By Mike Taylor
Getting a small business off the ground is difficult, and the first few years can seem like a never-ending battle for profitability. If you are a small business owner or in a startup, what should you do with limited funds in order to maintain and grow? How do you decide which expenses stay and which ones get the boot?
If your business is in its early stages and you’re trying to understand which expenses are vital to your operation and which ones you can cut, here are 5 expenses you’ll be glad you kept in the budget.
First, you have to know where your business stands in the marketplace and where you’re going. While this may involve a large monetary investment, it definitely involves an investment of time and resources. This step should include lots of market research and analysis, and the more in-depth you can get with the information, the better.
There are tons of resources for making a business plan, and it’s never too late to put one in action for your business. The important thing is that you do the right research and answer vital questions about the purpose of your business, who your customers are and where you’re headed, and then document it all for future reference and accountability.
Communications and customer service
Communications and customer service are vital to any business, but especially for businesses in the early years of development when customers are just getting to know you. If you plan on communicating with your customers via telephone, one key investment you should make early on is in a quality business phone system.
Modern VoIP phone systems are cost-effective for businesses of almost any size, and cloud-based or hosted phone systems offer even more cost flexibility for small businesses. They offer advanced, enterprise-level features to startups and small businesses, but at an affordable cost – making you competitive with other large, established businesses. A good business phone system should also be capable of easily growing with your business so you don’t have to overhaul your phone system if your business expands or contracts.
Many small businesses are tempted to skimp on marketing efforts in the early stages due to the lack of capital. However, modern technology has made marketing in the digital era simpler and easier than ever before.
One of the most effective ways to market certain types of local and B2B businesses is through blogging and SEO. Google and other search engines are looking for the most relevant and thorough content on the web to answer searchers’ questions. So use Google’s keyword tool and other online tools to figure out what questions your potential customers are asking Google, then create online content around those topics.
Another easy way to reach new customers and spread the word about your young business without spending a fortune is social media. While social media platforms like Facebook are pushing businesses to use paid advertising on their platforms, with a little creativity and some grassroots support from others, social media can still be a great way to drive engagement and awareness for your business.
Legal and accounting assistance
These two can be lumped together as they’re both so vitally important to the livelihood of small businesses. The funny thing about accountants and lawyers is that it’s easy to think you can skimp on them until the time comes when you actually need them. Then it’s usually too late.
The last thing your young business needs is an unnecessary lawsuit or an unexpected audit from the IRS. Do your business a giant favor and invest in a quality accountant and lawyer early in your business’s life.
Many small business owners or operators are tempted to try and take a DIY approach to the technology needs of their up-and-coming business. It may be tempting, but don’t waste your valuable time doing things other people are much more equipped to tackle.
Chances are your talents lie someplace other than in the areas of web design, computer repair or IT troubleshooting. You may think you’re saving money by learning how to do everything yourself, but the hours you’re wasting on IT-related tasks add up to one fat bill your business is paying indirectly. Instead, find a trusted IT partner and other established professionals and tap into their services.
Mike Taylor is a content marketing specialist at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.