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  1. 10. Just do it (even if it isn’t perfect) The last business tip for new entrepreneurs comes from Nike, just do it. And I don’t just mean starting it. I mean get out of your head, stop overthinking, stop questioning whether you’re making the right call, and just do it. New entrepreneurs can sometimes be well on their way with their business only to have their thoughts cloud their mind. But that only delays your success. Will you make mistakes? You bet. Will there be challenges? Yup, and you’ll need to jump high to get over them. But isn’t this what you signed up for? Entrepreneurship is about going all in. It’s about taking big risks so you can live the life you want. The goal isn’t to win the award of perfection. The goal is to build a business that helps people solve a problem. And the sooner you can do that, the sooner you can make people’s lives better. That’s the impact your business can have on someone’s life. So the sooner you launch it, the more people you can help. oberlo.com
  2. 9. Always be aware of your competitors’ moves Business can be cut-throat. Your competitors will always try to knock you down so that they can remain at the top. While you don’t want to obsess over your competitors you do always want to be aware of what they’re doing so you can stay ahead of the game. Which products and services do they offer? How do they market their brand? How do they price their products and services? How do they treat their customers? You need to find out every little detail in the early stages so that you know how to compete. If you find they offer a great product but terrible customer support, you can put a bigger emphasis on customer relations. The goal is to find out what their overarching weaknesses are and make those are your strength while still having a great collection of services and products for your customers. But remember, don’t obsess too much over the day to day of your competitors. Your obsession should center around your customers and employees. Make those two groups happy and you’re golden. oberlo.com
  3. 8. Start a business that matches your personality According to serial entrepreneur Naval Ravikant, he believes that product/market fit should actually be founder/product/market fit. Essentially, what that means is no one else could run that business better than you. Ideally, you should start a business that matches your exact skills, experiences, and personality. This goes beyond doing your passion and actually doing what you’re destined to do. How can you contribute meaningfully to the world through your business? By doing something that only you can do, you can create a legacy that lasts while making an impact in the world. To sum up this business tip: start the business only you can start. oberlo.com
  4. 7. Focus on employee morale The best boss I’ve ever had once told me that her secret to building a productive team centered around making her employees happy. And it was true. We celebrated something all the time. On my last day, I literally cried because I didn’t want to leave. I only left because I knew I had to step out of my part-time university job and gain more impactful marketing experience. I worked in that role eight years ago and still stay in touch with all my coworkers to this day. That’s how long-lasting the impact of employee morale is. Unfortunately, it’s often the one thing entrepreneurs fail to focus on. Most first time entrepreneurs try to act like a boss. And literally no employee wants one of those. Your employees want to feel appreciated, heard, and know that they’re on the right track. If you find yourself constantly criticizing people for not doing it your way, you’ll often find that team performance will drop. The most important business tip when it comes to managing employees is to make them happy. Because if you do that, they’ll be more willing to help you hit your company’s goals. oberlo.com
  5. 6. Start with a narrow focus first and expand Amazon didn’t start as the everything store. It started as a simple bookstore. And they slowly expanded into toys and other products as time went on to expand their business. That’s how you build a general business. One of the most important business tips is to always start with a narrow focus and expand into relevant verticals as you scale. By having a narrow focus, you can build a loyal audience who knows what to expect from you. It also gives you a well-defined audience to make your marketing easier. For example, you can start a women’s fashion store. At first maybe you sell apparel. But eventually you can expand into shoes, jewelry, fashion accessories, or beauty. Or you can go in a different direction and expand into men’s fashion and children’s fashion. Both types of online stores make sense and have natural vertical complements. But first, you do should aim to have a big audience and loyal shoppers. You need to know that there’ll be demand for the verticals you do eventually expand into. oberlo.com
  6. 5. Focus on profit instead of revenue Most entrepreneurs are obsessed with revenue. “I made $900,000 in eight months,” they claim. And you can’t help but ask, “Did you really though?” Because digging deeper, you’ll often find that profit is much more important than revenue. Sure you made $900,000 in revenue but if your profit after eight months is only $10,000 was it really worth the work? And is that even sustainable? Probably not. Make the switch to transition from thinking about revenue to thinking about profit. The more profit you have, the more money you have to reinvest in your business, employees, and your own success. As an entrepreneur, you get paid last. Your startup expenses need to be paid first. So you’ll want to make sure you’re making more than enough money to treat yourself too. Check out Oberlo’s free Profit Margin Calculator to help you earn a profit. oberlo.com
  7. 4.Obsess over customer needs One of the biggest sources of conflict in business comes from unmet needs. If a customer doesn’t get the service or product they were expecting, their needs won’t be met, and they’ll feel frustrated. The most important business tip when it comes to managing customer relations is to always empathize with the customer. When you recognize their frustration as pain from not having their needs met, it’s easier not to take the insults they hurl at you, personally. Instead, you can focus on trying to listen to what they say by mirroring the intent behind their words. And eventually, you work on coming to a resolution that meets their needs and leaves your customer feeling heard. By doing this instead of simply giving a refund, you open the doors to building a long-term relationship with them even if they were upset with their first experience with your brand. To learn more about how to do this, you can read Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD. oberlo.com
  8. 3. Solve a burning problem An important business tip for new entrepreneurs is to create a business that solves a problem. If you asked most failed business owners what problem they solved, they either can’t answer or the problem they solved wasn’t urgent enough. The problem you solve doesn’t need to be complicated like curing a disease. It can be simple, such as we help people overcome boredom by providing an entertaining experience. But ultimately, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with your business. By knowing what burning problem you’re solving, you can use that in your marketing to help people understand how you can help them best. For example, if you sell anti-snoring products, you’ll want your ad to show the frustration a snorer can have on a person’s sleep. And then showcase your product as the handy solution that’ll allow them to sleep through the night again. oberlo.com
  9. 2. Choose the right niche The selection of the niche is where people often realize they’ve made a mistake. If you go too broad with a general business, you might struggle to know who your audience is. If you’re too specific with a barre class socks store, you might find your niche is too narrow. Not only that but there’s also a seasonality aspect. For example, if you’re obsessed with Christmas, you could build a Christmas business but you might struggle to find customers for your products in February. Another business tip to consider is whether you’ll be able to remarket to customers for years to come. For example, if you’re selling maternity clothing, women are only pregnant for nine months. After she gives birth, she likely won’t be shopping on that store anymore. So when it comes to deciding on a niche, choose a niche that’s popular year round (Google Trends can show you how stable a niche is). You’ll also want to choose a niche that’s popular such as at least hundreds of thousands of monthly searches like fashion, beauty, fitness, or home decor. And finally, a niche that isn’t short-term so avoid maternity, weddings, or any niche business you won’t be able to build a long-term email list with. oberlo.com
  10. 1. Build like the Romans The Colosseum is 1949 years old. And for the most part it’s still fairly intact. The material it was built with was stronger than any concrete we use today. It’s beauty is so captivating that millions have flocked to Italy just to look at it in all its glory. The Romans used the best materials, purchased rare marble from other countries, and designed things that were built to last. But when it comes to building a business, there are many entrepreneurs who build for the short-term. They look at a business as a way to make an extra couple thousand bucks. Instead, they should be building something that’ll last for years to come. One of the oldest businesses in the world is based in Japan. Kongo Gumi, a construction company specializing in Buddhist temples, was first launched in 578 AD, making it 1441 years old! Prior to a merger, it had a $70 million annual budget. Focus on building a business with a legacy by doing what you do so often that you do it better than anyone else. Like the Romans, you should focus on high-quality products and like the Japanese you should have a well-defined niche. oberlo.com
  11. 23. Diversify Investments by Location Sanchez Wealth Management recommends diversifying your investments by geographical region. Investing most of your assets in local businesses can increase your risk because if the market were to shift out of favor with your particular location, it could be a disaster to your portfolio. By investing in securities outside of your region or country, you avoid letting the economic troubles of one location ruin your entire investment portfolio. 24. Educate Yourself About the Financial Markets To be successful in your stock investments, it’s always a good idea to educate yourself on what’s happening in the financial markets. According to Feed Rool, being aware of the economy allows you to sell before the price of your stock or asset falls too far. Also, monitor your investments properly and learn to think of new strategies based on the current market conditions. 25. Learn to Allocate Your Assets Efficiently People’s United Bank suggests that small business owners should learn different asset allocation strategies to be successful in their investments. It’s important to understand that different asset classes behave differently in various economic environments. It allows you to achieve the right asset mix which lets you take advantage of returns when they occur. fitsmallbusiness.com
  12. 20. Invest in a SEP-IRA Jeff Neal, Operations Manager, The Critter Depot Invest in a self-employed pension (SEP) IRA. SEP IRA allows you to take company earnings and deposit up to $55,000 into this IRA. From there, you can invest it into mutual funds or ETFs. Using a SEP-IRA is proven to be a very effective, tax-free way to control a company’s earnings without getting hit with taxes. 21. Hire an Accountant Amy Corbett, Wealth Management Advisor, Northwestern Mutual Don’t do your own accounting. As your business grows, finances become increasingly more complex, which increases the likelihood you’ll spend way too much time trying to make sense of your earnings and expenses in preparation for tax season. Not only is this a way to dodge a guaranteed headache, but it’ll also free up time to grow your business. Invest some of your funds to hire an accountant, and you’ll save yourself from headaches in the long run. 22. Invest in Increasing Your Brand Exposure According to LendGenius, it’s essential to bring your business name out there. Therefore, you should invest a portion of your capital to increase your brand exposure through marketing campaigns, sales meetings, networking events, news articles, public relations interviews and similar activities. These promotion efforts will help introduce your business to prospective customers and generate new leads. fitsmallbusiness.com
  13. 17. Invest in Online Marketing Kosei Okubo, CEO, Founder’s Guide Online marketing is growing by leaps as the number of people using the internet has grown substantially. More than 90 percent of the United States population uses the internet, and it’s believed these users have made a purchase online at least once. To help your business grow, it’s important to set aside a portion of your capital for online marketing. This investment will go a long way as it allows you a wider reach and most of your target audience is on the internet. 18. Invest in a Certificate of Deposit for Lower Risk Melissa St. Clair, Owner, Paper Chaser Pay yourself first. It’s a statement you hear from business coaches, finance gurus and small business owners alike. Not all small business savings or checking accounts earn interest, or if they do, the interest earning rate is very low. Opening a certificate of deposit (CD) is a way to save money at a higher interest rate, compared to your regular savings or checking account. Also, it’s great for conservative investors who don’t want to take high risks. Watch for special promotions from your financial institutions and set up a short or long-term CD to save money for your business’s future. 19. Invest in Search Engine Optimization for Your Website Shawn Breyer, Owner, Breyer Home Buyers Small businesses should invest in assets that continue to produce revenue for them over the long-term. Most people will buy Google AdWords or Facebook Ads for their marketing. Usually, however, they have a one-time opportunity to produce a return. When you stop spending money on them, they stop producing leads for your business. Compare that to investing in search engine optimization (SEO) for your website instead. When you stop spending money on SEO services, your site will still be ranking high for your keywords, and you’ll still be getting organic leads from SEO for months or years after you stop spending money on that. With investing in SEO, you have created an asset that will continue to produce leads and income for your business for a long time. fitsmallbusiness.com
  14. 14. Invest in Your Own Business Colin B. Exelby, President, Celestial Wealth Management One of the most important investments for a small business owner is to invest your time, effort, and money into your own business. If run profitably, rarely are investments available that can compete with the IRR [internal rate of return] of investing in yourself and your company. The problem becomes an overwhelming reliance on the health of the business for future prosperity. 15. Consider Investing in Cryptocurrencies Anant Handa, Co-founder & CSO, Mandala Although still not fully mainstream and in some cases considered obscure, cryptocurrency and blockchain assets have driven an entirely new gig economy, still quite small but growing every day. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin might not necessarily replace cash or fiat because of price volatility, but they may make a great medium- to long-term investment opportunity. 16. Contribute the Maximum Allowable Amount to Your Retirement Meg Simone, Owner, Meg Simone Films Do not only to save for retirement but do your best to contribute the maximum allowable amount each year. This is critical because as a business owner, you don’t get employee benefits like an employer match or a 401(k). By learning to discipline yourself to contribute the maximum amount, you don’t only put away more money to grow for the maximum amount of time it can, but you can also use it to offset the taxes you owe each year strategically. fitsmallbusiness.com
  15. 11. Invest in Your People John Evarts, CFO & COO, Mediafly As a small business owner, each hiring decision is a step change in the trajectory of your business, for better or worse. The best investments we can make are those that ensure we are able to both attract and retain the best person for every position. Whether that means investing precious time to interview enough people to hire the best-fit candidate, investing your energy to provide guidance and support or investing limited financial resources to craft the perfect compensation and benefits package or optimal workspace. The investments you make in your people can provide more return than any other investment. 12. Setup Automatic Investments into Low-fee Index Funds Michael Wittmeyer, CEO & Co-founder, JM Bullion The simplest and most effective investment strategy for small business owners is to set up automatic investments into low-fee index funds. As a business owner, your energy is largely preoccupied by your company, and it is unlikely you have time to spare for researching and evaluating specific stocks or bonds. By setting up automatic investments, you will dollar-cost average into low-fee index funds, which is a proven method for long-term returns. This strategy also allows you to stay as emotionless as possible with your investing because there is no reason to ever look at day-to-day performance given you aren’t making any day-to-day decisions. Many investors get into trouble when they watch their investments rise and fall daily as they run the risk of letting their emotions cloud their long-term strategy. 13. Invest in Product Offering & Revenue Channels Kyle Baptist, Founder & CEO, Marconi Beach Outfitters Small businesses investments in product offering will increase revenue and profit. Start by looking at the five top-selling products your company offers and expand on those offerings. Know your customers’ needs and find a way to cater to those needs. It may need a lot of brainstorming and require a high initial investment, but the return and increase in profits will all be worth it. fitsmallbusiness.com
  16. 9. Build an Emergency Fund Andy Nathan, President, Smart At the Start The first step to investing is to set up an emergency fund. If you have an emergency fund, you won’t need to touch your savings or investment account whenever you have an urgent need for money. You may start small, especially if you are currently financially challenged. For instance, you can set aside as little as $1 every week for a start. However, make sure to increase that to around $25 per week within 6 months to build your emergency fund. 10. Invest in a Small Office Building Jo A. Steinberg, CEO, Midland Health Renting office space is similar to renting an apartment instead of owning your home. However, it is not right for every small business. First, your business must be stable and well-established. If you know your business will flourish and carry on for at least 7 years or longer, and if you plan to stay in the same location, then purchasing a small office building can be a great investment. It will save you on rental cost, and you can use your office on your own terms. fitsmallbusiness.com
  17. 7. Contribute to a Retirement Plan Stephen Schuller, Vice President, Dorsey & Company, Inc. As a business owner, you should have and be contributing to a retirement plan, especially because you do not have an employer to fall back on. Although many business owners plan on funding or at least heavily supplementing their retirement with the proceeds from selling their business, they often overestimate the value of that enterprise. This miscalculation can be very costly and once again underscores the need to set up a suitable retirement plan. It’s important to start saving as soon as possible. Different plans provide a great way to set aside a substantial amount of money in a tax-deferred account to help provide for your retirement. 8. Invest in Yourself & Improve Your Skills Matt Weik, Owner, Weik Fitness, LLC Invest in yourself and in bettering your skills and abilities. You can enroll in some courses that are related to your industry or take certification programs that you may need for your business. You can make many financial investments yet still risk losing money. When you invest in yourself, you have a better opportunity to improve your business and revenue. Unless you make the investment in yourself and have zero follow-through, you will always end up on top investing in yourself. fitsmallbusiness.com
  18. 5. Avoid Micro-cap Equity Investments Daniel L. Grote, Certified Financial Planner & Partner, Latitude Financial Group Most business owners place a significant portion of their personal capital into the business that, from an asset class standpoint, might be considered a micro-cap equity investment. This is highly volatile with significant risk for loss. They may have also made significant investments in nondiversified commercial real estate. This kind of assets should best be avoided in your portfolio. What you need in your portfolio is large-cap, such as international — developed and emerging — markets and various forms of fixed-income. 6. Conduct a Thorough Due Diligence When Investing in Stocks Zachary Lezberg, Owner, The Small Business Expo The most important thing for any small business to do before investing money in stocks is to conduct due diligence and thoroughly research options. Exercise caution and don’t jump in too quickly. Make sure you have vetted the market and have a solid understanding of how investments are made. It is mandatory for public companies to provide financial and other important information to potential investors. Analyzing that information can help to determine whether it’s best to buy, sell or hold a particular stock. Also, keep in mind that the market has ups and downs. Unpredictability is inevitable, and the market can change at the drop of a hat. Do not get scared or anxious and pull out of an investment because one day the market drops. fitsmallbusiness.com
  19. 3. Diversify Your Investments Away from Your Business’s Industry Frank Byskov, Founder & Wealth Manager, Forty4 Financial Avoid the familiarity bias and keep your investments diversified, instead of focusing on your field of expertise. For example, many doctors invest heavily in pharmaceutical and biotech stocks and real estate professionals have an affinity for real estate investments, doubling down on their industry. As a small business owner, you have a concentrated risk exposure in your field of business, and your investment portfolio should complement this exposure instead of adding to it. A great way of doing this is to construct a broad-based portfolio with limited investments in your field of business, thereby giving you a well-diversified overall allocation, with a better ability to weather industry-specific turmoil. A good financial professional can assist you with this, or you can construct it on your own using broad-based index funds or ETFs [exchange-traded funds]. 4. Invest in Rental Properties Alex Membrillo, CEO, Cardinal If you have a decent amount of extra cash, it’s best to wait for the next downturn and scoop up affordable rental properties in areas that are about to grow in your city. Rental properties are also a good investment that can provide you with an extra stream of income. This idea is great for people who don’t want to be only invested in stocks. fitsmallbusiness.com
  20. 1. Find a Balance Between Outside Investments & Reinvesting in Your Business Joshua Escalante Troesh, President & Founder, Purposeful Strategic Partners One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is how to manage the fact their net worth is tied up in a single small company — their own business. While diversification is a cornerstone of traditional financial advice, small business owners should achieve a balance between their diversified portfolio investments and investing in their own business. Small business owners should carefully interview a financial advisor to make sure the advisor understands the need to reinvest in the business, but also has the expertise to guide the business owner toward investing in other companies through the stock market when that provides a better risk-adjusted return. 2. Invest in a Formal Disaster Recovery Plan Jeff Somers, President, Insureon It’s important for small business owners to invest in a formal disaster recovery plan and business interruption insurance to protect their businesses in the event of a damaging natural disaster. However, many small business owners lack both a formal disaster recovery plan and business interruption insurance, a key insurance policy that can help pay for operating costs if they’re forced to close temporarily. In fact, according to a recent poll by Insureon, conducted with small business resource Manta, 61 percent of surveyed small businesses lack a disaster recovery plan while 60 percent admit that they don’t carry business interruption insurance. fitsmallbusiness.com
  21. Strengthen financial controls.While cyber attacks are a growing possibility, small businesses still are much more likely to suffer from old-fashioned fraud. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ 2014 Report to the Nations, small organizations (those with fewer than 100 employees) suffer disproportionately large losses due to fraud, and they are significantly more likely to suffer from schemes such as check tampering and cash larceny. One reason that small businesses are such easy targets is that they often lack the resources for strong financial controls. This year, focus your attention on low-cost and no-cost controls that are proven to be effective—such as creating and instituting formal management review procedures. Plan for long-term tax impact.Taxes are always top-of-mind this time of year, but typically we’re focusing on last year’s tax liability. While there may be certain steps you can still take to lower your 2014 tax bill, don’t forget about opportunities that will pay off in the longer run. Certain lucrative tax strategies take time to implement, such as conducting a cost segregation study to accelerate depreciation deductions. So don’t wait to seek sound tax planning advice that will balance your tax-minimization and business growth goals. cricpa.com
  22. Think in terms of opportunity cost.Every choice has multiple components: the one option you chose, and the many options that you missed out on as a result of that choice. By choosing to offer employees a retirement plan, for example, you reduce the funds available for capital improvements to the business. Every choice you make should be weighed within the context of the business’ strategic goals and objectives. Secure your data.If you think only major companies like Target, Home Depot, and Sony need to worry about data security, then think again. Even small businesses are becoming increasingly attractive to hackers—partly because they tend to have weaker controls protecting their data. Has your business established cybersecurity policies and procedures yet? Make sure your employees know what they can do to mitigate cyber risks. After all, while sophisticated encryption methods can help protect your data, the “human firewall” is the most important cybersecurity control. cricpa.com
  23. Develop an emergency preparedness plan.Nearly one-quarter of businesses that suffer a major disaster never open their doors again, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s disaster preparedness guide can help you develop a plan that will get your business back up to speed quickly after a natural or man-made disaster. Establish employer sponsored retirement plans.Helping your employees save for retirement makes sense for you and for them. Not only do retirement plans make your company more attractive to potential hires, but they also can have significant tax benefits for you and the employee. In fact, the IRS’ retirement plan contribution limits for both defined-benefit and defined-contribution plans are increasing in 2015. If you haven’t already explored creating a retirement plan, then discuss your options with your CPA in 2015. cricpa.com
  24. Maintain a reasonable level of debt.Are you carrying the right amount of debt for your situation? While overextending is a serious risk, the prudent use of outside capital can also launch your business to the next level. Determining the right debt-to-equity ratio requires a careful analysis of your cash flow and competitive conditions. A general rule is that businesses and industries that are highly volatile should rely less on debt for their growth than businesses that are more stable. Evaluate vendors.If a major vendor were to go out of business or fail to deliver a critical supply, what would be the impact on your business? Treat your vendors as partners in your success, but also remain objective and realistically evaluate their performance on a regular basis. Establish metrics that indicate quality—such as on-time performance and number of complaints—and review each vendor’s results at least annually. If the vendor is underperforming, have a conversation about how to bring their performance back in line with your expectations. In the meantime, line up back-up vendors as a contingency plan. cricpa.com
  25. Review insurance coverage.As long as businesses have risk, they will seek to transfer that through insurance. But are you covering the right risks? While general liability insurance covers accidents, injuries, and negligence, manufacturers might need product liability insurance to protect against losses as a result of a defective product. Commercial property insurance is another category that encompasses a number of “peril-specific” policies, such as business interruption insurance. Ask your financial adviser to conduct an insurance review to discover and fill the gaps in your coverage. Create a realistic budget.Forewarned is forearmed. Running a business is about more than producing and delivering products and services. It’s about managing the needed resources to grow those operations. By thinking through and committing to paper your anticipated revenues and the associated business expenses, you can spot potential problems before they become actual problems. Start the year right by creating a budget for the entire year—but don’t stop there. Revisit your budget every month to update sales forecasts and make adjustments based on unanticipated changes cricpa.com
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