A small business is a hungry beast. It will devour as much time, energy, and money as its owner is prepared to give. As Darren Horrigan reports, success comes for those who know how much of each to put into the business and, at the best times, to get the most value.
1. Develop a business plan
Yes, it’s the most obvious way to give life to your business dreams – but it works. Charbel Fahd, founder, and principal of Capital Eyes Business Advice Financial Vision says a small business investing $10K has to hit every target, so he’d spend his first $1000 on a business plan.
“It’s vital for a small business to know where it’s going,” says Fahd. “Most don’t at the start. They just hope. A business plan does not have to be sophisticated, but it does need to be an honest appraisal of the business’ potential.”
2. Protect your IP
Lex Goldsmith, wealth coach at Principal Edge Financial Services says if you’re in a small business you have probably identified a gap in the marketplace and you have a point of difference. His advice is to protect your intellectual property.
“If your idea, invention, or niche is the driving force behind your business then you must get it established from a legal perspective,” says Goldsmith.
3. Install a reliable IT system
Online gift retailer RedBalloon Days has made the BRW Fast 100 list six years running – not bad for a business that started with second-hand computers and $25,000. Its founder and chief experience officer, Naomi Simson, says the first employee to join RedBalloon was an IT person.
“Creating a process is the best way to get rid of anything that is repetitive and this usually means investing in IT.”
“We all hate repetitive tasks,” says Simson. “Creating a process is the best way to get rid of anything that is repetitive and this usually means investing in IT. Having fabulous IT people is a great investment for a small business. That’s where innovation comes from.”
4. Master the search engines
Love them or not, search engines are a fact of business life. Simson says a small business has no choice but to take them on.
“We are in such an online world you have to educate your people about search engine optimization and search engine marketing,” says Simson.
“This is an ongoing investment because it continually changes. What we knew eight years ago … is irrelevant now. And it has to be done in-house.
5. Educate yourself
Nathan Aherne, CEO of Reddog Technology, has a background in finance and has worked as a business systems analyst and business consultant.
“Invest the $10K in education and training yourself,” he says. “Whether it’s increasing your knowledge about general business matters or learning specific programs – do whatever you can to increase your knowledge.”
Aherne says an important part of this process is to record everything you learn.
“A central wiki will organize all your knowledge, notes and observations, and allow you to systemize your business.
6. Build relationships
Victor Pisapia, an entrepreneur and the director of VictorsFood, says he would build relationships among staff and customers.
“A business of this size and nature is dependent on positive, constructive relationships,” he says. “This might be as simple as encouraging staff to take clients out for coffee or as in-depth as running a client event where everyone gets to interact less formally. The upshot is the same – relationships are nurtured and strengthened, which in turn creates customer loyalty.”
7. Build your brand
Fahd is a marketing devotee and has invested heavily in his own business. “Marketing isn’t advertising,” he says. “It’s about how you package your services and how you put yourself on the market. It could be anything from the way you correspond with clients, how you hire staff, or how your people answer the phone.”
8. Create a great website
Vanessa Cullen, founder, and principal of forwarding Thinking Design started with what she calls a “backyard-level web set-up” but has just invested in a new, professional site.
“I cannot emphasize how worthwhile that upgrade has been,” she says.
“It’s the only thing that can make you look as good as the customers you want to attract. Get your web presence in tip-top condition and get some quality third-party advice for an objective, market-focused direction.”
9. Conduct market research
John O’Keefe, principal and founder of O’Keefe Communications, says he is still amazed at the number of SMEs that have a limited idea of their target audience.
“Invest the 10 grand in market research to determine every facet of your target audience,” he says.
“Establish the basic touchpoints of who, why, when and how your prospects buy your products or services. Build a profile by age, income, sex, and where they live. And get the research done by a professional – not friends or relos.
“Market research is the best investment even the smallest SME can make if they want to survive and grow. Too many SMEs don’t bother determining their target audience because they’re simply too busy churning out the widgets. And marketing terrifies them. Others you just can’t help.”
10. Exploit e-marketing
Craig Reardon, director of e-marketing specialists, The E Team, says he would spend his $10,000 on three key e-marketing goals: gearing his website to close sales; getting to the top of Google, and unleashing viral strategies.
“Because your competitor is just a click away, you need to set up your website so it can close sales. When push comes to shove, if it’s a choice between the website that can complete the transaction and one that requires further communication, the former wins every time.
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