How to Start a Small Business 5 (Managing Your Finances)
Managing Your Finances
1. Cover your startup costs. How are you going to finance your business initially? The bank, venture capitalists, angel investors, Small Business Administration (SBA), your own savings: these are all viable options. When you start a business, be realistic. You will probably not roll out of the gate making 100 percent of whatever you project, so you need to have enough ready reserve to fund things until you are really up and running. One of the surest roads to failure is under-capitalization. Remember the four F's for investment: founders (people who share your idea), family, friends and fools
2. Have more than the minimum. You may determine it will take N500,000 to start your business, and that's fine. You get your N500,000, buy your desks and printers and raw materials, and then the second month arrives, and you're still in production, and the rent is due, and your employees want to be paid, and all the bills hit at once. When this happens, your only likely recourse will be to pack it in. If you can, try to have the reserves for a year of no income.
3. Pinch those pennies. Plan to keep purchases of office equipment and overheads to a minimum when starting up. You do not need amazing office premises, the latest in office chairs and pricey artwork on the walls. A broom cupboard in the best address can be sufficient if you can artfully steer clients to the local coffee shop for meetings every time (meet them in the foyer). Many a business start-up has failed by purchasing the expensive gizmos instead of focusing on the business itself.
4. Crunch some numbers and plan ahead. Chart your way to financial success. What price do you intend to sell your product or service for? How much will it cost you to produce? Work out a rough estimate for net profit—factoring in fixed costs like rent, energy, employees, etc.
5. Check out your competitors. Know how much are they selling a similar product for. Can you add something to it (add value) to make yours different and hence make it a more enticing price? For example, perhaps your company would like to provide an additional year of guarantee at no cost, or a repair part free-of-charge or an additional gadget with the initial item.
· Competition isn't just about the goods or services themselves. It is also about your social and environmental credibility. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the need to show that your business is concerned with labor conditions and isn't damaging the environment. Certification endorsements from reputable organizations, such as labels and stars, can reassure customers that your product or service is more aligned with their values than one lacking the certification.
6. Manage your running costs. Keep a close eye on your running costs and keep them in line with your projections. Whenever you see something spent wastefully—like electricity, phone plans, stationery, packaging—look around, and estimate how much really need, and minimize or remove the cost in every way possible. Think frugally when you start up, including hiring items instead of purchasing them and using pre-paid plans for services your business needs instead of locking yourself into long-term contracts.
7. Find a way to get paid. You will need to do something to get payment from your clients or customers. You can get something like a Square, which is great for small businesses since it requires the minimum amount of paperwork and the fees are minimal. However, if you feel uncomfortable with technology, you can go the old fashioned route and get a merchant account.
· A merchant account is a contract under which an acquiring bank extends a line of credit to a merchant, who wishes to accept payment card transactions of a particular card association brand. Previously, without such a contract, one cannot accept payments by any of the major credit card brands. However, the Square has changed that, so don’t feel locked in or limited to this option. Do your research.
· The Square is a card swiping device which connects with a smartphone or tablet and turns that device into a sort of cash register. You may have encountered this device in the businesses you frequent, as they are becoming common at coffee shops, restaurants, street food stands and other businesses (look for a postage-stamp sized plastic square plugged into a tablet or phone).