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By Debbie Gregory.

At VAMBOA, we salute the entrepreneurial drive that members of the military and military veterans display. Managing risk, operating with limited resources and working well under pressure are skills learned during military service that serve you well as you start your business.

But regardless of your preparation, it is inevitable that you will make some mistakes. Here are some common pitfalls and ways to avoid them:

  • Failing to Have a Plan– Without a business plan to guide your startup and growth, you’ll struggle to make decisions, obtain loans, or bring investors on board. The solution is easy- have a plan. Venturing out on your own requires ambition and a willingness to take risks.   Remember that you need to have a plan for how you’re going to make money. A written plan helps you stay focused on the right customers, opportunities and business objectives and on course. There are many tools available online to guide you through the process of writing your business plan.
  • Failing to Define Your Purpose– Many businesses never define their real purpose for existence. Americans want to give back to those who serve, so make sure your military/veteran status is front and center. If you give back a percentage of your profits to a cause, promote that! Let your clients know your mission.
  • Failing to Understand your Customers– It is not enough to have a good idea. Make sure you conduct market research to pinpoint your ideal target customers, and then create dynamic messages that solve a problem, meet a need, or fulfill a desire.
  • Waiting to Long to Hire Employees or Hiring the Wrong Ones – Are you trying to save money, or do you just not want to delegate anything? Both of those will cost you in the long run. The greatest mistake entrepreneurs make is to believe they can do it all by themselves. Hire carefully and thoughtfully. Don’t wait until you are desperate for help. Delegate small tasks or outsource the tasks you need help with until the right team is in place.   Hire people who can grow with your business.
  • Losing Focus of your Cash Flow – Finding small business financing can be time-consuming, and if you wait until you really need the money, you may be forced to settle for more expensive options. Stay on top of your cash flow and keep in mind that applying for financing while your business finances are in good shape will increase your chances of approval.

In summary:

  • Have a Plan
  • Have a Purpose
  • Understand Your Clients
  • Hire the Right Employees at the Right Time
  • Focus on Your Cash Flow

Once done with these key steps – you will then be well on your way at optimizing your business and avoiding common mistakes!

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

E-commerce Tips

E-commerce Tips

By Debbie Gregory.

Many veteran business owners and VAMBOA members began their entrepreneurial journey by launching E-commerce websites. E-commerce, short for electronic commerce, is also known as internet commerce and refers to the buying and selling of goods or services via the internet, as well as the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.

With global retail E-commerce sales are projected to reach $27 trillion by 2020 so you can see why this is such an attractive way to begin a business. But before entrepreneurs jump into the water, here are a few tips to aid in the success of an E-commerce business:

It begins with reaching your audience. If you’re looking to do business online, that’s where you are going to find the majority of your customers. So purchase your domain name, design your web site and set up your social media accounts. Blog, blog, blog. Add a podcast. Optimize your store for mobile.

If you aren’t great with technology, outsource the things you need help with. For example, when your customer adds a product to their cart, does your web site immediately let them know what others products previous purchasers have added-on as a suggested bundle? If a customer is about to abandon their cart, does your website know how to entice them back? If you don’t know how to build in these options, outsource them to someone who does.

Because you are at a disadvantage when it comes to your customers being able to see and touch (and smell) your product in-person, offer incentives such as free shipping or a money back guarantee if it makes financial sense to do so. Encourage your existing customers to leave reviews of your products by offering a percentage discount on their purchase to thank them for their time.

Start building a sales funnel. Think “Do you want fries with that order?” If your customer comes in for one thing, you’re going to ask if they’d like anything else before they cash out.

The more value you add — through freebies, up sells, and add-ons — the more trust you’ll build with your customers, and customers who trust you will spend more.

Building a good relationship with your customers will increase the chances that they will refer others to you, boosting your business even further.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

When it comes to having online visibility, nothing is more valuable than your company’s website. Having a strong, professional destination gives customers the impression that you mean business, and the motivation to want to engage more with your business.

Because most small businesses don’t have the resources to launch a full-scale marketing campaign, your website is where many consumers will decide whether or not they want to engage with you. They’re likely to dismiss you entirely should they believe your website doesn’t reflect the kind of experience your business should offer. Keeping that in mind, if you have a bad website, it’s better to have no website at all. Yes, having no website equals missed opportunities, but a bad website can actually be worse since it literally can make your business look bad.

The first area of major importance is your homepage. This is where you tell your visitors exactly what you do with a clear, easy-to-find value proposition.  The homepage navigation should be easy to use, and the page should include links to your social media and your contact information. Additionally, you should have high-quality images that are original. You don’t want visitors to see the same image on a thousand other websites. If you have a blog, this is the heart of your content strategy. Encourage people to view and subscribe to it by highlighting it on your homepage.

Next you want your about us page to explain your values, tell your story, and introduce the people behind your business. Good stories humanize your brand, providing context and meaning for your product, so skip the stiff intro and tell your story in your own words.

Conversions, revenue, business and profit- they all depend on calls to action. Whatever action it is meant to compel, your calls to action text need to say what you mean and mean what you say. Be clear and direct, and make sure the button performs as advertised. Use action words such as Order, Subscribe, Buy, Get, Learn, Discover, etc. Calls to action should appear throughout the website, not just on the homepage.

The last tip is to be mobile-friendly. Since more and more people are turning to their smart phones to browse the internet, a responsive site is a must.

A great website is one that lots of people visit and who hopefully convert – whether that’s a sale, a lead, or interacting with an element on the page.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

By Debbie Gregory.

Have a great idea for a business but very little money? Don’t let that stop you! While starting a business with very little capital can be challenging, it can be done.

In any business, cash flow is everything, so starting with very little capital works best if you get paid immediately, have low overhead, and don’t have high inventory or labor expenses. You also need to plan carefully and conserve all the cash you can. Every dollar spent must be a dollar that is going to grow your business.

By building your business around your skills and knowledge, you can avoid having to rely on outside assistance. When you do require outsourcing, get the best deal you can on what you actually need. You can drop $500 on fancy business cards, or $50 on traditional ones. Choose wisely.

Generate buzz for your business through word of mouth and social media, which is a great way to gain exposure and interact with potential customers.

As you launch your business and for the first few years, you will probably be the person who puts in the highest number of hours for the lowest pay. Try to have your personal financial house in order prior to launching your business.

Hold off on opening a brick and mortar location unless and until you absolutely have to. It’s not just the rent, but also utilities, insurance, etc.

When given the opportunity to buy new, don’t! Almost anything you need, from office furniture to manufacturing equipment, can be purchased used or even leased.

Learn how to track your income and expenses and be able to determine which activities are profitable and which aren’t.

Outsource as many of your business needs that you are able to until you are at the point where you need to hire employees.

Be prepared to dedicate everything you have into making the business a success. But remember that the habits you learn growing a lean business will serve you well in the future.

VAMBOA TipsOwning and operating a small business is one of the most demanding career choices that Veterans can make. Starting a new business is not a get rich quick scheme. Most newly-minted small business owners may have to put in a lot of hours and hard work in the beginning, but it pays off in the long run. Here are some tips provided by Veteran business owners that new small business owners might find useful:

Set the standard: As the owner, your employees will do as you do. Therefore, you need to lead by example. Whether its customer service, personal grooming, keeping your business clean or any other function specific to your company, hold yourself to the highest standard, one your employees can proudly emulate.

Put customer satisfaction before profits: When your customers are thrilled with the products and service that your company provides, they will return again and again, giving you repeat business. If, as an owner, you are more concerned with profits than your customers, it will show, and customers may not do business with you in the future. Customers are what generate profits.

Don’t neglect to pay yourself. You and none of your employees should ever go without pay. If your personal finances are a mess, it will distract you from what you need to do to help your business grow.

Learn from your mistakes: Small business ownership is not an exact science. There is not one book with all of the definitive answers containing the hidden secrets that your business can use to guarantee success. Small business ownership is all about learning your customer base, the community, and how to bring your business to them. Be aware of the risks, make bold decisions, and then learn from them.

Employees are your business’ most effective resource: Learn how to delegate, and don’t micromanage. Start by hiring the right individuals to work for you, and then, let them do their jobs with you as their confident, but not stifling leader. This ties in with customer satisfaction; customers who want good service know when they are dealing with employees who truly understand their job and do it to the best of their ability, and when an employee is handcuffed by micromanagement. No customer wants to repeat business with a firm whose employees aren’t capable of providing good service.

Show up: There will be days when you won’t feel like going to work. And as the boss, it would be easy to just take the day off. But don’t let the temptation to slack off a little ruin your business… because it will, if you let it.

Keep your integrity intact: At the toughest times, it may seem conceivable to shortchange a customer or employee, or hide a receipt from the taxman. But taking ethical shortcuts will always cost you in the long run. Besides, would you do business with someone who acted unscrupulously? Others might feel the same way.

The Veteran and Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA) is a non-profit business trade association that promotes and assists Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and responsible for job generation. That is why VAMBOA provides its members with Business Coaching, Contracting Opportunities, a Blog that provides information, Networking contacts and other resources. Membership is FREE to Veterans. Join Now!

VAMBOA: Tips from Veteran Small Biz Owners: By Debbie Gregory

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