he right approach to planning may help a small business owner conquer any cashflow issues. There’s never been a better time to be a small business owner, according to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey.
With the U.S. economy outperforming growth estimates in the second quarter and high levels of confidence about the future, the Index found that optimism among small business owners currently stands at its highest rate in the Index’s 15-year history.
Even with a strong financial landscape, of course, succeeding as a small business owner takes an incredible amount of hard work and initiative. In crowded markets dominated by large companies the competition can be fierce. Even so, there may still be plenty of room for small business owners to succeed with the right approach. After all, an impressive 77% of respondents reported that over the next year, they expect cash flow to be very or somewhat good, according to the survey.
While success is never guaranteed, here are some tips that may help small business owners join those ranks:
A solid business plan can help develop a solid business model.
1. Develop a comprehensive business plan. A business plan not only serves as your North Star and guiding document for all your business decisions, but it also can help demonstrate to banks and other potential lenders that you’ve done your homework.
When the time comes to apply for a loan or a line of credit, lenders may ask to see your business plan as evidence that you have a strong sense of the market and a robust financial plan. Do your research and invest the time in coming up with formal answers to the questions that will come to define your business: What need does your product or service fill for your target market? How will you distinguish yourself from other businesses offering similar products or services? What are your main goals?
Putting your ideas into writing can help you to clarify your strategy on these questions and more. Choosing the right small business banker can be your defense against unforeseeable road blocks.
2. Find a small business banker you can trust. Even before you sign on with any particular bank, make a short list of options. Then, take the time to meet in person with the small business representatives who would be working with you at each of the banks on your list. A meeting can give you an idea of what level of support the bank may be able to provide.
When you are evaluating your banking options, consider a bank that understands small business with tools, resources and bankers who can deliver more value than just checking boxes and filling out paperwork. Ideally, you’ll create a relationship with someone who can help you assess your financial needs and move your business forward. Many successful small businesses learn to carefully monitor cash flow early on.
3. Pay close attention to your cash flow. When it comes to succeeding as a small business, a healthy cash flow profile is key. Spend some time talking with your bank about the multiple ways you can help manage your cash flow; a business credit card or a line of credit, for example, may help you gain access to funds to increase your investment in your business.
The right tools for your situation can vary depending on a wide range of factors, like how long you’ve been in business and how long you expect it will take you to scale up.
4. Know your audience. When it comes to small business success, offering an amazing product or service is only half of the battle. To succeed, fully understand your target market and their purchasing preferences before building or expanding your company. Have an idea of where you fit into the market landscape. Additionally, don’t forget that even after your business is well-established, understanding your customers is critical. Continue to do regular market research, solicit feedback often, and always maintain open lines of communication with your customers. Building your own business doesn’t mean you need do it alone.
5. Consider utilizing outside tools to optimize efficiency. Small business owners tend to take a hands-on approach to most aspects of management, but there’s no need to do everything yourself. Instead of building every single part of your business from the ground up, consider whether your business could benefit from outside, full-service solutions.
Payroll services, for example, is a self-contained category that can often be easily outsourced to your small business bank. Check with them to see what other services they offer, as well. By taking advantage of high-quality, off-the-shelf solutions, you can help manage your cash flow while making your life easier.