done to make your start-up happen, remind yourself the reasons you started in the first place and let those reasons motivate you to stay on track!
- Make one day out of your week and total day of rest where you do nothing work or business related. For some this just may not be possible with the nature of your work or start-up, but I strongly suggest trying this if you can! Not having a day of rest is a sure fire way to burn-out.
I’m sure I could list many more tips, but these are by far the most helpful I have found so far. Good luck to those of you who have recently started a business. It’s not easy. Congratulations to those of you who have survived and have been successful in your entrepreneurial endeavors! To those who are contemplating starting a business- don’t let my words scare you away. It may be hard work, but it is well worth it if you are willing to put in the extra time and effort.
Summer is upon us already. School is out, the weather is getting warmer, the sunshine is beautiful and the pool, golf course, or vacation (or any combination of those) are calling your name. How is anyone supposed to stay productive throughout the summer with so many fun possibilities waiting to be had? Here are just a few basic tips to help keep you on track during the summer months.
- Make lists and prioritize them- Remember to tend to the most pressing items first so you don’t have to worry about them later (or before it’s too late).
- Set goals weekly and monthly- similar to to-do lists but a bit loftier than your normal daily task list. What goals can you make for yourself to keep your eyes focused on something greater throughout the week or month? Don’t fall into the summer slump and just aim for the status quo.
- Make time to do fun things, even if that means you have to put it on the calendar. Carve out a special time during the week for extracurricular activities (pool, golf, trip, etc.) and plan your work week accordingly. Maybe for some that looks like working ahead or working harder/longer hours during the week to have a work-free weekend or working a half day during the week.
- Don’t fill up your weekend with household chores. Try to schedule these chores during the week, or have a set and limited time during the weekend to work on them. Filling up your free time with household chores is a sure-fire way to kill your motivation during the week! Get out and enjoy the weather while it lasts and save time for having a bit of fun.
Hopefully these basic tips will help to motivate you and keep you on track this summer! Let us know how we can help your small business at the Buttonwood Business Center this summer!
I recently just completed staining my deck. I have never stained a deck, but I have lots of experience with wood working projects, including painting and staining, and I thought, “how hard could this really be” and “It won’t take me that long. I could get it done in one day.”
After a cumulative of almost 18 hours over the course of 3 days, I’ve nearly completed the deck. During those many hours filled with solitude, quiet, and time to think, I began questioning whether this deck staining project was truly worth my time and if I was really saving that much money by doing it myself.
Many entrepreneurs and small business owners find themselves in very similar situations. You may be asking yourself whether all of those tedious home maintenance projects are worth your time, or you could be asking that of yourself when it comes to answering the phones, scheduling your customers, processing orders, marketing, doing your taxes, and the list goes on.
In the end, every single entrepreneur out there really needs to think hard about how much their time is worth. Are you more valuable gaining customers and completing customer related tasks than you are answering the phone?
Just as an example, let’s say you are an attorney trying to build a clientele. Do you get the most out of your time doing attorney tasks (say valuing your time at $300 per hour) or doing secretarial work like answering the phone and scheduling clients (say time valued at $10 per hour)? The clear answer would be that you make the most of your time doing what you are trained to do!
Don’t fall into the trap thinking that you can save money by doing everything yourself. In the long run, hiring people to help you answer the phones, aid you with your marketing campaign or website upkeep, or doing your taxes will free up your time to do what you do best- pour your time and energy into the foundation of your business so that you can grow and become profitable.
The Buttonwood Business Center can help you get the most of your time by taking care of some of the details of running a business so that you don’t have to. You can focus on doing what you do best! Our dedicated secretary can answer your phone calls and greet your clients. Don’t worry about paying multiple utility bills for internet, phone, and custodial services. We take care of it all. Would you consider letting us help you get the most of your time?