Use My Business Experience
Over the years I have run many businesses from major corporate business units, to my own recruitment company and finally, nowadays, my own Internet Marketing company. During that time I’ve tried many different things and I’ve learnt an awful lot about what makes a business successful, particularly in todays environment where things change at a break-neck pace.
Some of the things I’ll talk about will be plain obvious, some of it no so, what I can tell you is, nothing beats the thrill of running your “own show”. However, I have also learnt that to do so you need every little bit of help you can get. So, this is my free “bit of help” to you.
I hope you will find the information in this section useful and that you will benefit from it, and please, feel free to mail me with any questions you may have, and re-produce this content (although please give me the courtesy of a link back). If I can help you get your own business up and running, and successful, in any way at all I would be delighted. There’s nothing I like to see more than people being successful through their own efforts! Believe me, it’s a great feeling to generate your own success and there is a certain inner calm and satisfaction that comes from knowing your destiny is in your own very capable hands!
O.K., without further ado, let’s get going. The first thing I have to say, and this is something that many people ”looking for an opportunity” seem to totally neglect, setting up a business is not free. It costs money! It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it does cost money.
For example, if you’re setting up a traditional business, you have to have a business that looks professional and is taken seriously. You will need to ensure that you have the following:-
- Business cards
- A Website
- Marketing materials
- Fax (for orders if for nothing else)
- Internet connection
- An accountant
There are possibly many other things that you may need as well, for example an office, but let’s, for arguments sake, say you’re starting from home. The point here though, is that all of this costs money.
If you’re setting up on-line, you won’t necessarily need such things as letterheads and business cards. But, you will need such things as:-
- A Website
- eCommerce facilities
- Credit card facilities or PayPal
- An Online advertising budget
- Expertise (technical mainly)
- An accountant
Depending on your design skills, you may be able to do the letterheads yourself, you may be able to design and build your own website, but there will be things that you can’t do that will cost you money. So the message is, you will not get started for a five bucks. In my experience you need at least a couple of thousand dollars to make a comfortable start. In some instances you’ll need more, for example if you need to buy a PC (and you do need one nowadays). Most people have PCs today, but if not, you’ll have to buy one. You can get a really good, powerful PC for about $400/500, and the software for another $300/400, but that’s an awful lot if your start up budget is only $2,000!
Your Hardware Is Vital
Incidentally a PC is one thing that you shouldn’t skimp on. Get the most powerful up to date PC you can afford. Technology moves on very quickly nowadays and as PC’s get more powerful so the software they use gets more resource hungry. Todays top of the range PCs will probably struggle with the software that will be being released in two to three years time.
Your website should also be a professional as you can afford. Now I was fortunate in that Lee is a techie (as we call them in the trade), so he developed all of our early web sites and the functionality behind them (more on that later). However, if you don’t have Dreamweaver, Frontpage, HTML, Java or any technical skills, then here are some suggestions.
Firstly, there are a number of companies that offer modular solutions that enable you to develop web sites quickly, easily and cheaply from standard templates. In general these cost about $15 per page and most companies offering this service now also offer eCommerce capabilities (at extra cost obviously). A quick Google search will reveal these companies. You may even be able to find some templates free these days.
You may also try looking through your local paper / yellow pages to see if anyone locally offers cost effective web development services. However, my favourite way of doing this is to find a Computer Science student who needs to do the work for his dissertation. These guys (and girls) are hot! They love the technology (they’ve grown up with it) and they will do whatever you want, virtually free because they need to have been involved in some commercial work to get their grade.
You can either search them out on the web, or call any college or university that offers Computer Science and get in touch with the head of the IT department – you will find them very accommodating.
If you don’t know anyone that does, or a friend of a friend (I always try to get a personal recommendation wherever possible) then go to a web development software house. Find a small local development house as you’re likely to get a better deal, but DO shop around – this market has become very competitive so you should be able to get a good price.
You’ll also need hosting (which is where yuor website is physically situated). All the files that go to make up your website need to be accessible and therefore “on the web”. A hosting company – we use and recommend Hostgator by the way – will “host” all of your files, attach the files to your web address (URL) and make them available for people to see on the Internet. Hostgator are simple to use, realtively cheap and have oustanding support, as I say I wouldn’t use anyone else.
If you can point and click, maybe try one of the new breed of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editors. Lee and I have used Blue Voda it is ridiculously easy to use, and hour and you can be proficient enough to build simple sites. Check it out, very easy, good training videos, easy to use. I will be putting a tutorial in the members area soon. You can also check out NVu but I prefer Blue Voda.
Finally, nowadays, most Internet Marketers use WordPress. In iteslf it is a very basic CMS (Content Management System). However, Google loves it, and over the last few years an incredible amount of add in software (called plugins) have been built (many free of charge) to help make WordPress a truly functional development platform. The beauty of it is that it is very simple to use, indeed, you can get a fee WordPress Video Vault courtesy of our goodselves if you’d like to learn. Just click the link or HERE.
My First Website
My first web site was a horse racing tipster service and cost well over £5,000 all in. To be fair it did include full eCommerce capabilities (which were in their infancy at the time, and difficult for such a site to get!). The site was built in the late 90’s and ran for three years. However, things have moved on. I reckon I could get it done for about £500 now including all of the relevant bells and whistles. The really difficult part was the integration of the on-line credit card processing facility. At the time, to offer a password protected area for the members to access for their daily tips and the on-line credit card processing was fairly advanced stuff. However, nowadays, this is all standard stuff and shouldn’t cost anywhere near as much.
Your Compliance MUST Be Right
Accountants, ummmm, the profession that everyone loves to hate! There are seen huge rafts of legislation covering business and you need t9 make sure you comply in every area. (More of this in a later part, I have an absolute horror story to tell!!) This makes it absolutely imperative that you employ a good accountant, if for nothing else, to make sure you stay on the right side of the huge tomes of legislation that can easily trip you up.
The last thing you want is the VAT man, tax man or advertising standards battering down your front door. I guarantee that should you fall foul, your life will not be worth living and your business will stand zero chance of surviving!
In fact, the following illustrates this point rather well!!
If you are going to start your new business, think about getting the bank account open NOW. I recently started a new business and wanted to diversify from my existing bank. I felt they had been less than fair with me over a recent business deal, so, I decided to take my new business bank account elsewhere.
Nothing wrong with that you’d think? Indeed, I had a very close friend that worked for the bank that I went to, I thought I’d give her some extra business – sounds fair doesn’t it?
However, current legislation means that it is now extremely difficult to get a bank account opened. The Bank has to make sure you’re not money laundering or an international terrorist (apparently). What the mandate says has to equate exactly to what is on the Companies House register (oh, and they have a 10 day backlog as I write). In short bureaucracy meant it took 6 weeks to get the bank account opened – you have been warned, it is not an easy exercise, even if you are well known to the bank concerned.
So, with all of the “infrastructure” and “operational” side of the business, the motto is be prepared!
- Be prepared to spend some money.
- Be prepared to spend some time on it.
- Be prepared for setbacks, they will inevitably happen.
- And, finally, be prepared for the unexpected (eg: I was totally unprepared for the length of time it took to get my new bank account opened).
A final word in this first part of my course. Right at the beginning I mentioned that as a small one-man business you will need all the help you can get. Indeed you do, and it’s a theme that I will come back to throughout this course as we cover different areas. However, there is one area of potential help I feel I should mention now, right at the outset.
I have already mentioned the raft of legislation you have to deal with. Governments like to portray themselves as small business friendly. Now, I try to stay “A-Political”, but in this instance I’m afraid I have to make comment.
Beware of the “Machine”
During the course of the last three U.K Governments over 4,000 new business regulations have been introduced. These cover all areas of YOUR business and snoop into your affairs, meaning you have to report on this and that and generally have to spend far too much of your time satisfying the Government rather than making money. It’s probably the same in the U.S.
In the U.K, the Governments answer “to help small business” is to offer help, advice and guidance through the Business Link organisation. I have dealt with these people and I have to say they are of limited help. They are very bureaucratic and will not even pass wind without a full business plan and twenty-five page cash flow forecast. They do have some good contacts, but the message here is, if you do get involved with them, use and abuse them. Use only what you want and make sure they dance to your tune rather than the other way around. I can’t speak for the U.S, but as the U.K tends to follow the U.S I’m guessing it will be similar!
I did hear one prominent Internet marketeer say “make as much money as you can and worry about all the other stuff later”. To a degree I agree, keep things in perspective, just don’t get caught on the wrong side of one of these government departments, they can kill your business in a flash – so much for the business friendly environment we are supposed to be building in the “free world”!
So, the motto is simply be prepared, and look professional. Nowadays it is very easy for small businesses to look the same as the “big boys”. It’s all about perception, and if you look the part, you will be amazed at what’s possible. So, remember, it does cost a little, but it is money very well spent.