I didn’t come from an entrepreneurial family, my dad was a hard-working blue collar type of guy. He never did understand what a blog is. I am the first in my family to finish at university. I was so excited to start my new job after I graduated from college. It was a brand new beginning in the bright and beautiful world of corporate America! I was in finance! The world was my oyster! I was going to be rich!
Ironically, the thing that killed it for me was the schedule. Even after the rigors of achieving perfect school attendance, the hoops I had to jump through each day in order to arrive by 7:30am bright eyed and bushy tailed to my new job were too much for me. I hadn’t realized how accustomed I’d become to a more flexible lifestyle. Even though I carried a full load of classes for years, the rest of my time was loose. I worked part-time with my boyfriend at his entertainment company, part-time as a restaurant waitress and the rest of my waking hours were spent studying. I moved between tasks like a professional juggler only I hadn’t realized it until a real job required me to be there at very specific times and to focus only on their stuff during that time. What was that all about?!
Unbeknownst to me during my tender developing years, I’d been in training for self-employment from the time I was in high school. I’ve always been very good about being on time and extremely dependable. When I said I’d do something, I did. And, if I couldn’t I’d communicate. These skills always served me well no matter what type of job I was doing.
So, several years ago when life once again presented me with the opportunity to work for myself, I expected that others who ran their own businesses would be as reliable as I tried to be. You can imagine my surprise when others didn’t play according to my preconceived ideas! I was (and continue to be) astonished at how badly most people run their businesses. Finding reliable vendors is a surprisingly difficult task. So, when you find someone you work well with–keep a hold of them and don’t let go.
One of the most effort consuming things you’ll do as a start up business is work out how you do things. I heard a keynote speaker say once that, as a business owner, you either need to be working the system or working on the system. These are simple words, but they carry a powerful insight.
As a business owner, having your “systems” in place is invaluable. Not having to reinvent the wheel every time you make a sale will save you untold amounts of time and money. And, believe me, these are two very coveted resources. Having money allows you the security of spending your time well. And since none of us knows how much time we really have, this is something we don’t want to waste.
Growing a business can be accomplished in many different ways, but they are all about the bottom line: profit.
It’s important to learn to think in terms of ROI (return on investment) when thinking about growth, and not just growing numbers.
Most advice about growing your business focuses on marketing, but this isn’t always the highest leverage area to look for growth. In this article I’ll look at 5 ways to grow your business that don’t involve marketing, but can produce very powerful results and, if done correctly, will also greatly enhance your marketing efforts.
I was watching a business show about a company that had been hit hard by the recession. The host of the show, a business consultant could see the problem immediately: while their business declined they hadn’t gone out and tried to get any new clients. The company was used to being fully booked and didn’t even have a sales or marketing department!
They believed that clients weren’t calling because of the recession, and couldn’t see any other solution but to wait for the economy to turn around.
Their business had a huge blind spot.
It seems laughable but unfortunately this type of circumstance is very common with small businesses. Because they are small they don’t have a lot of new employees coming and going, they get stuck in ruts of how to do things.
Action item: hire a consultant, or find a friend who is experienced in business and get them to have a look at your business to provide an objective point of view… I bet you’ll be amazed at what seems obvious to them, that you hadn’t thought of.
This is a huge one. Most business owners know there is a big opportunity here, but don’t devote any resources to it. Again it comes down to ROI, and I’ll bet you’d be amazed that the ROI on streamlining and efficiency is much higher than you realized.
So many things can be automated that can save time over the long run.
Are you tracking questions the are being asked over and over by your customers and putting them on you voicemail and FAQ section of your website?
Let’s explore the ROI of this one example. If you spend 5 minutes a day answering the same simple questions about your product. Take 1 hour to put the solution on your voicemail and website. Let’s say this eliminates half of the questions, so that you have saved over 9 hours a year (220 business days * 2.5 minutes). That’s a 1000% return on your hour invested. Now factor in if you will take those 9 hours and work on another growth activity and the ROI gets exponential.
I’m still constantly amazed at how many times I have to call a retail outlet and talk to a real person, after checking their website, to find out their hours (especially around holidays). A waste of my time as a customer and their time as a business.
Action item: take 10 minutes to sit down and write a list of 10 ways to streamline or make more efficient some small aspects of your business. Then schedule time to solve one a week – you’ll think you don’t have the time, but remember the 1000% ROI!
Get in the habit of noticing these opportunities and make solving them a regular part of your schedule.
Many companies spend a great deal of time and effort attracting new customers, but the fact is that it is MUCH easier to get an existing customer to spend a bit more than to overcome all the barriers to create a new customer.
Spend some time to investigate the industry average spend per client for your industry. How do your numbers compare? This will give you an good idea of how much room there is for improvement.
The upsells and add-on sales that are attached to your core business are often the difference between being wildly profitable and just getting by in a business.
The key to getting these sales is to first design them into your business. Think of a gas station; when I was a kid all they sold was gas and oil, now they are full grocery stores. This is all a strategy to increase the average spend per customer visit. The second step is to train your staff to make them aware of the importance of these add-on sales.
A lot of staff who are not salespeople have a negative view of selling. They need to be trained to understand that clients like to be sold (educated) about other products. Of course a good sales person is never pushy.
Action item: find out your average spend per customer; compare it to the average for your business / industry. Then brainstorm and implement a system to increase this number. There are some great tools that you can use to track average customer spend and your progress in creating growth in this area.
Resource: this is an average spend analysis report for a salon business that was purchased on Google Answers for $75. A very valuable amount of information for a very reasonable price.
Continuing on our point above about average customer spend by creating new revenue sources to increase average customer spend, is to increase average customer spend by better sales process.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure that every point of contact with a customer is a sales opportunity.
It is important to realize that this is a delicate art. When implemented with a heavy hand (like my credit card company that insisted on hard pitching me 3 new monthly insurance offers when I am calling to activate my new card) you can turn away your existing customers.
However, when support staff and service providers are properly trained to match existing an customer’s needs to your products (and empowered to make adjustments and fine tune offers so the client’s needs are really taken care of) sales magic can happen.
Also, don’t overlook the obvious. When I was a waiter working my way through university I won the dessert and add-on sales competition every month. At a certain point I just decided that my best strategy was simply to assume that everyone really did want to buy an appetizer/salad or dessert with every meal, so I asked, in a polite and friendly and fun way, EVERY single person at every table I served, if they want appetizers and desserts.
The results were staggering. I would double the add-ons sales of the other waiters. No magic, no flowery description of ingredients, just a straight forward suggestion to every person I came in contact with.
Action item: begin asking for more sales. Be in tune to your clients’ wants and needs and connect them to your products. Study a “perfect” client interaction for clues for how every customer interaction could go.
Sales tip: great salespeople ask questions and really listen to the customer’s answers. Only then to they suggest a solution. If the company they work for doesn’t offer a solution to a problem that they see repeatedly, then they make sure management creates a solution.
This may seem C-R-A-Z-Y, but hear me out. Did you know that engineers at Google are encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want?
That’s one full day a week with no deadline, no project manager, no “bottom line”, just pure fun and creativity. Can you imagine? As a small business owner it almost makes my stomach flip to consider giving that freedom to myself, never mind my employees.
Here’s the kicker though: many of Google’s greatest, and most profitable, innovations of come from these fun days. How about: Gmail, Google News, Google Finance? Yes, all started as fun projects by employees using their 20% time.
Action Item: block off some time each week (if you can’t do 20%, then try a couple hours) to do something purely for fun. It should be related to your interests, not your business needs. And if possible set aside any possible focus on results… the measure of success here is how much fun you had, not the bottom line.
If you have employees, roll this fun time out to them as well… deep breath! Hey, it works for Google, and last time I checked they were doing pretty well.
During the rest of the week, with your business owner’s cap back on, of course it is okay to monitor these project for potentially profitable synergies for your business. 😉
It is amazing how many small businesses don’t take advantage of the Internet to lower their costs. Especially smaller local businesses can get set in their ways and never consider other options for purchasing supplies and raw materials.
Business checks and banking supplies are a perfect example, I actually started this site when I realized that the checks my bank was charging me over $1/each for, well sure enough I could be order business checks online for less than half that price.
There are many, many items that can be sourced online for a fraction of the cost. Office supplies, furnishings, uniforms and even many services. Every time you buy something, get in the habit of questioning the whether or not you are getting the best price from your current supplier.
[photo credit: thanks to bamyers4az from Flickr for the great shot of a goose playing hide and seek.]
For many small businesses it is confusing to figure out where to order business checks. Obtaining business checks is not very difficult if you know where to get them at a good price. Whether you need payroll checks, accounts receivable checks, multiple use or accounts payable checks, there are many reputable online sources to choose from.
The best reason to order online is to find discount business checks at prices up to 50% off the price your bank would charge.
They make checks in a variety of colors that include safety features such as micro printing and security graphics embedded in each sheet. You’ll want to have a professional looking business check that is accepted at all financial services locations. You can make your purchases online and receive speedy delivery through several shipping sources.
It is very important to choose a reputable source that will provide the right products; they must also have the necessary security precautions in place to avoid unauthorized purchases of your orders in the future. The best online check printing sources have several layers of security embedded into their ordering procurement system.
You’ll also want to look out for check printing sites with simple ordering solutions. You should be able to go step-by-step through the ordering system with a clear understanding of what you’ll be receiving in the end. You should be able to order your business checks in small or large quantities and still save money on your purchase. Your choice of online check printing companies should have excellent customer service as well. If you need to know where to order business checks, here are a few examples of the best online business check printers:
These are well known companies that have online outlets for your convenience. The companies mentioned above are able to offer you all the check services you would receive at your local commercial bank and a whole lot more as well. Far too many business owners continue to rely on their local banks for checks and checkbook accessories while paying inflated prices for these items. They don’t realize that their financial institution uses many of the same printing houses as the online printing sources mentioned above. Whether you are a small company writing a few dozen checks each month or large corporation, you can benefit from online check printers. This is true whether you use laser printed checks, multipurpose checks, special accounts receivable and accounts payable checks or simple manual checks.
Once you have placed an order you can come back again and again to reorder checks and checking accessories. Having manual ones on hand in addition to the computer version is usually the most convenient and practical option for many companies. Successful businesses owners know that you can’t gamble on financial transactions; your employees as well as your creditors must be 100% confident in your payment systems. Now that you know where to order business checks, log onto your favorite browser and take a look at some of the choices listed above.
Successful small business owners understand the need for good organization and proper controls over financial transactions. One of the first things they do when setting up their enterprise’s purchase business checks. Many start out by purchasing their checks from the commercial banks with whom they do business; after a while they realize that they can actually reduce their cost and increase their productivity through the use of online check printing services.
These online services offer a variety of formats and styles from which to choose and most include complementary branding options as well as complete customization. But personally the what I love about ordering online is the discounts I get on all my banking supplies over the prices that my banks charge.
A wide array of colors and graphics can often be selected with your purchase so look for designs that closely match your business identity. You’ll be able to get specialty checks such as accounts payable, accounts receivable and payroll as well as general all-purpose checks in different sizes and formats.
In order to purchase checks online you must first locate a reputable online printer. Any of the following will be able to satisfactorily complete your order.
Fill out the order from the selections of business checks first. Each website has its own set of designs from which to choose; try to keep the color scheme of your checks closely associated with any business graphics or color scheme you may currently be using. Once you’ve chosen the style (including uploading your own custom business logo if you desire) and format, you will need to begin entering your account information. The information that you will need to finalize your order:
Routing and Transit number:
The routing number is the nine-digit number located in the bottom left corner of the business check. This information is coded onto every check in order to identify the financial institution linked to your account. This sequence of numbers will always appear at the bottom and to the left of the account number on your checks.
Your account number:
This one is the set of numbers that are printed right after the routing number or in some cases on the right-hand side of the check sequence number below. Simply enter the numbers from your account minus any dashes or spaces.
Your company name and address:
Enter your name and address as well as phone number if prompted by the screen; many online companies offer a standard logo or custom print for your check. Security precautions are taken when fulfilling orders for financial material; certain information may be blocked from the screen once entered.
Enter any customer information that you may desire for your checks and move on to shipping and the payment page. Pay for your order using any of the convenient options available and select your shipping. Reorders simply require you to login and press a few buttons. Believe it or not, that is all there is to it. You could in all likelihood set up your account and place your order in less time than it took you to read this article.
Having your own business means having custom checks. You need to know how ordering business checks the professional way can give you a better chance of succeeding in business. Ordering like a pro will mean that the checks you receive will be an accurate, memorable, and professional representation of your business that will tell others that you’re serious.
There are a number of reputable business check companies that have been in business for years and can set you up right with your initial check order. In fact, you’ll probably want to use these companies over and over. Once you find one you really like, you’ll probably never use another check company. These companies are adept at producing the kinds of financial instruments that today’s businesses need. You want security in your financial documents, and your check company can give you that in the form of watermarks and special fibers. You want a professional appearance on your check, and your supplier can do that, too.
The best suppliers offer significant discounts for bulk orders and repeat customers. Their representatives can also give you advice on what kind of presentation is best for your company’s checks. They’ll talk to you about such important things as color, logo placement, monograms, designs, and embossing. They’ll even walk you through font selection. There are so many options with business checks today that it can be easy to cram too many options onto your product and have it coming out as looking too busy. Your suppliers can help you prevent this from happening and can keep you on the straight and narrow.
Once you’ve ordered, the company will keep your preferred style on file, so re-orders are a snap. All you have to do is place a phone call, send a fax, or go to the company’s website to order more checks quickly and easily, without having to go through the whole design process again. So remember, when you order business checks, make use of your supplier’s representative on your first order, because it can make a huge difference in the impression your checks make on the people who count to your business.