Having intimately dealt with small business for many years it has become very clear that there are only a few fundamentals that a healthy business is built on, these include factors to differentiate you from your direct competitors, like good service, fast turnaround and niche products. It also includes personality traits like adaptability, positivity and grit.
It also has a lot to do with above the line behaviours like curiosity, eagerness, accountability and openness as opposed to denial, blaming and excuses.
Understanding what makes a small business successful is a well documented topic, yet a difficult topic because of the incredible differences between these businesses. Geographical, Economic and otherwise.
The one thing that remains a constant threat to all business especially small business is cashflow.
Cashflow although it is a common phrase that we are all familiar with it remains something that has the intention to undermine and secretly overthrow a business, a Trojan Horse if you will.
A detailed and accurate quote is your first opportunity to exceed your customers expectations, why not be first, professional and accurate. In cases where a quote is difficult it is important to provide a estimate regardless, it is also your first opportunity to ascertain whether your time and expertise is valued, it improves your ability to plan and manage deadlines.
You should aware what the project will entail, and how long it will take, a good quote allows you to divide the project into workable phases.
Decide then whether you want to take on the project, yes you are allowed to say no and you should say it often. My opinion is that small business don’t say no often enough, saying no shows that you are in control. Saying yes to everything is a sure way to fail, it is understandable, but ultimately not sustainable or productive. Chase quality over quantity.
· Use specialised software to help you , avoid of the shelf products (MS Office)
· Quote/Email from a domain you own, not a bulk domain like Gmail
· Quote within 24 hours where feasible
This all sounds very formal, and to a degree it should be. The key here is consistency. You have issued your fee estimate and you have accepted the client. You now need to choose your terms of business and stick to it. Choose a consistent time when invoices are due (On receipt, 7 days, 30 days etc). You also need to follow up on invoices, have a set method on how to do this.
In several cases you will be ignored, this is extremely detrimental to your business, your staff and your suppliers. Be fair and professional but be strict. In the long term no client is far better than a client that does not respect your terms, let alone the value your organisation has provided.
Be brave, charge a late payment fee, in some cases this is a fixed fee but in most cases this is a variable percentage charged as interest (see www.easyinterest.co.za ). Be upfront about this, when it will be charged and what percentage will be applied. Often these terms are included on the quote, invoice and statement.
· It is generally better to be consistent in your terms with all your customers.
· Do research on what is acceptable in your industry but be willing to break the status quo.
· Refer to local legislation for upper limits of interest that may be charged
My experience has taught me a strange thing, people and businesses do not evaluate expenditure in good times. “Let the good times roll” is not just a song title it seems. People will be people.
As a business owner you need to be better than that, evaluate expenditure continuously.
· Scrutinise your detailed income statement and assess whether the expenses are necessary, if they are assess whether there are cheaper alternatives. Without compromising on quality.
· Find a mentor and discuss these matters regularly.