Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category

Shred the Paper and Set Up An Efficient File Management System

As the year begins, it brings the task of setting up and organizing your paperwork and filing-boxing up last year’s records and creating the space for your new files and finding room for storage of the old records. With advances in technologies, we hear more and more about electronic records management and the cloud. Even though many feel much more comfortable with paper files and being able to physically retrieve the information they are looking for, this task is time-consuming and uses a lot of resources. As electronic technologies become more sophisticated, intuitive and user-friendly, many companies are realizing there can be real cost savings in office supplies and productivity by transitioning to an electronic file management system. As baby boomers prepare to retire and a more tech-savvy generation enters the workforce, the timing would seem right to shift from paper to electronic records. This generation having grown up with computers may make developing records uniformity and staff training easier than it has ever been.

So what can you do to prepare for the transition? Use your paper filing system as a model for setting up your electronic records management. For example, if you have a hanging file named “Finances” and folders labeled “ABC Checking”, “ECU Savings”, etc. then set up folders under “My Documents” with those same labels. For easier retrieval, you may label the folder with the date for example “2013-01 ABC Statement”. Follow this procedure until you have set up your system. Remember to keep it simple and follow a pattern with which you are familiar.

The next step should be to set up your vendor accounts so that you can receive your statements, bills and invoices electronically. Then sign up to use the bill pay feature on your bank’s website and use it to pay your vendors or pay them electronically on their websites and save an electronic copy of your receipt. Ask your bank about setting up your account to receive electronic payments also. Whatever you can do to reduce the amount of paper you receive the better.

Yes, your email box may be full; however, this problem is easy to solve. First, ensure your email is set up to trash all junk emails, set up a folder system to aid you in your records management and then establish a consistent schedule for processing your email. Process your email the same way you do the paper mail: is it ready to file as is? Does it need to be added to your to do list? Save copies of invoices, statements or documents to the designated folder in your system. Once you have saved a copy, you can discard that email.

One of the most important obligations you have in transitioning to an electronic file system is ensuring that you have a consistent and reliable back up protocol in place. You can imagine the stress that losing all of your data would cause so be proactive. Copy your files to an external hard drive or flash drive and keep it at a different location than your computer systems.

Once you learn how to effectively use your electronic filing system, you will be pleased with the prospect of smaller paper stacks and fewer file cabinets using your valuable real estate. Happy filing!

Find A Market First, Then Build The Business

Find A Market First, Then Build The BusinessThe typical mistake made by most people in business is to get a product, build a business, and then find a market. I don’t know why, but the natural way for almost all of us is to think of getting a product, building a business, and then finding the market.

However, the right approach is to first find a market, then get a product that suits that existing market, and then build a business to sell that product to that market. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Yet it is so counterintuitive.

Here is that core idea expressed differently. If no one wants what you are selling, you have wasted your time.A market must exist, it is very first. It is very difficult, though not impossible, to create one. The presence of healthy competition is a good sign, it means there is enough business to support the players.

So now let’s look at the steps you need to take.

1. Identify the market: Research, ask and research some more until you are sure you have found a good market that has plenty of people in it that you can reach easily and that you can have a chance to serve well and even dominate.

2. Study that market closely: Once you have identified a market, study it. Know the nature, location, amount, etc, of the demand in that target market.

3. Study the competition in that market: Learn from their operations and offers. How do they advertise? What language do they use? Who is the leader and why? How are their operations? How do they package their value?

4. Study the alternatives: Examine the alternatives your customers have. Your customers always have alternatives. For example, they can buy elsewhere, they can do something themselves instead of getting it ready-made, and so on. Once you understand what alternatives exist, you will understand what to include or leave out in your offer and why.

5. Niche out: Carve out your niche, the corner of the market that you have a good chance of dominating. Pick your battles wisely. Focus only on the areas of your strengths and forget the rest.

6. Test the relative importance of various benefits: This will help you determine what your people really, truly want. Discover and test what that key benefit is by asking your potential customers and simulating real-life scenarios.

7. Choose trade-offs: Determine your trade-offs, don’t try to please everyone. Decide what your potential best customers in your niche desire and value most and do that and leave out the rest. For example, you might have a benefit list of 20 benefits you feel you can offer your customers. The smart thing to do would be to see which one, two or three of those benefits is of most importance to your customers. Focus only on the key, primary benefit and improve on it until you are the best at that most important benefit.

8. Prototype: Make a minimum viable product prototype, based on your research, and test it in the market. This will help you learn in real-life scenarios whether or not your business has a good chance of success.

9. Validate assumptions: List the critical assumptions you were making before you went to market, and then test to see if those assumptions are correct.

10. Design: If the test are successful, and your critical assumptions are valid, design a product or other form of value based on your findings.

11. Roll out! Build the business!

If you approach things in that way, you will raise your chances of success significantly.

Copyright @2012 Small Business Ideas.