Starting a new business can be overwhelming. You have to consider what products or services to provide, which type of customer you want to work with, and how to earn enough money. These 10 tips help the small-to mid-sized service providers (no inventory please) I work with in my bookkeeping business, and the QuickBooks ProAdvisors® I consult with, on how to run their practices:
#1: Create your list of services. Don’t try to do everything. If you’re doing consulting, be specific about the type of consulting you want to do. For example, if you’re doing tax prep, don’t offer to do administrative services. Instead, offer CFO services. If you’re a bookkeeper, don’t offer to build a website, even if you know how.
#2: Find your jam. In other words, what niche do you want to work in, and how will it differentiate you? Your jam can be anything from your ideal client’s industry, to the services you provide, to the software or apps you use.
#3: Determine your business structure. Depending on what type of business you have, you may need to set up an LLC, sole proprietorship or corporation. Check with your accountant, or business attorney, to determine the best structure for the type of business you run.
#4: Design processes. Only 44 percent of small businesses survive after the first two years, according to the Small Business Administration. Those that do have processes in place to ensure success. Think about what processes would help you – lead tracking (essential), onboarding new clients, finances and weekly/monthly/quarterly processes, for example. This article may help you think about your processes.
#5: Establish revenue streams. Another thing the 44 percent of surviving small businesses have in common is a plan for their revenue stream. To develop these, look at your core services and determine what other things you may provide. For example, my core services are bookkeeping and QuickBooks® consulting for small to mid-sized businesses. Next, I began training, and speaking to, business owners and bookkeepers on how to use QuickBooks. Finally, I developed a course, teaching other bookkeepers the processes my bookkeeping firm uses, call StacyK Academy. Make sure your services are somewhat related, or else you’ll confuse your target audience!
#6: Get out there. “Remember Field of Dreams,” where Kevin Costner kept hearing a voice saying, “If you build it, they will come?” Maybe, I’m dating myself here, but that’s the mistake many small business owners make. They decide to open up shop, so they set up a website and expect to immediately have clients. To get clients, you have to work hard. Social media, in-person networking, online forums, asking for referrals … there are many ways to get new clients. Make a plan. If you don’t know how, read #7.
#7: Hire professionals. To run your own business, you need to know a lot, but not everything. It pays to invest in your business by identifying the gaps in your knowledge and getting help. Maybe, it’s a coach, a bookkeeper or a marketing person. Even if you have the skills, as you get busier, outsource administrative tasks so that you can focus on your core business.
#8: Be accountable. Get an accountability partner – join a roundtable, or find another small business owner. Meet regularly and share your plans. Get feedback. I love nothing more than having a reality check, whether it is, “That’s a great idea, Stacy; how do you plan to implement it?,” or, “You’re a madwoman. Why would you even consider doing THAT?” (Although, full disclosure, hearing that second comment is more likely to make me work harder at doing THAT, whatever THAT happens to be. I do love a challenge!)
#9: Review and Analyze. Are things working the way you expected? I recently talked to a QuickBooks ProAdvisor who was shelling out a lot of money for SEO, Instagram marketing and more, but didn’t see any ROI. I told him to cut some of those expenses and try something else. While you have to give things a while to take root, there comes a point and time when you need to make changes. Which brings me to #10.
#10: Adjust. Are your processes working? Do you have enough time to serve your clients? Are you seeing an ROI on your marketing efforts? You’ll want to make periodic adjustments, based on your activities and your goals for the business.
Another bit of advice, while I’m giving it. Don’t compare your business to anyone else’s. We each take this journey on our own, designing the business we really want based on our own goals and priorities. When we’ve done that, we get to define what success is – and it’s not always about the dollar bill, yo.
Now, good luck! If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll respond.