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How Start-Ups Stay Up – How I Run My Small Business

StrategyDriven Managing Your Business Article |Start-Ups |How Start-Ups Stay Up - How I Run My Small BusinessI am a bankruptcy attorney in Philadelphia. I started my law firm over 20 years ago and have helped thousands of clients get a fresh financial start over the years. I have four tips for small business owners both new and experienced. I credit these basic principles with the success of my firm.

Create Your Niche

You might be the greatest widget-maker on the planet, but if the market for widgets is saturated that will not matter – it will be a struggle, up-hill, to get noticed by potential customers. Make sure that when you start your business you have identified a service or product that is fresh to the market, whether that market is local (like a bankruptcy law firm, or a house painter) or global (products that can be exported or services that can be done remotely).

Advertise Your High-Quality Service or Product Online.

The days when a website is just an online business card are long over. An effective website will clearly show what you do or are offering and be findable by people who need you. The structure and content of the site itself should attract the viewer to stay on the site, and eventually start on their Buyer’s Journey to purchasing your service or product.

Any commercial website these days absolutely must be optimized for mobile devices. Potential customers most frequently use their smartphones or their tablets to google solutions to their problems, and they will click away from an unwieldy site that is difficult to read or navigate.

The content of your site should establish your expertise and/or relevance to the viewer’s search, and a clear and easy way to contact you or to purchase your service or product.

Maintaining a blog is a great way to inform current clients and future clients of the latest developments in your field, of new products or services you are offering, and to establish your expertise or your product’s high quality.

Convert Satisfied Clients and Customers into New Clients.

The first order of business is to make sure you are providing current customers and clients with a high-quality product or service. What you offer should do what you promise it to do and if a problem arises, a customer must be able to contact you for a remedy. Good customer service is the primary driver of repeat and referred business. So many clients are referred to me by their friends or family who used my services. That is gratifying.

But how to harness the power of satisfied clients’ goodwill? Provide them with the opportunity to leave you a positive review. I’m not suggesting you email each client or customer yourself, but rather, that you purchase one of the many available systems that automate this process for you. It’s a nominal expense for what you get in return.

Once you have clients’ email addresses, you can create a mailing list to inform list subscribers of sales or specials or a change in operating hours, etc. Make sure to ask clients first before you add them to your mailing list, and in each email sent, offer a simple way to unsubscribe. There are many good list managing companies online who will organize this for you.

Create a Network of Professionals and Peers

Word-of-mouth is valuable not just among former clients and future clients, but between professionals and your peers as well. Here are some ideas about how you can start and grow your network:

  • Join your national professional associations and attend conferences
  • Join your state or local professional associations and attend meetings
  • Join your local rotary club or other organization to network with local businesses unrelated to your business
  • Once established in your field, offer to give talks at meetings and conferences, to establish your expertise
  • Invite members of your network to subscribe to your blog or email list, for the latest news, and join theirs
  • Be active in your community. Volunteer your time or funds to support any quality-of-life events in your city or town, like a July 4th Town Picnic, or a Thanksgiving 5K. You can’t put a price on the goodwill that will generate for you and your business.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | David M. Offen, Esq.Mr. David M. Offen, Esq. is a bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney in Philadelphia who attended Temple University College and Law School. Mr. Offen is licensed to practice in the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is a member of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Conference and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and maintains an active blog on all aspects of bankruptcy filing and current events.

How to Avoid a Business Bankruptcy

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship ArticleThe number of small businesses filing for bankruptcy increases every year, and while bankruptcies don’t always lead to the full closure of the company, in a lot of cases they do. If your dream business is currently on the verge of bankruptcy, don’t panic. There are some steps you can take that may help you to turn things around. Try to think as positively as you can and put the following steps into action.

1. Look at the Figures

The first thing you need to do is work out how much you need to make each month to survive. This includes both the money you need to actually live, and the money you need to repay your creditors. Add 20% to this figure to give yourself a cushion. Finally, add in the costs of running your business. This includes everything from your bills to your payroll to the cost of inventory. With this information at hand, you need to work out how much your business is earning each month. If you are facing bankruptcy, it’s likely you have a deficit between the two numbers. The next steps are going to focus on decreasing costs and increasing profit to give you enough to cover everything you need to pay.

2. Cut Costs

Okay this sounds simple, but there is sure to be some ways that you can lower your expenses to meet your spending goals. Consider getting rid of your traditional phone plan and switching to VoIP, look into cheaper packaging options, and look into obtaining new quotes for any services you receive that aren’t under contract. The aim here is to look for redundant costs that your business can do without and either eliminate them entirely or reduce the amount you are spending.

3. Renegotiate with Your Creditors

Phone your creditors and let them know you are considering bankruptcy. The majority will be happy to come up with a payment plan that works for you so long as it means they will still receive what they are owed (with bankruptcy there is no guarantee they will be paid). Some may be willing to waive the interest, while others will extend the terms of your debt so that you have longer to repay it. You could also file a consumer proposal with your creditors if you don’t want to speak to them directly.

4. Look at Short Term Cashflow Options

We’re not necessarily suggesting that you take out loans to cover your cash flow. Instead, speak to your vendors and ask them for more lenient payment terms. If they can extend their terms, you will free up more cash in the short term. Another option is to ask your clients to pay you quicker. You could offer them a small percentage off their invoice if they are willing to pay faster. Both of these options will provide a boost in the short term.

Sometimes filing for bankruptcy is the only option. However, it is worth giving the above a try first if it could mean saving your business.