If you follow my blog you already know what a business fixer is compared to a business consultant. However if you are new to this blog, you can take a quick peek here: "Business Consultant, Or Business Fixer? What's The Difference?" It would be a good idea to know the difference moving forward with this post, despite a lot of the questions asked by small business owners being the same for both.
There are a ton of questions I am asked by small business owners, and depending on the reception this post gets, I will probably end up adding to this list. But for now, we are going to stick with the four that are asked the most.
Do I absolutely need a business plan?
Most (pretty much all) blogs or articles that you find that address this question are going to tell you emphatically, YES! I'll let you in on a little secret however.... those articles/blogs are written by two types of people:
Those who have no idea what it takes to start and run a business, but are following what they've read about business principles
Those who want you to pay THEM to write your business plan for YOU
Now before you start pointing out examples to me of pieces written by other types of people, I already know. However one thing I can promise you is that most of them are written by one of the two choices above.
With all that being said, for the most part they are absolutely correct! And yes, I am one of those that writes quality business plans for money. Business plans are highly valuable for many reasons, and those reasons are all different. The top three reasons to have a business plan (in my opinion) are as follows:
Secure a loan or find investors - Receiving a business loan from a bank is literally impossible without a business plan. It is one of the requirements.
Provide a plan/road map to follow and stay on track - While there will always be unexpected circumstances popping up, and adjustments that need to be made, this is an excellent way to make sure you don't veer off track. This is especially true in a business starting with multiple people.
Find a qualified partner(s) to run your business with - While it might be easy to talk your buddy into trying to start a business with you, if you are looking for someone who knows what they are doing they are going to want to see what your plan is.
If you ask 10 different fixers/consultants what their top three reasons for a business plan are and you will get many different answers, but more than likely the top two above will be on the list somewhere.
Now, what I say next is not going to be popular if any of my colleagues were to read this.
While I've admitted that most of the time you need one, or it's at least a good idea, I have multiple clients who didn't have one to start. The one instance where it's not absolutely necessary is if your business starts as a side hustle, and you are funding it yourself or with the help of private contributions.
This obviously is going to depend on what kind of business you have, but it's certainly possible. I started AES on my own without a single outside dollar coming in. This is a rare exception when it comes to starting a business however.
Long story short, if you are going to need anything from anyone or anywhere else, just make a business plan!
If you are going to pay someone to write one for you (I recommend this), I'd be happy to give you a free quote so you know how much to pay whomever it is you choose! CLICK HERE
How am I supposed to have time in the day for everything that needs to get done?
The answer to this one is easy! 'You're Not." When you start a business, unless you have done it before, there will always be more to it than you expected in the first place. However, I have to admit that I'm a little shocked at the number of potential small business owners that I have talked to over the years that have thought one of two things:
I won't have to work more than the 9 to 5 job that I'm leaving - Common sense would tell you this is not the case, but like I said, I am shocked. Companies don't just start as well oiled machines, and there are plenty of companies that could be considered successful that aren't even close to well oiled machines. If this seems silly to you, you're not alone, I can't explain it and these people rarely end up with a successful company.
As the owner, I'll get to play golf everyday - Contrary to popular belief, this isn't even true once a company turns a corner and has established it's success. Really the only exception where this can be true is if you are already extremely rich and have hired someone to start and build your business. If you are in this situation, what the hell are you reading this for?
Since that is out of the way now, what do I tell the business owners that ask me this question? I start by finding out the structure of the company they are starting or have tried to put in place. Are they flying solo, or do they have others in the organization? I also try to find out what the different skill sets of the business owner (and their partners/employees) are, and what they are even capable of.
This information is extremely important for many reasons. For example, just because you might have 5,000 Facebook friends on your personal account, that is nowhere near the same thing as being able to target market your product or service on Social Media. You might be the best roofer, craft maker, food maker, etc., around, but do you have ANY idea how to market yourself?
Once a structure is established and we know who is in your organization, now we can get down to business. The ideal situation for a brand new small business is to have other people, who are already getting paid, be able to expand their roles to help out with some of the daily responsibilities. Delegating to such trusted people is the quickest way to free up some of your time as a small business owner.
(Every small business consultant, or similar, who read the paragraph above, just shook their head at me saying that instead of telling you to hire someone)
Okay now that we have established the best case scenario, let's get real. If you are going at the entrepreneur thing alone, or even if you have others with you, the chances that you have people that can proficiently (let alone expertly) do everything that needs to be done to ensure your success on a daily basis is slim to none. And honestly, even if you do have them, you don't have time.
At this point you have three choices:
Fail - Did you really start your business to fail?
Barely get by, or achieve bare minimum success - there's nothing worse than knowing you could have done better!
Spend some money and get someone in to help you - This can be anything from hiring a full time employee, to an independent fixer/consultant to focus specifically on one area.
Considering I am a business fixer, I'll focus on number three above. Contrary to popular belief, it's actually the most economical. I talked to a business owner the other day that thought it was crazy that they had a consultant approach them and offer their services for around $400 a month.
So this business owner went out and hired a full time employee who wasn't nearly as skilled in the service he needed, to work in their shop AND take care of the issue...... HUH?
I don't know what this business owner paid his employee, but I guarantee it was more than $400 a month. And what's more, I guarantee that the original issue he wanted taken care of was not done so as well as the specialist would have done!
I am being very vague with my story above because I believe they will actually become a client of mine, but that doesn't diminish the point of the story. Labor is always going to be one of your biggest expenses if you have employees, make sure you are using it wisely!
I hope the many different scenarios I've discussed here have covered the issue for you. This is a very industry specific question so I tried to go into as much detail as possible without turning it into a book! If you're still not sure after reading this, CLICK HERE.
How do I market without a budget?
Most people who think they know what they are talking about will tell you that you "can't". I'll begin by telling you that it makes things more difficult for sure, but it "can" be done, for at least a little while.
In 2019 the first thing most people think of when it comes to free or inexpensive marketing is usually social media. I can see how that would make sense to some people, but it's the wrong answer for two reasons.
As a business owner you won't have time to run your social media accounts the way they need to be run to be effective, even if you know how to do it from a business stand point.
While the accounts themselves are free, for them to be worth it you need to have someone who knows what they are doing running them, but most importantly has the time to execute them.
When you have a limited, or non-existent, marketing budget, the first thing you need to focus on is your REFERRAL marketing! I know, I know.... this sounds kind of archaic, however it is such a highly under used marketing method these days as it is. I teach referral marketing until I'm out of breath anyway, but when you don't have any money, it's your best shot!
This entire post is based on the assumption that you have a high quality product, or perform your service(s) at a high quality level. If this isn't the case, your referral marketing campaign is worthless. That being said, how do you leverage your existing customers into new ones?
I talk in much more detail about your "target market' HERE, but I'll briefly refresh your memory. Your target market is where at least 80% of your sales will come from. Identifying this market is crucial, and the best/quickest way to identify these people is take a look at your current customers.
Therefore, take your current customers, even if there aren't that many, and incentivize them to market your products or services for you! This can be easier said than done, but it CAN be done. I'll go into further detail about how to run a successful referral marketing program in an upcoming post (make sure you subscribe to the AES Blog Club), but for now you can take a look right HERE to see one of my own that has been extremely successful so far.
Obviously you will need to tailor the program to your business, but this will give you a start. If you would like more options to market your company with little to no budget just make an appointment online, or shoot me an email!
Do I need a website?
If you are laughing, stop it. There are quite a few small businesses out there that have been successful for a long time without a website. That being said, they are probably beginning to fee the affects of not having one now in 2019. If you are about to start a business, or have recently started a business, it is now a MUST to have one.
To be honest, there is really not much more to say on this topic. The answer is absolutely "YES"! I've spoken quite a bit about this topic in previous posts as well. However if you are new here, the biggest thing you can remember when it comes to your website is that you get what you pay for.
You're more than welcome to try to make your website on your won, however due to the previous number one principle I just told you, I don't recommend it. If you would like to see how much a website built specifically for your business SHOULD cost you, feel free to CLICK HERE.
I sincerely hope my answers to these questions are not only relevant to your businesses, but provide some valuable insight! If these are the most common questions I am getting consistently, I know they are common all over the place. However if there is something I didn't touch on that you would like to know more about, I'm always available through the website or by email. I'd be happy to chat with you one on one! I have also left plenty of links in this post as tools to help you with your business, use them!
As usual, thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. It is very humbling when people take time to read your work. Please remember to LIKE, SHARE, and COMMENT on this post!