You’ve got your loan agreed and the money is in the bank.
You’ve set up your business, but now you need to drive the sales into the business.
Unfortunately, much as we would all love it to happen immediately, often it takes a bit of time for people to get to know that you now exist.
Having said that you don’t want to spend lots of money on marketing, that’s completely understandable.
So, here are some tips to help you to drive footfall into your business without breaking the bank.
Google my business:
Google is key to you getting found. So make sure you’re listed on Google my Business.
What’s more it’s free to use. And often Google will send you a voucher to use for Advertising.
To make it work even harder, get your customers to give you a review. That way when people find you online, they can also see what a great service you give.
Running a social media account can be hard work. Having said that social media is a great alternative to having a website and has no cost associated with it, only your time.
Local noticeboards are great places to start to get your name out. And if you prove popular, are also a great way of getting people to spread the word about you.
Use the platform that you are familiar with and like using and post updates to on that. People like to be nosy so think about:
- Behind the scenes
- Customer of the week
Key to getting customers is people knowing that you are there.
Using services such as Vista Print allows you to design and print a leaflet at a reasonable price.
Once printed, it’s worth walking around the local area delivering the leaflets through the doors of residents.
Also give them out at key traffic points, for example.
You can also use them as posters on Parish Noticeboards, in the local library.
Board outside the shop:
Create intrigue or stand out with an A board.
This is particularly important if you are up an alleyway and people don’t automatically pass your establishment.
But it also works to get people to notice you.
Get a blank blackboard one which you can attach posters to, or which you can change depending on what is going on. You can also use this to highlight why people should come & visit.
Just one thing you need to be aware of. You may need the local council’s permission to put this board out depending on where you are located.
The local newspaper is always looking for stories. Why not approach them with yours? Why have you set up, what you’re wanting to offer the local community.
Use your business plan that was developed for your loan to help you.
Incentivising people to come in and come back:
When you’re starting out, it’s worth adding a small incentive to get people to try you out. Think about giving value, rather than discounting.
So, offering a side dish with any main meal or similar. Whatever you decide to use, don’t forget to do the maths to make sure it’s not costing you more than it needs to.
To get people coming back, it’s worth thinking about a simple loyalty card.
Do work out what you can give away without impacting the bottom line. But a couple of examples are:
- Buy 5 meals, get a free side
- For every £10 spent, get a stamp. Once you have 10 stamps, get a free meal.
Whilst we recommend using incentives, they should only be used sparingly.
Running special offers all the time creates an expectation for customers that they don’t have to pay full price. Something you want to avoid.
So there we go, just a few tips to help you on your way.
If you want any further help, do get in touch as we have several partners who can guide you in the right direction.
When it comes to success in business, there’s a chapter people rarely consider. The art of the exit strategy is the part of the business journey which stands entrepreneurs apart from the crowd.
Some would argue that you’ve only been successful if you’ve exited with a return on your investment, ready to move on to the next bigger and better opportunity.
This is the third and final blog in my three-part series about how to Aim Big, Think Big and Act Big. These are the three essential steps to guaranteed business growth that I spoke about in my first blog of the series.
So, how do we Act Big? I’d like to take you back to my little dog, Baxter, and his very big stick. I guess Baxter has the luxury of not needing to worry about where his big stick journey goes. To me, there’s a clear failure coming, when he realises that half a tree isn’t the best thing to decide to carry on a long walk. But, he’s living in the moment, and very happy to do so.
When it comes to business, we can’t afford to set ourselves up for failure. Which is why, oddly, one of the first questions I ask a business founder is “What happens at the end?” I’m not for a minute suggesting their business won’t continue, very successfully, for many years. But I am suggesting that they might not always be a part of it.
Unlocking the door
There are lots of choices when it comes to an exit strategy, the four most common are:
- Management Buy Out (MBO) – when an executive team combines resources to acquire some or all of the business they manage;
- Outside Sale – a straight sale to new owners;
- Merger & Acquisition (M&A) – either merging with a similarly sized company or being bought by a larger one;
- Initial Public Offering (IPO) – essentially floating on the stock market and raising capital from external investors, not as popular as it once was, following the bursting of the dot-com bubble;
There’s no ‘best’ option as the right strategy will be the one which fits your business and personal goals. It’s this framing and planning stage which should come at the start of the business journey to enable you to structure your business for ultimate success in the exit strategy you choose.
Determining the right balance between personal and business goals as well as honouring any investments needs careful planning. The key point of the strategy is to optimise the value of the business so planning from an early stage provides maximum flexibility and opportunity.
By acknowledging and actioning the need for an exit strategy, not only are we fulfilling the need to Act Big, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to grow yet more in the future as we have the chance to move on to greater challenges or more business opportunities.
Yesterday I was chatting to someone at the pool and they asked me what I did for a living.
I said “I have my own business”, to which they replied “That’s great, I would love to be my own boss”.
But is that all it’s about?
Definitely not – jumping into the start-up world is a big decision and you need to be completely convinced that you have a great idea you are passionate about.
Even with this belief, you risk a great deal getting started and there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.
There’s loads of advice online and in start-up workshops, but basically you need to ask yourself seven simple questions before you take the leap:
1. Why do I want to start my own business?
If you simply hate your job, or you’re following a trend, it probably won’t survive. You need to solve a problem in an industry you love and this passion will help you succeed.
2. What problem(s) am I solving?
You need to provide something unique that will solve a problem for someone else. If they can do it themselves then there is no need to buy from you!
3. What lifestyle sacrifices am I willing to make?
It’s a big decision to give up a high-paying job to follow your entrepreneurial idea. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and ask what kind of lifestyle you would be comfortable with.
4. Will my family and friends be supportive?
The small business rollercoaster takes you up and down, and as you veer from ‘busy excitement’ to ‘tumble weed depression’, you need to have supportive people around you.
5. How much money will I need?
It’s good to have some savings to use in the early days, but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Cash flow can be a killer so make sure that you have loans or access to more cash if necessary.
6. Should I grow quickly or take my time?
If you have a great business idea, you should seize the moment and grow as fast as you can. This is best with funding so that your investors can realise quick and profitable returns. However, if you’re going it alone with your own money, you can take a little more time.
7. Am I in the right place to launch my business?
You need to either know, or get to know, your industry and make contacts by going to lots of networking and start-up events. Hearing about the experiences of other people is the best way to learn. This can help you work out whether you’re in the right place geographically to launch your product.
Remember it’s great to be your own boss, but it’s your passion and belief in your business idea, plus a strong and stable support structure that will give you the best possible chance of succeeding.
The UK is known for being highly entrepreneurial, with over 99% of all domestic businesses being classified as SMEs.
However, research carried out in 2019 showed that 64% of the British workforce has entrepreneurial dreams but an incredible 41% of those are put off setting up their own business by money fears.
In 2016, Hiscox and Bloomberg carried out research showing that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start a business fail within the first 18 months. Cash flow is listed as the number one reason for failure.
Cash Is King
No surprise then, that my latest blog is all about cash. That four-letter-word which proves so critical to everything we do in business. At Streamlion, we help businesses to find funding for their entrepreneurial dreams but to do that effectively, we need to really focus in on cash.
Love or loathe the saying, but cash really is king.
Creating a cashflow forecast
When entrepreneurs work with Streamlion to arrange a business loan, we take a detailed look at cashflow forecasts, plotting out how and when they expect to make their sales.
Often, simply by undertaking this task, business owners give real thought to the incomings and outgoings of their business for the first time. It’s easy to think in ‘big handfuls’ when planning a business concept or launch but getting down to the finer detail will quickly expose unsafe assumptions or gaps in your business plan.
Doing a cashflow forecast at an early stage in the life of the business is also a great way to get into the habit of continually updating it. Cashflow isn’t something we glance at now and again. As a successful business owner, you need to have a clear view of your cash situation at pretty much every given moment.
That’s because, even if you have the funding you require to start the business, your cash can also be affected by late payment of invoices. This is an ongoing problem for the majority of Britain’s SMEs. In fact, during 2018, accounting software business FreeAgent found that just 58% of invoices were paid on time or within a 3-day window of their due date.
Gary Turner, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Xero puts this problem into sharp focus:
“Late payments don’t just damage business finances and relationships, they compromise personal finances and relationships. Our research illustrates how getting paid on time can have a dramatic effect on a small business owner’s happiness. When small businesses struggle, the whole of the UK struggles.”
Clarity of cashflow is key to decision making
Having a medium-term view of your cashflow is critical when it comes to business operations. When you run a business, you continually need to make sound decisions, often quickly. Whether your biggest customer goes bankrupt and can’t pay their latest invoice, or emergency investment is needed, you need to know whether the business can cope with the situation financially.
A sudden interruption to cashflow can be catastrophic for SME businesses. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, combatting late payments could keep an additional 500,000 businesses open every year.
The statistics are compelling. Positive cashflow is key to survival unless you have the funding you need to ride out the tricky times. Funding is always at a preferable rate if applied for in advance, so having the information you need, at the click of a button, gives you and your business a distinct advantage.
As recently as 2018, the government committed to improving the late payment situation by affording protection to smaller businesses, who are the main sufferers when larger companies take too long to pay. So, the issue has been recognised, but we’re yet to see any firm legislation. Let’s hope our leaders can see the benefit of supporting entrepreneurship and work harder to ensure the UK retains its reputation as one of the best countries in the world in which to start a business.
This March has seen a positive change to the legislation concerning Start Up Loans.
Previously, to be eligible for a start-up loan, a business could only apply if it had been trading for two years or less. Now loans will be available to businesses that have been trading for up to three years. This is a huge opportunity for lots of early stage businesses.
Borrowing money to start a business, as with most things, comes down to careful and thorough planning, with a hefty dose of previous experience to get you through the process quickly and successfully.
At Streamlion, we’ve got that experience in spades, so we suggest you let us take the strain when it comes to your funding. We will aid you through the entire start up loan application process, assist with your business plan and financial forecast and set you on the road to success right from the outset.
In addition, the term has been extended for a second loan. A second loan makes additional funds available to a previous Start Up Loan borrower against the same business idea. The term is now five years which gives greater opportunity for those businesses scaling up.
For a second loan you must be able to show positive trading for at least a three month period and you will need to have an updated financial forecast that mirrors trading to date. We can help you with this.
If you could benefit from this loan or have business associates or friends who are looking for funding, get in touch now.