Almost every email I receive from business folks asking for help is about either (a) managing cashflow or (b) marketing. They are the twin evils – and ultimately the twin joys – of making your business work.
The issue of cashflow is about doing enough business at the right price and collecting the money for it speedily and efficiently. If you are not bringing in enough money it’s safe to say you are not yet happy with asking for the business and asking for it at the right price.
I was an accountant for twenty years and we used to invoice our clients at the end of each month and then spend quite a lot of debt-collecting effort getting our clients to pay our fees promptly. We had to find a way to speed up this logjam.
We introduced quarterly invoicing for those clients who only used us once a year for their annual accounts + tax return, and implemented a system whereby every client could pay us by monthly standing order so they didn’t have to think about how they were going to find a chunk of cash for an invoice they inevitably hadn’t saved for. We made it easy for them to pay and they were grateful and about a third of our income came in this way every month, which was sufficient to pay our staff and overheads, taking away the whole angst about would there be enough to pay the VAT, the rent and the PAYE.
How could your business offer easy payments to speed up cashflow? Some wonderful clients pay quickly but smaller regular payments help them to budget and help you to keep the heart of your business beating.
And if you are a client of another small business yourself, why not set an example by deciding to be a good payer. Set aside the money to pay the bill as soon as you commit to the expenditure; don’t just cross your fingers and hope you’ll find it. Pay your bills promptly with ease and grace and help another small business just like you.
Many people don’t realise before they start in business that in addition to keeping on top of their skills in their chosen field, they will also need to master marketing. There are lots of ways to learn to market your business, and quite a lot of them are even fun.
You don’t have to do anything you don’t like in order to get good at marketing. In amongst the huge choice of the different marketing options there will be two or three that you will love. I don’t like public speaking, I’ll do it if I have to, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Ditto any kind of networking at any time of day which requires me to leave the house and meet strangers. Ghastly for me; I’d prefer not to be in business at all if that were the only choice.
But I love blogging and Twitter, writing a newsletter, being a guest on other people’s written or audio platforms and interviewing them on mine. This alone has proved sufficient to market my own business. All that is required is to test all the many and varied ways you could adopt, pick a couple which you actually enjoy and which you can prove are working for you, and do them regularly to a plan. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is, and I can guarantee you will enjoy learning how to do this well if you stick to becoming an expert at two or three, not swamped by having to straddle all of them. Don’t like it? Don’t do it!
Don’t be a well-kept secret. You owe it to the clients and customers you could help with your product and service to learn to love marketing. And remember, marketing is a constant activity, you must do it all the time, not just when the business dries up. Little and often wins the day.
If you can find ways to keep cashflow positive and make marketing fun then you will have mastered two massive milestones on the way to running your own dream business.