Category Question & Answer

Cloud computing, your business and your customers – the four things you need to know

Many of you will know that the founder of this blog Stefan Töpfer, founded and is steadily building, Winweb, a cloud computing firm. I have known Stefan for a while now after I interviewed him for a book, Rare Business (you can buy a copy here) that I wrote in 2010. Since then I have…

Yes, Ex-Minister,#MicroBizMatters!

Question Time Just before I flew home to Canada I was asked by my inept agent, Tony Robinson OBE, to chair a ‘Question Time’ type debate at a large micro business conference in his home town of Scarborough. Micro businesses (0-9 employees) are, apparently, quite important to the UK. There are 4.5 million of them…

Q&A: What do you think the key factors are for small business failure in the UK?

I believe that many factors contribute to small business failure. Indeed I believe that business failure is part of eventually becoming successful in business. The key for me is to make sure you don’t lose everything when the business fails. So bootstrapping is absolute essential, don’t spend money you do not have, don’t borrow from banks,…

Q&A: Free or Paid For Webhosting?

I think it is clear that all businesses today – big or small – need a website, which has to be hosted. You will find some options here, you can go for the free hosted website or you can can go to a web-hosting company and pay for the service. Nothing in live is free…

Q&A: What are some social and economic issues small business face?

I'm going to expand this question "slightly" into - I hope Walsh does not mind:What are some of the social, political and economic issues small business face?I should remind you that when I talk about small business, I mean 1 to 5 people businesses, like SOHO-, SME, SMB-, Micro-, Lifestyle-, Home-, DIY-, Hobby-, Boomer- or Personal business, like professionals, contractors, freelancers, self-employed, sole-traders and virtual assistants.Social issues are clearly centered around the work-place, work life and private life.... I believe you can start a business with $20/£10 a month and grow your business, risk free (without loans) on the side, while still in employment, until the turnover is big enough to justify quitting ones day job.You may feel about a business on the side as you will, the fact remains this is going on as we speak, trends we see in the online usage patterns of our OnlineOffice, certainly support this theory.At the same time business failure is far less an issue, as the risk associated with these ventures is very small, with the right mental attitude of the entrepreneur towards failure, the learning effect of a failure can be enormous.

The Week Ender: Finding that Home Business Idea!

I may come up with some close ideas - but doing gardening everyday, no matter what someone payed me would be a definite NO-NO!Somewhere down the line I get to small business and I can say: I have had 30 years of small business experience;I have had formal business education;I'm passionate about small business;I know I make and will make mistakes everyday, failure for me is just another way of learning;I love listening to customers and their ideas about my business; I'm always surprised and learn something new;mad about the inability of politicians to understand very small business;sad about the accountants lack of a forward looking outlook in their profession;know we are in trouble with our environment, and I would like to make a difference;always loved high-tech, computers, software, my years as CEO of a leading ISP;building a company from zero to tens of millions in turnover in just four years.This is my personal list for my small business interest and after all that, what you get is WinWeb - my way of dealing with my passion and frustration about small business and start-up business, like SOHO-, SME, SMB-, Micro-, Lifestyle-, Home-, DIY-, Hobby-, Boomer- or Personal business, like professional, contractors, freelancer, self-employed, sole-trader and virtual assistants - and it's a great business!... You noticed, I didn't mention an MBA, lots of money or bookkeeping, marketing, IT, and law experience, these are "nice to have" items, but not essential, unless you are working in those fields of cause.Like someone once said, when you are older, "You don't regret the things you did, you regret the things you didn't do."At the beginning and the end of our live we are all the same, what makes the difference is the bit in the middle, making it exciting and interesting is something you have to do - nobody is going to do it for you.

Q & A: How much time should I spend on product development vs. sales/marketing in my small business?

Before you start in business, and the clock is ticking, sort of speak you should have a two things: at least one order or your product, to see if someone will actually buy it, preferably more order if possible andthe product to sell, which you will have produced in your spare time, while still having an income.But from the time you launch your small business or start-up business, like SOHO-, SME, SMB-, Micro-, Lifestyle-, Home-, DIY-, Hobby-, Boomer- or Personal business, like professional, contractors, freelancer, self-employed, sole-trader and virtual assistants, you need to spend most of your time on selling and marketing, because that is what brings the money into your business.Many thousands of businesses go bust every year with a "perfect product", but no sales.... By now you will have had some feedback from your clients and they will guide you as to what they would like to buy from your next.That is the bootstrapper way of doing it, in my mind the only way to do it with the least amount of risk and on a shoe string.

Q & A: How Do I Find A Suitable Bank For My Small Business?

I would take this stepped approach to finding a small business bank in your area, and many of the steps are similar to finding other suppliers: Find out the facts - i.e. account charges, loan charges, banking hours, online banking and other benefits, like free advice, software, etc.Talk to the person who would be in charge of your account, meet with them.Talk to other small businesses about the bank and the bank manager, go to networking events in your local area.Make a Pro's & Con's list - then make your decision.You will notice that banks don't like to be called suppliers, or service providers, but that is exactly what they are, nothing more and nothing less.... This is probably the last time for a while that you hold all the cards, so it's better to find out what your bank is like before you really need them.For me business is between people, I move bank with my bank manager when he leaves, I'm on bank number three with him right now and that always served me well in the past, it is also a compliment to my bank manager, and he knows it.Better the devil you know......!

Q & A: What should I do when my bank cancels my overdraft without warning?

This question is hard to answer, because there are no simple answers here and the outcome of this situation could easily be fatal to the business and if you are personally guaranteeing this money - and you probably are - this could potentially be very serious for your personal life too.The things that you need to do, in my opinion are: Find out why?... Many years ago someone made the the umbrella analogy and it goes like this: When the sun is shining your bank gives you an umbrella (O/D, Loan);when it is raining, they need the umbrella themselves.It is best if you do everything possible to not need banks in the first place, by bootstrapping, outsourcing, planning your business and keeping your fixed costs as low as possible.Remember sometimes, attack is the best defense even with banks, they may need their money, but they do not need bad publicity either.

Q & A: How can I grow my business.

This is not unusual for many small businesses and start-ups, a home business is an ideal way to run your own business.Getting back to her question, there are really four answers: Increase the number of customers - this in turn will increase the your turnover, yielding the extra business you want, while at the same time make your business more recession proof;Increase the order frequency from your existing customers - this could be more difficult, you need to find out if you can replace someone else as supplier, or diversify your offering;Increase the average order value - same as before, offer higher quality or premium service.Increase your own efficiency - outsource more if you can, cut costs this will not grow your turnover, but increase your bottom line, so you can take more money out of the business for yourself.Once you start thinking about these options you will find out what you can do, often it is a combination of things to do.... ST.Disclaimer: As with any of my readers questions, I do not have all the answers and here on my blog I can only give you some ideas, since I know very little about your small business.

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