In recent times, businesses have become more mobile – they’re taking their business on the road and bringing it to the customer, rather than the other way around.
To take a few of the more visible examples, some property investors now expect a visit from a home loan lender rather than a trip to the bank manager’s office. Some shoppers are buying goods from local pop-up shops rather than department stores.
They head to food trucks rather than takeaway outlets for dinner. And they hire a personal trainer rather than purchasing a membership at the local gym.
If you’re contemplating taking your business on the road, or launching a mobile business that will have no fixed abode, here’s how you need to prepare.
Work out how to get paid
Before doing anything else, you need to work out how your customers will pay you. Then you need to figure out how you’re going to keep track of those payments, ideally without creating a bookkeeping nightmare.
There’s always the option of only taking cash, but that comes with some drawbacks and risks. Firstly, your actual or potential customers may not have money on them. Secondly, even if they do, you’re then left with the issue of safeguarding your takings – often in less-than-ideal circumstances – until you can safely deposit them.
Many on-the-go businesses hire a mobile EFTPOS. This may well be an attractive option for businesses needing to rapidly process a high volume of transactions, but the fees on these devices quickly add up.
Alternatively, business owners can now download an app to their smartphone or tablet and get a small card-reading device that plugs into their mobile device mailed out to them. They are then able to accept credit card payments without needing any expensive equipment.
There’s a variety of banks and other financial institutions that offer mobile payment options, but if you’re with QuickBooks Online then you can easily integrate it with Square. Every transaction is automatically imported into QuickBooks Online, with a timely, line item breakdown of income, GST, fees and refunds.
Ensure you aren’t caught short
The thing about being away from home base, or not having a home base at all, is that the smallest problem can cause your business to grind to an abrupt halt. So if you’re running a coffee cart that typically uses 10kg of Arabica beans every day, you should stock up each morning with at least 15kg or even 20kg.
After all, maybe today is the day the nation wakes up at 3am to watch a big sporting event. And if you’ve bought a Jim’s Mowing franchise, you better have more than one lawnmower, edge trimmer and whipper snipper handy when you head out on your run.
Research your responsibilities
Australian governments aren’t known for their laissez-faire approach to regulation. If you plan on doing anything more ambitious than setting up a lemonade stand on your front lawn, you need to research the unwritten rules and clearly stated laws about setting up shop in a particular public or private space.
If you antagonise nearby residents, neighbouring businesses, council rangers or police, you’ll at best end up having a lot of time-consuming arguments, and at worst be hit with fines.
One of the major advantages of running a mobile business is that it cuts out a lot of costs. It’s probably going to be cheaper, for example, to buy and operate an ice-cream truck than a Cold Rock Ice Creamery franchise.
On the other hand, mobile businesses can incur substantial IT, legal, transportation and telecommunications costs. Before you head out into the world, ensure the business’s financials make sense.
Taking your business on the road could earn you more customers. So as long as you do the necessary planning, there’s nothing really holding you back.
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