Advice for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Startups

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By Gina F. Rubel

I often have presented to early-stage entrepreneurs regarding the most critical elements of starting a business. While there are many helpful step-by-step guides for how to start your small business, there are other items you need to consider as you follow your passion.

The importance of systems when starting a small business

Think of your venture as a small business, not a hobby. Every well-established business has a solid foundation. Set up systems from the very beginning so that you don’t have to reinforce the foundation later. If you’re practicing law, make sure you have case management in place from day one. If you are in a professional service industry, set up a project management system. No matter your industry, invest in a contact relationship management (CRM) tool.

Small business strategic plans

Create a strategic plan for your small business and be flexible. A strategic plan or vision should include your short-term goals, key messages, target audience, budget, strategies and tactics for client or customer acquisition and retention. It doesn’t have to be long; it’s simply a road map with a starting point. Your small business strategic plan will and should change from time to time. Revisit your plan regularly to make sure that you’re on track. Revise it often and remember that it’s a working document. Be realistic with your marketing budget and objectives.

Every small business needs a great lawyer

I cannot stress enough how important it is to surround yourself (your small business) with learned professionals. For example, if you are starting a small business in Delaware County, consider engaging the services of a Delaware County small business lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the business and the community. Engage a smart accountant, a bookkeeper, and a business banker. You will need them every step of the way.

If you are not accustomed to conducting business development, hire a coach.

If you plan to speak publicly, hire a trainer.

If you plan to hire employees, outsource to an HR professional.

If you want to look good online, hire an excellent photographer.

If you’re going to speak to the media, make sure you get media training.

Bottom line, don’t think you can do it all yourself – there are many professionals out there who will not only make you look good, they will help you to be more efficient, more effective, more profitable, and inevitably become great referral sources.

Why your small business brand matters

Invest in your brand and online presence. Branding is important. Your brand is more than just your name and some colors. It conveys a message to your target audience. It is your packaging. Ask:

  • What do you want your target audience to think about your company?
  • How do you want to be perceived?

People also know when they go to your website if it’s canned or if it’s custom. They want to know that you are willing to invest in them, too – and remember, you get what you pay for, and so do your potential customers. Your online presence isn’t limited to your website: it includes your social media profiles (personal and business), your online directory listings such as your Google My Business listing, media placements, and so much more.

Pricing can set your small business apart

Don’t underprice or undersell your services or products. Just because you’re starting out as an entrepreneur or small business doesn’t mean you have to sell out. Do your research. Know your value. Pricing is an art and a major component of marketing.

“No” is a two-letter word

Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

As one of my educators, Neen James, taught me in the early stages of launching my marketing and public relations agency, “No” is a full sentence. If someone doesn’t want to pay you what you’re worth, don’t be afraid to walk away. Say, “No.” If you know instinctually that working with someone is going to be bad business, say, “No.” If you need to spend time with your family instead of networking at events five nights a week, say, “No.” Quality of life still matters.

Social media can be a goldmine for small businesses

Capitalize on social media which provides a treasure trove of opportunities for you to grow your business and connect with people who already know, like and trust you. It is human nature for people to want to see their family and friends do well in business. Be sure to connect with everyone you know on various social media platforms. And remember that Facebook tends to be more consumer- and community-focused while LinkedIn is a platform better suited to business-to-business marketing and professional use.

Put The Four Agreements to work in your small business setting

Read the book, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book was and remains my saving grace. Don Miguel Ruiz provides four principles to practice in order to create happiness in your life. These principles should apply to every person, personally and professionally. They include:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

Have fun in your small business venture

Have fun doing what you love. I often hear it said that, “It’s not work if you love what you do.”

I left the formal practice of law because I didn’t enjoy the negotiation dance. I am more suited for proactive, positive and planned communications. I am happy doing what we do every day at Furia Rubel Marketing and Public Relations, and while the work can be challenging, we always know that we are making a measurable difference.

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Gina Rubel is the professional that corporate and law firm leaders call upon for high-stakes public relations, media training, crisis planning, and incident-response support, including high profile litigation media relations. An attorney and public relations expert, Gina leads Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., an agency supporting businesses with their growth through integrated marketing, PR, reputation management, and content marketing. Contact her at gina@furiarubel.com or @GinaRubel.

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