Starting a business and making it sustainable takes years of all-consuming work with no guarantee of success. Entrepreneurs must not only love what they do, but who they are doing it for.
By Dustin Pearce
If you are thinking about starting a business, try volunteering on top of your 9-to-5. This experience can not only help you see if you are cut out for being a business owner, but also give you valuable insight into the market and references.
While volunteering you may discover that currently the people you are serving can only access your services by either doing-it-themselves (with terrible results), or hiring a “professional” (which they cannot afford). One way you could differentiate yourself and serve more people is by offering a subscription model instead.
Before quitting your job, and investing a lot of money into a logo, website, and other things that don’t matter at first, it is a good idea to see if your business is viable by getting a handful of customers. The following is a proven strategy for finding leads, reaching out, and closing deals.
Step 1. Finding Leads
Google Maps and LinkedIn are great free tools for finding leads if you sell B2B. If you sell to small businesses, go to Google Maps and type in the industry and location to get a list of companies (example “landscapers Columbus, Ohio”). Then you can go to each of their websites for Facebook pages to find the best email address to reach them.
If you sell to larger companies, you can use LinkedIn in the same way. Make sure to search their employees for the right person, then Google their name, the word “email”, plus their companies domain (example “Dustin Pearce email @makeshark.com). Odds are there is a document in the web with either their email address, or the email address of someone at their company.
Once you have a list of companies and email addresses, use a tool like Mail Merge for Gmail ($29 a year) to send out bulk emails—make sure to include links to past work (even if it was volunteer). Wait a day, then run a report to see who clicked on your emails. This will help you narrow down who to follow up with by “cold” call.
Step 2. Reaching Out
The idea of cold calling to most people sounds horrible. However, if you only call people who click on your emails, it not only reduces the amount of cold calls you have to make, but also should reduce anxiety by knowing that the person is at least interested in learning more. Your “cold” call script can be as simple as the following:
“Hi is this ___? [pause] Hi ___, this is ___ from ___. We are a ___ company here in ___. I’m just calling to follow up with the email I sent you yesterday on ___. Would you be the right person at ___ to talk with about that?” That’s it! No need to over talk, just let the conversation flow naturally from there, and don’t be afraid of awkward pauses. Your goal is to schedule an in person meeting.
A great way to streamline cold calls is by using HubSpot’s free CRM (upgraded version $50/mo) that lets you connect your phone number and call over the Internet—make sure to use a business phone number, which is also free with Google Voice.
Step 3. Closing Deals
Once someone is ready to buy, make sure they sign an agreement to minimize confusion in the future. It will probably be enough for now to use a modified template you find online and have them sign a printed version. You will need an LLC (which you can do yourself for $125) and business bank account setup in order to invoice through your business name. QuickBooks Self-Employed ($5/mo) is a great accounting software for sending invoices, tracking miles, and manage self-employment taxes. If you also want to be able to automatically charge credit cards every month for subscription services, Braintree is a great option.
There are a lot of unknowns when starting a business, and sometimes you might make promises that are more challenging to deliver than you expected. In those situations, it is important to communicate with your client immediately. Also, having a support network is vital.
It’s also important to keep overhead low. You might not need a fancy brochure right away, but you should probably invest in a business email ($5/mo), website ($20/mo), and mailing address ($60/mo). Finally, add your business to Google Maps to get found locally and collect reviews.
Dustin Pearce is a website designer at Makeshark in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, church, and rock climbing or kayaking outdoors.
I just gave this presentation at UtahDMC’s 2019 Digital Marketing Conference. It’s nerdy. It’s full of marketing stuff. It’s hard to explain. Have a look, and see the links further down this page:
Here are the links:
Me, Me, Me
How to find me:
- Twitter: @ianlurie
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ianlurie/
- Slideshare: https://www.slideshare.net/wrttnwrd
- How to create a 404 page using Google Custom Search explains how to create a “smart” 404 page
- Similarweb is my tool of choice for clickstream analysis. I love the competitive research opportunities.
- Butterick’s Typography is my go-to resource for great web typography.
- Also check out Better Web Typography For A Better Web. Forgot to mention this in my presentation, which was just dumb. This is a great book and a great course.
- wave.webaim.org gives you a good peek at site accessibility
Dungeons & Dragons Related
You know you want to learn more:
- The home of D&D. Be sure to look at “New to D&D.”
- Critical Role is a podcast where a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors play D&D. I stole that description from their Dungeon Master Matt Mercer. Give this a listen, but note that you’ll get addicted. The stories are rich, the actors are hilarious one moment and deadly serious the next, and you’ll learn a lot. Oh, also: If you play video games, you’ll recognize the voices.
Does your business need a boost? Learn the habits successful business owners practice on a daily basis.
By Bruce Hakutizwi
Owning your own business is hard work. In fact, statistics show that more than half of new businesses fail during their first year. From the daily operations to the accounting, legal, marketing and other tasks, there is a lot to keep track of and oversee. In order for a business to succeed today, there can be nothing left to chance. That’s why it’s important to set goals and develop habits that keep you focused on the things that matter.
While some of the habits and skills you need to hone for success may not come naturally — at least not at first — it can be helpful to identify and practice the things that will give your business a competitive edge.
If you’re not sure what things might make the biggest impact on your business, take a look at the things successful business owners have in common.
Here are the top 10 daily habits successful business owners share:
- They get busy before the daily “busy-ness.” We’ve all heard the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” For business owners, this is absolutely true. Those who are successful devote time to focused work before the chaos of the day ensues. This time may or may not be directly related to the business. It may be tying up the loose ends from the previous day, it may be brainstorming new ideas, or it may be spent on exercising or personal journaling to help you prepare for the day ahead. There is no right or wrong way to spend this time, so long as it is focused and free from distractions. Doing this allows you to get a jump on the day.
- They plan/time block their days. The idea of focused work can be carried throughout the day. When you don’t map out our agenda and tasks for the day it’s easy to find yourself well into the lunch hour realizing that you’ve been spinning in circles and not really accomplished anything. Returning phone calls and emails, Facebook and Instagram… these distractions derail us. That’s why it’s important to use time blocking and outline what tasks you will work on, when, and for how long. For example, block one hour of your day and dedicate it exclusively to returning phone calls and emails. Block another hour out to devote to marketing initiatives, and so on. It may be helpful to use a timer method such as the Pomodoro Technique where you identify a task to complete within a certain amount of time. By doing this you’ll find that you’ve accomplished a lot more in a week than if you leave your schedule and tasks to chance.
- They focus on the tough (and profitable) tasks. Successful business owners focus on the work that will generate the highest payoff first in their day. This can seem counter intuitive since, oftentimes, this is the work that is most tempting to put off. Your toughest tasks are usually your most important ones, however, and the ones that will have the biggest impact on your business. Set a goal for yourself that you will tackle your toughest task first. Then set — and stick to — a deadline for when it will be complete.
- They take breaks. No matter how busy you are, everyone needs a break. It’s important to refocus and refuel during your day. Make time to get up and stretch, take a walk or meditate, and you will find yourself overcoming that midday or afternoon lull where motivation and creativity tend to tank. Your mind will wander at points during the day, whether you’re sitting at your desk or taking a walk, so you may as well give yourself a real and meaningful break.
- They’re always learning. Even experts in their field strive to grow and learn new things that can positively impact their business. Whatever your goals are, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest developments and technologies that can help you reach them. For example, SEO is changing all the time so it’s important to stay up to speed on best practices. This can include receiving ongoing education within the platform on which you’re running your business, or it can be as simple as networking with other like-minded business owners about the things that are working in their businesses.
- They stay in tune with their customers and clients. When you’re immersed in the tasks of running your business on a day-to-day basis, it can be easy to lose sight of what truly matters — the customer. Customer data makes it easier than ever to stay attuned to your customers’ needs. Make sure you are taking time each week to check out what the numbers are saying about your business. If you have a customer service department, conduct regular check-ins to talk about what they’re hearing from clients, both positive and negative.
- They delegate. The most successful business owners realize that they can’t do it all themselves. Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson is a big proponent of delegation. The multi-billionaire credits his longevity to building a strong team around him and getting involved with only the key issues of his businesses. While we can’t all delegate at that level, it is important to keep your focus on the parts of your business where you can add the most value and leave the rest to others.
- They set a stop time. When you start a business you may have a preconceived notion that the only way to succeed is to put in 18-hour days and burn the midnight oil. This may be necessary at different times and seasons of your business, but it is also important that 18-hour days don’t become your norm. When you go too hard for too long you are setting yourself up for unavoidable burnout. Call it work-life balance, or just good common sense, but having a defined time to end your day and sticking to it — at least most of the time — will pay dividends in both longevity and sanity.
- They realize it isn’t all about the money. If you’re in business purely for the profit, you will most likely fail. Money is a great motivator and there is nothing wrong with that. Just remember that working at something only to make money is far less fulfilling than finding a business you truly care about. Whether you’re running a law firm or a liquor store, your level of success will ultimately reflect your personal investment and passion in the business.
- They keep their goals at the forefront and reassess often. As a business owner, goals aren’t something to simply set and forget. Your business goals should be clear and you should reevaluate them on a frequent basis. Quarterly goal setting and revising is a good practice. Why? Because something that seemed vitally important at the outset of your business may turn out to be less so and vice versa. For example, as you learn about your customers you may discover that the bulk of your business is in your retail store vs. online. If putting a lot of resources into your online store was an initial goal, you may want to readjust goals and budget.
While you may not be able to do all of these things every single day, this is a good overview of things you should be striving to do every day to help your business succeed.
Bruce Hakutizwi is the Director of Dynamis, owner company of BusinessesForSale.com, a global online marketplace for buying and selling businesses. With more than 60,000 business listings, it attracts 1.4 million buyers every month. Bruce manages business development, account management, content building, client acquisition and retention in United States of America, Canada, South Africa, and Europe. He frequently writes about entrepreneurship and small business ownership. Connect @BizForSaleUS.
Optimize Your Small Business for Voice Search, Business Entity Refresher and Other Articles You May Have Missed This Week
Small Business Reading List
By Rieva Lesonsky
- Are you ready to start a nonprofit?
- From teacher to nonprofit entrepreneur: One man’s inspiring journey
- Are you a micromanager?
- What you need to know about fictitious name registration
- Business entity refresher course
- 10 easy ways to grow your small business
- How to cross-promote your business with other small businesses
- Optimize your small business for voice search
- Get ready for the holidays—now!
- Managing reviews of your re
- tail business to increase profits
- How to compete with online retailers
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