Running a business is an aspiration shared by millions of people. They love the idea of going out on their own, free from the meddling of others and with full independence to chart their own course in life.
Because it’s such an appealing notion, there are countless sources of advice out there for aspiring business owners. The sheer volume of information available is overwhelming, so the temptation exists just to ignore it all and go with gut feelings.
Of course, that’s a mistake. When you’re considering starting your own business, you should seek reputable, practical advice.
Consider these simple do’s and don’ts as a good starting point for your portfolio of business wisdom.
It may seem a bit foolish to do electronic payroll when it’s just you and one other employee, but it’s far preferable to going back when you’re growing fast and converting from paper to software. There are some very helpful HR software platforms that will integrate lots of different human resources functions into simple, efficient interfaces. You can hire, train, pay, and withhold all with software systems that don’t make mistakes, don’t forget to perform tasks, and don’t call in sick.
Of course, other functions can go electronic as well. A good point-of-sale system with inventory tracking and even automatic ordering of supplies can save you a lot of time and expense by keeping you out of the warehouse, garage, and walk-in cooler.
DON’T use square pegs
What we mean by that is that you shouldn’t try to cram somebody else’s square peg into your business’ round hole. Remember that every business is different, and if you try to apply someone else’s marketing strategy, product lines, or other ideas to your business, it is not likely to succeed.
That’s the fundamental flaw in so much of the advice that’s out there. Beware of “always” and “never”, because they aren’t likely to hold true. Look for well-balanced advice that examines both sides of a business decision. Words like “probably” and “might” may sound like a cop-out, but they’re coming from people who know there are very few absolutes in business.
Learn your market. Know what your customers want and how to provide it. Learn your own lessons; if it works for you, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work for someone else.
DO use social media…
If someone had told a 1980’s entrepreneur that there would be a simple way to put lots of information, photos, and news about your business in front of millions of potential customers instantly, no one would have said no.
That’s the power social media has. Whatever particular platform or platforms best suit your business–and a consultant can probably guide you in this decision–use it well. Find a good balance of how frequently to post. Remember that you want to be present, but not overwhelming.
Don’t underestimate the value of a viral post! Users who like what you post can share it to an ever-broader audience, increasing the impact of your account.
…But DON’T neglect traditional methods
As ubiquitous as cell phones and social media accounts have become, remember that they still haven’t saturated the entire populace. There are a number of demographics that still largely shun electronic media of all kinds, even email and internet use.
While target groups like 18-34 year olds are still highly likely to find you online, many others will never even know you’re out there. Don’t automatically give up on advertising with radio, TV, newspaper, billboard, or promotional items.
These have value not just for the anti-tech crowd but also for avid users. Just remember to cross-reference everything; include your social media handles on your pens, T-shirts, and billboards. Remember, to follow you, they first have to find you, and passive advertising methods are a great way to invite them in.
There’s no shortage of people and companies with ideas about how you should run your business. Take lots of different perspectives into account, but remember that you should ultimately filter everything through your own experience and knowledge. When you assimilate all those different voices, you’ll find the best ways to make decisions for your company.