Bartering In Business …

Bartering is when you swap or trade goods or services for those of another without exchanging money. We do it all the time with family and friends, so why not with other business owners?  There are many different ways to barter that can be effective ways for small business owners to expand your businesses and/or reduce your costs.

Bartering has many benefits and there are a number of reasons why you may want to explore bartering.

  • Often you can fill a need that you have without spending any money
  • You may meet business owners from a different industry and create a relationship that provides various opportunities
  • You can build a network of colleagues that may become a source of referrals

Typically, bartering begins when one business owner approaches another business owner who offers something they require.  Make a proposal that indicates the services or products involved, the value, and an explanation as to why it will be mutually beneficial.  You might be surprised how easily an agreement can be made.

Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or are just starting your business, bartering arrangements should be treated like any other business relationship. There are steps you should take to ensure that you are supporting your small business and creating the foundation for a successful experience.

Before agreeing to a barter arrangement, measure what you will be giving and what you will be receiving in return – the two should be of relatively equal value. You should also verify that the other person is qualified to provide the product or service that they will be providing and that they have the authority to make the agreement.  It is normally better to work out the particulars of a barter arrangement through the business owner or manager.

A written agreement should outline the terms of the bartering arrangement, and it can be the most important part of the relationship.  Be sure to clearly outline what each party is providing as well as a timeline or deadline. You should also plan to communicate with the other party on a regular basis in order to continue to build the relationship.

Bartering is not always in the cards – do your homework and choose reputable businesses that you want to be associated with.  Bartering is a give-and-take proposition that can be very valuable to both parties involved, but only if both parties understand the concept.

 

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Mix Up Your Marketing Strategies

Selling your product or service is the general goal for small businesses. Position your business in front of your target audience and offer them something they can’t refuse. Take the time to develop a marketing plan that will set you apart from your competition. It should clearly identify and focus on the most effective marketing tactics for your small business.

Here is a list of small business marketing ideas to get you thinking of how you can promote your business effectively.

Marketing Plan

  • Create a marketing plan
  • Start your market research
  • Refine your target audience

Marketing Materials

  • Update your business cards
  • Make your business card stand out

In-Person Marketing

  • Write and elevator pitch
  • Introduce yourself to other business owners
  • Join your local chamber of commerce

Direct Mail

  • Use tear cards, inserts, props and attention-getting envelopes to make an impact with your mailings
  • Send past customers free samples or incentives to regain their business

Advertising

  • Advertise in the Yellow Pages
  • Advertise on Facebook
  • Advertise on the radio
  • Use a sidewalk sign to promote specials

Social Media Marketing

  • Start a business blog
  • Create a twitter account
  • Start social bookmarking your online content

Email Marketing

  • Offer gift to people willing to add their email to your address list
  • Send regular emails to your list
  • Start a monthly email newsletter

 Contests, Coupons and Incentives

  • Create a coupon
  • Create a frequent buyer rewards program
  • Give away a free sample

Relationship Building

  • Send out a customer satisfaction survey
  • Volunteer your time for a charity event
  • Sponsor a local sports team

With the right mix of ideas, strategies and activities, you can identify the most effective marketing tactics for your small business.

 

 

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Should You Go Paperless?

With new and changing technology, you have the tools to transition your overflowing files to an organized digital format. That doesn’t mean going paperless is easy or the right decision for your small business. Here are some of the pros and cons of a paperless office to help you decide.

The pro of a paperless office

Environmentally Friendly – According to statistics, paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste, and that is just paper. The production and disposal of ink cartridges and the energy used by printers is another number to factor in. Going paperless is an environmentally conscious decision.

Cost Effective – There are benefits for your small business budget. Consider how much you spend each month on paper, ink, postage and the space it takes to store all of your physical supplies and documents. It can get quite costly. Switching to paperless could result in huge savings for your small business.

Easy Access – Paperless means all of your documents are digitalized. You can back them up to the cloud or access them through a remote desktop, giving you the ability to work from home or on the go. Digital file systems are much easier to organize, search and tweak over time. Going paperless makes what once was a painful process to find a document as easy as conducting a search.

The cons of a paperless office

System Failure – Digital may be quicker to access, but it can be lost just as quick. Take into consideration what would happen if your system crashes. You could lose everything. If you decide to go paperless, it is important that you have a system for backing up and protecting all documents off-site.

Security – A serious concern when going paperless is the security of documents and sensitive information. Encryption, local servers and restricted access, which all have their own benefits and costs, are solutions worth looking into.

Revamp Processes – Reviewing your current operations processes and finding alternatives are part of the transition to paperless. You may need to begin using an electronic signature service, online invoicing and payment services to replace the need for physical documents.

Time Intensive – There are a lot of factors to consider when you switch to paperless and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to consider all of the implications and just as long to implement all of the changes to your operations.

Going paperless may not be the right decision for every small business. It is important that you do your research before you decide if the benefits outweigh the challenges and help improve your productivity at the same time.

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5 Most Common Business Plan Mistakes

Creating a business plan before diving into your new business head first will give you a much better chance of success. Here are some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make.

  1. Not writing a business plan

Not bothering to write a business plan is the most common mistake. Entrepreneurs tend to get too excited about their business idea and miss this important step in start-up. Maybe you are familiar with the saying, “He who fails to plan plans to fail.” Failure is the fate of almost every business someone starts without a business plan. You don’t need a full-scale formal business plan, but it is important that you have one.

  1. Not being clear about the purpose of your business plan

A business plan is your solution to the problem being how you are going to turn your business into a reality. Ask yourself why you are preparing a business plan. Is it to persuade a potential lender for a loan? To attract investors or to figure out if your idea could be a viable business? Or is your plan a blueprint for your start-up? The purpose of your plan will affect everything from the amount of research you do to what the finished plan will look like.

  1. Not doing enough research

Your business plan is only going to be as good as the research you put into it. You have to answer questions like; what are the trends in the industry? How will you counter what your competitors are doing? The more complete the answer is, the better prepared you will be. Every section of your business plan will involve research, which in most cases can be found online.

  1. Ignoring market realities

You can have the best product or service in the world but it’s not going to sell if there is no market for it. It is very important to market test your product or service. If you have a product, try selling at local venues or give out free samples to gather feedback. If you have a service, surveys and focus groups are effective ways you research your target market. Also examine what your competition is doing and explain how you are going to counter to win market share.

5. Not doing a thorough preparation of financials

There are two common mistakes people make when writing the financial section of their business plan. The first is not being realistic about expenses, people often underestimate costs. The second is being overly optimistic about your business prospects. Never let your optimism lead you to create an overly rosy cash flow. Meticulous research will prevent this mistake.

Perseverance and determination are great traits for entrepreneurs to possess, until those traits keep you from accomplishing what you should. That may be the worst business plan mistake of all.

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Five Common and Preventable Problems for Small Businesses

The first year of start-up and running a new business can seem like a never ending roller coaster ride. Here are some common and preventable problems you may encounter.

  1. Bad Business Plan – A detailed business plan, on paper, will initially help you set goals and keep them on track. If you need a loan or grant to get your business up and running, a business plan is necessary. Doing it right in the beginning will save you the headache in the long run.
  2. Inadequate Market Research – Before committing to your business, do your research. Canada Business Ontario is a free service that will provide you with statistics and demographic information that will be very valuable in determining the level of success your business may achieve. Then throw the idea around with friends and family to get a few different points of views. Be assured that people will buy what you are selling at the location you are selling it from.
  3. MONEY – Never make the assumption that your business will be a success right off the bat. It generally takes six months to a year to get your business off the ground. It is common for businesses to fail in not planning for a rainy day. Plan accordingly and don’t assume you will make millions the first year.
  4. Selling Yourself Short – Trying to compete with big box stores or competitor pricing is a sure way to go broke. You have to charge enough to cover all your expenses. Price fairly and emphasize the quality and unique aspects of your product or service. Providing superior customer service will keep customers coming back.
  5. Forgetting Family – Balancing home and business life can be difficult, but always make time for family no matter how many hours you work in a day. Stress at home will add more stress to your work life. Having support from your loved ones is important.

Although you may run into a few problems starting up, being prepared is half the battle.

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Employed or Self-Employed?

Why not both? Most people think it would be impractical to start a new business while still employed, but it is the perfect time. Working at your business part-time gives you big advantages.

Start Up Funding

When you start a new business, money is a common worry. Being employed elsewhere gives you comfort in knowing you have a job to fall back on if things don’t go as planned. It can take a while to gain profit from a new business, having the extra income will help take care of the bills in the mean time. Small business loans may also be an option, but they do have some restrictions to how the money is spent.

Client and Customers

Already being employed also you inside a network that is full of potential clients or customers. Although your boss or co-workers may not be interested in your product or service, they may know someone who would. Be sure to promote your business in a way that will not interfere with your current job or turn off potential clients. Make sure you have a 30 second elevator pitch prepared and practised so you are comfortable, then find the right time and place to talk about your business.

Try it out 

Running your business part-time means you don’t have to make the full commitment. You will have time to test the feasibility and practicality as well as testing the market. Business is not for everyone, the idea may work but you may find you are not the right person to implement it. Being able to do a trial run first can be a great advantage.

Starting up a part-time business before fully committing to it reduces some risks and gives you a better idea of the chance of success you will have. So what are you waiting for, give it a shot!

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Three Reasons to Choose Entrepreneurship

Being that it is Small Busniess Week, we thought we would repost the most viewed post of all time. We hope you enjoy this popular read!

Why choose entrepreneurship? It’s a personal and important decision that stems from critical thinking and answering numerous questions, many of which are outlined in ‘How to determine if Entrepreneurship is Right for me’.

There are many articles available online that describe the various reasons individuals choose entrepreneurship. Below three of the most common reasons are outlined:

Be Your Own Boss: Being your own boss allows you to enjoy what you do for a living and control your future. If you like to be in a position of decision making, being your own boss is an attractive career option.

Passion: In order for your business to be successful, you must love what you do. Being an entrepreneur is hard work, so being able to do what you are passionate about as a career may not seem like work. It will give you the chance to immerse yourself in something you love.

Independence: As much as you are the manager of every section your business, being an entrepreneur also grants you the freedom to design your own schedule. This can allow you flexibility not granted otherwise (ex. working from home).

It also gives you the freedom to choose who you work with and decide the overall operation of the business .

Are you thinking of entrepreneurship? Take our ‘Entrepreneur Quiz’!

Are you already an entrepreneur? Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur or open a small business?

For additional articles that outline top reasons for becoming an entrepreneur, check out the links below:

Five Reasons to Become an Entrepreneur
Top 10 Reasons to Run Your Own Business
25 Common Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur

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