6 Recommendations When Starting a Business
I remember when my husband and I were starting our business. We wanted to move on from our full-time jobs. So, we jumped right into starting a business and just learned as we went. This was good for some reasons (I could have spent years “researching” to avoid taking the leap), but bad for other reasons.
I was thinking earlier about all the things that I learned from our first business that I will do differently with the next business. Here are 6 of my recommendations if you are looking at starting a small business:
1. You need to invest money into your business from the start
This was a big problem for me because I don’t like spending money. Spending is necessary in several areas:
- Legal fees – It is well worth spending the money to meet with a business lawyer and accountant right away. It will give you peace of mind to know that you have the correct forms and documentation in place and that you will be handling tax situations correctly. If you don’t already have a CPA or attorney, ask people you know for referrals. Call around to compare prices. Try to find an attorney that will charge you a set price per project. I once paid a lot more than I wanted because the attorney charged me for every email she sent me and for the time her partner spent when she asked him to be involved. And, I was also charged for the work she did Googling an answer for me. Don’t let that happen to you.
- Marketing – This includes things like business cards, promotional items, website, etc. Be careful about printing your own business cards. Unless you have the right equipment and some design experience, they will not look professional. We did this at first but quickly realized there is a difference in quality from print yourself cards to professionally printed cards. If you have employees who are going to someone’s home or business, shirts with your business logo are a professional option you should consider.
- Networking – After several years in business, we joined a local BNI group. After a few months of attending the meetings, we had lots of referrals and grew like crazy. Don’t be afraid to spend on networking events.
2. Write out your procedures
When we first started our business my husband and I did all of the work ourselves. We both knew how to do what we needed to do so it didn’t seem important to write out step-by-step procedures. Once we started adding employees we were so busy that it was hard to keep up with the work, and writing out procedures wasn’t on the top of my priority list.
The further away we got from having them the harder it became to sit down and write them. And, not having written procedures made it difficult to train our employees and keep everyone on the same page. It is important and helpful to write out detailed procedures from the start and then review them annually.
If you want more information on this, I highly suggest reading The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.
3. Set some working hours for yourself
It’s easy at home to be distracted by personal matters and not spend enough time on your business. On the other hand, it is very easy to work all the time. If you don’t set hours for yourself then you set yourself up to be available to your customers 24/7. Not setting aside personal time for yourself will lead to burnout (notice I said “will lead” not “might lead”).
You need time to rest and not be working. You need to take vacations (even small ones). And, you need time for your family. The nice part of this is you can determine these hours for yourself. We never scheduled anything for ourselves on Sundays. That way we could attend church as a family and enjoy the rest of the day together and we could allow our employees to do the same. Find what works for you.
4. No matter how large you grow you need to treat every customer like they are your first customer.
When you have one or two customers it’s easy to give great customer service and respond to customer concerns quickly with lots of attention. Once you grow steadily for several years, you have to work a lot harder and be a lot more intentional about keeping a high level of customer service. We tried our best to give our customers a small “thank you for your business” treat (usually homemade cookies) once a quarter and always a plate of cookies and Christmas card in December. And, our customers ate it up (literally and figuratively).
5. Be organized and stay organized
It is important to be organized regardless of the type of business you want to have. When you are organized it helps you be more efficient and have less stress. I love having actual paper files (I know I’m old-fashioned), but if I have random piles of papers strewn about my desk my quality and quantity of work goes down. Things need to be in the right place whether you have physical or electronic files.
6. Hire employees before you desperately need them
We waited to hire our first employee until we absolutely needed someone. We waited because I didn’t want to pay an employee when I could pay myself. By doing this, I made my schedule so tight that once the employee started it was hard to get them trained properly. I needed them to know exactly what to do and do it in the time that I could do it in. I might have paid out more money if I hired someone sooner, but I would have had a LOT less stress. It also feels like a catch 22 because sometimes you reach the point where you need more business to pay employees, but you need employees to grow your business. Have a plan for this before you reach this point and save yourself some stress.
Most importantly, I learned you need to like what you do. If you are going to start a business don’t waste your time with a business that you aren’t passionate about. You are going to invest a lot of time in your business day in and day so choose something you want to do. Before you turn a hobby you enjoy into a business, make sure you will still enjoy the work once it becomes a job. Once you decide to start a business do the necessary research and take action. It’s easy to get stuck in the “research” phase of a start-up and never push past to take the necessary steps to move forward. Make a plan and jump in!