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BOOTSTRAP WITH FRANK CIANCIULLI: How entrepreneurs can navigate the COVID-19 economic downturn

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Happy New Year! With the calendar rolling over to 2021, we have the chance for a fresh start – new goals, new opportunities – even if in a different form than years past.

There’s no sugar-coating it – the past several months during the Covid-19 pandemic have been challenging for all of us, especially when it comes to the economy. The increase in unemployment rates, less non-essential consumer spending and erratic interest rates paint a less than rosy financial picture.

The good news is that with the ongoing distribution of vaccines and development of economic recovery plans, things look to improve in the next few months.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you might be wondering how to navigate through this economic downturn and position your business for success as the economy continues to open up.

Well, here are three of the most important things you should do to protect your business:

Manage your cash flow

While sound advice even in the best of times, make sure you continue to control expenses and cash flow. Even though you’re feeling optimistic that we are finally, truly rounding that corner toward a better economy, if there’s currently more money going out the door than coming in, you risk not making it across the finish line. We can’t predict just how long the full recovery will really take. As an entrepreneur, being optimistic is in your blood. But too much optimism at this critical time could sink you.

Continue to be laser focused on getting your money from clients and making sure that payables are sorted, so that you can emerge from this crisis stronger and in line for success. Until we get a clearer picture of how circumstances will unfold this year, I would also hold off planning any big events. For now, keep your event planning to virtual events.

Look after yourself

Winter is in full swing and gyms are closed in many regions, but you must prioritize looking after your health. Without you, there is no business. Take an introspective look at your personal life. As an entrepreneur, it can be pretty lonely carrying the weight of a business on your shoulders – it exacts a toll on you physically and emotionally. Most entrepreneurs have 10 to 12-hour days and are constantly dealing with the anxiety of paying bills and waiting on cheques. Get regular exercise, don’t skimp out on sleep and consider taking up yoga or meditation to help you filter out the stress. It’s also a good idea to limit your caffeine intake!

Put your business into perspective

Once you’ve sorted yourself out, you’ll need to put the health of your business into perspective. Analyze the year that just passed and review any aspirational budgets – that lofty number you wanted to achieve. Adjust it as needed for 2021 and start building or restructuring your team to achieve these goals in anticipation of emerging from this economic downturn. Continue to focus on key client relationships and add value wherever you can, so they continue to appreciate what you bring.

Also, look for innovative ways to keep your business in the public conversation. Your clients and prospects are online every day. Post regularly to social channels and create blogs and videos to position yourself as a thought leader in your sector.

Still unsure? If you’re a current or aspiring entrepreneur with questions and concerns about the year ahead, I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at bootstrap@wishgroup.ca.

 

This blog was first published on LinkedIn.

Self Promotion Tactics for Your Business

By | Wish Group, Self Education, Business Insights, Foundations of Success | No Comments

Self Promotion Tactics for Your Business

If promotion for yourself or business is challenging for you, there’s a big problem with that because you can’t grow a business if no one knows you. The old saying “Good Things come to those who wait” doesn’t apply in the digital age. In today’s market, you have to have to get up and get it yourself. Here are three real, practical, hands-on steps you can and should do today to promote yourself and your business effectively and fast.

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Transform Your Customers Into Brand Advocates

By | Wish Group, Success & Inspiration, Business Insights, Business Growth, Foundations of Success | No Comments

Transform Your Customers Into Brand Advocates

Brand advocates are those who enjoy your product or service so much that they’ll happily spread the word about it. The customer’s ability to rate and review a company’s online reputation empowers them to speak out more when they use your service. Turning your customers into brand advocates is an important process since they’re your biggest advertising tool.

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Embracing Failure

By | Wish Group, Comments & Opinion, Success & Inspiration, Business Insights, Foundations of Success | No Comments

Embracing Failure

When you’re building a business, a lot of people will offer you advice. But, eventually, you are going to fail in some aspect and don’t be afraid because it will become a positive thing. Make mistakes, take risks, and don’t hold back are all cliché phrases you’ll hear. If you’re never failing, you’re probably never really winning either.

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Ask Frank

By | Wish Group, Comments & Opinion, Business Insights, Business Growth, Business Health, Foundations of Success, Leadership | No Comments

Ask Frank

Today highlight some of the comments and questions you submitted and getting Frank’s response on all topics.

As discussed previously funding is hard to obtain especially when asking from friends/family. It’s important if you go that route to understand at all times this is a business transaction. It’s not your money, and there is risk associated with borrowing money from people close to you. Notify them of the risks involved, possible obstacles and a realistic time frame to see an ROI, in addition, how you will handle these obstacles. Treating it like it’s an official pitch to a bank or investor helps take the emotion out of the situation and keeps everything professional.

Making a move to hiring a finance person is always tricky because it depends on what stage your bootstrap startup is currently at. Most time you may be able to sustain with an in-house bookkeeper a few times and transition them into a full-time position. The risk in going to a senior accountant before necessary is the cost associated can be expensive and sometimes unnecessary. Instead, consider having a person who can perform the daily accounting procedures until you reach the point where a CFO is needed.

What to Look For in Your First Office

By | Wish Group, Business Insights, Foundations of Success | No Comments

What to Look For in Your First Office

When starting off a business everyone needs a location work out from, but most bootstrap startups are unsure what options they have and what does it look like? Today we’ll discuss the best move for your bootstrap startup.

Working from home vs. office is a debate that nobody has mastered, but both provide their own advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, your main concern should be to keep costs down. Working from home gives you that freedom and space to move in a space which you’re comfortable and avoid having to sign leases. However, it may come at the disadvantage of not establishing the company culture and collaborate on ideas with others.

Working in an office is much easier today than its ever been. Things such as shared offices, small rental units, and collaborative spaces/software all help with growing a business. Staff get the chance to discuss ideas, build relationships and collaborate together. Although, this might require longer commute times to work, and additional costs for the renal space.

Ultimately, the decision will be based on the type of business you are conducting, and if the home/office culture is where you will thrive the most. For example, tech-based companies may be interested in an open concept area with lounge and relaxation space because staff want an area away from their computers. Contrarily, a sales culture where staff are working independently speaking to clients and want to be in a home environment or have a dedicated desk. Some companies are exploring the option of a hybrid office, which has both features, so they can cater to all personality types and working styles.

Finally, the hardest part is determining how much space you will need as a startup. As s bootstrap startup its hopeful to expect your business to grow as the years go by, but there is never a guarantee. Most rentals are 3-5 years so the best way to determine what to do is take a realistic approach to your business and assess if a larger office contributes to the growth of your business and the bottom line. A bad office lease or too expensive office can cripple your business quicker than anything else.

Always Be Selling Pt 2 – A Brave New World

By | Wish Group, Business Insights, Sales Advice, Foundations of Success | No Comments

Always Be Selling Pt 2 - A Brave New World

The sales industry has changed from the old school, knock on your door days, and referrals. People pick up the phones less, buyers are more educated, and sellers now need to take a modernized approach it customers. Understanding how to run a formalized BDR/SDR (Business Development Rep/Sale Development Rep) program is essential to staying active in the sales industry, including sending out emails and other touchpoints to prospective clients to make a sale.

Exhausting every option to gain a customer’s interest is now industry standard. The amount of activity and resources spent to make a sale has increased because the amount of relationship building with customers in the pre-sale stage has decreased. Sales are now primarily driven by campaign data, so business owners can start to understand where sales call drop-offs will be, expected responses, and bookings.

Hiring sales staff that are able to quickly understand the different types of personalities when speaking to people and adjust to them will bring in more sales every time. Using a combination of a call, voicemail, email, and backed up by marketing messaging (documents) provides the highest rate of success. Ultimately, coming up with a sales strategy, including script, target market, and campaign (based on data) will give your business the best opportunity to succeed in the sales field.

How to Set Up Your Finance Department

By | Wish Group, Business Insights, Business Growth, Business Health, Planning for the future | No Comments

How to Set Up Your Finance Department

Everyone is well aware that having a finance department is essential for any business in all industries to progress. However, when comes to startups its more about when is the right time to set one up, and who will be responsible for overseeing the company’s finances. We’ve seen the difficulties many startups are having with this conundrum and came up with a few tips to help you get started on setting up your finance department.

When a company is just getting started and can’t afford an accountant one of the best moves is look into accounting software programs. Options such as QuickBooks is reasonably priced and will do the number crunching for you. Most startups do their own accounting using multiple spreadsheets, ledgers etc. but technology has created a way for startups to save time on doing math and more time on marketing the business. Utilize the ability to let a computer do the work for you and start figuring out a way to get paid from any outstanding receivables.

Live within your means when it’s time to expand. As the business grows in revenue, you’ll need more help handling the finances, and hiring an accounting firm can be very time costly experience if you don’t know what you’re doing. Research both large and smaller firms, be clear about your expectations and budget when speaking to their agents. Do not discredit smaller firms because on occasion they can produce the type of financial assistance you require within your budget and building business relationships never hurts. A lot of startups can get swept up in the appeal of a large financial firm taking over but unable to maintain the costs associated. There is nothing impressive about going with a big firm if you don’t have the big budget to match it. Keep it simple.

Finally, consider hiring contract, part-time, or freelance bookkeepers to complete your finance department. Not every business needs a full time dedicated finance department. Take advantage of these options and seek outside help who can pick up some of the workloads where your business may be falling short. It’s usually just as effective and keeps costs low while you wait for your business to take that next step up in revenue to hire full-time staff.