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Advice from Outside the Square

The Square Orange Blog

Are You Starting Your First Business? Get These 6 Things Right!

Are you starting your first business? If you are like most people who want to start their own business people, you probably decided to do so because you are an expert in what you do, you believe you can do it better as your own boss, and you want your independence and ability to do it your own way. Today, this seems even more possible due to the technology that you can use from home or a shared space that allows you to keep costs down when you start up. While there are even government websites encouraging you (there’s one that has a header “Open for Business: Simple, Fast, Easy) headlines still exist that shout out nearly 80% of businesses close within 18 months of starting – and you can bet most of these are micro, small, and "kitchen table" businesses. Nevertheless, our enthusiasm as human beings for the life of freedom is boundless, and once you conquer the fear of failure, most of us grasp the chance and plunge in. The question is not “will you start your own business” but “how will you start your business with least risk of failure”. So here are the 6 things I believe you need, gleaned from...
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4 Keys To A Successful Direct Marketing Campaign

In tight economic times, small business owners can be tempted to retreat into their shell. To get through tough times, small business owners look at cost savings, financial controls and cutting expenditure. However if this is done in isolation, that is, if you rush to control costs without also looking at the top line, your bottom line will shrink anyway! Counter-intuitive as it is for small business owners in a period of financial slow-down, small businesses must continue marketing efforts and not look to cut these as if they were discretionary costs. “Marketing” is not just “advertising” which is what small business owners think when they think of marketing. In fact, advertising may be your least effective marketing cost in a shrinking economy. The important thing is to get a good rate of return for your marketing dollar and you get this by implementing effective marketing techniques. Effective marketing is the type of marketing that gets your name out there with its “brand” attached in the most cost-effective way. This can be added-value service, it can be increased contact with customers – this type of marketing can include less-cost or no-cost vehicles. Direct marketing is not necessarily no-cost but a large part of the effort can be...
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12 Strategies To Survive Any Downturn

As a small business, we feel the downturn in the economy much more keenly than any large business. Generally, small businesses have less capital behind them, less reserves. Small businesses find it hard to "hang on" until the upturn because their volumes and margins are tighter. But it is possible for any small business to survive any downturn if they follow a series of common sense business strategies. These strategies are common sense strategies that you should be using no matter what the economic climate, but sadly when times are good businesses allow themselves to get “fat” and some of these every-day disciplines are allowed to slacken. The strategies are both defensive and "offensive" strategies. When times are tight and profit and cash performance are poor, it is difficult not to panic and look to tighten all the hatches defensively.  However, you can tighten activity too much and turn defensive strategies into a downward spiral for the business.  While it is natural to concentrate on the defensive strategies such as cutting costs, it is important to keep in mind what I call "offensive" strategies – initiatives that your business should undertake to ensure that you are the one that keeps selling when others are closing...
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6 Steps To Improve Your Finance Functions

Your finance functions those functions in your business that look after your finances. They include all your book-keeping and record-keeping as well as sales and buying functions. Often small businesses leave everything to one person - a book-keeper, or perhaps the business owner "keeping the books" after hours. Yet, efficient finance functions save you money and provide all the early warning information that could move your business from also-ran to successful. Here are 7 ways to improve the performance of your finance functions. 1. Set a goal Set a goal of what you want to achieve. What do you want to be done and when by? What reports do you want to be produced and how often? Which parts need improvement and by how much? There is no point in starting to improve your finance functions without knowing what you want to do. 2. Look at all your finance functions Don't just restrict your reviews to one part. Keep an open mind and look at all finance functions to see what can be improved. For example, if you restricted your review of improvements to debtor collection, you might miss the fact that customers are paying late because the customer sign on process doesn't effectively discuss payment terms. 3. Take the...
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