Becoming an entrepreneur, especially after you have been used to a steady income, company-paid health insurance, and a retirement savings program, can be a bit scary. But you would not be doing this if you didn’t have a strong passion for your product, service and for being out on your own, as well as a willingness to take risks. You still have much to learn about running a business, but you are committed – good for you. And to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls here are 10 productivity and business tips.
1. Refine Your Business Plan
Before you launched, you put together at least an informal business plan. You set goals for where you wanted to be at certain benchmark points, and you listed the things to be done to get there. Now that you are a few months or more into your launch, it’s time to re-visit that plan. You have a better “feel” for things, and you may need to modify. You should also think about formalizing the document, so that when the time comes, you have something to show would-be investors.
2. Financial End of the Business
In your early stages, thing are pretty simple. You have a record of all of your start-up costs (these till be tax-deductible), and you are keeping a record of all of your monthly expenses – production costs, marketing, supplies, etc. And, you are also tracking all of your sales and the gross income from those. If you are still doing this by hand, stop. Get a basic accounting software package, and get all of this streamlines. You won’t need anything fancy and complex yet, but you probably will in the future. Most of them also automatically prepare your tax returns too – a huge time saver.
In your early stages, marketing is the most important part of your business activities. You have to get your brand out there and develop those relationships that will bring you initial business and referrals. If you have not developed a comprehensive marketing strategy, you need one now. And if you don’t have the expertise or the time, you have to contract with someone to get this done. If your business is fully web-based, you need a content marketer. If you also have a land-based facility, you will need marketing for both venues.
4. Legal Requirements/Considerations
You of course have your business registered with local, state, and federal entities. But there are other legal considerations as well. Depending upon your product or service, do you need liability insurance and statements of indemnification; if your business involves contracts with clients, are they clean, clear and tight? You need an attorney to cover all the bases, so don’t scrimp on finding and using a good one.
5. Time Management
This can become a big issue and really hurt productivity if you are not very careful. Working on your own, especially with a home office, means that your hours are flexible, of course, but they cannot be “loose.” And you cannot hop from one activity to the next and back again, taking any interruptions as they come along. You need to block out chunks of time for your tasks, and stick to those as much as possible. If you decide that emails correspondence will happen from 12-1 every day, then that’s when it happens. Let your answering machine get your calls if you are deep into a project. Planning every day according to a schedule keeps you on-task and focused.
This is another “killer” for productivity. If you have a team, meet on a regularly scheduled basis. And keep those meetings brief and to the point. Have an agenda, cover what must be covered, and close it out.
7. Sales Appointments and Presentations
If you are an e-commerce B2C retailer, then you’re sales will not involve sales presentations to potential customers, except those that are done online, through your marketing strategies. If you do have sales appointments, however, go in with a practiced presentation that is short and to the point. Listen more than you talk, ask questions, and don’t be pushy, no matter how desperate you are for a sale. Accept “no” or “I’ll think about it” with a smile, and leave the door open for future conversation.
8. Fine Tune Your Networking
Whether your networking is all online or a combination of online and on-the-ground, join as many networking groups as possible. You’ll learn a lot from the veterans, you’ll make great contacts, and your brand will be spread just that much more.
9. Develop an Elevator pitch
Write one, practice it until it comes out naturally, and you will be ready for any introduction or conversation that comes around to the question, “What do you do?” Your pitch should be 30-seconds long at most, should be creative and delivered with enthusiasm, and followed by the handing over of a business card. You’ll use this at weddings, parties, conferences, and at bars – any place where you will come into contact with strangers. There are a lot of online sites as resources for pitch creation – use them to craft a truly engaging one.
10. Guard Your Health
Running your own business means crazy long hours, at least in the beginning, and it’s easy to skip exercise, succumb to missing meals or, worse, eating way too much fast food. You have to bear this in mind always: Who will run the business if you are sick or emotionally exhausted?
Technology has made entrepreneurship much easier today. There are apps and tools to do so many things and provide such great resources. While there are literally hundreds of resources for you, here are 5 tools that will improve productivity, marketing efforts, and just generally make your work life easier.
While this tool may appear to be just a to-do list, it is far more comprehensive. You can set up tasks, delegate them to team members, and everyone can track their completion. A great way to stay on top of all projects, content marketing efforts, sales, etc. Spend the $4.99 a month for the business version.
Part of running a business is staying on top of you niche and your competition. You should allot some time for research every day, but it may not always be possible. If you come across something important, and you have no time, don’t chance not being able to find it again. Simply save it in your “Pocket” app for later reading/viewing. Pocket is cloud-based so nothing will ever be lost.
3. Content Curation Tools
If you have a web-presence, you must have a business blog. And if you have a blog, you have to have great posts. Great pot come from great topic ideas and from curating content that already exists out there that you can re-purpose and make better. A great list of content curation tools can be found at EvoEssay.com.
4. Wave Accounting
Here is a free accounting software app that will be perfect during your early stages and serves you well for up to 10 employees. It is cloud-based, so nothing will ever be lost, and all of your accounting functions will be streamlined, reported out as needed. This app is about as simple as it gets – you will need no skills in accounting to use it.
A must have app for email campaigns that rock. You can categorize our recipient lists for targeted emails and get reports back the effectiveness of each campaign. You’ll know how many and who opened your mail. This one is free for up to 2000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails a month.
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