I’ve been asked by the team at QuickBooks to write an article to assist aspiring business owners by providing startup tips and tools which helped me with my startup business.
Let’s take a look at some of my best startup tips below:
Keep Costs Low
Keeping costs low seems like really obvious advice for a business starting up, however it’s not always taken on board. I’ve seen too many business startups spend money like it’s going out of fashion at the start when really you should be trying to create and launch your business/product with the smallest budget you can.
I started Graphics Bite as a side job while working full time for a tech company, building the clients up whenever I could; until 11 months later, enough money was coming in to allow me to leave my job to work on the business full time. I then spent the next 2 years building the business from my bedroom – arranging many client meetings at Costa Coffee, until the opportunity to get a shop/office at an affordable price came up. For the 2 years while building up the business from my bedroom, all I could think about was getting an office for the business and many times I wanted to jump in and pay whatever the cost to get it but getting it too early would have potentially put me out of business by high rent costs before I could really afford it – and all that for the sake of trying to look bigger than I was.
So the best advice really is keep spending to an absolute minimum so you can keep profit high and start to build up your reserve cash in your bank.
For the first year and a half of the business, I only kept track of work I was doing by emails and bits of paper. Then I discovered Asana which is a task management system. Asana allows you and your team to enter in tasks and tick them off once complete. You can add features to the tasks such as Due Dates, File Attachments, Sub Tasks and much more. The best bit of Asana is that it’s free if you only want the basic version for yourself.
Another tool which is great for any of you that work in the client / lead business is Pipedrive. Pipedrive is an inexpensive CRM that helps you keep track of leads / deals that are going on in your business. You can add everything from Notes to Call logs to the lead to help you stay on top of where you are with a client.
Nearly every business needs a telephone number, so I’d recommend getting one from TTNC. You can purchase national or local numbers at a cheap price and all calls to that number can be re-directed to any landline or mobile you request. I’m forever on the move so I can’t always be in the office to answer the telephone, but having it re-direct to my mobile is perfect.
Accounting / Invoicing
When I started my business, I used excel spreadsheets to keep a record of sales and expenses. Every week that consumed a lot of my time filling out individual fields with transactions and made it a nightmare for my accountant to go through at the end of the business year. I moved onto Sage One for a year which is accounting software that lets you create invoices, add in your expenses and it stores everything in the cloud so it can be updated at any time. I found the interface with Sage not very friendly for the basic user so I switched over to QuickBooks and have never looked back.
QuickBooks is the complete inexpensive accounting tool which every business should have. Not only does it keep track of your invoices, sales and expenses, but it also looks after your receipts, employees, PAYE, pensions, VAT and more.
If you’re not using QuickBooks, you should really consider signing up. Register Now
This is something that’s vital to your business and to be honest I’ve only started focusing on this in the past year or so. When starting out, payments have always been made by BACS (Bank Transfer). If your business is a retail or e-commerce business then this section does not apply to you as will be taking payments by either Cash or Debit / Credit card.
In a service business, getting paid is certainly always my biggest worry as it takes up most of my time by chasing invoices that are overdue and then waiting for the payment to be made by the customer. Luckily I discovered GoCardless which allows you to setup and take Direct Debit payments from any account in the UK. You can build up your list of saved customers for regular month to month charges or even take manual payments whenever required. This method is fantastic as the customer isn’t required to lift a finger (other than providing you with the Sort Code & Account Number at the start) and you can rely on the same income coming in at regular intervals each week / month / year.
If you’re serious about building a service business, you will have to start setting up customers on monthly Direct Debits otherwise each month you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time on invoicing and then chasing payments.
Below you can see GoCardless’ price list. More information can also be seen here: https://gocardless.com/pricing/
Reviews, Reviews, Reviews. This has to be one of the most overlooked things in startup businesses from what I’ve seen. Businesses, especially in the tradesmen category, don’t spend time focusing on getting customers to leave reviews about them on multiple platforms.
Ever since I started, I’ve consistently pushed clients to leave a review on my Google, Facebook, TrustPilot & Yell.com pages. This does take time chasing customers to do it but once done that stunning 5* review is online for everyone to see, forever. This is what makes your business grow, especially in the service business where recommendations are key.
Also the best and maybe the most important reason for doing this is to protect your business from bad customers. Only the years I’ve ran into maybe 3 client relationships which haven’t been great, and have caused them to leave a poor review of my agency online. This would be a massive issue for a business when someone search’s for you online and up pops a 1* review, saying how bad you are. Luckily, because I’ve spent so much time getting positive feedback, that 1* review doesn’t really affect anything as it’s completely out-weighed by the vast amount of 5* reviews.
Spend time private messaging as many of your customers as possible to leave reviews on as many public sites as you can. It will be worth it in the long run.
When you get to a point in your business where most, if not all work comes from referrals, there’s nothing better. You’re literally getting a free leads thanks to your existing clients. The only thing you have to concentrate on in this situation is making sure you deliver to the new client, otherwise your existing one will stop referring people to you.
But what if you’ve got lots of clients but not getting many referrals? This is because you’re not pushing yourself out there enough or your clients aren’t always thinking about you when talking to people.
What you should be focusing on is messaging your clients directly to see if they can refer anyone to you – in exchange for free work or commission.
Last year I sent out an email newsletter to my clients letting them know I would pay £50 for every confirmed referral. Instantly a client came back with details of a friend who owns a mechanics business, who later become a new client of mine. This mechanic client a few months later then referred another 2 clients to me. So all in all I paid £50 in exchange for 3 clients that have spent thousands with me on marketing services.
If you’re struggling for work or want to get your business income higher, rather than chasing new leads through things like Pay-Per-Click services, start by speaking to your existing customers as that won’t cost you a penny and your client will do the selling for you.
I hope these startup tips have provided a helpful insight into the area’s of your business you should be concentrating on.
Written by Gary Tylee
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