6 Financial Tips for New Small Business Owners

What is at the epicentre of every business? Money of course. So what is the one area of your business that should get special attention? The finances.

The first step is to understand basic finance terms, like assets, liabilities, capital, sales, cost of sales, expenses and profits. These make up the bottom line of every business and should be familiar to you even if you’re not totally comfortable with matters relating to accounting. Even a basic understanding will serve you well and help you to make better decisions for your business.

Once those terms are mastered, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

Spread the risk

Never depend on only one or two big clients to keep your business going. These clients can move on to a new supplier at any stage and take their money with them. Invest time and effort into smaller clients as well. They’ll generate a steady stream of income for your business, which will soften the blow if and when the big money spinners move on.

Insure properly

Insurance might seem like a dark hole money is disappearing into every month, but you’ll be glad the money was spent when the time to claim comes. Machinery, stock and site repairs can set you back thousands – if not millions – if you have to pay for it cash, but having proper insurance will delete a lot of those zeros.

Insurance types you should look into are building insurance, insurance against theft, fire and accidental damage, and personal accident and public liability insurance. There are many insurers to choose from in South Africa, so securing a deal that suits your pocket is definitely possible.

Stay on top of things

There are many factors to be aware of when it comes to the finances of a business, but you have to stay on top of everything to make the books balance at the end of the month. For instance, get paid and do payments on time, keep track of all overheads, invoices and receipts.

Easier said than done? Then hire an accountant and automate transactions. Debit orders, like those Digicash offers, ensure that customers pay on time. You won’t even have to do the reconciliation – it’ll be done for you.

Heed the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of results in business will come from 20% of the input. That means 20% of your marketing efforts are bringing in 80% of your business, 20% of your sales staff generates 80% of your profit, and so on. Find out where these 20% sits in your business, then invest time and money in it. Get rid of or limit the rest to increase efficiency.

Be easy to find

This last rule is not directly related to finance, but it’s worth a mention, because if people don’t know your business exists how are you expecting to make money? List your business on local directories, spend money on developing a website that ranks high on search engines and consciously develop your brand name. You don’t have to do everything at once – start with a website and build your business from there.

Have Your Considered Hiring a Lawyer for Your Business?

In the flurry of establishing a brand-new business, one aspect gets left behind quite frequently. That is acquiring the services of a corporate lawyer. Viewed as just another expense to add to the books, it’s easy to understand why that happens.

The truth is that a lawyer can save money for a business in the long run, especially in cases where the company is being sued by a client. It is important to point this out, because at the time when a law suit is filed, it is almost too late to appoint a lawyer.

On the other hand, law suits could be avoided altogether with a lawyer on board. Should a lawsuit happen, however, the company with a lawyer is in a much better position to come out the other side triumphantly than the company without a lawyer.

It is evident that a business lawyer can do more good than harm. Should there still be some reservations based purely on the assumption that enlisting the services of a business lawyer is costly, consider the following: an assumption is just that; something that is accepted as true, without proof. Shop around and negotiate terms and a business lawyer that does not upset the business’s budget is sure to be found.

Keep in mind that only a qualified lawyer can provide expert knowledge on legal matters – it can’t be gained elsewhere. Thus, if money is still an issue, only consult with a lawyer at first, then contract them when there is an exact understanding of the services needed.

The areas in which a business lawyer can assist a business owner which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Business transactions
  • Business processes
  • Contracts
  • Litigation
  • Real estate matters
  • Taxes and licences
  • Intellectual property issues

A quick note here is that is advisable to appoint a lawyer that has knowledge and experience specific to corporate matters. Much like a heart surgeon will be consulted with regards to a heart transplant, as opposed to a general practitioner, the lawyer that has specialised in corporate law would serve a company best. Only such a lawyer would be able to explain the intricacies of zoning compliance, trademark and copyright laws, costs law and other issues that a company is likely to deal with.

How to choose the best lawyer for the business

The lawyer chosen will become an extended part of the business and someone that is dealt with on a regular basis, be it via email, phone or face-to-face. Above all other factors, it is thus important for the business and the lawyer to get along. There doesn’t need to be agreement on all matters, business related or otherwise, but there should be some shared values, beliefs and interests.

Secondly, it is preferable for the lawyer to be in the same city or town as the business. This facilitates regular meets more easily, which are definitely required on a regular basis. Being able to meet up becomes even more important in the event of a law suit being filed.

Further to these key considerations, the suitability of a lawyer can be determined by asking a handful of pertinent questions. The answers will help decide whether the lawyer has the skills, communication style and approach to their work that suits the business. As mentioned before, one can definitely shop around for a lawyer. Remember that this person has an important job – protecting your business, so it is imperative to appoint the right person.

Getting a Business off the Ground on a Shoestring Budget

During the start-up phase, it’s vital for a business owner to keep a close eye on the books. Running into financial trouble can crash a business long before it’s taken off. To help keep your business out of the red, keep these tips in mind:

Work from home or a shared office space

The benefit of working from home is obvious – you don’t have to rent a premises and pay the overheads that come with it in addition to your home. It’s not everyone that can work from home though, so those who want to avoid distractions at home or who prefer to have people around, can look into shared office spaces. These business hubs are popping up everywhere and provide, at the very least, a desk and chair to rent. You’ll share the space with other entrepreneurs or freelancers, which will also give you the opportunity to network.

Barter with other businesses

Business owners are often told to negotiate discounts, but bartering works just as well, if not better. During a barter you’ll offer your service in exchange for someone else’s service or product. Say, for instance, you’re a web developer who would like signage done on your car. You can then approach a signage company and offer to develop their website in exchange for a vehicle wrap. It’s a deal both businesses will benefit from.

Employ with care

Only employ people once it’s really necessary and when you can afford it. You’ll most likely find that you’ll be able to take care of admin and other menial tasks yourself in the first few months. Assess the business’s needs after four to six months to see whether an employee is needed to fill a gap. Thereafter, take it month by month, but never employ more people than is necessary.

Be a budget-conscious marketer

There are many ways to create awareness of your business without spending half of the monthly budget. You can use networking as an advertising tool and have business cards on you at all times. Invest in email marketing, run a competition or start a referral program with existing customers. Even if you have only one customer, that one customer can lead to one more.

Pay and get paid quickly

Cash flow is what keeps a business afloat, so take care of yours. Part of it is paying creditors on time, so that interest is not accrued on outstanding debts. The other part is getting paid, which is often a headache. Help debtors pay on time by issuing invoices quickly or by setting up electronic payments for them. Don’t try and sell this to them by telling why it’s good for your business – do it by telling them how it will benefit their business.

These cover all the business basics, but should make a huge difference to the bank balance at the end of the month. Continue doing business frugally until you’re out of the woods, but keep the lessons you learn as reminders for times when the cash is not flowing as freely as it should.

This advice was brought to you by Digicash in the interest of the financial health of your business.

Advertising That Keeps on Giving

In the digital age we live in, it is customary for small businesses to market themselves online. Why? Because it is relatively cheap. Tap into social media and the marketing of a business can in fact be done for free.

The potential problem with this approach is that you could be invisible to people who do not know that your company exist. This is because a poor digital strategy will effectively push your company to the bottom of search results and thus keep it out of sight.

Business owners should not forget that the ‘real’ world still presents plenty of marketing opportunities. And it is quite possible for these to be as cost effective as online solutions. The secret is in picking marketing devices that deliver a continued return on investment. That is, a device that is installed, launched or purchased once, but it secures money or interest for your business on an on-going basis.

Here are four such money-making machines:

Referral program

Few strategies are as effective as word-of-mouth. Take advantage of this by offering existing (satisfied) customers a reward of some kind for every new customer they send your way. The reward can be a discount coupon, free product or a saving off their next purchase. You will have more customers than you know what to do with in no time!

Brand your car

Brand your car with a vehicle wrap or magnetic signs and you’ll take your business wherever you go. This is especially effective if you’re on the road for most of the day. You’ll pass hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers every month. Steer clear of trying to say too much, however – the simpler, the better.

Signage

If your business does not have a sign yet, it’s best that you soon contact signage manufacturers in South Africa to invest in one. A big, bold sign on the outside of your building increases awareness and attracts new customers. People might drive by your premises more than once before they pop in, but be sure that they will notice your shop and that the business name will slowly but surely settle in their subconscious mind.

Sponsorship

Look towards your community to see if there are any sports teams, events or other such initiatives to sponsor. The initial cost involved might be high, but your brand will enjoy attention whenever the team is playing or the event is happening. Do not pick a once-off event – go with something that happens on a weekly or monthly basis.

Your Rebranding Action Plan

Companies rebrand for many reasons – being under new ownership, changing direction, merging with another company or to modernise their image. Whatever the reason, however, the basic principles of doing it successfully remains the same.

To rebrand in a manner that will see to it that existing customers are retained and new ones acquired, a project plan must be established. During this kick-off phase, key people from within the company must also become involved. The process moves from here to the final phases during which the look is updated and launched. These are the stages we’ll look at in more detail.

Build brand identity

A company’s brand identity comprises those elements that customers see during direct dealings with the business or in the media. Top of the list are the business’s name, its logo, colours and payoff line. These have to work together to establish the desired brand image within the minds of the customers. When everything is signed off, commission the redesign of business cards, notepads, stationery, vehicles and any other customer touch points.

Update the website

While the rebranded website can’t be launched before a company’s intentions have been made public, a new website must be developed and designed in the background. The importance is evident when one considers that many customers first make contact with a company online. This applies not only to the website, but social profiles on the web too. Be sure to also take these into consideration. Together, the parts must form a cohesive whole.

Change the face of the company

With extensive changes to a company logo and colours, the updates will have to be pulled through to the physical building. This could be as simple as contacting signage companies and wall cladding suppliers to replace the old logo with the new one, or it could be as extensive as getting interior decorators in to revamp the entire building. The first solution would be the most cost effective, but a proper business analysis must be completed before deciding on which route to take.

Strategise the launch

This phase is listed last, but should definitely not be left until the last minute. If the launch fails, it could jeopardise the future success of the company.

With that said, it’s vital to answer the following questions:

  • What do we want the customer to know, i.e. what is the message the customer should take away from it all?
  • Through which channels will the launch happen? Don’t pick any channel – go to where the customer is.
  • When will the launch happen? Too soon or too late could be equally harmful.

Perhaps the most important question to answer at every step of the rebranding process is “Have covered absolutely everything?” To make sure that nothing gets left out, double check and triple check. The extra effort will be worth it at the end of a successful rebranding project.