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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.

A Guide To Being A New Business Owner

StrategyDriven Starting Your Business Article |Being your own boss| A Guide To Being A New Business OwnerBeing your own boss is an exciting adventure and an accomplishment to be proud of. However, know that there’s a lot to think about as you open your doors and try to build up a book of business.

It’s normal to be hesitant and unsure of yourself and what you’re exactly doing at first. Use this guide to help you determine what areas you should be focusing your time and energy as you begin your journey as a new business owner. Avoid worrying about all that may or may not go wrong and instead enjoy your new position and having the power and authority to call the shots and make the tough decisions.

Set up Your Office Space

One of the first things you need to do as a new business owner is to figure out where you’re going to be working and want to set up shop. It’s a good idea to make sure you have the essentials at your building, such as desks to work at and bathrooms to use. If you need new bathroom stalls, then contact partitionplus.com and allow them to assist you with this project. You want an environment that’s welcoming, configured for productivity and where your employees feel comfortable coming to work each day.

Focus on Client Service

As a new business owner, you’re also going to want to focus on offering excellent customer service. Doing so is a way to get more clients and attract business to your company so you can increase your profits. Keep in mind that without satisfied customers, your entire business may suffer and you could end up having to shut your doors. Ask those who are pleased with your services to leave online reviews for you so others can get a better feel for what it’s truly like to work with you.

Organize Your Finances

You’re not going to get too far in business without you having your finances in order and being wise with your money. As a new business owner, this is one area you’re going to want to pay special attention to as you begin to grow your company over time. If you find this task difficult to do or don’t have the time, then consider hiring a finance director to help you out. This way you can keep tabs on your books and be notified of any red flags immediately.

Practice Work-Life Balance

Being a new business owner means you’re going to be spending a lot of time at the office trying to get your company up and running. However, it’s important to practice work-life balance and take care of yourself and your health if you want to succeed in your role. Burning yourself out and feeling exhausted each day will only cause you unwanted problems over the long-term. Get in the habit of using your vacation days and finding a routine where you can live a healthy lifestyle and manage a profitable business. It’s possible to do, but you have to be willing to prioritize your tasks and have good time management skills.

Starting a Business at Home: A Guide

StrategyDriven Starting Your Business Article|Home Business|Starting a Business at Home: A GuideIf you’ve got that entrepreneurial spark, why not start your own business from your very own home? The best business you could build from home are the ones you start yourself from scratch, not the ones you buy into (talking to you, multi-level marketing schemes!). Even if you’re starting from absolutely nothing with little money, it’s definitely possible to build up your business idea into a successful and profitable company. Here is a guide on how to get started.

Step 1: Pick your niche

Come up with a business idea and choose what sort of business you want to start based on your experiences. This is most likely going to be the most difficult step, as you need to identify the idea behind your business and what your unique selling proposition is. You don’t have to necessarily have professional experience as long as the work you do is rooted in proper knowledge or expertise, so you can turn a hobby into a business as long as the quality is there.

Also consider that if you have a criminal record, there are a few fields you can’t start a business in, including medicine, law, finance, or anything that uses hazardous materials. If you want to be sure about your options, speak to an attorney to get a better understanding of what limitations you have if you’ve been convicted of a crime before getting started.

Step 2: Determine your target market and your competitors

Understanding whom you’re trying to sell to is a big factor in the success of your business, as is knowing who your competitors are and what they’re offering. By identifying your target market early on in the process, you can determine what kind of demand there is for your product or service and adjust accordingly. Also, every business has a competitor, and you want to make yours stand out so you must know what the competition is doing in order to offer something different than them. It’s beneficial to do a competitive analysis to help figure out what your company’s edge is.

Step 3: Decide what your budget is

Every business needs capital to get it off the ground, so figure out how much that is before you start spending. Consider how much you’ll be spending on your office space, including rent, utilities, equipment, and administrative services like conference calling, and be realistic about these costs. Also, consider other expenses like marketing costs and employee salaries and benefit packages. Do plenty of research and compare prices to make sure you get a good understanding of what your budget will be.

Step 4: Finance your business

The preferred way to finance your new business would be through personal savings, but understandably, this isn’t always a reality or a viable option. In 2018, nearly half of all small business owners went to the bank for a loan to help finance their company. There are other ways to obtain some capital, including:

Don’t forget to keep your business finances and personal finances separate for legal reasons. Make sure to establish your business as its own entity and set up an LLC for easy accounting when it comes time to file your taxes.

Step 5: Advertise

How are people going to know you exist unless you market your brand or product? Make sure your company has a website and you’re on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn (or all of the above – whatever makes sense for your brand and target audience) and understand the strategies involved for each platform, because yes—they’re all different. Traditional advertising is fine too, but the real bread and butter comes from social media these days, so get your profiles up and get that website functioning as soon as possible.

How to Start a Used Car Business

StrategyDriven Business Startup Article|Business Skills|How to Start a Used Car BusinessFor some people, starting an independent used car business is the perfect combination of a love of cars and great business skills. Or, at the very least, a desire to develop great business skills. However, building a used car business from the ground up is not as simple as finding cars and selling them on. It’s not even enough just to know everything about cars and their features; you also need to have a sound understanding of business finances, licensing and legal requirements in terms of permits and taxes. To run a successful business, you also need to get to grips with marketing strategy, techniques and advertising standards you need to comply with.

A big decision you’ll be faced with early on is the choice between starting a car dealership franchise or your own independent used car business. Franchises often require a larger investment upfront to purchase the franchise rights and will be a bigger operation in general. Independent businesses are often the less costly option and can source their vehicle inventory from several places, but this option is by no means an easy one.

Create a Business Plan

A business plan is crucial and should be created before you make any financial or legal commitments. You need to research and analyze the used vehicle industry, including your competitors. The plan should include your projected budget and foreseeable costs. The process of writing your business plan will highlight any potential pitfalls or problems in the business model.

Finance Your Business

Most new business owners need help when financing a start-up. You can do this by finding an investor or taking out a business loan. Your personal credit score and history will be considered when you apply, so make sure everything is in a positive state before you do. This is where your business plan comes in again, as lenders and investors will want to know when your business should start returning a profit.

To establish your business, you will need to form a corporation, partnership or LLC. This is a process which incurs legal fees and applies for a business license. In addition, you need a vehicle dealer’s license from your state’s Motor Vehicle Administration by demonstrating you meet all the necessary criteria. This includes the size of your premises, the location, your opening hours and any signage you will be using. Your license will enable you to sell certain types of vehicle such as used or new, car, truck, RV or motorcycle. You will also need to get a surety bond which means your customers are financially protected when buying from you, should you fail to meet your obligations. Both your license and surety bond will cost money, but this varies from state to state. You’ll also need to pay for Business Liability Insurance on an ongoing basis.

Every new business has start-up costs to consider from renting your premises and finding your inventory to outfitting your office with equipment and paying the wages of any employees. The rent you pay will usually be calculated by square feet and prices will vary depending on where you choose to locate the business. Don’t forget to budget for your marketing and advertising activities as these will be key in getting your business off the ground. Each vehicle you sell will also need dealer plates; the cost of this will vary from state to state.

Get Your Sales Tax Permit

You need to contact the Controller of Public Accounts in your state to get your sales tax permit. Each state will have its own process and schedule for collecting the tax on each vehicle you sell.

Get the Best Location

It’s likely that you’ll be leasing your premises rather than buying in the early stages. The premises you choose should be easily accessible and have adequate space to accommodate both the vehicles you’re selling and the vehicles of your customers. Visibility is key to increase the awareness of your business in the local area.

Recruit Staff

Depending on the size of your business, you’ll need staff to help you sell vehicles and to help with the general running of the business. Your salespeople should be friendly and outgoing with experience in selling either vehicles or other high-priced items. You should also consider hiring someone who can carry out vital maintenance on the vehicles, so they are ready for sale.

Build Your Inventory

A big step in setting up your business if finding vehicles to sell. This can be done by advertising in trade publications, online trade websites or local papers, placing signage outside your dealership that you’re looking to purchase vehicles, or you can proactively approach people who may wish to sell. Your family and friends may well have contacts or colleagues looking to sell a vehicle. You could also respond to private adverts or attend vehicle auctions where you can buy vehicles in good condition.

Of course, you don’t have to stick to local vehicles when building your inventory. You could bring in vehicles from all over the country, but you may need to consider vehicle transport services to ensure they arrive at your premises safely and without adding mileage. You can learn about car shipping in more detail on the Freedom Auto Transport website.

Devise a Marketing Strategy

Once your business is open, you’ll need to find some customers. You should have a website, be active on social media platforms and consider online advertising as well as print advertising in magazines and newspapers. If you don’t have experience in marketing, you may want to contact a specialist marketing firm which can help you build your brand. Eventually, you may be able to employ a dedicated marketing professional in your team. Here is a guide to start-up marketing to get you started.

Organize a Launch Celebration

A great way to kickstart your business in the local community is to organize an event to celebrate your opening. The attractive you can make the event the better so consider serving food or refreshments and some entertainment. It’s a great opportunity to not only invite local people and other businesses to do some networking and hand out literature, but also to invite the local press. A new business launching in the local area is always newsworthy, especially if you can make the event as eye-catching as possible.

5 Technical Considerations When Starting Your Business

StrategyDriven Business Startup Article | Entrepreneurship | 5 Technical Considerations When Starting Your BusinessIf you’re starting your own business and you don’t know what technical aspects you need to consider then don’t worry, you have definitely come to the right place. There are so many different technical considerations you need to think about before starting your business, working out whether or not you need to hire help in advance. Whilst it may take a chunk out of your start-up budget, you can relax knowing you’re not going to run into any problems. With that in mind, here are 5 technical considerations to think about when starting your own business:

Do You Have A Website Up And Running?

One of the most important parts of owning a business is ensuring you have a website up and running. Although it doesn’t equal success for every business, most business owners have found that creating a website has increased their visibility ten-fold. Whilst you can set up a site on your own, often it’s better to hire both a designer and a developer who can help you put together the best possible solution. For tips and tricks when it comes to hiring a website team, you can visit this site here.

Do You Need To Consider Hosting And Servers?

Although this may sound a little too technical, you need to think about both hosting and servers, especially if you have a large business. If you have a business that has the scope to grow, you may want to consider hosting your site, your data and your systems on your own server. If that’s the case, you can visit Linux VPS for more details.

Have You Thought About Email Addresses Across The Business?

If you’re going to be hiring a team of people when you start your business, everyone is going to need their own personal email address. Whilst this may seem unimportant to begin with, it’s important you have this set up from the start to avoid any breaches of data. Alternatively, if you want to have a variety of different inboxes depending on the enquiry, you will need to have separate email addresses for each inbox. For more information when it comes to setting up several email addresses at once, you can visit this site here.

Have You Considered Security And Protection?

When it comes to technology within your business it is important you’re doing everything you can to protect your data and your IT systems. Whether this means downloading antivirus and malware software or taking precautions when it comes to GDPR, you need to be sure your business is technologically safe.

Are You Going To Be Using Social Media?

Finally, are you going to be using social media within your business? Whilst this may not be considered a form of technology to some, using social media to grow your business requires a lot of knowledge when it comes to tech. Whether it’s setting up your accounts, building a following or using ads to reach new customers – you need to have a certain level of skill in order to use social media for business.

Are you starting a business soon? What technical considerations do you need to think about before you get started? Let me know in the comments section below.