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A Framework for Making Profitable Small Business Expense Decisions

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Step One: Assessment: This step requires the most effort as most business owners generally do not make the time or expend the effort to conduct an assessment of their current business – how it is delivering on the goals the owner wants to achieve. This step requires reflection, which requires setting aside time away from the business to review what is working, what is not working, and, ultimately, what needs to change to achieve the next level of performance.

Too many business people are caught up in the daily grind, taking action, without a definitive direction or plan. They have not conducted the appropriate research and find they are working more and more hours but their lifestyle doesn’t seem to be improving. Taking a good look at their current lifestyle- and how it has changed or not over the past few years is a strong indicator of whether or not, their business is actually growing. As part of this step, business owners should ask themselves the following questions, document their answers, and reflect on what they discover.

Are you working the hours you want to work? Are you working more hours for the same revenue? How is your personal and social life? Are you achieving balance between business and personal sides of your daily life?

Is your business wearing you down? What aspects are keeping you awake at night?

Why did you start this business initially? What were your goals? Are you still achieving them? If not, why not?

Being able to visualize their preferred lifestyle will help them to focus more clearly on the direction their business needs to go. Clarity around what they want for themselves, their family and, their employees will go a long way to helping them create the business environment they want.

Step Two: Strategy: There must be clarity about where the owner wants to take their business, what they want it to look like over the next few years. The strategy does not need to be complicated, but it should be clear. Something as simple as “To grow my revenue each year by 10%” provides you with a general target against which they can set annual, quarterly and monthly targets. Running a business is a journey with a destination. The destination may change but the journey has to be planned. Without a strategy, business owners won’t improve or change their lifestyle.

Step Three: Action: Just taking action for action’s sake will not get the owner very far. Actions should be based in the targets set for the month, quarter and year. Actions should be taken in consideration of associated costs, resources required and expended, time periods expected, and market segments to be exploited.

Business owners should think about setting actions that allow them to contribute to the broader community without being monetarily compensated. They may want to offer their expertise as a mentor or a coach for young entrepreneurs, be a speaker to school groups to help them prepare for the workforce of the future, conduct presentations to business groups or not for profit groups seeking expert help. This contribution component should be part of their business plan to enhance their network and influence in the communities or market segments in which they market products and services.

Step Four: Review: Taking a measure of actions taken versus targets will tell owners what works and what doesn’t work. Implementation may not yield desired results but, without detailed review of actions implemented to drive target achievement, one will continue to try the ‘same old thing’ rather than seek out creative solutions. Without review, they also take the risk of not capturing the reasons for success. When success is experienced, it makes sense to figure out why and then create more actions to repeat this success.

First Steps in Business Development for New Small Businesses and Startups?

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My Motto – “You have to start somewhere to get somewhere” In other words, Business Development has a starting point, especially for new start-ups and small businesses just beginning their quest into the business arena. So let’s get started on discussing some of the first things new startups and small businesses should do when developing their business.

Company Formation

Company Formation plays an important role in your business success and development. Getting your company registered is the first step towards establishing your business, and one of the most important ones. One of the main components of business registration is naming your business. Write down a list of potential names that you would like to use to identify your business. Choosing a name that coincides with your product or services will help build the reputation of your business and promote your brand image. Check to see which names you have chosen are available and proceed with your state business registration to ensure that you are now a legal entity. Next, begin making the importation decision to incorporate or not to incorporate. There are four basic structures to operate under – sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC or a corporation. Research the advantages and disadvantages of each and choose which one is the best fit for your business.

Business Plans or Fact Sheets

Business Plans or Fact Sheets can help promote the success of any business, especially a new venture. It describes your purpose and details the elements that will make your business a success. If you are anticipating starting a business, you’ll want to have a business plan or fact sheet. Why? There are at least three reasons. First, it will help you clarify and focus on what your business is about, your strategy for execution and potential roadblocks. Second, it’s an essential communication tool. It provides a consistent explanation of what your business is about to your stakeholders. Third, almost all lenders and investors are likely to want to review your plan before they lend money or invest in your firm.

Website

Web presence and having a website has changed business today at an unprecedented rate. It has created new products and services and facilitates communication and control beyond our imagination. It has without a doubt changed the way businesses operate. So for a new startup or business to not have a website is without question poor business development. Web presence has fundamentally changed customers’ expectations about convenience, speed, comparability, price and service. It’s the dot com and dot org world we live in today to expand into new markets and make our products and services more readily available to a wider set of consumers.

Business cards

Business cards are still widely used today as a mechanism to reach your target market. Certainly at face to face meetings, Trade Shows and networking events a business card is still necessary. It helps people remember who you are and where they met you. In spite of all the electronic devices, a business card can communicate a great deal of information in a split second; it communicates your websites, email addresses and slogans. When someone asks, “What do you do?” you should be able to present them with a card that answers their question at a glance.

Getting New Business Ideas

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Ironically the opportunities for starting a successful business in a recession are huge. Indeed, famous companies like apple, Microsoft and face book were all started in a recession.

However, before committing to starting your own business you will need to first of all ask yourself whether you will be suited to becoming your own boss. You will need to research what will be involved with running your own business to see if you have got what it takes to cope with… no guaranteed income, lots of hard work at the beginning, no spare time for family and the stress of controlling your own financial destiny and so on.

If you decide that you have what it takes then the following points will help you to succeed:

Write a business plan

Writing a good business plan can make the difference between your business succeeding or failing. Not only will it detail your objectives and goals but it will also help to convince potential lenders to have the confidence in your idea to lend you money on the strength of your proposals.

Many banks, if they feel confident with your business plans, will sometimes also offer what is known as a facility, which is an amount of money reserved for you that can be taken as and when you want. The advantage of this is that you will then only pay interest on the money that you have actually used which can be a massive help financially when you are starting off in business.

Research Your Business Idea

Carry out thorough research on your business idea. Find out what your competitors are offering and think how you can offer better.

Examine who you think your target audience are? Young, old, the lifestyle they have and why will they want to buy from you rather than your competitors?

Keep start up costs down

Try to keep your business start up costs low in order to keep as much spare cash as possible as a cash flow for your business.

For example do you need to go to the expense of having office premises or could you just as easily run a business from home operating from a spare room in your house?

Talk to H M Revenue and Customs who will be able to offer valuable advice about tax issues that may be able to also help you to save money.

Good Bookkeeping

Make sure that you have a good bookkeeping system.Good bookkeeping can keep track of your business progress from the onset. Make sure that you keep all receipts and invoices, even ones from before setting up your business if they relate to your business.

Power UP Your Business – 10 Resolutions for the New Year!

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Resolution 1: Get a Handle on your Taxes

With the New Year fast approaching, it is important to get a firm handle on your taxes. To claim certain tax benefits, you need to act no later than Dec. 31. According to the IRS, here are “Six Year-End Tips to Reduce 2011 Taxes:”

Install Energy-Efficient Home Improvements
Make Charitable Contributions
Consider a Portfolio Adjustment
Contribute the Maximum to Retirement Accounts
Make a Qualified Charitable Distribution
Don’t Overlook the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

Resolution 2: Understand your Finances

This is extremely important for the health of your business. As a new or growing business, you need to be diligent about your finances. The NUMBER ONE reason that businesses fail is due to lack of control over finances.

Some experts suggest reviewing your profit and loss statements, balance sheets and cash flow reports on a monthly basis. To manage this, there is accounting software such as QuickBooks specifically for small businesses. Also, hiring a CPA or bookkeeper can be a wise investment.

Resolution 3: Create a Monthly Budget

This is crucial to controlling your monthly expenses. By creating a budget, forces you to examine your income and expenditures to track how much money you make and spend. Of course your living expenses, i.e., mortgage, utilities, vehicles, insurance payments and food are a must, but additional payments should be allocated to pay off bad debt.

A few handy financial tools:

HomeBudget is an expense tracker designed to help you budget, track and control your monthly expenses at home.
Moneytrackin is a free online web application that allows you to track all your expenses and income easily and without effort, thus allowing you to have a clear view of your financial situation. It intends to be a simple yet powerful online budget management tool.
MySpendingPlan is an online tool that provides consumers with the latest tools to help them manage their personal finances track their budgets, save money and keep up on the latest information about managing money and leading a better financial life.

Resolution 4: Get Out of Debt

Easy to say, difficult to do! According to some experts, Americans charge over one trillion dollars per year using Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. For many, money is a big source of stress; and it doesn’t help that we’ve had to deal with economic issues over the past few years. This coming year, make it a priority to resolve your money woes.

Resolution 5: Set Specific Time Management Goals

Why do you want to set specific goals to manage your time effectively? Well, setting simple goals will force you to plan your time wisely, thus, allowing you to get a sense of achievement and reduce work and life stress. For example, if spending time with your family is important, try working fewer hours on Friday so that you can honor that goal.

By scheduling your time based on your goals, you can assess if your goals truly align with the core values, both professionally and personally. If you find that your goals are out of align, then you are able to identify key areas that need adjusting before they get out of control.

Resolution 6: Learn How to Delegate

As your business grows, so should your ‘tight grip’ on controlling every aspect of it. The worst thing that you can do is become a slave to your business. This attitude can cripple you! I know this first hand; as a former owner of a building maintenance company; I was president, HR generalist, payroll specialist, trainer, janitor, sales woman and more! It took me a while to realize that not only could I not effectively wear every hat, but in order to grow and regain my sanity, I had to trust others.

It is important that you delegate non-core business tasks to your staff or consider outsourcing. Play on the strengths of others. The lack of delegation will stifle your growth, or worse, cause you to run your business and yourself into a pit fall.

Resolution7: Prioritize your Day

It is essential that you start your day with a ‘to do’ list. It doesn’t matter if your business is small or if you run a large corporation, having a daily plan will keep you on track in effectively running your business. Start your day by scheduling uninterrupted time to plan and create your list of tasks for that day, and rank your list in order of priority. For example, if you have 10 tasks on your list, of those, how many do you need to complete? Can you save the least important tasks for another time?

If you don’t accomplish all the tasks from your ‘to do’ list, it doesn’t mean you are having problems managing your time. It simply means that you only have limited time per day to get everything done and you may be trying to accomplish more tasks than you have time in the day.

To manage and prioritize my time, I rely on Microsoft Outlook’s calendar and task manager to plan my personal and business schedule. I then sync Microsoft Outlook to my I Phone. This helps me to stay on task and set priorities for my daily activities. Find what works for you and make it a daily habit to have a productive and organized day!

Revolution 8: Network religiously

A successful way to promote your business is through networking. You are in business to grow, so make networking a key part of your marketing strategy so that you position yourself to connect with the right people.

Networking is a lifestyle in which you need to incorporate onto your “To Do” list. By networking, you are developing your social skills by engaging or interacting in an informal gathering to communicate with others for mutual assistance or support. By acquainting yourself with other business owners or executives, you are building meaningful relationships. There are many organizations that you can become involved in such as the Chamber of Commerce, Business Network International (BNI), online communities or a professional organization related to your industry.

Resolution 9: Know your Credit

Do you know how important it is to establish business credit profile? According to some industry experts, “fewer than 10 percent of all entrepreneurs know about or truly understand how business credit is established and tracked-and how it affects their lives and businesses.”

Make sure you contact the major business credit bureaus that compile and provide copies of your credit reports. For a list of business credit reporting agencies, here’s an informative article by Marco Carbajo, “Top 10 Business Credit Bureaus.”

Resolution 10: Make More time with Family & Friends

An important reason we go into business is the idea of being flexible with our time. So, the idea of having time for family and friends seems like it should be a no-brainer, right? According to recent polls conducted by General Nutrition Centers, Quicken, and others shows that more than 50% of Americans vow to appreciate loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year.