CategorySmall Business

Some Unnecessary Small Business Expenses to Avoid

When you start a business, you have to be extra careful with how you spend your capital. There are many ways for small business owners to increase their profits. Reducing their costs is one of the simplest and most effective ones. A lot of the times, entrepreneurs would add costs to their budgets that they don’t necessarily have to make. It might appear to them that these are necessary expenses when that’s not the case. They can add many of these expenses once their business has established.

Expenses That Small Businesses Should Avoid

Excessive Advertising

Yes, advertising is quite important for businesses, but excessive advertisement is not. It still makes sense for large businesses to go full-on with advertising because they have the budget to do so. However, when it comes to small businesses, they must do intelligent and selective advertising only. Their first course of action should be to identify the advertising channels that work best for them. Just because you are a restaurant at the corner of a street does not mean you have to use awnings, vinyls, neon signs, and all other types of materials for advertising purposes. Pick the ones that work and skip what doesn’t.

Too Many Work Hours

You don’t necessarily have to follow the trends of your competitors to compete with them. It does not matter how good they are, even the best ones can make mistakes at times. Many business owners choose to keep their premises opened for customers for long hours. They will open the business early in the morning and close it late at night just so they can serve more customers. However, one must do cost calculation before taking such a step? What if you are getting only five customers in the first three hours of the business and five more at the last two hours?

Now imagine the cost of utility, wages of your employees, etc. Are you covering the costs of keeping your business opened for five additional hours with only 10 customers? Even if you want to continue this way, you better test it for a week only. If the response is cold, you should quit this practice as soon as possible.

Pursuing the Best of Everything

The idea sounds great but is not the way to go about doing business when you are in your early stages. You should spend your money on things you need, not the things you want unless you have the budget to do so. If you are renting space for your office, you should look for a place that you can easily afford. Going for the best location in the most commercial area will cost you a lot of money. You can save your money even when it comes to internal equipment. Why buy new couches, seats and brand new computers when you can do with high-quality used equipment?

Why go for a printer with fancy looks and capacity to print hundreds of pages in a minute when you won’t ever need that many printouts at a time? Go with simple and beautiful when it comes to decorating your office. You don’t want to spend your budget on things that are not going to yield any benefits for your business.

Hiring IT Staff

IT is integral to any business today, tech or non-tech. However, it does not mean you have to have an IT team on board. One of the beauties of modern technology is that it allows you to outsource a lot of the business processes. The best thing about outsourcing business processes is that you can save a lot of money by doing so. Managed IT services are a perfect way for you to save IT costs while benefitting from expertise of the best professionals of the industry. Rather than paying thousands of dollars to three or four IT people, it makes more sense for small businesses to outsource their IT processes for a small monthly fee.

The good news is that you can outsource almost anything IT-related. From basic helpdesk to on-demand data officers, IT outsourcing can cover a lot of ground for you.

Unnecessary Debts

Taking loans when starting a business is imperative for your growth and to have enough cash in hand to support your operations. However, there are more ways to fund your business than you might realize. Many small business owners follow venture capitalists and conventional banks when it comes time to fund their businesses. However, crowdfunding has emerged as an amazing funding option for startups and small businesses. The good thing about crowdfunding is that you do not necessarily have to offer equity to the investors in your business. Sometimes, you can just reward them with a sample of your product.

Hiring Only Full-time Employees

If you own a small business, you might want to consider hiring interns. Interns can benefit your business in many ways. First, you do not have to pay them the salary of a full-time employee. Second, you can ask them to do a lot of the mundane tasks that otherwise affect the productivity of your full-time employees negatively. While it might not be the best practice, in some countries of the world they have free internships as well wherein you do not have to pay your interns. However, that’s not the right thing to do, and you should compensate their work to keep them motivated.

Conclusion

You should consider avoiding these expenses if you are a small business owner or about to be one. You can always take advice from those who have their own businesses to figure out what’s necessary and what’s not. Keep yourself up-to-date with new technological advancements. Taking advantage of modern software and hardware solutions can help you save a lot of money. Take the example of a printer with duplex printing option. You could cut your paper costs in half by printing on both sides of the paper. In the end, look into your current setup and operations to see what some expenses are that you can easily live without.


Data Visualization for Small Business

Everyone knows how important it is to monitor and evaluate the available natural, human and financial resources for any kind of business.

Visualizing the numbers has a crucial meaning for analysing and estimating. Psychologically it is more intuitive and helps for deep understanding of the data which are represented by numbers.

A simple and flexible web based application, which converts and visualizes a user defined numbers into different types of interactive charts.

Overview:
Data visualization refers to the techniques used to communicate data or information by encoding it as visual objects (e.g., points, lines or bars) contained in graphics. The goal is to communicate information clearly and efficiently to users. It is one of the steps in data analysis or data science. According to Friedman (2008) the “main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. It doesn’t mean that data visualization needs to look boring to be functional or extremely sophisticated to look beautiful. To convey ideas effectively, both aesthetic form and functionality need to go hand in hand, providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way. Yet designers often fail to achieve a balance between form and function, creating gorgeous data visualizations which fail to serve their main purpose – to communicate information”

To communicate information clearly and efficiently, data visualization uses statistical graphics, plots, information graphics and other tools. Numerical data may be encoded using dots, lines, or bars, to visually communicate a quantitative message.Effective visualization helps users analyze and reason about data and evidence. It makes complex data more accessible, understandable and usable. Users may have particular analytical tasks, such as making comparisons or understanding causality, and the design principle of the graphic (i.e., showing comparisons or showing causality) follows the task. Tables are generally used where users will look up a specific measurement, while charts of various types are used to show patterns or relationships in the data for one or more variables.

Data visualization is both an art and a science. It is viewed as a branch of descriptive statistics by some, but also as a grounded theory development tool by others. Increased amounts of data created by Internet activity and an expanding number of sensors in the environment are referred to as “big data” or Internet of things. Processing, analyzing and communicating this data present ethical and analytical challenges for data visualization. The field of data science and practitioners called data scientists help address this challenge.


Change Your Business Practices to Suit Your New Cloud ERP Software

Many businesses love their old software and do not want to change them.

They buy a cheap Accounting or an ERP software that meets their business requirements when they were making USD 1M. Now they want to use the same and make it run as the business has grown to US$10M. As their business need changes to meet Sales demands or CRM needs, they buy additional software and spend huge money to integrate the new technologies to their old Software. Because they are not able to see the future growth and do not purchase a FUTURE ready ERP software.

The challenge they do not understand is, they spend huge amount of money to run the old software, they keep IT personal to run and manage their hardware and server etc. This would lead to loss of business opportunity as the old solutions are not integrated together affecting customer services.

Recently as part of our cloud ERP software sales, we met a US$100 million manufacturing company in India. During our discussions with the company management, we were sure that they are interested to go for a Cloud ERP Solutions. But the challenge was “can we customize the product to suit their business practices and needs?”.

This means, management wanted to retain and follow their 30 year old practices where they manually check the data, numbers even after these are generated from their current stand alone ERP. They wanted controls and approval at every stage of documentations.

They were in dilemma, because their business had expanded and had operations in 3 large locations. But they wanted to continue with old practices as they are afraid that their “Old workforce” can’t manage the pressure. They don’t want to change the legacy of the company Founder too.

It gave us an opportunity to think what is happening here and our findings were as below.

1. Old practice: When the Founder started the business, he wanted to control every document movements and approved by him. It is OK as that time where the taxation rules were stringent, getting bank loan was difficult and Information / trade secret should be kept under wrapped. But as the business grown they added more people to do the manual document preparation and built “verification layers”, but didn’t automate the process and remove the old practices.

2. Fear of Unknown: Many senior employees worked as assistants to the Founder and gained his confidence and were promoted. The loyalty and “fear of unknown” didn’t allow them to change the old practices. They followed “Boss is always right” model.

3. Don’t fix anything unless it is broken: They didn’t make any attempt to know what is happening around the world and they didn’t trust anyone. This was the problem as they never sought after some of the best practices around the industry and made an attempt to practice and follow. They have an ISO9000 certificate, as it was essential to get the large company orders. They strongly believed that they follow a “World class practice”.

4. Resources Cost is cheap, but now it is affecting the organization as the current Workforce did not follow the level of commitment and loyalty that was exhibited by senior employees.

5. New generation is looking to change the current practice, but are overruled by their parents who are more “experienced”. So many young generations are forced to follow the old practices, as the senior workers never listen to them.

6. Data duplicity and entries were high as their current system is a combination of multiple solutions that are decentralised.

7. Founders and their family could not penalise the old workers even though they miss the deadlines or missing the compliance rules as they were loyal to business and had grown with the business.

After analysing the above, we suggested the following with justifications. Because it is essential to be empathic to customer needs and see how can we help them?

“We are happy to customize the ERP to suit your needs. But, before doing it, you should run our ERP “as it is” for 6 months. Post that we will take a decision on the next steps to follow”.

We justified this on why they should go for automation of an ERP and not to customize it to follow their old practice with below points.

1. A world class ERP solution brings some of the best practices used across the world. This could help them to improve the productivity, reduce wastage and improve inventory movements.

2. Cloud ERP brings in process automation, control and meets compliance needs as it is. No more last moment run and miss the compliance deadlines and pay a penalty.

3. It reduces the chaos and simplifies the process.

4. It brings in clarity to the process and Business Owners can see the right details at right time.

5. Competition is increasing day by day and Businesses need to be ready with right process to win the customers. Customers are the decision makers now as the information is freely available to everyone.

6. Government Rules and regulation have become stringent. Every county is co-operating with each other to find tax evaders. So it is not advisable to keep the Oral records or miss the bookkeeping.

7. Just because they are following a process for many years doesn’t mean it is correct now.

In summary, we won the deal being honest with this prospect and implemented our Cloud ERP Software as it is.

Before starting a Cloud ERP Solutions, I worked with software industry (Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Banking and Treasury Software products) for 20 years.

Personally I do not agree to the software product licensing concept where OUR product is licensed to a customer to use it and in turn we make him an “IT Expert” to manage OUR software, take OUR database backup on his HARDWARE rather than RUN his Business for which he bought OUR software. Irony is, he PAYS money to TEST and IDENTIFY Bugs in OUR software and we collect the money as “Annual Maintenance Contract”.

So we developed a cloud solution, AcTouch.com, where customer has an option to use the product while we manage all software upgrades, regular DB backups and make sure that he runs his business without any problems.

I normally write about MSMEs and their pain points that I encounter during my interaction.
Everyday I learn from MSME Business Owners.

I am an alumni of INSEAD Business School with a mechanical engineering background and this helps me to understand the business problems and their challenges.


How To Grow A Small, But Resilient Business

Small businesses, particularly those looking for an organic growth fail more often than they think. The success rate being fairly low, startups and small businesses need a foolproof strategy to be successful in the long-run. There are several things a small business owner can do to take her business to the next level. While on one hand, setting up of goals, planning in that direction and organizing the tasks is imperative, staying put with the latest technology is also equally important on the other.

The latest trend that small businesses have been seen to follow is embracing the cloud technology. The bookkeeping technology has taken a sharp turn, moving up from the traditional methods to accounting on the cloud.

QuickBooks Cloud: A New Way of Managing Finances

QuickBooks Cloud is bookkeeping software that serves the users with all of the necessary accounting tools at a single platform. It has not only made accounting and bookkeeping easier for its users but also made documenting simpler for CPAs, entrepreneurs and owners. Here is how an entrepreneur can grow a small but resilient business with the help of QuickBooks Cloud.

  • Embrace The Cloud, Once and For All

To compete with the larger firms and make a mark in the market, firms need to move to the cloud already. QuickBooks Cloud is an innovative way that offers anywhere, anytime accessibility along with a slew of unique benefits such as printing checks, managing payroll, keeping a track of inventory, managing the invoice etc on a single platform, without depending on paper.

  • Enjoy Increased Productivity Finally

Small firms need to work on their productivity. Since the workforce is comparatively smaller, SMBs need to work out a system that helps them to grow. QuickBooks cloud is highly scalable, thus when a firm grows, the growing functions can be easily managed without increasing the firm’s expenditure.

  • Make Tracking A Habit

In the traditional methods of bookkeeping, entrepreneurs would keep a lot of tasks on the mind instead of on record. This can be classified as an inefficient method of running a business as it is a careless method of tracking the tasks. With QuickBooks Cloud, tracking can be done on the software in no time. The software unfailingly reminds the users to make the payments on time, to track the inventory and to schedule or/and attend the upcoming events.

  • Keep Up With The Taxes

QuickBooks Cloud helps its users to stay updated with the changes in tax laws. Along with that, tax payments have also become a lot easier as QuickBooks software helps to organize the taxes beforehand. Tax payments with QuickBooks are a stress greatly reduced for the firms.

  • Be A Learner

A successful entrepreneur understands the importance of being up-to-date with what’s latest. Learn where the competitors and leaders are going. The customers need keep on changing and so does the market. Thus, a SMB must keep up with the market to be in business in the long run.

  • Backup and Backup

Cloud means multiple backups. And with QuickBooks Cloud, an entrepreneur is making sure that he has several backups for his most valuable company’s data. Loss of data owing to any possible cause can mean a loss of thousands of dollars to the firm. Thus, every company is required to keep its data safe.

  • Enjoy Better Planning For Your Business

Cloud helps the firms to plan its future in a better way. The scalability feature of cloud helps firms to expand and contract their functions easily. With easy access from anytime, anywhere, the entrepreneurs can carry out the work with the clients and CPAs even if they are located at a remote location in any part of the world. Thus, better planning and problem solving made easier on multiple levels.

QuickBooks Cloud has helped young entrepreneurs, CPAs and owners of small and medium sized businesses to do more at a single platform. With cloud computing technology, the users will not only save their time and money, but will also stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field of bookkeeping. Businesses thus looking to compete with the larger companies can start with accepting QuickBooks Cloud server for running their accounting operations in a more resilient manner.


7 Major Benefits Of Using An Online Fax Provider

Given today’s constantly changing communication platforms, operating any type of business can be a harrowing experience. Even well-seasoned business owners have to stay current and take full advantage of any new methods of communicating.

Online faxing uses an online account and the Internet to send and receive your faxes via email – usually in an email attachment. Faxes can also be sent to ordinary fax machines.

Granted, online fax services have been around for a while, but they do present major benefits or advantages over the old traditional fax machine. These advantages can’t be ignored if you want to stay competitive in today’s business climate.

So here are seven major benefits of using an online fax service or provider. Each benefit is discussed in detail – paying special attention to the positive effects it can have on your business.

1. Security

Security is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the Internet but modern online fax services are extremely secure. With SSL encryption and highly protected online storage, your faxes are private and secure.

Keep in mind, your online fax account is like any other account on the web, you must take simple precautions to keep it safe. Change your passwords regularly and just to be on the safe side, delete any extremely sensitive company faxes you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands.

2. Reliable

The top fax providers are very reliable and trustworthy. They have years of experience providing businesses with all types of faxing. Whether you are sending a single fax or mass faxing to thousands of clients – these providers can get the job done.

Unlike traditional faxing, you can check online to see if your faxes have been received. You can also keep sending a fax until it has been delivered.

3. Multi or Cross-Platform

Your faxes can be sent and received from numerous modern platforms – including Web Apps, Fax API, iOS App, Email to Fax, Google Docs… and the list goes on. This is all important because your clients can receive faxes through countless platforms – ensuring your messages are received.

4. Easy To Use

Online faxing is very easy to use. Most services give you a web interface/account which you can access anywhere in the world where you have Internet service. All providers give you tutorials and walk-throughs to make sure your faxing is as seamless as possible. You can also Port your current fax number over to your new account with no loss of business.

Plus, you can sign documents with ease. In most cases, you simply upload a document to edit or sign before you send your fax – usually in PDF, TIF, DOC or JPG format.

5. Scalability

Perhaps one of the major benefits for businesses – big or small – is the scalability of online faxing. Most, if not all, providers have different faxing plans to suit your company’s needs. In other words, you can scale up your faxing requirements as your company grows.

Most online fax providers are enterprise-ready and you can easily adjust your account for maximum usage. This can save you time and money, especially if you have to ramp up or scale down your operations to meet your current business activities.

6. Flexible Pricing

All of the top fax providers have flexible pricing. This can be important if you are just starting a business and funds are tight. Most will have a free plan or trial so that you can check out the quality of their services before you buy. Most have three or four different fax plans – which you can upgrade to as your needs and budget permit.

Remember, online faxing is a paperless system so you won’t have the ongoing costs of paper and inks. You don’t have to purchase a fax machine which can also save you money.

7. Mobility

Perhaps one of the best benefits of using online fax is mobility. Obviously, since this is a web-based system, you can send and receive faxes from anywhere in the world. This makes any business mobile and flexible. Your business is not tied down to any one given location or specific business hours for that matter. This simply means you can be open for business 24/7.

To sum up, online faxing is secure, reliable, multi-platform, scalable, cost-effective, easy to use and mobile. All of these factors can be beneficial to any business or company. These benefits should also be taken into consideration when determining how effective or competitive you want your business to be in the future. Choose wisely.


Retrain Tardy Paying Clients to Improve Cash Flow

If you have historically allowed your clients to pay you after thirty or sixty days, you may find it hard to change their habit. Ensure you agree credit terms with your client when you initially set up an account for them to help avoid this issue. Ensure you consider any terms related to late payment fees, interest or even prompt payment discounts.

Communicating your terms and conditions to your clients

When you have agreed terms, re-iterate them to your client in writing so they are aware of when you expect them to pay you. It also makes sense to advise them how non or late payments will be addressed. For example, a three-step process may include: sending them a statement immediately their account falls due; then calling them after seven days overdue, and then referring them to a debt collection specialist after twenty-eight days.

Be firm – it’s your money!

Many small business owners are afraid to ask for payment when its due. They allow their clients to delay paying rather than risking losing clients by appearing “pushy” or too demanding. Be more assertive as your client has already received your service or goods. You’re effectively working for nothing until your paid – a sale is only a sale when you’re paid. The “squeaky wheel gets oiled first” – make sure you’re the important squeaky wheel.

Speeding up slow payers

Have you allowed your clients to pay after thirty days and now you want them to start paying after seven days? Changing their habit make require “baby steps” to improve cash flow.

Contact them much sooner and more frequently than you did previously. Call or email them after fourteen days if they’re used to paying after thirty days. Let them know your invoice is due and politely ask when they will settle your account. Or start putting pressure on a little earlier. A few days before your invoice is due send them a statement and highlight the due date. You could even call them to ensure they have received your invoice. If your client can’t (or won’t) pay your invoice in full consider taking a part-payment and giving them the option to pay in one or two instalments.

So give it a go – retrain your slow paying clients to improve your cash flow. By making a few small changes to your invoicing processes, you will be able to improve cash flow.

Mark Gwilliam is a Chartered Accountant. He’s managing director and owner of Chakra Partners, a leading accounting business process outsourcing firm developed to help creative and innovative thinkers.


The Easy Guide to Making Money at Car Boot Sales

It has been said that another man’s junk is another man’s treasure. To this day I wonder why people buy some of the junk they do at different places, especially at car boot sales. Still, ours is not to reason why but to take advantage of the situation to make money at car boot sales. There are two ways you can make money: one is to become a seller and wonder why someone would buy broken items from you just because the price was right, and two is to buy stock that you can sell privately on Amazon and eBay. I will cover the two ways in this article.

BECOME A SELLER

People who sell items from their car boot are known as Car Booters. They usually sell items from home after a clear out. Some actually buy stock from various places in bulk to get a good price. As a seller (or booter) with items to sell – all you need is a car, a fold away table, a few carrier bags and some coins for customers who want change. Car Boot Sales are usually advertised in the local newspapers – and even on the Internet if you search for terms like “Car Boot Sales Manchester”.

There is no need to book a pitch for your car, just turn up. There will be people there who will show you where to park your car and set up your table. There is a fee for the pitch which will be taken from you sometime during the morning. At most places you would be there from around 7am to 1pm unless you decide to leave early.

How you present yourself and your stock is most important. Take some time to organize your stock nicely on your table as you want to catch the attention of passing customers. It is a good idea to have boxes filled with general bric-a-brac that customers can rummage through as many of them love to do so as a kind of lucky dip. It is important to have a good variety of items on display so the customer has a lot of choice.

Booters don’t generally put prices on their stock. The general idea is the customer asks the price and you reply with your first offer. The reason for this is because customers like to haggle over the price. For this reason you should decide how much you are willing to let the item go and still make a profit. If it’s an item you’ve been unable to sell after a few boot sales then you can let it go as cheaply as possible.

Remember that not all customers are going to be pleasant. You will get people who are cheeky and offer you next to nothing. Politely refuse their offers and explain to them that you are not able to let the item go for less than your lowest price. They soon give up and go leaving you to sell that item to a more generous customer.

BECOME A BUYER

Car Boot Sales are popular places to visit in the summer. The excitement of walking down an aisle of cars displaying untold treasures in the hope of picking up that special something. Most sellers (or car booters) are selling items after a clear out at home and they are willing to let it go for a ridiculously low price just so they don’t have to take it home again. Things like movies can be picked up for 50p and ornaments for 20p, even retro computers and games have been picked up for a bargain price. You can buy practically anything on a car boot sale, things that have been stored in attics for years collecting dust that could be valuable to a collector.

If you are buying to sell privately then the first thing you need to do is browse places like Amazon and eBay and see what sort of items you should be selling. Get an idea of the items and the prices they go for and set yourself a limit to how much you are willing to pay for something. It is a good idea to make a list of things you are looking for with your top price which you obviously want to be as low as possible.

When dealing with the casual car booter remember that many of them want to get rid of as much as possible, especially as it’s costing them around £10-£15 for the pitch. Ask questions like: “Will you give me a good price for these books if I take ten?” If the books were a pound each you could offer eight pounds for ten of them. There is a good chance they will agree because they are making eight pounds all at once, which they may not have made that day if they had sold them separately.


Great Leadership Versus Great Management

Effective leadership is essential in every organization and is a highly sought after skill by most employers. Through Leadership Training, you can gain these valuable skills without having to disrupt your current lifestyle.

There has been a lot of debate, research and discussion about the differences between leadership and management. The focus seems to be on the differences between leadership and management instead of the commonalities.

Most of us would like to think of themselves as strong, efficient leaders. True enough, if it wasn’t for good leadership, nothing would happen. Nothing would change or improve. Leaders not only make the plans happen, they have the vision to make the plans!

Leadership training helps you to unlock your full potential. Leadership will help to achieve your dreams in the business world. Leadership is at the center of every successful business. When a leader is able to effectively manage his team, great things can result!

However, not as many people seem to be as drawn toward being a good manager as they are a great leader. Management is often associated with the boring day-to-day drudgery of running the business. Usually, these things are not pursued as “becoming of a great leader.” But in reality, they are the building blocks to become a great leader! The perception is that someone can be either a leader or a manager, but not both. But that could not be farther from the truth.

Leadership and management do require different skill sets. No doubt about it. But, what most people do not realize is that leaders must have management skills. And managers must have leadership skills. These skill sets must work together in order for any change to effectively occur.

It is kind of like a sock and a shoe. You can wear one without the other. But when you put them both on together, they make a great partnership. A leader who is also a manager, or a manager who is also a leader, make the perfect combination for business success.


Three Special Business Plan Types

Though it has undergone many changes, the business plan is still around. No longer limited to the traditional 12-15 page type-written document, a business plan can be exciting and engaging as well as useful. Many of us realize that it’s the planning process, and the associated research and soul searching, that is so valuable. The finished plan is just icing on the cake.

Just as there are many types of entrepreneurs and business ideas there are many kinds of business plans. Here are three that deserve some special attention.

The “Accidental Entrepreneur” Plan:

Believe it or not, it happens quite often. An impulse, a hobby, or a passing notion turns into a business without warning. One day you’re handing your extra back-yard tomatoes or homemade cake to the neighbors, and before you know it you’re filling out the forms for a booth at the local farmer’s market. Perhaps you create a unique bit of hand-crafted jewelry and wear it to school or work, and then find your phone flooded with messages like, “Where can I get one?” and “I’ll pay you to make one for me.”

When you’re writing a business plan in a situation like these, you need to address a few issues the intentional entrepreneur has already pondered. The first is do you really want this idea to become a full-blown business? Certainly it’s flattering when you realize there’s a market value for something you were doing anyway, but that doesn’t always mean you should launch a business. A lot of accidental businesses form around fads or seasonal items, and may not be robust enough to function as year-round, money-making, enterprises.

Next you will need to carefully examine what actually goes into your offering. How many hours does it take to create those one-of-a-kind bracelets? How much does it cost to bake a dozen of your special recipe cookies? How much research goes into “whipping up” a website? Making tangible goods requires space. Do you have room to grow enough squash to actually generate profits? Are these numbers you could sustain beyond the occasional personal or family use of your product or service?

The business planning process can be very helpful to “accidental entrepreneurs” as it allows you to decide which ideas are best left as hobbies and which ones could provide some real cash flow.

The “Back of a Napkin” Plan:

It is the source of entrepreneurial legend and lore, the million-dollar idea that was hurriedly scribbled on a bar napkin. Yet, for most potential business owners this option for business planning remains a fantasy. However, like any myth there is a tiny grain of truth inside. A quickie business outline can work as a launch plan under the right circumstances.

If you need to get going quickly to ride the wave of a fad before it fizzles, then fast, bare-bones planning may be all you’ve got time to execute. This works best when you’ve already got the infrastructure in place, perhaps from previous projects or an established business, and you can simply shift energy and resources to the new idea.

When you, and your partners if any, have all the core skills and industry knowledge you need to start right away without seeking experts, napkin notes may be enough to get going. Let’s say you are already an expert in technology and social media. Then you, and your team, probably don’t need a detailed plan to start developing a new app. You will draw on your knowledge and experience, and you understand that you might need to go back and do some more detailed and formal planning later.

Certainly when you reach the point where you are looking for investors or lenders, you will move beyond those first casual notes. Until then, drawing upon your expertise can allow you to quickly jump into the market and perhaps gain a competitive edge by using a minimalist plan.

The “One Pressing Issue” Plan:

Business planning does not stop the day you open for business. Under the best of circumstances you should be revisiting your plan once or twice a year to see how things are going, and where perhaps you’ve veered away from your original goals. Remember, changing the direction of a business isn’t always bad, but it should be intentional.

Then there are the moments when something seems to be going wrong, when one or more areas of the business just don’t seem to be working. Cash flow is anemic or the marketing message is flat. Perhaps customers have shown a marked interest in only one particular product or service, ignoring all your other offerings. This means it’s time to revisit your business plan, more precisely it’s time to revisit the questioning process that helped you craft your plan.

Look at the assumptions you baked into your original plan. Did the city follow through on opening that new park across from your location? Were insurance rates what you expected? How many hours of accounting or web design help did you really need? Are your online inquiries out-stripping your face-to-face sales? Or vice versa?

Sometimes no matter how much you research, plan, or test, things don’t go as expected in a business. This isn’t necessarily a herald of failure or a sign that you’re not cut out for entrepreneurship. Life and the marketplace are both unpredictable, and plans need to be fluid and responsive. The “One Pressing Issue Plan” is simply a reflection of a normal evaluation process.

While I still recommend the business planning process, I caution you to realize that a beautifully crafted document does not always equal business success. I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs who successfully launched without a plan, and some with beautifully written plans that never materialized. You and your business idea are unique. Your planning process will be unique as well. Be wary of one-size-fits-all advice or pronouncements from experts about how you should proceed.


No Marketing ROI in Your Small Business? Here’s How to Fix It

If you are a small business owner, you know how hard it’s to manage all aspects of your business. Marketing is the backbone of any business as far as growth is concerned. Unlike large companies, small startups have to work with smaller budgets. As a result, the owners have to try their best to get the maximum return on their marketing investment. In this guide, we are going to give you a few secret tips that may help you get the highest ROI.

1) Make sure you have Realistic Goals

Having solid goals is the first thing you need to do. This is important if you want your marketing plan to be effective. You can have different goals and ways to achieve them. For example, you can find a way to spur on your customers or clients to sign up for your weekly or monthly newsletter.

In the same way, for better revenue growth, make sure you have an eye-catching call-to-action in your newsletters. This will increase the click-through rate.

2) Choose a Suitable Channel

Not every marketing channel can work for you. So, you need to choose a channel based on real data. This channel can be a platform that can help you exchange information with your customers, such as social media.

Of course, you may have to spend the time to get familiar with these channels. As soon as you have learned to use them, you are good to go.

3) Run Optimized Marketing Campaigns

This is one of the best cross-platform technique. With this approach in place, you can make your message more effective whether you are using ads on newspapers, TV or the Internet.

It’s good to have an integrated marketing campaign as it may have a positive impact on the visibility and efficacy of your message. In fact, experts say that 70% customers lean toward the integrated marketing method. So, an optimized campaign can give better results.

4) Write Content

Marketing can be done in more ways than one, and content marketing is on top of the list. Writing content for your blog or website can help you get a number of benefits down the road. The fact of the matter is that content is king as far as getting your site listed on the first page of Google is concerned. Once your site is listed on top of the search results page, your ROI will go up.

5) Use task Automation Platforms

With the help of digital marketing, you can reap many benefits. Digital marketing has a lot of tools and platforms that allow you to do the automation of your marketing tasks. Some of the platforms are MailChimp, Facebook, and WordPress. The automation of tasks can save you a lot of time and investment dollars. At the same time, it will boost your marketing ROI.