Here are 13 tips to help your business grow and succeed.
1. Invoice and collect on a timely basis
Don’t forget to check your accounts receivables and aging reports for any balances that are outstanding. If after 30 thirty days you have failed to receive payment, set up a template and a reminder on QuickBooks to reach out to your customers once again. If some of your larger customers require a 90 day terms it may be possible for you to finance your receivables using the Now account with a credit union or a factoring service. A/R financing is when you sell the account receivable to a third party who will give you the majority of the money that you are owed and in return they charge a fee to do so. The benefit of factoring is that you receive your payment faster, which helps with cash flow. However, this is one of the more expensive forms of debt financing. Consult with your banker or your local SBDC office to get more information.
2. Read and understand your financial statements
It is important that you regularly review your Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows. It is important to review all three to track your monthly income and expenses, to understand where your money is coming, and to track the financial health of your company. If you are just starting your business, it is critical that you have enough working capital to cover your expenses while you are building your sales to survive the initial startup phase of your business. Your local SBDC office can assist you with understanding your financial statements and developing a budget.
3. Understand your customer completely
If you want to be successful you need to have a holistic view of your customer, similar to how well you know your mother. You need to have a complete understanding of who your customers are, what their interests are, where and when the best time to engage with them is, where they are located, and how they obtain information. It is important to do thorough research to ensure that your message reaches your intended market.
4. Get close to your competition
We’ve all heard the saying “keep your friends close and your “enemies” closer.” It is important to know your competitors in order to understand their strengths and their weaknesses. This will give you information that you can use to look at areas where you can add a unique product or service that your competitors are not offering. You can also use the information to understand any potential weaknesses they have which you can use as opportunities to attract more customers or to capture an unserved market.
5. Hire slow and fire fast
Take your time and make sure to hire the correct candidate. We suggest using the SBDC rule of 3’s. Interview at least 3 candidates for the positon, interview him/her 3 times, for example do an initial phone interview, have the candidate come in for a formal interview and the final interview could be an informal “out of the office environment” such as a cup of coffee or lunch interview. Additionally, have the candidate interview with a minimum of three key people to get a different perspective. Finally, always check references! Additionally, when you have an employee that is not performing to the position requirements it is better to let the person go sooner than later, as both parties will be better off.
6. Join and participate in your local chamber
Relationship building is essential for your business. Get involved with the local chamber of commerce as they have valuable resources, guidance and events that can help you expand your business. This is also a good time to network and meet other business owners.
7. Be a lifelong learner
Stay current and become an expert. Running a business is time consuming but in order to stay competitive and gain an edge, you must constantly look for ways to improve yourself and your business. There are endless resources, books, and classes that the SBDC offers to help you gain new skills.
8. Hire out what you cannot do or do not like to do
Don’t try to do everything! Try to think of the big picture and long term success of the company! If you are not good at book keeping or particularly have a desire to do so, hire an expert that can do it for. This will allow you to focus on the tasks you enjoy and that better suit your strengths. Some of these services can be an added expense, but it is better to free your time up to focus on the parts of the business that are revenue generating. Also, it is easier to hire an expert to do the task right from the beginning, than to do it yourself, mess it up and then have to go back and make corrections which cost more in your time and expense in the long run.
9. Focus on what’s working for you and do more of it
If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. If you are doing something correctly and it is working properly don’t adjust it. Instead, keep doing more of it as this might be the secret to your success. Also, don’t be everything to everybody! Understand your value proposition, your customers, and cater to those individuals.
10. Stop procrastinating
Remember to set priorities, establish deadlines and just do it! Set up goals and keep track on them until you achieve them. The chances are that if you put off doing some work, your competition might gain an advantage over you.
11. Review and update your digital presence on a regular basis
Make sure you are constantly checking and updating your website, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Check that all of your information is up to date and that you post relevant information that your customers would like to see.
12. Don’t be afraid of debt
It is important to start off by building a good credit history and establishing credit under your business name. One way to build good business credit is to start off with a business credit card, use it to purchase smaller products or services for your business. Be careful to pay the balance off in full each month. This will help you build a good credit rating. Not having enough capital to expand can hinder your growth. At the same time be judicial and cautious on how you spend your money and finance your business in a responsible manner. A line of credit is also a good way to build your business credit rating. If you have a line of credit make sure to use them as well as these will often carry a lower interest rate.
13. Ask for advice
You can’t expect to know everything, therefore don’t be afraid to ask for help from an expert. Build a network of trusted advisors such as a banker, CPA, attorney, and business mentor. Don’t forget the SBDC consultants and continuing education programs can also be valuable resources to help your business.
(Source: Laura Katz is the Area Director with the UGA Small Business Development Center in Athens)