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21 Nuggets of Wisdom for Launching Your Own Successful Small Business

21 Nuggets of Wisdom for Launching Your Own Successful Small Business

The last decade has proven to be volatile and filled with uncertainty. Unemployment rates remain high while federal, state and local support services diminish. It’s no wonder people of all ages are seeking to become entrepreneurs and solopreneurs. In some cases, it’s the only option available. Small business owners enjoy a genuine sense of accomplishment and contentment. Operating a business necessitates having entrepreneurial spirit, initiative, persistence, tenacity and business insight.

Here are 21 Wisdom Nuggets for Launching Your Own Successful Small Business. They’re some of the fundamental steps for living the life of your dreams.

1. Identify Your Small Business and Products or Services

Select an emerging market niche where demand exceeds supply, one that exhibits long-term growth and strong profit margins. Offer a new problem solver venture, something innovative; secure your trade secrets. Perform your due diligence, and validate that the products and services you have chosen are what people need, want, and are willing to pay for. Determine what it costs to make your product or service, and then set a price. Be certain the business will contend robustly with your competitors. Maintain a competitive edge. Pick a relevant, definitive business name, and follow local procedures to assure it’s available (not trademarked or already popular).

2. Access Your Clients / Customers

Determine who your customers are, how you will locate them, and what their motivations for purchasing your products and/or services will be. Ascertain how you will reach out to them and scrutinize their business needs. Thoroughly inquire of their problems and perceived solutions. Display a genuine interest in them and their successfulness. Make well thought out offers to service their needs at reasonable prices. More than meet client expectations. Keep abreast of new technologies, techniques and standards. Share them with your staff, your partners and with your clients. If you keep your promises and perform with excellence, they’ll be around for a long time.

3. Determine Your Start-up Resources

Use Small Business Development Centers or Women’s Business Centers for business assistance, free training and counseling services, especially if you don’t have a business coach. Check out local, state and federal programs that assist new business startups. Save money by utilizing government surplus items from the Small Business Association (SBA), such as commercial real estate, vehicles, furniture, computers and office equipment. Utilize as much of your own money as possible. Obtain business licenses, permits and certifications as required for your specific business industry. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) may be needed.

4. Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business

The business structure you select affects your business identity, income tax filing status, tax liability, funding status, and even your client’s receptiveness.

Decide methodically which legal configuration best suits your small business: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, S corporation, nonprofit, etc. However, don’t turn the decision process into a major project. As your business grows, change will occur. As your company evolves, so will your legal structure.

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5. Prepare a Business Plan

The recommended business plan is simple, realistic, adjustable, and manageable. It provides focus, direction, clear financial objectives, data for loan requirements and it navigates your business success. It helps you to get well-acquainted with your profit numbers, determine projected start-up costs and marketing strategies.

A formal business plan is needed to incorporate your business or to operate as a partnership. Components for a good business plan include: cash flow projection, break-even analysis, budget, profit & loss forecast; business objectives; marketing plan; description of your target audience (customer-clients).

6. Ascertain Your Business Location

Decide where you want to locate your office, i.e., at home, in a shared office facility, a private office, or a retail area. (Home office space MUST be used solely and frequently for your business activities.)

Establish where you will meet with your client-customers. Be sure your office site complements the type of business you will be conducting. Choose a customer-friendly location, properly equipped, set-up and in compliance with zone restrictions. Retail office space should be in a good area accessible by major streets and public transportation.

7. Register Your Business Name and Domain Name

If you decided to operate as a sole proprietor, register your business name with either your state or county clerk. If you chose an LLC or corporation as your legal business structure, registering your business name when the formation paperwork is filed is generally acceptable.

Pick a domain name reflective of your company name, product and/or service. Register both your business name and your domain name with the state government. Apply for tax identification numbers as required by the Internal Revenue Service and your state revenue organization.

8. Protect Yourself and Your Business

Purchase small business insurance (fire, liability, business interruption, automobile and theft insurance, etc.) to shield yourself as well as your company against adversity and lawsuits. With a sole proprietorship or partnership, your personal assets can be confiscated by creditors, lien holders, and plaintiffs for settlements of claims and remunerations. Consider forming an LLC or corporation for greater personal asset protection; otherwise, creditors could take your vehicle, home, investments, etc. If a client or customer falls or gets hurt otherwise on your property, he can sue and cause you to lose everything.

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Another key to self-protection is that you learn from your inevitable mistakes. Your success depends on it.

9. Create an Accounting System

This task is best delegated to a certified public accountant.

Nevertheless, for the health and survival of your business, maintain an excellent understanding of your accounting system. Remain well-informed, constantly aware of how your small business is operating. The accounting system is the structure for financial statements, performance reporting, cash flow transactions, capital expenditure plans, budget variances, the establishment of fees and rates, and income tax preparations. Open up a bank account in your business name. Keep all of your documents well organized.

10. Monitor Your Finances Often

Watch the business funds – your company’s life-blood – frequently and consistently. Control your cash flow expertly and resourcefully. Review company bank statements and invoices. Put checks and balances in place; have audits conducted. Communicate with your vendors and creditors; keep a good rapport with them. As you prepare your initial budget, try to build in enough savings to cover six to twelve months of business operations, as well as an emergency fund. Exercise prudence and double-audit each expenditure. It is wise for you to share in your company’s money management.

11. Preserve Your Good Credit

Make it a point to pay your obligations on time, preferably early. This includes income taxes and especially payroll taxes from employee paycheck withholdings. Preclude being held personally responsible for paying back payroll taxes. The Internal Revenue Service is known for issuing harsh fines and penalties. Timely bill payments stimulate good business relationships and trust. Keeping a positive credit profile supplies a built-in safety net for meeting challenges and attaining financial backing when needed. Good credit is essential for profitable business transactions and sustainable cash flow.

12. Start Small

Endeavor not to over spend or spread yourself too thinly, limiting both your effectiveness and productivity. Try to do one or two tasks flawlessly.

Beth Laurence, J.D. in her article, Ten Tips for New Small Businesses, says, “Think small. Don’t rent premises if you can work somewhere else, and don’t hire employees until you can keep them busy. People who start their small business on the cheap …and create their first goods or services with more sweat than cash, have the luxury of making their inevitable rookie mistakes on a small scale. And precisely because their early screw-ups don’t bury them in debt, they are usually able to learn and recover from them. (Plus, running your business from home can save you tax dollars, too.)”

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13. Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

This tactical, 30-second speech is given to your prospective client-customers highlighting their needs. Always be ready to deliver it. Personalized as necessary, the elevator pitch simply vocalizes your identity, product or service and business objectives. In the first 15 seconds tell your client-customers who are you, what do you do, and what problems you can help them solve. Use the next 15 seconds to add details about your unique selling proposition, special skills and specific ways you can support them. This technique helps convince your targeted audience that you have the experience, astuteness and expertise to furnish what they need.

14. Get and Stay Connected

Do not wait for business perfection, begin networking and recruiting suitable clients. Get actively involved with community activities, associations and meet-ups relative to your client base. Attend town meetings, join civic groups and the local Chamber of Commerce. Network with like-minded individuals; persons with whom you share common interests and mutual business goals. This will help you develop into a sought after business expert. Make frequent contacts with everyone who is supporting, purchasing and promoting your product and/or service.

15. Market and Promote Your Small Business

Eric Holtzclaw in his article 10 Simple Marketing Tips for Small Businesses says, “Marketing doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective…Start a podcast …and interview other business owners. People love to tell their story, and by highlighting them on a podcast you make an instant and meaningful connection.”

Place ads in your local newspaper, in trade magazines and publications. Send out brochures, flyers and postcards to prospective clienteles already motivated to purchase your product/service. Accept a leadership role in an organization, host an event, offer discounts, help with a good cause; support other small businesses. Request an interview on a local radio or talk show. Launch an email campaign.

16. Give Away Some Freebies

One of the greatest ways to attract customers, prove a genuine interest in them and add value to your business activities is to give away free stuff.

Your customers must see usefulness in it, however. For instance, offer sample products or free services like a webinar on how to attract and maintain customer loyalty, a free massage, or a free hour of consulting. Another great idea is to write a marketing book that tells your story and why the product or service you offer is the best resolution for their problems.

17. Get Every Commitment in Writing

Well-written and well-documented contracts make good business sense and are enforceable. They protect your health, your sanity and your business.

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Although oral contractual agreements may be valid, they can be very difficult to validate and impose. They are indeed hazardous to the long-term survival of your small business. Make it a general business rule to give and receive receipts for all business transactions. Even if not legally required, get every contract, commitment, offer letter, purchase order, lease, agreement and procedure in writing.

18. Hire and Partner With the Right People

Employ like-minded professionals, workers with similar goals, personalities and complementary skill sets. Avoid business sabotage and frivolous lawsuits by interviewing potential employees and independent contractors conscientiously. Evaluate their capabilities, work ethic, employment history, credit (where appropriate) and referrals. Establish ground rules and expectations along with clear consequences for violations. Publish these guidelines and procedures in handbooks, and ensure they are read. Administer the rules fairly at all levels and without partiality.

19. Document the Legal Status of your Workers

When you hire workers as independent contractors, make sure they shouldn’t really be taxed as employees. The IRS can impose substantial penalties against you for not withholding and paying taxes for a worker who is really an employee. Preclude this problem by having the worker sign a written service contract, or independent contractor agreement. When hiring an at-will employee, have the employee sign an offer letter that makes it clear the employment relationship is at will.

20. Get adequate rest and relaxation

Small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for the brave, the patient and the persistent. It’s for the overcomer.
– Unknown

Operating a successful business can be tough and demanding at times. To remain alert, energized and cognizant, you need to exercise, get ample sleep and rest each day. Consume the proper diet and nutrition. It takes a lot to keep pressing ahead while maintaining realistic expectations all along the way. Time-out and tranquility are a must for triumph.

21. Know When to Close the Shop

Sometimes no matter how well qualified you are, or how diligently you work, your plans do not materialize as intended. In those cases, you need to cut your losses and move on without delay. Consider where the flaw occurred and how you might have responded differently. Retrieve the lessons learned, rise above the challenge and move on to your next endeavor much more experienced and astute.

When you have implemented these 21 Wisdom Nuggets for Launching Your Own Successful Small Business, you will have accomplished the essential business liftoff actions. Just remember that operating a thriving small business is an expedition, not a sprint. Efficiently manage your income producing, administrative and operational activities. Take great care of your employees and clients.

They will reciprocate to your delight.

Featured photo credit: Take the Plunge and Start Your Own Business – It’s Definitely Worth It! via google.com

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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