As many of you may know, I don’t just write about business ownership. I also am an entrepreneur. And in the year or so I’ve been a business owner, I’ve faced many of the same challenges as you. While I’ve found some solutions, others elude me and I’m still seeking the right answers.
When we launched our business, we knew the economy was tanking, but didn’t really expect we’d start in the middle of what many are now calling “The Great Recession.” So how have we survived? Let me share the ways.
1. Work Your Connections. At first, we relied upon the kindness of friends and family. That’s a critical point. Whether you’re just starting out or already up and running, think of all the people you know who can either help you directly or introduce you to other people who can. As I’ve mentioned before, we share office space with a sunglasses company owned by two brothers who used to live next door to me. Not only do we get a sweet deal on the rent, we get free, trendy shades. Many of our initial clients came from people we’d worked with or done business with in the past.
The key is not to be afraid, or shy, or embarrassed to ask for help. We sought (and still seek) the advice of peers and industry experts. We know lawyers, accountants, and sales and marketing pros. We’re never afraid to ask for advice. Remember, as much as you think you know, there’s always the opportunity to learn more.
We’re all lucky to own businesses in the Net Age. Technology, particularly social media, makes it easier to start and nurture relationships, whether personal or professional. Take advantage of the Ask the Expert feature here on AllBusiness.com. Join an online community where you can get access to experts as well as other entrepreneurs. You can find some of my advice on SmallBusinessOnlineCommunity. And of course, you can ask me questions anytime on Twitter (I’m @rieva).
2. Cash Is King. We closely monitor what comes in and what goes out. I think twice about buying “stuff,” and we’re constantly on the hunt for bargains. Instead of automatically booking with the airline that has given me platinum status, I am more apt to fly JetBlue or Southwest. Ben Franklin was right: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
3. Stop Wasting Time. All too often we entrepreneurs (particularly those of us still in the startup stages) are penny-wise (those darned pennies keep popping up) and pound foolish. Although I just told you the importance of keeping tabs on your cash flow, there are times when it’s better to spend the money. Two of my partners were suffering (not so silently) with computers that were really slow. Finally, tired of hearing them complain, I called our IT guy and a few hundred bucks later the problem was solved. If your technology is old or sluggish, take advantage of today’s rock-bottom prices and update your equipment.
The only way we are going to survive this recession is to sell more. We need to spend our time on business development and honing our marketing and sales strategies. That means outsourcing some tasks we could do ourselves, but would be better off not wasting time on. Take payroll for instance. We have outsourced it from the beginning. The whole idea of making sure we got all the deductions right was intimidating. Recently, we went in search of a new payroll service (our old one was too pricey) and found, surprisingly, that Bank of America, my personal bank for over 30 years, offered the most affordable solution. Sometimes the solution is right under our noses and we’re too busy looking to notice.
4. It’s Always Something. That phrase, made famous by Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna has become my mantra. At the moment we’re in search of affordable health insurance and have been alternately frustrated and disgusted by the proposed costs. We’re in the umpteenth week of research because nothing we’ve uncovered seems to fit the bill. Politics aside, if small businesses are to thrive and lead us out of this Great Recession (as many expect), something needs to be done about the exorbitant price of health insurance for small businesses. We can’t live with the high costs, but we can’t live without the insurance. When we finally solve this problem, I’m sure a new one will crop up.
I’m sure many of you have challenges and frustrations of your own. I’d love to hear from you about what they are, so we can share and explore solutions together.
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