Making the decision to start your own business can be daunting to say the least. There are so many challenges that new businesses face, they can prove to be excruciating to even the most hardened of entrepreneurs.
You have to get by with little to no income in the early stages of your business. Then you have to think about how to boost sales and keep up with the competition. Then there is the issue of your budget. Most startups will have a shoe string sized budget. Whilst it is important to try and get as far as you can with your budget there are some corners which a budding business should not try to cut. We will highlight some of those important costs that are worth investing in for the development and growth of your business.
While it's tempting to use your mobile to make and receive business calls, it screams unprofessional all the way. Remember first impressions matter. If you are advertising a mobile number on your business cards, letter head and website it screams, "1 man set up" all the way. This can be very off putting to potential clients who may be looking for a professional business to spend their money with. It also tells them that that if your mobile is offline, then so too are you. Invest in a landline VOIP number. They can cost as little £2.99 per month with an app to handle all of your calls. This means customers will dial a landline number and you can still take calls while on the move. Customers will think they have come through to an office number and you can still go about your business away from the office.
Business Trading Address
Many businesses in their infancy may not have the budget or requirement for an office. However you will still need to advertise a "trading address." The easy solution that many startups find is to use their residential address as the face of their business. In the age of "Google Maps" viewing your "office" online via Google Street View is just a 3- 4 click process. If a potential client finds that the "home" for your business is a 2 bed flat above a chip shop it can be massively off putting. It also means that you are opening yourself up to unscheduled client visits, sales calls and unsolicited mail at your residency. The solution is to get a virtual address. Virtual address services are readily available with locations available at some of the most prestigious postcodes. They usually cost just a few pounds per week and they can give the image of your business a major facelift at an affordable price.
There used to be a saying referring to shops in the High Street that "a business with no sign, is a sign of no business." Now the same saying can be extended to include businesses that do not have websites. A potential client is likely to have a quick browse on your website before engaging in a business transaction with you. Not having a website is hugely off putting and can send potential clients the wrong signals about your business. Setting up a website is not as expensive and challenging as it once used to be. There are many online services that let you design and build your own website and even if you decide to hire a professional you shouldn't look to spend more than around £150 for a basic 6 page information only website.
Another cardinal sin that many blossoming entrepreneurs fall for is using web based email to communicate with clients. Nothing can be worse than a customer making an enquiry with you, only for you to reply via your Gmail or Hotmail account. It screams unprofessional all the way. If you choose to follow our advice in point 3 above and develop your website, then your domain should automatically come with a free email facility. If for any reason you do not have access to a domain based email service then you can subscribe to one for just a few pounds per week.
No Missed Calls
Letting the phone ring out or turning it off can lead to lost business and is greatly off putting to customers. If you are unable to answer calls, at the very least you should set up a voicemail, reassuring customers that you will call them back. Another option is to subscribe to a call answering service. They answer calls in the name of your company and take messages for you when you are not available and can charge as little as £1 per call. Not only does it give a nice clean cut image for your company it also reassures customers that they are dealing with a professional outfit.
In summary always put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Think of all of the things you would expect to be in place with a company that you choose to do business. Then simply try and execute them for your own business so that you can set the same standards for yourself that you would expect to see for others'.
Matt Price is a blogger at Icon offices, a premier provider of luxury serviced offices, virtual offices, and business associated services in London, UK.