5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Start Out As An Entrepreneur

Going into business is a huge step to take. Whilst working for somebody else has its downsides (and quite a lot of them, at that), you need to make sure that you know what you’re doing before you dive into the world of being an entrepreneur, and there are a few questions that you need to ask yourself in order to be certain that you’re doing the right thing.

We’ve put together five of them here, so that you can go into business safe in the knowledge that you’ve prepared as well as you can for the success that you deserve!

1. Is this person a good business partner?

The likelihood is that you’re going into business with somebody else, and before you sign up to working alongside this person, you need to make sure that they’re the right business partner for you. It’s a good idea to make sure that they have strong values, integrity, and that they will be honest with you so that you can make the business work together. However, a business partner can have all of these respectable traits, but still not be the right fit due to issues with communication. Find somebody who you can talk to, as you’ll need to have important discussions when you’re going through stressful times.

2. Are you going to bring something valuable to your customers?

There are many businesses in operation that don’t start out with the intention of bringing something valuable to their customers, and they have to learn the hard way that a business without passion and values is a lot harder to run. If you wake up every day, and drive to work knowing that you are providing a useful and important service, it will make your role as an entrepreneur a lot easier, and a lot more rewarding. Of course, it’s important to find gaps in the market, but you may be able to find a niche in your field that works because the passion is there, so think about this before you start out.

3. Do you know the fundamentals?

Business is one of those things that you learn about as you go along, but in order to make a success out of it, knowing the fundamentals before you begin is key. For example, do you have the sufficient knowledge about tax, legal processes, contacting an appeals lawyer in case of any issues, and the financial side of running a business? If you don’t educate yourself on these things – or get educated by somebody else – then you could risk seeing your business fail within your first few months as an entrepreneur. Prepare yourself, and learn all that you can about business before you get the ball rolling.

4. Do you have a business plan?

Whatever field you’re going into, however big or small your business is, and whatever you’re hoping to get out of this endeavour, you need to have a business plan. If you’re new to being an entrepreneur, you will soon discover the importance of planning, and you will also see that without a plan, problems are much more likely to occur. Even if you only have a plan to give yourself a sense of security (and the feeling that you’re not at the helm of a business that doesn’t know where it’s going) you need to make sure you’ve got one. Focus on your finances, the direction of your company, and your annual profit expectations.

5. Are you ready to sacrifice?

All successful entrepreneurs have to sacrifice something, whether it is their current job role, their social lives, or the time that they would usually spend with their families. The truth is that if you want to be successful, you have to be putting the hours in, as your competitors are going to be doing this, too. Of course, it’s better to work smart than to work hard if you can do this, but the likelihood is that in your first few months of business, you’ll need to sacrifice some things in order to keep it going. Before you start out, ask yourself whether you’re ready to sacrifice these things for a while.

So, if you’re about to start out as an entrepreneur, you need to ask yourself a multitude of questions, but these are some of the most fundamental ones. Whatever you decide to go into, make sure that you’re not just stumbling into it blindly, and you could be on the road to business success in no time. Enjoy being an entrepreneur!

Expanding Your Online Business: 4 Things to Consider Before Opening a Brick-and-Mortar Location

Many companies have expanded from brick-and-mortar operations to offering only online stores that can be used to purchase products and services. It’s a huge sector of the economy and has been growing rapidly since the introduction of the internet. 

However, what if you wanted to do the opposite? Instead, you could evolve from an online-only operation to also having brick-and-mortar locations. This too can lead to increased profit. Still, there are serious pitfalls you need to avoid. Here are four things to consider before making this transition.

How Niche Is Your Business?

The great thing about the internet is that it gives you access to millions of people you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This includes consumers with extremely specialized interests. While you may be able to find enough of these individuals online to make a profit, achieving the same success in one geographic location may be much more difficult.

Will You Appeal to the Local Customer Base?

Similarly, you also need to ensure that you have the ability to actually appeal to the consumers in that locality as well. Your store may be a hit online with shoppers that live in Manhattan. However, if you start a brick-and-mortar location in Rapid City, South Dakota, the consumers there may find your New York-centered branding and marketing off-putting.

Can You Afford All the Costs Involved?

The most significant advantage online stores have over brick-and-mortar stores is the elimination of a lot of overhead expensive and startup costs. Obtaining a building that consumers will actually enter can be much more difficult than finding warehouse space. You will also have to be able to afford all the other expenses required to maintain that store like utilities, rent, and much more.

Do You Have the Management Skills?

Operating a brick-and-mortar store takes distinctly different management skills than managing an online store does. Customer service, for one, will often be face-to-face. You will also have to recruit and train employees that will work with customers directly. You need to ensure you are up to this task or your brick-and-mortar store will flounder as a result.

Just because you are successful with an online business does not necessarily mean you can translate that success to brick and mortar. However, there is still the possibility you could make a fortune by making this transition with your company. If you think brick and mortar can work for you, consider obtaining construction management services and other services that can help you plan for your new stores.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Feeling Burnt out on Business? Spark Creativity with These Ideas

It’s not just artists who need to be creative in their work. When you’re a business owner or an entrepreneur, your bread and butter is likely to be your ideas, whether your next big thing is a new project, product, or branding strategy.

But if you’ve been doing the same thing day in and day-out, you might find your usual creative spark fading. Don’t bang your head against the wall (or the desk—or the conference table) trying to come up with a brilliant new idea for your business. Push through your creative block with a few of these tips, and you might just find yourself overflowing with creative energy:

1. Build a New Morning Routine

You might not be a morning person, but you likely have a regular morning routine, especially if you happen to be an entrepreneur who works from home or has a long commute. While most rely on their morning ritual to fully wake up, sometimes that creativity comes to the less-awoken (or, at least, the more unkempt). Instead of going through the motions—showering, brushing teeth, the usual—try going straight to your desk or dining room table, cracking open your laptop or notebook, and jotting down a few ideas. Even if you’re wedded to your six-step skin care ritual, you might find a little jolt from shaking up your routine at the office with small changes, such as switching up your usual coffee run or taking a different route to work.

2. Catch Some Zzz’s

In this case, snoozing definitely doesn’t mean losing. If you’ve been pouring over a problem for the past several weeks, you and your team are probably suffering from lack of sleep. Research indicates that sleeping on some of your best ideas can help more to come, not to mention it can help you retain facts and memories. Don’t stay up past bedtime waiting for inspiration. Turn in early as many nights as you can. And when you do hit the hay, try to shut off screens—you can improve your quality of sleep by maintaining good sleep hygiene, and that includes cutting out the time spent scrolling on your phone before bed. A good way to monitor your screen time is to use a screen time tracker app like Moment.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice (and Then Practice Some More)

Practice makes perfect, so they say—and they’re right. Sometimes the absolute best thing you can do to get unstuck from a major creative block is to make a practice of your work. Take time each day to write down a new idea or ask your team to brainstorm one new strategy a day. Even if you’re not feeling the spark of inspiration, it helps to schedule time every day to come up with new ideas, rather than waiting for a thunderbolt of new creative energy. Bonus, too—practicing creative thought every day will help you even in your off hours.

4. Keep an Idea Notebook

Sometimes you’ll be shopping at grocery store, other times you’ll be putting gas in your car for your commute or you’ll be out on the town with friends. A genius idea can hit any time, especially if you’re working in time for creative thought every day. Carry a pocket notebook with you to jot down your big ideas on the go, from brunch to business meeting.

5. Think Outside the Box—But Get in the Box, First

You’ve probably heard of thinking outside the box, and if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, you’ve likely done plenty of your best thinking outside of the box. But you can’t always reinvent the wheel—sometimes you’ll find the best idea is something solidly within the box, a solution that easily solves consumers’ day-to-day problems. Build on useful ideas you know work, and go from there.

6. Try New Things

Another way to come up with new, fresh ideas? Trying new things yourself! Stretch yourself and take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try. Take some gal pals out on an adventure, or try a wine and painting night at a local studio. Go sky diving, learn a new skill, or just try a new bar or a restaurant that you’ve been eyeing. Where you can try many things for half the cost to bolster your creative thoughts. You’ll find the more you push yourself, the more new ideas you’ll have.

7. Try Mind Mapping

Having you and your team’s ideas organized visually can help you come up with new solutions and new concepts for your business. Maybe this year is the year you purchase a drop-shipping fleet or decide to host online seminars. Using mind maps, word association, post-it boards, and even online tools can help you fill in the cracks in your knowledge, and help you think of new approaches to your business model.

8. Exercise

When all else fails, strap on your sneakers and hit the pavement. Exercise helps the brain and the body, improving cognition and focus. So it should be no surprise that a short run, weight training, or really any kind of sustained exercise can help you shake out some of the cobwebs.

9. Bounce Ideas Off of Friends and Mentors

It never hurts to ask for a little help. If you’re having trouble connecting point A to C, then you might find it useful to bounce some of your preliminary ideas off of colleagues, friends, and mentors. Ask those in your field if they wouldn’t mind grabbing a cup of coffee, or ask a girlfriend to grab a quick cocktail. Brainstorm ideas with them, or map out some of the ideas and logistics around your current projects. Even a friend with a completely unrelated business might have some useful advice for you as you’re starting to generate ideas for your business or for your products (and hopefully, they’ll help you with generating a little revenue).

10. Don’t Force It

At the end of the day, make sure you’re looking out for number one—you and your business! Having a regular creative practice can help you and your business thrive, but you’ll always want to make sure you’re not only taking breaks, and taking time out of the day to treat yourself.

Sam Casteris is a small business owner and freelance writer operating out of Phoenix, AZ. You can find more of her work on Contently.

5 Big Mistakes No Successful Entrepreneur Will Make Again

It may seem like some of the biggest companies out there are being run by people who know everything about the business world. While they may know a lot about it, it doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. In fact, almost every entrepreneur has made at least one mistake in their career. There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake as long as you learn something from it. And if you don’t want to learn from your own mistakes but you’d rather learn from other entrepreneur’s experiences, make sure you read on.

Not using social media

There’s no need to say that social media is huge right now. Just in New Zealand, there are 3.5 million active social media users and we can expect this number to grow in the future. However, some entrepreneurs believe using social media is a waste of time and decide not to create social media presence for their business. This is definitely something you don’t want to do, especially because people now often turn to social media search when looking for a product or service. In order to make sure everyone can reach you, you need to create pages on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and use them on a daily basis to communicate with your customers directly.

Forgetting to pay themselves

Many rookie entrepreneurs get so excited about running their own business that they completely forget about paying themselves. Even if they do remember to do so, they often decide not to do it in order to leave more money for their company to work with. This can seem like an amazing idea at first but it can seriously hurt both your personal and business finances. If you don’t pay yourself, you’ll soon find yourself with no money on your bank account. Also, you won’t get a clear picture of how well your business is doing and doing your taxes will be more difficult. Those who decided not to pay themselves have learned the hard way that they deserve to receive a paycheck for all their hard work.

Not being formal enough

Running a business is a serious task and only those who take it that way will be able to succeed. That being said, you should try to be formal whenever you get the chance. Let’s say you’re responding to a negative comment from a customer. Instead of arguing with them, you should try to be as formal and polite as possible. This will show your customers that you care about what they have to say, which can be a big plus for your company. When meeting a business partner, renting a vehicle from companies such as Avis Car Rental is a good idea as it makes you look more professional and helps you bring your A-game to the meeting.

Setting unattainable goals

Running your own business sure is great and just like most entrepreneurs out there, you dream of conquering it all. While dreaming big is an important part of success, you can’t just expect your business to do exceptionally well from day one. Many entrepreneurs end up setting unattainable goals for their business right from the start which ends up affecting their operations. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, you need to be extra careful when setting goals for your business. It’s important to start small and adjust your goals as your business grows. We recommend putting your goals in writing so that you could review them every once in a while and make any necessary adjustments.

Taking everyone’s advice

The business world is full of “gurus” who believe they’re the next Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Ellison. Those people will often give you advice in order to help you grow your business. Taking everything they say seriously is a good idea and it could help you take your business to the next level. However, this doesn’t mean you need to do everything they advise you to do. Instead, you need to rely on your own knowledge and instincts. Therefore, every time you need to make an important business decision, you should think about what you want to do and only then listen to what other people have to say. Many of those who’ve taken every piece of advice they’ve got ended up failing even before they got a chance to show what they can do.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Make sure you don’t make these 5 mistakes and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Even when something goes wrong, fix it as quickly as possible and try to learn something from it.

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in latest business news and new social media trends. In her free time she enjoys exercising and preparing healthy meals for her family.

How to Organize Your Small Business Finances

Having a brilliant business idea and developing a killer product is not enough for you to succeed. Research shows that financial problems are one of the major reasons small businesses fail. To keep your business afloat, you need to take your money management seriously, reduce operational costs and generate more cash flow and have a solid budget plan to back you up.

Here are a few vital steps to take.

Never Mix your Business’ Expenses with Personal Ones

One of the most common misconceptions among inexperienced business owners is that using the same bank account for their personal and business’ costs will save them time and hassle. There is a long list of reasons why you should separate your personal and business finances.

First off, using your personal accounts may make your business look unprofessional and hurt your brand image. Your target customers want to work with a legitimate business and not the individuals behind t.

Second, managing your private and professional finances simultaneously is tedious. It would take your bookkeeper hours to separate your personal expenditures from your business’ ones and pay taxes on time.

Finally, it would be difficult to take out a bank loan or apply for a government grant for your business when the need arises.

These are just some of the numerous examples why you should separate your expenses strictly. Don’t use your personal funds for your company’s purposes and vice versa and you’re golden.

Secure Funds on Time

If bootstrapping was enough for you to get off the ground,that is great. Unfortunately, it’s usually not enough to maintain a spotless financial health. Namely, your business is constantly growing and, with them,your expenses will be bigger, too. Your priority should be to estimate these costs and secure the right funding options on time.

For example, one of the most common options small business owners choose is taking out a bank loan. Yes, it’s safe, but it’s far from being perfect. First, you will probably have to wait for weeks before your application gets approved. Then, there are huge monthly interest rates which will hurt your small business’ bottom line. Not to mention that it takes at least 10 years to pay off a larger business loan. There is a wide range of simpler, alternative funding options you should consider, such as crowdfunding, finding an investor, teaming up with another entrepreneur in your niche, or even applying for government grants.

Build a Solid Billing Plan

Billing is one of the most significant business operations. Precisely because of that, you need to take it seriously and have a solid billing strategy. Your main goal is to get your customers to pay you regularly and, at the same time, maintain strong relationships with them. Here is what you need to do:

  • Create a clear payment policy that ensures that your visions align with the ones of your clients. This is where you should state when you want to be paid, what payment methods you accept, how you will deal with canceled projects, or what the fees will be for late payments.
  • Ensure your invoices are always sent out on time. Otherwise, your clients may get the impression that you don’t care about punctuality and deadlines.
  • Inform your customers of any late or failed payments.
  • Automate your rebilling strategy. The billing processes mentioned above require investing lots of time and effort. Luckily, you can invest in direct debit services and automate your payment processing and management. No matter if your customer has forgotten to pay you or their transaction failed for some reason, the app will inform them of the problem and help them solve it automatically. Additionally, you will be able to track your cash flow and invoices on one platform, in real time.
  • Reward your customers for making payments ahead of time by offering great discounts, free products, or free shipping.

Learn more about Managing Money

Just because you’re a business owner doesn’t mean you are an accounting wizard. No matter if you’re working with an accountant or using automated software, you need to learn the basics of accounting. Understanding how your business’ cash flow works, you will be able to make wiser money management decisions, predict potential financial challenges and take the immediate steps to prevent them ahead of time. There are numerous online accounting courses for beginners, such as Fundamentals of Accounting, Financing Options for Small Businesses, or Udemy’s Introduction to Small Business Accounting Training Tutorial that will teach you about the different types of accounts, accounting terminology, payroll, and so on.

Pay your Bills on Time

Just like with your personal finances, it’s paramount that you pay your business bills regularly. Loan payment and credit card late fees are massive. The same goes for your utility bills, vendor costs, and taxes that may result in numerous penalties and even serious legal issues. To keep track of your costs and manage them effectively, you should set up monthly reminders or leverage automated bill payments.

Over to You

To survive in this highly competitive business world, you need to manage your money wisely. Do market research regularly to secure funds, learn the basics of accounting, encourage customers to pay you on time, and pay your business’ bills diligently. Above all, you should keep track of the market trends and your business’ performance regularly to predict major cash flow problems and solve them effectively.

How do you manage your small business’ money?

Guest author, David Webb, is a Sydney-based business consultant,online marketing analyst and a writer. With six years of experience and a degree in business management, he continuously informs the public about the latest trends in the industry. He is a regular author at BizzmarkBlog. You can reach him on Twitter or Facebook.

Taking Action When You Experience Injury or Illness in the Workplace

Generally speaking, the majority of us will head to work in the morning, complete the tasks expected of us, then return home at the end of each working day right as rain. However, there are occasional unfortunate situations where someone will head to their workplace and experience some sort of injury or develop some sort of illness as a direct result of their employer’s negligence or malpractice. It’s extremely important that you know what to do if you find yourself in this situation!

Seek Medical Help

The first step that you should take is to seek medical help. If you experience any sort of injury or any symptoms of illness, a medical professional will be able to identify and diagnose the problem and ensure that you are provided with the correct form of treatment. This will help to set you on the path to recovery as quickly as possible.

Seek Legal Help

Once you’re on the road to recovery, you may want to consider seeking legal help. Not only is experiencing injury or illness due to work a particularly unpleasant experience physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it can affect your finances too. After all, you’ll have to front medical bills and may lose earnings if you have to take time off work in order to recover. You don’t deserve to slip into debt as a result of this! The infographic below should show you how to find the best personal injury attorney to claim this money back.


Infographic Design By how to find the best personal injury attorney

5 ways to combat skilled labor shortage

Let’s face it, today, more than ever, every business owner struggles with the issue of skilled labor shortage sooner or later. There are just not enough people interested or qualified enough for certain jobs, and that can take a real toll on any business. When you’re missing skilled labor, you’refacing a decrease in productivity and quality. Soon, that can have disastrous consequences for your firm. That’s why it’s important to address this issue on time, and ensure your business prospers. Thankfully, there are a few ways to do this that won’t backfire and are guaranteed to work.

1. Educate students

Pairing up with universities or schools is a great way of investing in your future. The interest for your firm should be developed early, meaning you should inform those who are still in school. This way, they’ll keep your firm in mind as soon as they finish school and are likely to apply for a job. You’ll have to worry less about not having enough staff because you’ve made sure the future experts know to look for you.

Many schools are looking for firms to partner up with, so as to ensure their students have a bright future. That’s your chance to reach out to one and devise a program which benefits you both. By doing so, you’ll also be seen as a company which cares about its community and the people in it, which is a very appealing trait to potential employees. Show that you are there for your community, and it will help you in your time of need.

2. Only keep the tasks you absolutely need

The process of creating a certain product or delivering a certain service is a delicate one. It’s a coherent system with many steps, all ensuring you’ve got a quality service or product as the end result. When you’re missing skilled workers though, you need to cut the process short a little.

Make a priority list and only do the steps that are absolutely necessary. Everything that’s done just for appearances should be left out. This way, you’ll be saving time, and more importantly, the energy of the workers you do have. It’ll promote efficiency and productivity. What’s more, it’s a great way of still providing good services until you get the extra help you need.

3. Put your employees first

Even though you are suffering from a skilled labor shortage and your employees have to work double to make up for that, remember that they’re people too. That means you shouldn’t overwork them and expect them to be able to cover all the positions. After all, you wouldn’t need more workers if your employees could do it all.

Instead of trying to make them pick up the slack and just filling slots, make sure they know you appreciate their efforts. If you’re not kind to them and don’t pay attention to their needs and well-being, it can lead to more people quitting and then you’ll be in an even bigger mess.Showing your workforce you appreciate them even in these troublesome times will help them stay motivated and pull-through. Together, you’ll be able to face this problem head on and come up with the best solution.

4. Opt for foreign workers

Importing your workforce can also be one of the options. Sometimes there just aren’t enough skilled workers in your country. In fact, more and more first world countries are choosing this option as a way to combat the shortage, Australia being one of them. Though, you need to be careful, because immigration laws are complex and often difficult to understand.

You can be sure the most informed immigration lawyer in Sydney will testify to that. That’s why it’s always advisable to talk to one before you decide to take any actual steps in bringing foreign people into the country. Every informed decision is a good decision.

5. Up your marketing strategy to a new level

Sometimes the problem with short staff is that people don’t even know you’re hiring, or what your firm is about. This is a question of a poor marketing strategy, but luckily, it can be easily solved. In this age of technology, you should make your company present on social media.

That way you’ll be up to date and will be able to connect with potential employees more easily. People will also know more about your company and are likely to be interested in working there. Even though it seems that social media is just for fun, it can actually be quite useful for things like this, too. In fact, there are a lot of professional social networks you can check out.

Conclusion

As you can see, not having enough skilled workforce doesn’t have to take a toll on your business. The important thing is to stay determined and motivated, and soon, your business will flourish. Hiring those who are good at their job promotes positive energy all around and, in turn, makes for very productive and confident workers. Never settle for less than your company deserves, so always hire the best of the best.

Daniel Brown is a law graduate and a passionate blogger from Sydney. His areas of interest are alternative dispute resolution and its applicability in different fields of law, IP law and resolution of disputes arising from intellectual property infringement and commerce law