Startup is the best time to form good habits that can simplify the way you operate as your business grows. Here are 10 tips to help you start simplifying your business right now:
1. Have a technology plan. Investing in a server and a high-capacity networked printer is crucial, even if you don't need the capacity quite yet. You might pay a little more for a better piece of equipment, but it will last longer, and you won't have to make a radical upgrade in the near term.
2. Automate your accounting. Find an accounting software program that automatically generates invoices as well as e-mail reminders to customers regarding late payments. Likewise, set up automatic deposits and withdrawals to eliminate late fees and allow you to concentrate on the important stuff, like sales and marketing.
3. Decide what to outsource. Every new entrepreneur needs to outsource. Make a list of every business process--bookkeeping, marketing, clerical work, reception--and decide which ones you like doing least. Run a quick cost analysis by calculating the estimated time and salary spent on a particular task and then factoring in software investments. This will help you decide which tasks to keep in-house and which to outsource.
4. Set up online payments. Savvy customers expect your website to handle online transactions. PayPal, the eBay-owned online payment service, offers a quick, affordable and secure method for accepting credit, debit and bank account payments. A fee is charged for each transaction, but there are no monthly, gateway or setup fees. You'll also gain free access to eBay Merchant tools as well as anti-fraud measures.
5. Cash in. How much do you spend on bank service charges every month? Your bank can provide an analysis statement explaining every service charge in your monthly statement. You might be able to eliminate charges simply by reading your statements.
6. Insure through one agent. Renew all your insurance policies at once using only one agent. While you might pay slightly more, you can sit down once a year to go over each insurance policy for the entire business instead of running from renewal to renewal throughout the year. You'll save time, and your insurance agent "will do better with the full picture," says Scott Simmonds, owner of Insurance Consultants of Maine, a Saco, Maine, company that helps entrepreneurs navigate insurance plans.
7. Streamline salespeople. Hang your shingle, and salespeople stop in. But don't they always stop by at a bad time? Set aside a morning or an afternoon every week when salespeople can reach you. This way, you incorporate salespeople into your routine, instead of the other way around.
8. Hire right. Startups tend to interview everyone who applies. Instead, take a few hours to create an online application form with elimination criteria related to scheduling, salary and educational level. This lets you winnow the wheat from the chaff so you interview only the five best applicants. "Select out vs. select in," says Suzanne Zuniga, COO of CorVirtus, a Colorado Springs, Colorado, HR consulting firm.
9. Schedule better. Scheduling software--Asgard Systems' Time Tracker, TimeClock Scheduler and TimeCurve Scheduler, for example--lets you create schedules, find scheduling problems before they happen and track employee hours and earnings in real time. Some software packages, like TimeCurve Scheduler, also integrate with QuickBooks to help simplify payroll. Many software companies provide free online demos, too.
10. Make life less taxing. Companies with $10 million or more in total assets are required to file 2006 taxes electronically. "Small businesses are going to be scrambling," says Bradford Hall, managing director of Hall & Company CPAs and Consultants in Irvine, California. Even if your sales aren't $10 million a year yet, they will be soon enough. So get in the habit of filing electronically.