Let’s face it: starting a small business these days is daunting. Where do you even start? How do you build on a business idea? Though the pandemic caused many in-person businesses to downsize or shut down, small businesses can continue to grow even in the online world we now live in. Our Spring 2021 cover story features tips from a wide variety of business professionals and owners across various industries. They will help you grow a business from the inside-out with tips on advertising, SEO, stronger business connections, outsourcing and more. These tips will help you feel more confident and motivated to start and/ or grow your small business in 2021.
Entrepreneurs Thrive with Mentorship
Businesses don't operate or succeed in isolation. It takes a community of people playing different roles — customer, teacher, supporter, connector, etc. — to really catapult a company to the next level. One way entrepreneurs and business owners can grow their companies in 2021 is to seek mentorship. Through a mentor’s priceless guidance, you can avoid common pitfalls, learn from their mistakes, and get on a faster path to success. Your mentor may also facilitate other useful connections with prospective customers, business partners, suppliers, service providers, etc. But the best perk of all? Your mentor or coach understands what you're going through. They can commiserate with you in a way that your non-entrepreneur friends can't. Sometimes, you just need to spend time with someone else who gets it. When you have a mentor, you benefit from their experience, knowledge, network, and camaraderie.
– Laura Gariepy, Owner of Every Day by the Lake, LLC, https://www. beforeyougofreelance.com/
Manage Cash Flow
Conserving revenue and managing cash flow is vital for small businesses. Today, there are a lot of great financial technology or fintech tools available that can help entrepreneurs save time, money, and energy. A trip to the bank is a bigger hassle now more than ever before as waiting in line is not only an inconvenience but a health concern. Fintech is quite a large industry with various products built for specific financial needs across payments, loans and bookkeeping.
Say that you host your website through Shopify or Wix; you can start selling online by simply embedding a payment processor. There are also products like Remitr, which allow you to send and receive payments with vendors, suppliers or contracts domestically and to more than 150 countries cheaper and faster than with your bank. If you're looking to take your business abroad, you can use a virtual banking account to operate in U.S. dollars, euros, and British pounds without the headache of setting up and managing multiple international accounts.
– Sandeep Todi, Chief Business Officer and Co-founder at Remitr, https://remitr.com/
Start a Blog to Improve SEO and Drive Traffic
Figuring out the right digital marketing strategy can be difficult for a lot of small business owners, and it's not hard to understand why. Between search engines, your own website and the various social media networks, there are a ton of digital channels to choose from. You then have to decide whether to pursue them with organic content, paid ads, or a mix of both.
One that I think a lot of small businesses could benefit from is content marketing. More specifically, starting a blog to craft content focused on relevant keywords that can drive targeted traffic back to their site.
A lot of businesses tend to focus on driving traffic through paid ads rather than organic traffic, but that strategy is shortsighted. Whether you're buying the ads yourself or paying an agency, calibrating them properly so you get a good return on your investment can be tricky, and a lot of people end up losing money on their ad campaigns. Creating strong content geared specifically toward targeted keywords is also an investment, but it's much more evergreen: an upfront investment in content can continue to drive traffic for months or even years.
For small businesses looking to set themselves up for long-term success, I highly recommend adding a blog to your business.
– Dave Bowden, Founder of IrreverentGent. com, https://www.irreverentgent.com/
Resegment Your TAM
The pandemic may have forced you to seek new revenue streams. But you want to avoid approaching this necessity haphazardly. A systematic process of identifying new revenue opportunities starts with understanding your total addressable market (TAM). The right tool for that is market segmentation, which is a process of identifying the main segments in a market. In each segment, customers buy more or less similar products, following a similar sales cycle, and they share word of mouth. Businesses often stumble when their market segmentation is not mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE). This means that they do not see all potential segments, therefore missing out on opportunities. Also, instead of focusing scarce resources on a well-defined segment, they bounce around between the different sales cycles, value propositions, and unit economics inherent in a disorganized market segmentation. This process takes time, which is why business owners often neglect it. But as we say at MIT, it takes months, but saves years. –
Erdin Beshimov, Founder of MIT Bootcamps, https://openlearning.mit.edu/about/our-team/ erdin-beshimov
Expect and Accept Chaos
Leading a start-up brand in the exploding NA beer segment this past year has been incredibly challenging. But with those challenges has come tremendous gratitude for our team, partners, customers, and, of course, the support of friends and family. When COVID-19 hit, we could have thrown in the towel and walked away from the added risk. Instead, we doubled down, shifted gears to off-prem and online sales, and continue to gain traction.
Life as a start-up CEO in a rapidly emerging industry is 50/50 organization and entropy. While planning is crucial, I must always be at the ready with the fire extinguisher. It works for me to make time each day to focus solely on unexpected problems and ideas. I maintain a robust calendar with feeds from Google, Zoom and family schedules in one place, which I review each evening for the next day. I mostly focus on the week in front of me — in our world, things are moving quickly, so anything more than a week out is subject to change. Biggest planning challenge? Time zones. Because we work with partners across the country, I’ve learned the hard way — by missing or being way early to calls — to always confirm the time zone.
– JeffHollander, CEO and Co-Founder of Hairless Dog Brewing Company, https://www. drinkhairlessdog.com/
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