Small Business Success: 6 Strategies To Ensure Start Up Success

Small Business Success doesn’t have to involve a lot of additional strategic planning, huge budgets, and loads of additional time. Let’s face it, as a small business entrepreneur you already have enough to think about without adding additional work and responsibility.

In this article you will find 6 SIMPLE, yet powerful success strategies to improve your business from idea conception all the way to completion of the exit strategy.

1. Go where others do not.

Seek out a niche that enables you to provide significant value with reduced competition. There will always be someone who will attempt to enter the market and sell at a lower price – don’t compete with them. Let the low price providers beat each other up over the low price shoppers. Instead look for what makes your product or service better than the competition and find ways to express its value – and charge for it.

2. Systematize your business.

Develop repeatable business processes that can be documented and performed with consistency. All successful businesses identify what is unique about their product and service as part of their niche marketing and then find ways to deliver that product or service utilizing existing efficient business practices. Don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel. Look at how other successful companies handle finance, sales, marketing, human resources, logistics, etc. and begin to implement similar systems across the board throughout your business.

Find ways to automate as much of the repeatable tasks as possible. Though necessary at many steps throughout the business process, identify where human intervention is unnecessary or potentially destructive and invest in the technology and procedures that will ultimately lead to more efficient and effective outcomes.

3. Implement Guerrilla Marketing Tactics.

A great marketing plan doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With the recent advances in social media networking and the ease that buyers can now access information from the internet, marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be effective. A huge budget is no longer essential in reaching large groups of interested prospects. What is important is identifying your target niche market and making sure you deliver the appropriate message to those people. Spend a considerable amount of time thinking about who is most likely to buy from you and why. Identify all the objections and potential reservations and then specifically attack those hesitations when approaching your niche. Clearing the air upfront enables the prospect to make an informed buying decision focused more on the value of what you have to offer then on the objections their mind my point out.

4. Create and share your vision for the company.

Spend time envisioning what your company will look like in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years. Ultimately what do you want to accomplish in your business and who will that affect? What does your business success look like and how is it measured? Who will benefit from your business success and how will it impact the lives of those around you? Why is this so important to you? Once you have answered these questions formulate a clear and concise vision of what this all looks like in your mind. From there begin to communicate that orally and in writing to those around you, continually expanding the vision and the audience. As you continually share your company vision people and opportunities will begin to pop up that will share and support your quest for success.

5. Identify opportunities and build relationships.

Continually be open to new opportunities and relationships. Talk to others and stay open to changes in the marketplace. Specifically look for places of uncertainty, upheaval, and pending change. These are the areas most likely to produce an opportunity for significant advancement.

Pay attention to new people you meet and focus on how you can help them excel in their business. By helping them you will in turn be planting a seed for future harvest. The human mind has been conditioned traditionally to repay debt and favors. Seeds of good deed planted now will yield results down the road as more and more people look to repay the favor.

6. Begin with the end in mind.

Many people start with a dream of being in business for themselves without clear vision or direction. Often times these people will find themselves 5 years in to a venture that just doesn’t fulfill the entrepreneurial spirit. Consumed and exhausted the business may begin to falter.

Instead, clarify what your business will look like in 25 years. Where do you want to be, how do you want your business to look, who does your business serve? Take the vision you clarified in step 4 and work backwards from the end all the way to the day your business idea was first conceived. What has to happen and who to you have to meet now that will move you towards the end? What skills must be learned, what habits formed, what relationships maximized to ensure your business success? By beginning with the end in mind you will ensure the plan you chart will ultimately get you to the final destination.

[http://encompass-management.com] | Kevin Aubrey is an accomplished entrepreneur leading one of his current companies to consecutive Inc. 5000 awards (2006 2007) for the fastest growing privately held companies in America. Having worked with (2) different Fortune 100 companies early in his career, and currently operating a half dozen small businesses, Kevin shares his business insight as a consultant, author, and speaker. Kevin’s blog can be found at [http://kevinaubreytoday.com].

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Small Business Start Up – What to Do If You Can’t Afford to Start Your Own Business

Want to start your own business but think you can’t because you just don’t have the funds?

It is possible to overcome this small obstacle and grow the business of your dreams! How? By starting smaller and systematically building towards your dream business.

For example: If you want a restaurant, start a catering company first. Can’t afford a catering company? Sell baked goods from your home to a local café to start building your experience, contacts, and cash reserves until you are ready to take that next step.

Want a clothing line? Start by selling your designs to local retail shops. Not ready for retail? Sell your designs online on your website and through sites such as eBay.com or etsy.com.

Want a retail shop? Start by selling goods online or to local retail shops. Not sure if you’re ready to keep up with retail? Sign up with an established retail company such as Avon to get you started.

The most important thing to remember is that when you earn money it needs to be reinvested in “your business,” either by reinvesting in the smaller version to help it grow or by putting the money away to invest in the bigger version when the time is right.

Also important is to put your plan for growth in writing so you won’t lose sight of where it is you are heading and what you are ultimately working for. Create a nice graph depiction of your business goals for growth and post it somewhere you can review it every day. Also notate the thresholds for moving to the next stage. For example, if your ultimate goal is to own a restaurant and you are starting with selling baked goods to a local café and then moving to a catering business, note on your plan when these changes will occur. You could decide to move from selling to a café only to also catering to one event per month when your cash savings have reached $500. Then, when you get to the point that you can cater say, five events a month, you may wish to stop selling to the café.

Just make sure that your plan is detailed enough that you know exactly what your next step is and when to take it. But keep in mind that your plan should be flexible; you may need to change it as you go.

To download “104 Marketing Tips,” visit katalinaonline.com [http://katalinaonline.com].

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Small Business Start Up – How To Work On Your Business

Working On your business involves strategic planning versus tactical implementation. That means reflecting on what’s happening outside your business and its effects on you, as opposed to running the day to day operation. The result is reaching your goals by evaluating your processes and developing your own skills. Working In your business involves such daily activities as prospecting, serving customers, administration, and the “feel-good” activity of making bank deposits.

These daily activities will consume all your time and energy and take control of your business if you let them, preventing you from seeing the big picture, anticipating change, and responding to opportunities.

Steps for Working On Your Business

Step One: Plan the Work Weekly

The Harvard Business School completed a study of their graduates to determine what factors contributed to post graduate success. The number one factor was goal setting. The graduates that set goals, either formally or informally, were more likely to be successful in their careers and personal lives. Success was defined as a combination of compensation, career satisfaction, personal and professional achievements, and personal life satisfaction.

Planning the Work begins with goal setting. Know where you want your business to be in a year, in 5 years, and what your exit strategy for the business will be in ten years. Sometimes it is easier to set these goals starting with your exit strategy. Then ask yourself what intermediate steps do I need to do now to be in a position to achieve the goal in the future. This process sets the course of your business from where it is now to its planned destination.

Planning the work requires some time away from the business to determine if you are ‘on-course,’ plan any course corrections, and come back with a work plan that serves your goals.

Step Two: Work the Plan

Each planned goal should have a work plan for success; e.g. If one of your goals for the year is to grow sales by 20% the work plan will outline the activities necessary to achieve the goal.

Step Three: Evaluate Progress on a monthly basis and Make Necessary Course Corrections

Develop reports that provide timely, accurate information related to the weekly work plans and previously set goals. Remember, activity precedes results. Tracking activity will help to interpret the results you are getting. Monitor customer feedback and integrate the information into employee training, product/service innovation, and course corrections. Monitor your direct and indirect competition. Allocate your resources to insure your company’s next stage of development.

Tips for Working On Your Business

Set aside a time (2-3 hours) each week to get away from interruptions; e.g. go to a favorite deli, park, take a walk (use a recorder), etc.

Create your agenda for your time as the week progresses. Add items as they come up.

Meet once a month with someone or a group to go over your ideas. Banker, CPA, lawyer, etc. are also candidates.

Take in some business training workshops for fresh perspectives on issues your tackling.

Your investment of time in this activity will pay you back in generous dividends; e.g. cost savings, increased and better customer prospects, more sane moments, and a shorter distance to success.

Bruce Hunter is the CEO of CORE Magazine in Denver Colorado. CORE is the leading online source for small business startup. Visit our free online resource center now to get free access to information on small business finance.

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How To Create A Word-Of-Mouth Referral Network

The most effective sales team you’ll ever find is enthusiastic customers. The reason is simple enough: Customers aren’t paid to praise. When a customer becomes a passionate believer in your brand, it means you truly earned it. Whenever they buy your product or service, customers feel like special club members.

But a repeat customer alone doesn’t create a sales team. The trick is to transform that dedicated buyer into a promoter who spreads the word and converts friends, family and associates into customers, too. By building great word-of-mouth, you nurture an all-volunteer sales force that generates leads, boosts sales and leverages marketing dollars. Here are three basic ways to persuade people to talk up your business story. As you develop the customer sales force, you’ll find other options suited to your business.

1. Set Up a Referral Program

The easiest starting point is to ask customers who are already fans to recommend you. First, let them know you’re creating a referral program by sending out a letter or a postcard that explains how much you value their business and that your continued quality depends on their referrals. You’ll get a better response if you include an incentive – say, a discount on the next order or a gift for every referral sent your way.

To keep building advocates, send your referral program letter to every new customer within a few days of his first purchase. You might also ask for written testimonials about your products, which can be included on direct mail postcards, mailers or brochures or posted on your website and included in e-mail marketing. Send these testimonials to targeted customer lists, along with your appropriate sales materials.

Customer referrals can also be mailed to prospects to help open doors or to introduce you to important contacts. For instance: “Tom Smith thought you’d want to see this.” Then follow up with phone calls.

Once you have set up the referral program, Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2003 lets you to track the referrals. Each Business Contact or Account listing has a Referred By field that you can use to quickly identify the source of the referral, whether by advertisement, direct mail, seminar, trade show, internal referral, external referral, partner or public relations.

In addition, the Source of Leads Report in Business Contact Manager quickly gives you insight into customers you’ll want to contact. This pre-formatted report lists all of your Accounts and Business Contacts, grouped by how they were referred, whether by advertisement, direct mail, seminar, trade show, internal referral, external referral, partner or public relations.

2. Elevate Your Profile

Whether you sell upmarket services or mass-market widgets, you can generate positive publicity to make your company stand out – although it takes some sustained effort to build recognition.

As a professional service, you can position yourself as the go-to authority for media or industry news reporters. That requires some investment in crafting an innovative speech or survey or advocacy position that gets you noticed on the conference or trade show circuit. You might also hire a publicist to help get exposure. Such pros are often paid on a per-project or per-performance basis so you aren’t on the hook for hefty retainer fees.

Or, you can publicize on your own – for instance by highlighting your family’s background or its homegrown recipes. Your goal is to weave an emotional story or hook that will draw press.

You can also become identified with a cause or a charity. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, for instance, was founded on only (USD)$12,000 back in 1978. But the two owners created a national powerhouse out of high-priced unconventional flavors and the good will of philanthropy. Before that, few companies talked about social responsibility. Nowadays, hundreds do.

Either way, the important thing here is to be sincere. Promote only what you really believe in. To begin building publicity, create a personal and company media kit, which can be quickly done with Microsoft Publisher.

3. Choose Smart Partners

By forging alliances with businesses that target the same customers as you do, you’ll create a word-of-mouth customer network that refers business. For instance, if you’re a pediatrician, you might leave your business cards at the reception area of a local daycare center. Likewise, the center might put up some posters on your office bulletin board. A parent who uses daycare services might recommend you to another.

Or, let’s say you own an auto body shop. You can partner with a car wash/detailing service. The car wash might mail out your flyers along with monthly invoices and also place a stack of flyers on the counter for customers. You obviously do likewise. Take-out delis and caterers provide another matching combo. You get the idea.

You can also develop special arrangements with partners to offer discounts or special offers – printed on the back of the flyers – that are only available to customers who patronize both businesses.

Don’t forget your suppliers and vendors. Ask them to recommend you to their customers. Remind them that by referring sales leads or business to you, you’re helping to build their business, too. To make it work, you must return the favor.

Experts say that customer referrals and word-of-mouth are about 10 times more effective than other marketing.

Joanna L. Krotz writes about small-business marketing and management issues. She is the co-author of the “Microsoft Small Business Kit” and runs Muse2Muse Productions, a New York City-based custom publisher.

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Importance Of Cash Control

Cash is a vital component of any profit-generating organization. An organization’s assets generate revenue, which in turn generates cash inflows. These cash inflows are used for several purposes: to pay creditors, compensate employees, reward shareholders, provide asset replacement, and provide for growth.

Cash is unique because it’s the single asset that is readily convertible into any other type of asset. Therefore, it’s also the most widely desired asset. However, cash is also the asset that is most susceptible to fraud and abuse. Therefore, management has to ensure that adequate controls and safeguards are in place to eliminate any unauthorized transactions with cash.

Fortunately, there are ways management can safeguard the cash generated by its organization. Each of the following methods will help an organization prevent losses due to human error or theft:

o Monthly bank reconciliation

o Segregation of duties over cash handling

o Accountability for cash shortages

o Authorized cash disbursement

o Internal audits

Monthly Bank Reconciliation. Monthly bank reconciliation will help ensure that the amount of cash generated by an organization is consistent with bank records. In addition, an independent review of the reconciliation by management will provide an additional safeguard. Independent verification of bank reconciliation acts as a check to make sure the reconciliation was done properly and ensures there is no abuse of the organization’s cash.

Segregation of Duties Over Cash Handling. Every organization must make sure that there is adequate segregation of duties over cash handling. Separating the duties of cash receipts and disbursements prevents an individual from committing and concealing embezzlement.

Accountability for Cash Shortages. Management should hold supervisors accountable for cash shortages. If supervisors know that they’ll be held accountable for a cash shortage, they’ll be motivated to keep a close eye on how cash is used within their departments.

Authorized Cash Disbursement. Management should allow cash to be disbursed only through checks issued by authorized signers, which will provide a method for tracking cash usage. In addition, your organization should require signatures on all checks in order for them to be valid.

Internal Audits. Every organization should arrange to have internal audits conducted on a regular basis. Whether the auditors come from an internal audit staff or an outside auditing firm, auditing an organization’s accounting system can identify how effective and accurate the operation is and whether or not any improvements need to be made.

ESTABLISHING A QUICKBOOKS CONTROL ENVIRONMENT

QuickBooks allows more than one user to access company files. (Conceptually, an unlimited number of users may have access to the company’s data files, but only five users may work with the data at the same time.) When multiple users will have access to the company’s QuickBooks data files, it generally is necessary to create a control environment that protects the data from unauthorized use. For example, some users may not need access to sensitive payroll data, while others may not need access to accounts receivable and sales information.

One of the best ways to prevent errors when posting transactions in QuickBooks is to limit access to specified users. If passwords and access permissions are not assigned, users have unlimited access to all areas in QuickBooks. When setting up QuickBooks, one user should be designated as the QuickBooks Administrator.

The QuickBooks Administrator has unlimited access to all areas of QuickBooks and assigns passwords and access permissions to other users. The name and password for the QuickBooks Administrator can be set up by selecting “Set Up Users” from the “Company” menu. The QuickBooks Administrator must be set up before any other users can be set up. Although QuickBooks does not require the use of passwords, the QuickBooks Administrator should set up and use a password since anyone logging in to the company’s QuickBooks files as the administrator has full access to all areas in QuickBooks. After setting up a name and password, the QuickBooks Administrator should click the “Closing Date” button in the “User List” window and enter the date through which books are closed in the “Accounting” preferences dialog box. The administrator can also password-protect the closing date (requires single-user mode). When this feature is enabled, QuickBooks requires users to enter the password before they can make changes to periods that have been closed.

The QuickBooks Administrator is the only user who can:

o Set up other users.

o Change other users’ access permissions.

o Set up a company file using the “EasyStep Interview.”

o Change company information (such as company name, address, fiscal year, tax year, tax form, and federal identification number).

o Change company preferences.

o Condense data.

o Import and export data.

o Apply for QuickBooks Merchant Account Services.

Note: Since the QuickBooks Administrator has the ability to password-protect the entire company’s files, has access to all accounting functions, and assigns access to all other users, the company should carefully consider whom to select as administrator. The person selected should have an understanding of the importance of this position on the internal control of the company. Some companies designate the controller or Chief Financial Officer as the QuickBooks Administrator because those individuals normally do not have direct interaction with the software.

The QuickBooks Administrator can set up additional users and specify the areas to which each person has access. To do so, select “Company” from the menu bar and “Set Up Users.” Then click the “Add User” button in the “User List” window. Assign a user name and password for the new user. Even though QuickBooks does not require the use of passwords, each user should be set up with a password that must be used when logging in to the company’s QuickBooks file. (An unlimited number of users can be added, but only five can have access to the company’s data file at the same time.)

After setting up the user name and password, the administrator then specifies whether the user will have access to selected areas of QuickBooks or all areas of QuickBooks. The user should not be given access to all areas of QuickBooks since that permission essentially establishes a second administrator allowing users to access the following:

o Sales and accounts receivable.

o Purchases and accounts payable.

o Checking and credit cards.

o Inventory.

o Time tracking.

o Payroll and employees.

o Sensitive accounting activities such as bank transfers, general journal entries, and online banking.

o Sensitive financial reports.

o Changing or deleting transactions.

o Changing closed transactions.

Note: Even if users need access to most of the preceding areas, they should not be allowed to change closed transactions.

Rather than giving users access to all areas of QuickBooks, the QuickBooks Administrator should give users access to selected areas. In that case, the QuickBooks Administrator specifies whether the user should be given no access, full access, or selective access to each individual area listed in the preceding paragraph. If the user is given selective access in a particular area, the QuickBooks Administrator also must specify whether the user can (a) create transactions only, (b) create and print transactions and forms, or (c) create transactions and create reports.

Sensitive Accounting Activities. Users generally should not be given access to sensitive accounting activities. Such activities include:

o Maintaining the chart of accounts.

o Working in the account register for balance sheet accounts.

o Reconciling accounts.

o Making journal entries.

o Using the “Accountant’s Review.”

o Transferring funds between accounts.

o Using online banking.

o Creating budgets.

o Printing registers.

o Condensing data.

Even if users are given full or selective access to sensitive accounting activities, they cannot create financial reports (with the exception of the “Payroll Report”) or change or delete previously recorded transactions. Those permissions must be assigned separately, as discussed in the following paragraphs. The QuickBooks Administrator generally should be the only user with access to sensitive accounting activities.

Sensitive Financial Reports. Users generally should not be given access to sensitive financial reports (such as the balance sheet, profit and loss reports, budget reports, cash flow reports, income tax reports, and audit trail reports). That access allows users to create all reports and graphs available in QuickBooks. However, even users with access to reports cannot change or delete transactions included in the reports. That permission must be assigned separately, as discussed in the following paragraph. The QuickBooks Administrator generally should be the only user with access to sensitive financial reports.

Changing and Deleting Transactions. Even if QuickBooks users have full access in a particular area, they cannot change or delete transactions in that area unless they are given that permission in the “Changing or Deleting Transactions” window. For example, a user with full access in the sales and accounts receivable area cannot change invoices or sales receipts unless they are given permission to change or delete transactions. However, even if users do not have permission to change or delete transactions, they can change or delete transactions they entered in the current QuickBooks session so that quickly identified data entry errors can be corrected. Users that are given permission to change or delete transactions can alter transactions only in areas in which they have access. For example, users that have access to the inventory area but not to the payroll area cannot alter payroll transactions even if they have permission to change or delete transactions. The QuickBooks Administrator generally should be the only user with permission to change or delete historical transactions.

If a user is given permission to change or delete transactions in areas in which they have access, the “Changing or Deleting Transactions” window also asks whether the user should be able to change or delete transactions recorded before the closing date. The QuickBooks Administrator always should deny users access to such transactions by selecting “No” in response to that question. Even when “No” is selected, users can view prior-period transactions in QuickBooks areas to which they have access. If “Yes” is selected and the administrator sets a password, the user will be required to enter the password.

Viewing Data. QuickBooks allows the QuickBooks Administrator to limit a user’s access to creating sensitive financial reports or creating and printing sensitive reports. Companies can use this feature to allow the Controller, Chief Financial Officer, or another person independent of the accounting function the ability to oversee the accounting operations. Because many companies frequently have small accounting staffs, this increased oversight can mitigate some of the risk to the system of internal control created by having limited segregation of duties.

B. Meyer Bookkeeping Services is providing information of cash flow management. We are also providing information on payroll service company, and small business payroll services.

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