StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

Cut The Costs of Your Business Without Cutting Corners

In business, being able to keep costs as low as possible is key to get the maximum return for your business. But what many businesses get confused with, is the fact that cutting costs doesn’t have to jeopardise jobs or quality in your business or product. If you think honestly about how to resolve the business’ insufficiencies, then it can really make a difference. So here are some good ways to reduce costs at work, without having to reduce quality. Because in the long-run, if quality is reduced, it is going to affect your bottom line after all.

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Reduce Overhead Costs

If you have reduced costs of where you work from, then it can make a big difference. Your office and employees can cost you a lot of money. So could you arrange a rota where half work from home on certain days and then swap on other days? When you need a smaller office space, or don’t need an office at all, it can make a massive difference. You could also look to outsource or always hire remote employees from now on. Those are both ways to cut down costs, but still get the job done to a good quality.

Outsource

Along similar lines, outsourcing is a great way to cut down costs but still get some exceptional work done. The reason being, you get experts in their fields working as freelancers. They will dedicate their time to your project to get it done and then that is it until you might need them again. So it makes things cheaper than having a full-time employee. It also helps to work to timelines, which is helping to still delivery a top quality product or business to your customers and clients. Look at your current tem, though, to see where their existing skills lay. If you have someone that is quite capable to achieve the same task, then it could be cheaper for them to do it. It all depends on what people are already able to do.

Avoid Company Cars

Company cars can be a massive expense for the business, particularly when it come to tax. So if your business involves a lot of driving to see clients, then using your own car and expensing the cost of the fuel can be a cheaper way to go. It can also work out cheaper to lease cars, from somewhere like Flex Fleet, for instance. When you only need cars or trucks for a set amount of time, then it means you only pay for what you use, rather than it taking a chunk of money out of the business.

Talk To Suppliers

If your business involves working closely with suppliers, then make sure that you are doing just that. Your costs are going to affected by their costs. So talk to them regularly about how to improve systems as well as reduce the cost of things. It may be that they need a new piece of equipment to make something quicker and cheaper in the long-term. If so, you could help them towards it, for example. It is certainly worth having that conversation, though.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

The 6 Most Common Mistakes New Online Business Owners Make & How to Avoid Them

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Growing an online business is as much about learning what we should be doing, as it is about learning what we should not be doing. It is important to have a solid plan in place with a trusty list of your ‘to-do’s which can be satisfyingly ticked off as you go along. However as you move forward with your new business it is also just as important to be aware of the things that you should avoid and the common pitfalls involved in starting an online business. Whilst the obstacles to starting an online business are low, the potential initial mistakes, that can affect the long-term success of a business can be high. Read on for our list of the six most common mistakes that new online business owners make and our tips on how to avoid them.

A Weak Business Plan

It is all very well and good having a fantastic idea but if you don’t have a solid plan of attack then you could be on a backfoot before you’ve even gotten started. Whilst it’s not necessary to have a formal business plan, a plan of sorts is extremely necessary. In order to build an effective business plan you need to be considering the following: Who is is your target market and what do your customers look like? What is their ‘pain point’ and how will your product or service help them with their problem or issue? What are you selling and why would anyone be willing to pay for your service or product over your competitors? What makes your business different and how do you plan to position yourself to stand out alongside your competitors?

Alongside exploring the above questions you will also want to be thinking about the budget that you have available to you and how long that will last. You will want to be submerging yourself in a constant learning curve about how best to market yourself utilizing social media platforms and other avenues that will benefit your business. You will also need to be thinking about the details such as logistics, hiring staff, your accounting and your website content and strategy. You will realise that as your business develops so will your knowledge and understanding of all areas of business. You will essentially be ‘learning on the job’. However having at least a basic plan of the above will help you to avoid coming up against unexpected surprises and bumps within the initial first few months.

Becoming Obsessed with Detail

It is very natural to want everything to be perfect before we launch the fruits of our hard labour. We completely concur and agree that there are many things that need to be in place and fully functional before launch date. However becoming too hung up on the minute details of a new website has delayed many a business from launching and therefore has resulted in months of lost business revenue. You would be surprised how easy it is to fall into the routine of carefully analysing every last detail, tweaking, changing, moving, shifting, then changing it back to how it was in the first place. This process stalls the process of moving your business forward so try to be relaxed with the smaller details and keep modifying and playing with the details, as you go along in order to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.

Being a Bit Too ‘Old School’

Regardless of what generation we are from there is no denying that we are all now living in a digital age. For many of us that have been in business for a while and have different tried and tested ways of promoting and growing businesses it is easy to dismiss elements of modern technology and software as a ‘passing fad’. However there is so much technological support now available that will benefit your business that it is essential to be getting your head around the modern developments that will help you to grow your online company.

Regardless of what type of business you are planning, the bread and butter or the ‘first impression’ of your business, is going to be your website so this is always a good place to start whether you are focused on investing in software to prevent enterprise-level disasters with SEO alerts to ensure that your content is doing your business justice. Or perhaps your problem area is keeping on top of the finances in your business in which case you should be looking into the software and programmes available to support you in that area. There really is a whole world of wealth when it comes to the software, technology, apps and programmes available to you that will help you to grow your business to future and long-term success, so make sure you are taking advantage of it.

Not Focusing on Finances

One of the most common areas where businesses fail is through lack of proper financial planning. Many new online businesses fall foul of running out of money before they get to the point where they are making any and there is no other choice but to abandon the project. Therefore long-term financial projections are essential in order to plan out your time efficiently. Look into how much money you have in order to be able to run your business, how long that money will last whilst also factoring in a contingency budget that will cover you for unexpected costs and expenses along the way. Too often online business owners have to quickly try to pull funds together after realising that their budget is almost gone. By then it is probably already too late. So plan effectively in advance and keep your eye on your finances on a regular basis in order to avoid burning yourself out too quickly.

Lack of Confidence in Product or Undervaluing Your Service

It is very common for businesses in the initial months to want to just get the orders and the business rolling in and commonly that is to the detriment of a solid pricing structure. This is a big mistake however as lowering the price of your products or service is essentially devaluing your product and damaging your business. You should not be creating a business in the first place if you don’t believe in your product, so make sure that you are staying true to the proper pricing of what you are selling in order to build your business in a solid way.

Customer Service Focus as Secondary

As the sales come rolling in, a common mistake is to feel content that success is yours and that your job is done. However major value in your business is how you take care of your customers after their purchases. It is a dangerous mistake to see customer service as an afterthought for your business, as good customer service can be the make or break of any company. Living in the online age makes business easier in a lot of ways but it also makes the world of business pretty cut-throat too. Customers are savvier and more demanding than ever and if they are made to feel unimportant or unhappy, in any way, by a company, you will certainly know about it.

Dealing with customer service as a priority for your business means that you can look after your clients in a way that makes them feel valued and important to your company. That will keep them coming back and loyal to you and your business. Ignored requests, enquiries or complaints can, and very often do, lead to damaging public reviews that not only ensures they are never coming back to you again, but will also work as a huge deterrent to any new potential customers.

Recognising the above mistakes and taking great strides to avoid them will go a long way in steering your business in the right direction and keeping it on track for long-term success.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

Technologies Your Business Really Can’t Afford Not To Embrace

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Historians will look back on this time as an era of epochal change. They will see this as a time of technological revolution where science fiction met with science fact. A lot of the technologies themselves have been around, in some form or another for decades but through generations of refinement and repurposing, we are now witnesses to the emergence of technologies that will change the world.

It is through their strategic use that you can change the face of your business.

To say that these are exciting times is an understatement, yet it’s surprising how slow some businesses are in embracing technology. Sure, they use it to facilitate their day-to-day function but when it comes to thinking outside of the box and bringing their business right to the bleeding edge of the technological revolution they can find themselves faltering. Of course, we mustn’t blame them. It’s in the nature of entrepreneurs, especially those who are fairly new to the business world to keep a close eye on overheads and as important as it may be, staying ahead of the technological curve has never been cheap. After all, investing in new technologies is one thing, but investment in technology also requires investment in training so that your staff have the skills and expertise to implement it effectively.

Whatever the nature of your business, there are certain technologies that are slowly and quietly but consistently revolutionizing the ways in which businesses operate and the tech savvy business can either get in on the ground floor or face the combined impediments of increased running costs, lower output and reduced productivity. The pertinence of each to your business’ specific needs may vary but across all industries these are the ones to watch…

3D printing

From the automotive industry to construction and even medicine, it seems like there isn’t a single industry that 3D printing is failing to revolutionize. The ability to print on a huge or a tiny scale using precision engineered hybrid stepper motors is an obvious boon to a range of industries and although the technology is still fairly nascent, it seems to find a new technology every day. 3D printing technology represents a second industrial revolution. Theoretically, 3D printers may one day be as common as household ink printers facilitating the purchase of a huge range of products online that can be 3D printed at home virtually instantly.

Like all technologies, however, 3D printing has a dark side, with criminal applications including the 3D printing of illegal firearms is already an unfortunate reality.

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Lasers

If your business is involved in manufacture, and reliant upon precision cutting, you probably already use lasers in some capacity. The C02 laser cutter already has an enormous range of applications across a wide range of industries. Jewelers use them for engraving personalized pieces, the construction industry uses them for the cutting of and treatment of wood and metal and a range of surgeries are carried out using these lasers.

Its cousin the fiber laser, on the other hand is used increasingly in the 3d printing of tiny and complex machine parts for which precision is paramount. Recently, however, these laser technologies have been supplanted by direct diode lasers which have already been incorporated into a variety of industries. The advantage of these lasers over their counterparts is that they represent a more energy efficient alternative that is every bit as versatile and currently used in a range of applications such as industrial welding. As direct diode lasers are far more energy efficient they can allow your business to make huge savings in running costs without compromising on versatility.

WebAssembly a revolution and an evolution

The uninitiated could be forgiven for assuming that WebAssembly just another programming language. It is, in fact, more than that. It’s a new standard binary format for web design. If you need to outsource a company to design browser-based software for your business, it pays to use WebAssembly. Compiling applications in WebAssembly is advantageous as it enables them to run as fast as native applications, meaning that browser-based applications run seamlessly and quicker than ever. The potential applications are limitless but the most obvious candidates include seamless online gaming as well as incorporating browser based augmented and virtual reality applications, and of course a renaissance in more complex and feature rich web applications.

Apps

Soon (very soon) we’ll reach the point where having an app for your business will be as necessary and ubiquitous as having a website. In an age where 30% of all e-commerce purchases in the US are made through mobile apps, it’s not hard to see why. Whatever the nature of your business you would benefit more than you may think from an app.

Retailers especially find that they can use apps not just to facilitate transactions but to promote brand awareness and incentivize customer loyalty. Uber remain a historically great example of how to expand your reach by incentivizing customers to refer their friends, family and colleagues to your service by offering both new and existing customers discounts. That’s a win for the business and both customers.

Merely having a presence on the app store can be helpful in bringing new potential leads to your business, although with over 1,600 apps published daily, savvy businesses need to take steps to ensure that their app stands out. Here you will find some tips on helping your app to get featured thereby bringing millions of potential leads into contact with your business.

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Virtual and augmented reality

If you thought that VR died with risible sci fi films like Lawnmower Man in the ’90s and that augmented reality extended to chasing up and down the highstreet searching for Pokemon, think again. Few could have preempted in the technophobic ’80s and ’90s that VR would go on to have a huge range of business and consumer applications. Gaming is a no-brainer, obviously, with Oculus Rift and Playstation VR no longer high-end speculations, but a mainstream entry into the consumer electronics landscape.

Already, a range of retailers are using augmented reality to create a novel and immersive consumer experience. Vehicle manufacturers, for example, are increasingly making use of virtual showrooms. VR and AR also have implications for a range of businesses as a training aide with all manner of on the job training and orientation potentially taking place in a risk free virtual environment.

Artificial intelligence and chatbots

There was a time when we thought that Artificial Intelligence would take over the world… and it may yet, but in less of a Terminator-y way and more in a way that benefits a wide range of contemporary businesses. Of course a lot of retailers and entertainment streaming services from Netflix to iTunes to Amazon already use a rudimentary AI to catalogue user interactions. This helps them to gauge their preferences and make recommendations accordingly but it’s really in many ways just the tip of the iceberg. Use of AI algorithms on a range of customer facing applications can potentially play a huge part in reducing staffing overheads for small businesses.

Drones

Drone technology is nothing new. In fact it has had military applications dating back to the Vietnam war, but it’s only in recent years that drone technology has been adopted in a range of civilian applications from war correspondence to ordnance mapping. If your business deals in any way with direct-to-consumer logistics then you may find yourself really embracing drone technology in the near future. UPS, for example began staging mock deliveries of emergency medical care in areas typically considered hard to reach last year.

With so many technological changes on the horizon, it’s up to you to decide which advances can help you to revolutionize your business.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

5 Things That Can Actually Make You More Money

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It’s easy to think that you need to spend as little as possible in business in order to make money. But that’s not always the case. Of course, in an ideal world, your income will always be more than your outgoings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut back. In your business plan, you’re going to want to ensure that you cover off ways to make money, but over time, things are likely to change. Whether you account for this, or it comes as a surprise, there are things you can do to ensure that you continue to make money.

Hiring Staff

The very first thing that may surprise you, but should definitely be apart of your business plan at some point down the line, is the hiring of staff. Because hiring yourself a member of staff or two can actually ensure that you’re able to make as much money as possible going forwards. In reality, doing everything yourself is just not going to work. So, instead, you need to think about hiring your first member of staff as soon as you can afford it. With employees, you can then start to grow your operations in-line with your projections.

Working With Experts

Next, you should think about turning your attention to the experts. Because not only are staff essential to helping you grow, talented teams are too. Whether you need a marketing guru or bookkeeping services, you should definitely be thinking about hiring these as and when you need them. Because when you have professionals taking care of their set area, they’re more likely to do a good job, and you can, gain, focus on business growth and not just the day to day operations.

Shifting Responsibility

At the same time, you may also want to look a little more closely at your workload. If you’re going anything and everything, then you need to take a step back. Even when you’ve hired staff and are working with teams, you need to learn to unload more and more responsibility. If you want to make more money, you have to be able to trust others to do a good job to keep driving your business forwards.

Investing More

Then, you could think about investing. Investing in your business is often an essential way to ensure that you can grow on track. Whether you need more man power, a bigger business space, or even to expand into new markets, you may need to invest more capital. And if it’s going to better your business and make you more money in the future, it’s always worth the expense.

Upgrading Operations

And finally, you may also want to look at upgrading the way you currently do things to see an increase in profits. A fine example of this is making your website better. You may not be necessarily changing anything you do, but with a more refined site that is efficient and just better all round, you could see a huge uplift in profits.

How to Pick the Best Web Hosting Company

Because a lot of thought, planning, and money goes into creating the perfect website for your business, you want to be sure it gets the traffic you are aiming for and that the website can handle everything that is thrown at it. This is where the web hosting company comes into play. The web host is the service that publishes your website so others will see it. It provides a company with the actual server space to store all its content and looks after the file maintenance involved in the site. It is easily the most important component in building your site.

So, before you just go ahead and randomly select the first web host that you find, you may want to take some time and use these tips that will help you pick the best web hosting company for your specific needs.

Keep the Three S’s in Mind

A simple way to go about picking a web host is to always keep the three S’s in mind. These S’s are security, support, and speed. Each of these plays an important role, and if even one of these is lagging, the entire site and the user experience will suffer. Each time you investigate a web host, you need to ask about the three S’s and get detailed specifics.

Of course, there is more to it than just the three S’s, these just happen to be the most important criteria to watch for.

Be Aware of Your Specific Needs

It’s also very important that you are aware of your specific needs. It’s hard to shop for a host when you don’t even know what you need. Give thought to the website you are building. If you want to use something simple like WordPress, how much web traffic you are expecting? If you need any sort of special software for the site, do you know what this is and how to get it?Certain hosts will cater to specific criteria, which will help you to narrow down your options and find that perfect fit.

How Reliable is the Server?

Web traffic is fickle in that it will only stick around and stay strong if the website performs smoothly and as it is intended. What this means is that you need a reliable server that can handle your traffic without needing to “time out”.

When speaking to a potential web host you want to ask about their “uptime”, this is the time the website will be up and running, and is reliable. When a website crashes, it’s not unusual to lose more than just traffic, you can also lose out on a large number of potential sales.

What Kind of Pricing is Offered

Budget should always be on your mind when shopping for a web host. You want to find a package that offers everything you need, doesn’t have any surprise costs built in, and fits your budget.

Picking a web hosting company isn’t something you want to rush through. It’s important to do your research, take a good look at your options, and make sure you weigh all the pros and cons before making a final decision.