Today is July 4th; Independence Day for the USA. In honor of the holiday—a time spent flag waving, parade marching, BBQ eating, fireworks watching, and just plain celebrating what we love about our country—this week’s Tip waves the flag for small business and helps you stay out of the RED, master the art of turning blank slate WHITEspace into killer content, and conquer the BLUEs that occasionally threaten entrepreneurial spirit.
Keep Your Small Business Out Of It
A profitable small business is the best kind of business to have. There are many components of keeping a small business out of the red and in the black including controlling costs, setting prices strategically, and optimizing operational efficiencies. However, one of the most important pieces of the small business success puzzle is positive cash flow. That’s math at its simplest: Get paid before you pay out and your accounts will be blissfully black. (Note that your business can be profitable with negative cash flow—but if you can’t pay your bills on time, it doesn’t matter that on paper you are making money.)
Of course that is easier said than done, which is why the PaySimple Blog covers cash flow optimization so often. It is also why the PaySimple application is designed to help you automate invoicing and create recurring billing schedules so that you are paid on time, every time. (Set it; forget it; and get paid—that makes recurring billing the optimal cash flow management tool.)
For a deep dive into your small business cash flow, talk to your accountant. You can also use this Cash Flow Calculator to get a good idea of where you stand, and then see how adjustments to pricing, improvements in collection time, or reductions in cost will impact the overall picture.
Cash flow aside; the following posts provide tips related to other aspects of your business that contribute to profitability and success:
- Marketing: How To Make A Big Impact With A Small Marketing Budget
- Financing: Non-Bank Options for Small Business Loans
- Sales: 6 Cost Effective Sales Strategies for Small Businesses
- Operations: 10 Steps for All-Around Optimizing Your Business
- Pricing: Harvard Business School Break-even Analysis Tool and The Harvard Business School Pricing Marginal Math Tool.
Turning Whitespace into Killer Content
Starting from a blank slate can be daunting. But, as a small business owner you’re used to that. You’ve been doing it from the moment you formulated that first business plan, to the day you first opened your doors, to the time you spend on each sales pitch, marketing email, and blog post. You understand better than anyone that turning whitespace into killer content is one of the most important skills you can use to make your small business stand out from the crowd.
I understand too. Writing this Tip post every week is an exercise in whitespace conversion. The ability to do it week after week means finding interesting things to write about and keeping the writing itself engaging and vibrant. (Hopefully I’m succeeding.)
I’ve already written about finding ideas for free software to cover in previous tip post 14 Great Sites for Software Reviews and Free Downloads, and honing your “elevator pitch” in Perfecting the Pitch: Escaping the Confines of an Elevator. Other sources that will help you get those creative juices flowing include:
- 164 Best Email Subject Lines to Boost Your Email Open Rates
- The Portent Content Idea Generator
- Small Business Inspiration: Weird, Wacky, and Wonderful
Once you have the idea, you need to craft (meaning write, review, edit, edit, edit, and edit again) that killer copy. For help in punching up your writing and making your message as powerful as it can be, try The Hemmingway App. Click the “write” button and begin composing, or paste in your content. Then click “edit” and you’ll see an analysis of your composition. It will highlight places where you should replace the passive voice with present tense, suggest removal of unnecessary adverbs, provide simple alternatives to complex words and phrases, and highlight long sentences that are hard to understand. It will also provide the grade reading level for your content. (It suggests a 9th grade reading level or below.) While you may not agree with all the suggestions, they will help you fine-tune your piece. (For example, if your customer base is college educated feel free to “utilize” instead of “use” long sentences.)
Conquer the occasional small business blues
Running a small business isn’t always smiles and roses. There are plenty of stumbling blocks along the way as evidenced by the large percentage of small businesses that don’t succeed. (Urban myth of a 90% failure rate aside, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA) about 50% of small start-ups last 5 years, and about a third last 10 or more years—statistics that have changed little over time.)
Even if your small business is successful, you will undoubtedly find yourself suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from time to time. Whether it’s bemoaning a major misstep or contemplating the sheer unfairness of a spate of bad luck, such setbacks are enough to cause any small business owner to contemplate chucking it all in favor of escape to a desert island or worse to the anonymity of worker bee status at a large company.
It’s the small business blues—and every entrepreneur knows one. When they inevitably overtake you, here’s how to chase them away:
- Learn & Share: Burnout, Anxiety and Emptiness: Founders Open Up About the Dark Side of Entrepreneurship.
- Overcome them: 3 Steps for Recovering From a Business Setback
- Get over them: Watch Ted Talk How to stop screwing yourself over.
- Focus on the turnaround: 5 Spectacular Examples of Turning Failure Into Success.
- Laugh. There are endless ways to do it, and it’s infectious. If you need a place to start, try 12 Small Business Video Laughs.
So small business owners, over this 4th of July holiday do take the time to celebrate the founding of our country and our declaration of independence from a metaphorically oppressive parent. But also use it to celebrate your own independence as a small business owner. And in the face of obstacles, disappointments, or setbacks, remember these tips to help you stay out of the red, do away with the white, and brush off the blues.
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