Monthly Archives: May 2017

Toolkit for Starting a Home Business

This Toolkit for your Start-up Home Business outlines all the basic guidelines you will need to get your home business up and running. The goal is to ensure that you have all the relevant information and a structured approach in getting your business off the ground as soon as possible.

Step #1 – Determine what type of business you want to get into.

Business ideas and suggestions may come from many sources. You may have some ideas of your own based on your passion or you may recognize that there is a need based of discussions you have with others. A case in point, I recall when my children were younger we needed transport to pick them up from school (there was no school bus service). After discussing with a friend, he assisted us with picking up the children, and soon realized that there was a demand for such a service. There and then his new business was born.

Step #2 – Research the business idea

In the school transportation service example given above, my friend conducted an informal survey by speaking with other parents, he was quickly able to determine the demand for such a service and the potential revenue to be generated. Depending on your business idea you may be required to do a combination of both informal and formal research, but the goal is to gather as much information as possible that will help you to make an informed decision on the business idea.

You may have several business ideas in your head and would have to make a choice on which one to implement. In making your choices consider the following:

    • The size of the market – in terms of customers, revenue and growth potential

    • Competitiveness of the market -how many businesses are already operating in that space?

    • Who is your target audience? If a market is very competitive, as a new entrant, you may want to probably look to see if there is a particular niche that has needs that are not being met by the existing suppliers and get into it.

    • What are customers looking for? (demand)

    • Where are the customers located?

    • How do you plan to reach them and serve them? (Your marketing strategy). More on this will be discussed in a subsequent article.

    • If you are not producing your own product or service, who will be you supplier? I will suggest that you identify at least three suppliers to give yourself more room to negotiate and get the best deals.

  • If you plan to import or export then you would have to enquire about licences with the relevant authorities within your jurisdiction.

Tip – Focus on the business idea that you are most passionate about. Because when things get challenging, it is your passionate that will give you the strength to stay in the business.

Step #3 – Decide on your Business Structure

Since the focus of this article is on home based businesses, the assumption is that your business structure will be one of either a sole proprietorship or a partnership. Notwithstanding that, I will still provide a brief description of the three typical business structures for setting up and registering a business.

    • Sole proprietor– this a business where there is a single owner. It is sometimes referred as a “one-man” business. You are the business and the business is you. As the owner of this type of business you have the responsibility for making all decisions. You receive all the profits and accept all losses.

    • Partnership – this is an association between two or more persons who joint themselves together to form a business. You can partner with relatives or friends or whoever. You and your partners contribute to the business equally and share equally in the profits and losses. A limited partnership may have some different arrangements in terms of contributions and profits and losses.

  • Corporation – a business structure, where the business has a legal identity that is separate and distinct from its owners. The owners of a corporation are referred to as shareholders. In some countries a corporation can be started by a single person. A key distinction between a corporation and the other types of business structures is that the owners (shareholders) have limited liability, in that they are not personally liable for the debts of the corporation. They share in the profit of the company through the receipt of dividends and stock appreciation.

Step #4 – Register your Business

Having decided on your business structure you will need to register your business name with the relevant authorities in your country. If you are a sole proprietor and you are using your name as the business name you do not have to register yourself, since you and the business are one. However, apart from that all business names must be registered.

When you have a name in mind, you will be required to do a search of the data base of registered companies to ascertain that the name is not being used by anyone or company. Once your chosen name is available then you can go ahead and register it with the relevant government authority.

Step #5 – Calculate your start-up cost

The guidelines used here are focused on a home based business that may not have some of the typical expenses of a business operated outside the home. Calculating your start-up cost will certainly assist you in deciding how you will finance your business.

    1. Start-up expenses- examples- business cards, flyers, promotional expenses etc.

    1. Assets to be purchased- examples could include- desk, chair, filing cabinet, computer, software licences, printer, inventory etc.

  1. Ongoing monthly expenses- example website hosting fees, other online fees and charges, subscription services fees, business telephone, advertising expenses, distribution cost etc.

Tip – multiply the monthly expenses by six (6 months), since it may take approximately six months to breakeven or realize a profit.

  1. Add the figures in 1+2+3 to get your total start-up cost

Step #6 – Forecast your Revenue

To calculate your breakeven revenue – divide your ongoing monthly expenses by the number of business days to get your daily revenue. Anything in access of that is your profit.

Step #7 – Prepare your Business Plan

It is good to prepare your business plan before seeking financing, even if you are self-financing. Your business plan is your road map showing your business vision and how you will get there. The key elements you want to cover in your business plan are as follows:

    • Business Concept– Description, vision and mission, goals and objectives

    • Operations and Management– Owner background, location, staffing, inventory, suppliers, delivery and distribution etc.

    • Marketing – products and services, customers, competition, pricing, promotion and advertising etc.

  • Financing– assumptions, operating expenses, asset requirements, operating expenses, sales and revenue forecast etc.

Step #8 – Get Financing for your Business

Just to re-state the focus here is on the sole proprietorship and partnership business structures. Depending on your business structure and the size of your business, there are many ways that you can secure financing:

  • Personal Savings– you may have adequate personal savings set aside to start your business. In a partnership, partners would contribute to the financing of the business based on the partnership agreement.
    • Line of Credit– you may have a decent line of credit from you bank which you can use to finance your business.

    • Credit Card– depending on your credit limit, your credit card could be a good source of short term financing. The interest rate on this could be very high.

    • Borrowing from friends– to supplement your personal savings you may borrow from relatives or friends

  • Institutional Borrowing- you may approach a financial institution (bank or credit union) for business financing, and this is where your business plan will come in handy. Your financial institution would only lend you money based on a solid business plan.

The above are the basic tools required to get your home business started. Have fun utilizing you toolkit and best of luck with your business venture.

Additional note for those who are getting into Import and Export

Get familiar with these shipping terminologies

    • Free on Board (FOB) – The quote reflects the cost of the goods plus the cost of loading them on the ship or plane. The supplier handles all customs export formalities at the loading port. No insurance or freight is included.

    • Free Along Ship (FAS) – The seller is responsible for delivering the goods alongside the vessel at the agreed port of shipment. It is the buyer’s obligation to clear the goods for export and must also absorb all costs and risks of loss or damage from that point on.

    • Cost and Freight (C&F or CFR) – The price quoted include the cost of the goods and the cost of the ocean freight to transport the goods to the agreed port.

    • Carriage Paid To (CPT) – Seller absorbs cost of freight for the carriage of the goods to the destination. The seller clears the goods for export.

    • Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) – The seller pays for the insurance coverage of the goods up to the time they reach the designated port of entry.

    • Delivered Duty Unpaid (DDU) – The seller is obligated to deliver goods to the named place in the country of import. The seller absorbs costs involved with bringing the goods to that point (excluding duties, taxes and other charges)

  • Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) – The sell absorbs all the DDU costs in addition to the duties, taxes and other charges of delivering the goods to the destination.

6 Challenges Facing Successful Business Owners

Having spent the last few weeks meeting with and chatting to small business owners around Essex, it became clear that they all seem to face similar challenges on a day-to-day basis.

As I expected, they are all time poor and there was an ongoing sense from these company owners or directors that they should be ‘hands on’ and across every facet of their business. But, as they told me, they may know all about their business but sometimes they need expert support and guidance to ensure their company grows and increases profitability.

Some of the challenges they faced included:

Customers
Customers are at the heart of any business. Without customers and the revenue generated then the business becomes just a good idea. One of the main challenges they faced was how to attract, retain and maximise their customers?

For me, the key to winning new business and ensuring customer retention is providing not only great products or services but adding a great customer service experience. A strategy needs to be developed for ensuring this customer growth and maximizing revenues from existing customers.

Marketing
Many business owners are not marketing experts and need strategic advice when it comes to developing a business positioning, a marketing plan, a campaign and thinking about the channels they wish to promote their business through.

The challenge is to enable the business to tell its story in a way that enables the business to grow and build customer engagement. Bringing an experienced marketer into the business either in-house or as a consultant to help develop this strategy can allow the business owner to focus on what he does best.

Time
For many business owners there are simply not enough hours in a day. All owners are stretched for time. Creating more time means sometimes saying no and focussing on what is essential for the success of the business.

This is where business owner often seek external advice from a business mentor or consultant to get them to focus on what is critical for the development of the business.

Financial Management
It is imperative for a small or medium-sized business to manage their cashflow effectively but sometimes managing the P&L seemed to be the third or fourth ‘order of the day’ for some business owners.

Getting good financial advice from a consultant who takes the time to analyse business performance, looks at aged debtors, analyses client profitability and puts effective financial planning measures in place mitigates the risk of the business getting into financial troubles.

Profitability
Business Planning seemed to be a bit of an afterthought for some of the business owners I spoke with, they were working more ‘on the fly’. Annual Planning should start a minimum of four months before the end of the financial year and should start with a formal annual budget, understanding the profitability of each client/customer, growth opportunities, business development planning and an analysis of the overheads required to service those clients/customers, market and grow the business, generate a great customer experience as well as delivering a sustainable profit margin.

Successful business owners create wealth and grow their business because they understand how to build a culture where sustainable profitability is a given.

Processes
Many business owners are not across all the processes involved in running a business so the challenge is to make the processes involved in running a business simpler. This is where an external consultant or expert support can prove highly beneficial.

Failure to manage processes such as sales, marketing, business development, building customer loyalty, operational management, HR and employee development can lead to businesses failing. Being stretched across business functions is not the best way for business owners to develop their business.

Lucemi Consulting are a Strategic Marketing and Business Consultancy based in Colchester, Essex, UK.

We help business owners and companies by providing strategic advice to find the right solution for their business challenges. We take on their challenges, analyse the issues, and help them in a collaborative way to get to the answer.

We work in partnership with clients, helping them adapt and evolve to their business and market environment, building their capabilities to ensure real change happens.

Home Business Owners Confront When They Start a Home Business

If you have made up your mind and you are 100% certain about starting a home business, then you might have in mind what product or service you want to market. You should also know that for the first two years you will be devoted to making your business grow. If you are willing to take a huge risk such as this, you will need to be motivated, determined and confident. There are numerous obstacles that you could run into if you don’t take the necessary precautions.

To work your way through the start-up of your business you will need to take the following steps

SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). By knowing and using this method, you will be aware of what competition you are facing, where your business can grow, and you will get a better understanding of the business market.

Form a business plan. Forming a business plan can be overwhelming and slightly confusing. A business plan should include the audience that will be looking at your plan, an outline of the business plan, a collection of research and data, a general abstract of the market, an inquiry profile, finances, and finally the executive summary.
Funds for the business startup. Do you have the resources needed to start the business or do you need to find the money or money lender?

Naming your business. What will be the name of your business? This is a crucial and significantly important element.

Electing your business structure. Sometimes people get confused due to the business types. You will need to elect the right business partners. The choice you make will cause an impact on your business.

The license and permit. This entails registering your business, you might also need a business identification number, and may also include other tax licenses and zoning permits.

The location. This step also entails many minor tasks such as finding the right location for your business, buying office supplies and equipment and designing your business place.

The insurance. You are responsible for any risks associated to your business. Getting a business insurance will protect your office of any disasters or litigations that could occur.

Lastly, create an accounting system. Many individuals that want to start their own business tend to fail because they get caught up with location and buying supplies and other details that they forget to keep an account of money going in and out. A good option would be to hire a professional accountant that will keep track of the businesses finances.

What It Takes to Create a Winning Business Award

14 Strategies We Attribute to Our Recent Business Excellence Award

Out of the blue, I received an email from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce one day notifying me that we were nominated for a 2016 Business Excellence award.

Say what?

Once I got past my shock and disbelief that they must have the wrong Susan… it began to sink in that someone out there thought we were worthy enough of this nomination. Wow, what an honour!

Part of the nomination process consisted of a 30-minute interview in front of a 3-judge panel. Imagine being forced to actually brag about yourself for a half an hour! Talk about squirming in my seat!

Fast forward to last week where the awards ceremony took place. Much to my relief, our category was up first so I could relax the rest of the evening.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that anxious – I knew the odds of winning was only 1 in 7 so I waited patiently for the winner’s name to be announced, not at all expecting it to be us.

But it was! We were declared the winner!

Say WHAT???

Shock and disbelief once again came over me as I took a moment to grasp what just happened. Walking to the stage was quite the blur but I managed to do it without tripping up the stairs to get our award.

In the aftermath of winning this wonderful recognition, I reflected some more about that judge’s interview and how they deemed us the winner from the other worthy nominees in our category.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the attributes I feel helped us win this prestigious award. Without further ado, here’s what it took for me to create an award-winning business:

1) Be Passionate About What You Do

We are not the first business I’ve created; there’s been plenty others ranging from creating craft pieces to faux finish painting. But no matter what I did, I was very passionate about it.

Don’t waste your time trying to run a business just to make money. You’re going to tire of it very quickly and it will be harder to make sales.

But when you’re passionate about what you do, others will immediately see that and will be drawn to you like a magnet.

2) Love Working With the People You Serve and Offer Exceptional Customer Service

One of the truest joys I receive is the knowing how much we are able to help a new business owner get their online presence up and running. Being a part of their joy at seeing their dream materialize into something tangible gives me just as much joy.

If you avoid answering the phone or responding to emails because you dread having to talk to a client, then you need to adjust your marketing so you attract the right people to work with.

If you don’t love who you’re working with, then it’s hard to establish a successful business that needs to cater to your clients by making customer service a #1 priority. And that means answering the phone, responding to emails in a prompt manner, and treating every person as if they were your only client. And when you’re attracting your perfect ideal client, then this should be easy to do.

Make your business about them, not you. Just remember, if you had no clients, then you’d have no business.

3) Know Your Stuff

Before even thinking about starting a web development/digital marketing business, I ensured I got the education I needed first. I attended the Vancouver Film School in their Multi-Media program and then later earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Computer Information Systems (with an A+ GPA).

Not to mention the countless online courses I’ve taken over the years to ensure my skills are kept up-to-date with this ever changing industry.

Sadly, I see a lot of entrepreneurs wanting to start a business with not a lot of skills or experience under their belt and then they wonder why they’re struggling.

Reading a book or taking one on-line course is probably not enough to reach award-winning status. But if you’re passionate about building a successful business, you’ll find a way to ensure you become as qualified as needed.

4) Be Committed

Is working 15 hour days, 6-7 days a week committed enough? Yep, that’s what Daniel and I do every week. We have to in order to fulfil points 2 and 3 above.

It takes a lot of time and effort to ensure your clients are taken care of properly. You also need a “do whatever it takes” level of commitment.

You might not need to work such long hours as us and trust me, we’re continually working towards lessening that kind of volume but until then, we are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure our business is successful. Are you?

5) Be Consistent

Consistency shows up in many forms when running a successful business. For me, it’s being consistent with my message, my brand, my Social Media presence, my newsletters, my team management, and the level of quality we bring to our clients.

Do I miss sometimes? Absolutely. But being consistent in these areas are very important to me, and I do what needs to be done in order to show up the best I can for my team and our clients.

Without consistency, it’s hard to create brand ambassadors (such as the ones who nominate you for an award), loyal team members, and a steady flow of clients.

Whatever you have decided to commit to, be consistent at it and you’ll be amazed at how things start to flow your way.

6) Surround Yourself With a Dedicated and Knowledgeable Team

I started off as a one-woman show. Because of my educational background, I was able to do the design, build and marketing of a website quite easily. I’m what you would call a “generalist”, someone who knows a lot of about a lot of things and is a specialist in a few areas.

But my one-woman show was not going to create a successful business. Especially in this technologically-driven industry. It quickly became apparent my skillset was only going to get me so far.

So my first hire was someone who could offset my biggest weakness. Warren was a student at UFV and applied for my part time programmer position. He was a perfect complement to our company and the moment he came on board, I was relieved of having to do all the site builds myself. I could then take that time and focus on building the business instead.

It’s tough to try and do everything yourself when it comes to running a business. Sure, there are expenses involved in hiring but if you hire smart, keep an eye on your bottom line, and know when to let go of those that aren’t serving you best, your business will escalate far quicker than if you try to struggle with everything yourself.

This topic is worthy of a whole article itself so I encourage you to read How to Take a Solo-Entrepreneurship to the Next Level for more.

7) Have Honesty, Authenticity and Gratitude be a Part of Your Daily Life

It’s sad I even need to list this as an attribute but I’ve been in business long enough to know not everyone adheres to these principles.

To me, this is a no-brainer – I’m not certain I could live any other way?

But judging from the stories I hear from new clients about how they were treated by their previous web developer, it sounds like many people need to be reminded of this.

No business will thrive without honesty and integrity. And a little secret: gratitude will not only make your business thrive, but your whole life too. Give it a try and see what I mean.

8) Persevere

Every business, including ours, has its ups and downs. The key to success is to not let those “downs” overcome your enthusiasm. Pick yourself back up, learn from whatever lesson there was to be learned, and keep moving forward.

If we had quit when we only had $20 credit left on our credit cards at Christmas time just a handful of years ago, we wouldn’t be award winners now!

9) Invest in Your Business

Building the company has been one investment after another. It never ends really.

There’s always something that needs to be worked on. Here’s a short list of my recommendations on where you need to invest in your business:

a.Branding & Website

b.Marketing

c.Education

d.Building a Team

10) Understand You’re Running a Business, Not a Hobby.

I think this is an important distinction to make and one many entrepreneurs aren’t differentiating.

I’ve always looked at our company as a business and that’s mostly due to my business mind and having a business degree.

But for those that simply are passionate about something and have a dream to make money off of it, it’s hard to know exactly HOW to turn that dream into a business.

They end up blindly doing what they think they should be doing, all by themselves, in order to save money (or not spend money they don’t have) and hope for the best.

If this sounds familiar, I’m adding another business investment to consider as your top priority: A business coach or mentor. ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up just running a hobby.

11) Set up a Systemized Business Structure

I’ve worked with a lot of clients over the years. Some amaze me at how organized and systemized they are. And others, well, not so much.

Having a systemized business structure in place is the only reason I haven’t gone insane with my daily workload.

Here’s the tools we use to be more organized, efficient and less stressed.

12) Get Comfortable With Sales

Sales. It’s a dirty word for many entrepreneurs and business owners alike. Me too. I hate to think of myself as a “sales person” but at the end of the day, if we’re not selling our wares, we don’t have a business.

Now that’s not to say you need to become a pushy, in-your-face predator. Far from it.

Remember attribute #1 about being passionate? That’s what you need. People will trust your passion and will respond to it. But be careful, sometimes passion can be too intense and will turn people away.

Find your sweet spot as to what resonates with your ideal clients and keep working at it. But do embrace the fact you’re selling your wares and learn some strategies that fit with your personality and comfort level that will work.

13) Give Back

Giving back is an imperative attribute to have when building a successful business. We give back in several ways, here’s some ideas to consider that we do:

-Offer discounted prices for non-profits

-Volunteer your services to community groups

-Send cash donations to worthy charities you believe in

-Make purchases that support worthy causes

-Donate door prizes and/or silent auction items for fund raising activities

-And support your own clients whenever you can

14) Be Accessible

When new clients approach me due to being disenchanted with their existing web developer or marketer, the most often complaint I hear is they can never get a hold of the person. Either they take forever to respond to an email or never answer their phone.

I think I’m going to write a book on how NOT to run a successful business based on this alone. It boggles my mind when I consistently hear stories like this. How are these people keeping a business going with such poor service and accessibility?

I have a policy to answer emails within a day of receipt. I often exceed that policy but sometimes the volume is too much and I get delayed in responding. Same thing with the phone. If we’re available to answer, we do so. If we’re not, we’ll call the person back right away.

Being accessible provides peace of mind to our clients; they know we care enough about them to take care of their needs in a timely manner. ’nuff said.

There you have it. My honest take on what created the company to be an award-winning business. Maybe I need to write a book about this because, honestly, I could have added more but, it’s coming into the 15th hour on this Sunday night of working so I’ll leave it at that.

What about you? What would you add to the list? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

Susan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.