challenges entrepreneurs

5 Challenges That Entrepreneurs Face When Starting A Business

Guest Blog Post By: Ashley Wilson

Owning and running your own business seems like an exciting idea.

After all, what could be better for an avid gardener then starting a gardening company where you can make a living doing something that you love? Or how about a budding chef setting up a restaurant, where they can sell their delicious creations to happy consumers?

challenges entrepreneurs
Picture Source: Pixabay

Creating your own business gives you the opportunity to follow your dreams and passions. It’s not without its challenges, however.

To be an entrepreneur, you need to deal with living a life of uncertainty and risk.

The late co-founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, once famously said that entrepreneurs are separated from other people by “pure perseverance”. Making yourself aware of some of the challenges that you’re bound to face as an entrepreneur also means that you can prepare for what lies ahead.

Here are 5 of the most common challenges that entrepreneurs will need to overcome.

#1 Dealing with the Legal Side of Things

When you launch a new business, you want to focus on bringing your vision to life. That means experimenting with products, services, and branding.

It’s easy for things like figuring out what the legal entity should be for your new cleaning business to fall to the wayside. However, it’s stuff like that which can be crucial to your company’s successful growth.

Remember, there are several different kinds of business structures to choose from, including sole proprietorships, limited liability and more.

Each business structure comes with its own regulations and tax requirements and poises different opportunities and setbacks for the future.

Choosing the right solution for your needs means thinking carefully about what kind of growth you expect your business to have in the years to come. If you’re not sure what kind of legal entity is right for your brand, speak to a professional accountant or business advisor.

#2 Managing the Costs

Cash flow and budget management will always be among the biggest concerns of any business owner.

When you’re first starting your new company, you need to figure out where you’re going to get the capital that you need to get your organization off the ground.

Once your new entity is up and running,  you need a way of making sure that everything continues to run smoothly.

Start by making sure that you have a proper budgeting strategy in place. Ensure you know how much money you need to make each month to pay for your company’s crucial expenses.

Once you’ve got your budget sorted out, you can begin to think about things like invoicing tools and accounting software that will help you to keep track of the money that you have coming in and going out each day.

The more you know about your cash flow, the easier it will be for you to decide whether you can afford to invest in new opportunities when they arise for your emerging brand. You can even put strategies in place to keep yourself well-protected, like requiring a down payment on all of your invoices before you start any work.

#3 Hiring and Team Building

As your business begins to grow, there will only be so much that you can reasonably do on your own. Eventually, you’re going to need some help.

Sometimes, you might invest in contractors and freelancers who can help with things that you can’t master yourself.

For instance, you might hire a graphic designer and developer to build your website, or a virtual assistant to carry out tasks for you.

The digital world has opened up a range of new ways to bring extra assistance to your team.

In other circumstances, you might stick to traditional hiring.

Either way, you’re going to need to think carefully about how you’re going to search for the right candidates, filter through your options and onboard the people that you choose.

Think about what kind of hours your candidates will need to work, what they’re going to be paid, and how you’re going to encourage your team members to stick with you in the long-haul.

#4 Sales and Marketing

Building a business is just the first part of developing a successful entity in today’s world.

You’re also going to need to think about how you can bring as many customers to your company as possible.

Marketing strategies can help with that.

For instance, you might decide to build a social media campaign that allows you to instantly connect with your target audience and answer their questions online.

You might also use content marketing to gather organic traffic for your website through search engines.

If you’re not much of a marketing expert yourself, then you might need to think about investing in tools that will help to improve your chances of success.

Outsourcing your marketing strategy to a professional might seem like an extra expense, to begin with, but it could mean that you bring more customers to your door too. Similarly, having more people on your sales team to manage things like order fulfillment and customer service could boost your ability to earn long-term profits.

#5 Investing in Equipment

Finally, even if you’re just running a small business from the comfort of your own home, you’re still going to need to invest in essential equipment.

Every business has tools that it relies on to continue running smoothly. A cleaner needs their cleaning sprays, a gardener needs a lawn mower and a web designer needs a computer.

One of the most common pieces of equipment that you’ll need in today’s highly digital world is a computer that you can rely on to help you connect with clients, complete invoices, and manage information. Rather than just buying a new computer every couple of years when your initial investment starts to lose its luster, learn how to keep your tech running effectively and commit yourself to maintain the equipment you have. This will save you a fortune in depreciation.

Ready to Start?

Becoming an entrepreneur can be a complex and daunting experience.

However, if you know how to jump into the world of business ownership the right way, you could find that the rewards are astronomical.

Be aware of the five challenges that we mentioned above and how you can overcome them, and you’ll already be one step ahead of the competition.

More About The Author

Ashley Wilson is a content creator, writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.

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law digital marketing

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Law Firms

Guest Blog Post By: Elaine Bennett

Law practices have been around for ages and they are not your average make-up or fashion businesses, that depend on trends, then might disappear when those trends change. Yes, the law will continue to be practiced, but will your law firm be a part of it all?

As in most areas of business, competition is fierce. To stay in the game and in time, climb to the top, you need to integrate into this fast-paced digital world. To do this, you will need to work on your marketing strategies to promote your law firm.

With that in mind, here are a few tips you should consider.

Start with the website

digital marketing
Example Law Website Design

Without a doubt, the majority of your efforts related to digital marketing needs to be directed towards your website. Especially since most of your clients are local. In the eyes of your current and prospective clients, the website represents the face of your law business, so you need to pay special attention to it.

Content-wise, the website should, first and foremost, reflect your values. Free information on the most common of questions will help you build a strong reputation as a knowledgeable authority, who is not solely in it for the money. As for the visual appearance, you shouldn’t go in the opposite direction from your competition and introduce a colourful website. In this sphere, sticking to a traditional colour scheme strengthens the idea of expertise and experience your law business has to offer, all the while building trust.

Consider social media marketing

digital marketing

There was a time most people would say that it doesn’t make any sense to create a social media profile on any social network if you are a law firm, because nobody will take you seriously. However, as our lives have slowly migrated online, people look for information everywhere, including different social media channels. This is why, to keep up with the changes, law firms must be present there as well.

To grow your reputation and increase credibility, you can create informative YouTube videos, where you can then share on your social media profile. You can use it to offer various types of advice or to present your services in the best possible light. One of the crucial elements is answering users’ comments. Sometimes, you will be able to give a straightforward response, while at others, they would need to come for consultations to provide some background story. But what’s important is not to ignore any questions.

Leverage the power of SEO

digital marketing

If you want to increase your client base, your first goal is to be noticed. The manner to achieve this is by using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to climb on search engine ranking. This is so that your company appears among the first on the initial results page. To understand the significance of this goal, just try to remember when was the last time you went to the second page of the search results.

Keeping in mind, that most of your clients are locals, you will need to use local keywords to increase your visibility. While it is recommendable individual pages of your website to be optimized and that includes all their elements. Many owners decide to hire experts in law firm SEO to ensure that the practices they put into motion will have positive long-term effects on their reputation and ensure them high ranking on search engines.

Update your blog regularly

digital marketing

Your blog can be the perfect place to show your business in a less strict manner. You can use it to promote different charity or community events you sponsor or that interest you. By showing that you are involved in your local community, you will make your law firm’s name be the first one to pop into their mind if they ever need a lawyer. If you wish, you can talk about your own practice or some common legal issues you encounter. You will soon notice many people appreciate your efforts because legalese represents a nightmare for an average person.

Another way to engage your visitors (and make them connect more to your business) is to shape that content into different interesting formats; such as infographics, videos, images, etc.

Try email marketing

digital marketing

A lot of businesses, throughout different industries. make a mistake thinking that email is not as relevant as it used to be. However, many customers enjoy its professional tone and digested content. It allows them to decide for themselves, without any pressure, whether they want to react to a call to click on the link, visit the website or read more about something.

Implementing this strategy is fairly easy. You can do it by giving away something useful, such as an educational e-book, in exchange for their email address or a more traditional and straightforward approach, that is, asking users to subscribe to your website.

Wrapping up

To stay competitive, law firms have to change their marketing strategies to comply with modern digital times and still preserve their traditional approach to some extent. Creating useful content and optimizing it to get the best from each platform are practices embedded into the core of their digital marketing efforts. They are the ones that will give your firm the competitive advantage you are looking for.

More about the author:

Elaine Bennett is a blogger, currently writing for Bizzmark Blog. She’s a digital marketing specialist, passionate about helping small businesses grow. Follow her on Twitter to find more of her articles.

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small business

How Technology Is Affecting The Future Of Small Business

Guest Blog Post By: Michael Deane

The future of small business is inextricably tied to modern digital technology. Thanks to modern tech, sole proprietors, startups and other small firms can go toe-to-toe with companies many times their size, and sometimes they can even come out ahead.

What technology offers to these companies is the ability to save on time, manpower, and resources, while maintaining high levels of productivity. The fact that most of these technologies can be used free of charge or for a small fee makes them even more attractive. After all, nothing beats free in terms of ROI.

With all that being said, the adoption rate of new technologies among small businesses is not as high as it could be. Many companies are still reluctant to start using these technologies for one reason or another. The famous adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is still the dominant attitude among small business owners.

But as old business models become obsolete, the transition towards modern technology is quickly becoming a necessity.

So if you want to future-proof your small business to give it a fighting chance, you need to start learning about modern technology. And we’re here to help you do just that. Below you will find an overview of some of the major ways technology has been shaping the world of small business.

virtual assistant business

1 Software Automation

As we’ve mentioned, small businesses have embraced technology because it allows them to work more efficiently without investing in additional resources. And software-based automation represents the next step in this direction. With the help of software automation tools small business can eliminate a lot of tedious busywork from their workflows. One example would be email marketing automation. By using tools such as ActiveCampaign or Zapier, small businesses can create email marketing campaigns that practically run themselves. Technology enables you to automate business processes which leads to increased productivity.

Lead scoring is another area where automation is showing positive results. App such as Leadformly can help you segment leads and send follow-up content without the need to look into each subscriber profile individually.

2 Cloud Based Sofware

Cloud-based software (also known under the acronym SaaS, for software-as-a-service) is the latest trend in software deployment, and one that is scheduled to grow further in the coming years. Cloud-based applications are not installed directly on your computer, but are instead hosted on powerful dedicated servers (the so-called cloud). Running resource-intensive business applications on the cloud is a more affordable solution for small businesses than buying expensive equipment and running on-site applications. There is also the matter of security. It might seem counter-intuitive, but storing your business data on the cloud is actually a safer alternative than storing it locally, the reason being that cloud servers have better security than your local computer network.

3. Customer Service Chatbots

Quality customer service is one of the costs of doing business in 2019. Without adequate care, customers won’t be inclined to do business with you. Providing customer service requires you to expand your staff with customer service agents, which is not something every firm can afford. Thankfully, there now exists a technological solution for the issue, namely chatbots.

Chatbots are automated conversation systems that can perform a variety of customer service tasks. They can answer frequently asked questions, direct callers to customer service representatives, provide product suggestions, place orders and reservations, and more. However, their two greatest advantages are their ability to scale (they can interact with multiple customers at once), and their cost (they can be built for free, or acquired for a small fee).

4 AI and Big Data

One of the most transformative inventions in the past few decades was that of artificial intelligence. By utilizing the concept of a neural network, an AI system can parse large data-sets (so-called ‘Big Data’) to produce conclusions and make predictions, without being explicitly programmed what to do each step of the way. This ability can be employed to solve a variety of tasks that would be too difficult, or too tedious to perform manually.

Predictably, AI has found a lot of uses in the world of small business. From email marketing optimization to screening candidates or generating reports in natural language, AI has enabled small businesses to compete with much bigger rivals without needing to expand their IT infrastructure.

5 Cybersecurity

Technology has empowered business in a variety of ways, but they weren’t the only ones to benefit from it. Malicious third parties now have access to the same kind of technology, which allows them to execute sophisticated cyber-attacks. Unfortunately, small businesses are frequently ill-equipped to handle such attacks. For this reason, cyber-security is quickly becoming one of the top priorities in the world of small business.

To combat this growing threat, employers are enrolling staff in cyber-security seminars, developing cyber-security protocols, and implementing technological countermeasures, including AI-based defense. And with the passing of the GDPR, these practices are starting to become codified into strict laws.

6 The Future of Business

Small businesses face many challenges in the digital age, from the way they approach customers, to how they handle standard business operations, to the precautions they take to protect themselves from tech-based crime. And only by grasping the extent that technology has changed the world can they rise to these challenges. It is therefore imperative to educate yourself on the impact of technology on business, so you can make good strategic decisions on how to prepare your company for the future.

More About The Author:

Michael is a small business consultant who also runs a small business blog; Qeedle.

automation

How to Get Your Business Ready for Automation

In our digital age, automation surrounds all of us, particularly in the business world. Technology is constantly changing our world, and it’s important to keep up to date with advancements. Being adaptive prevents your business from being left behind. Using these new technologies to the benefit of your business may even help you reduce costs and increase efficiency!

Automation

Understanding the process

Before you do anything, it’s crucial to examine and understand exactly what it is you are automating. Evaluate all your business processes before deciding what needs to be automated. It’s a good idea to talk to the people who run your business. This means your employees. They can point out which tasks are tedious or of low-value. Perhaps you would like to automate basic tasks. This way, your employees can be more involved in tasks relating to the bigger picture. After all, they know your business the best.

Prepare your team

Keep yourself and your team educated on what automation means for your business. Make sure your team is ready and willing to learn about it and how it will help improve their roles.

Preparing your team means not only educating them, but also getting them excited. Let your employees know how impactful automation will be to the business. If automation impacts their role specifically, let them know how. No one enjoys repetitive work. Automation means less mundane work and that your employees are given meaningful opportunities. Be sure to communicate this with them.

Hold training sessions or discussion groups. Talk about how automation will improve the business, its customers and those it employs. It’s also important to discuss any concerns where automation might make something or someone in the business redundant. These are important issues should be addressed sooner rather than later.

automation

Focus on the human element

Although automation can make a lot of processes easier, sometimes it’s not the best option. Remember, there are areas where human contact is preferred. This includes critical thinking, empathy, customer satisfaction and creativity. These aspects cannot be automated and a personalised approach is always preferred. In particular, public relations are an area that should never be automated.

Of course, you can still incorporate automation into smaller tasks such as media monitoring. However, it’s important to involve human connection when dealing with your clients.

Long term considerations

Ask yourself what is sustainable in the long run. Automation should be able to allow your business to grow in the future. This means keeping things flexible and adaptable, no matter what future changes you incorporate. It’s important not to over-automate and be completely dependent on automation. You should remain in control at all times.

Ensure that automation provides employees with the chance to evolve, rather than make their role redundant. It’s critical that your business takes advantage of the opportunities offered by automation. However, you should always ensure your business is protected against risks.

Consider risks

Automation provides efficiency and ease for a lot of processes. However, automating processes also comes with security risks. What can be automated and digitised can also be hacked, so make sure you are protected with cyber insurance. Set up the appropriate security measures like firewalls and back up your entire system if possible.

Don’t depend entirely on your automated system because this will backfire. Automation is a giant step for your company. It makes your daily business operations easier, so there are more resources and opportunities for the bigger picture. In fact, automation gives your business the chance to grow. However, it is important to take precautions before doing so to prevent failure.

More about the author

Kiwi wordsmith Harper Reid is fond of anything related to business and technology. When she’s not busy producing articles for blogs, you’ll find her catching up on the latest tech news. You can visit her personal blog here.

optimize customer service

4 Ways To Optimize Customer Service

Guest Blog Post By: Elaine Bennett

Customer service has become a crucial factor for business success in recent years. Consumers have become more aware and tech-savvy which emphasized their needs, demands and preferences. Businesses that are unable to cater to those needs will soon lose both their relevance and their competitive edge, which might result in business failure. 

In other words, the market is competitive enough that if you cannot meet your customers’ needs, they won’t hesitate to abandon you altogether and move over to the next business in line. That’s why focusing on customer service is of the utmost importance these days. The fact of the matter is that you can’t always predict what your customers will want but you can, however, be there for them and resolve any issues on the spot. 

Furthermore, consumers are no longer interested in only doing business with companies that can provide them with exceptional quality products or services. In fact, they want companies to provide them with exceptional experience, and customer service is an integral factor in that experience. That being said, here are a few ways to optimize customer service for ideal results.

Understand customer needs

As mentioned before, being unable to cater to customer needs can be very bad for your business. However, you can’t cater to their needs if you don’t know what they are, to begin with. This can be remedied with a bit of research.

Understanding what your customers want or need is essential in optimizing your customer service. Therefore, try to learn as much as you can. For instance, you can survey your customers and ask them directly for feedback. This method has two major advantages.

Firstly, consumers appreciate the fact that businesses ask for their opinions and they prefer when you act upon their feedback.

Secondly, you get the opportunity to learn what customers need from customers themselves which a much more reliable approach than any other source of information.

Be available to your customers

One of the most important aspects of customer service is your availability. In today’s digital world, consumers expect from businesses to be available at all times, as well as to be available at multiple touchpoints. For instance, if you only have a landline as a means of providing customer service and support, you can expect that your customers won’t be too happy about it. Today, with the help of technology, your business can improve and optimize customer service to meet or even exceed customer expectations.

As an example, reliable cloud call centre solutions can help you integrate customer service across multiple channels. That way you can provide support to customers through their preferred method and be available to them whenever they need to contact your customer service and support.

Leverage social media

Social media platforms have become an integrated part of our everyday lives. People simply got used to using one or a few of these social networks every day. The main reason is that you can find pretty much everything on social media these days. That being said, a lot of businesses have started providing customer service and support via social media platforms their customers are most commonly present at. These platforms are convenient to consumers and businesses today are building their social media presence anyway. 

However, if you’re about to add social media as one of your customer service channels, you’ll have to do it right. For instance, 32% of social media users that are contacting customer service expect a response within 30 min while 42% of them expect a response within an hour. Moreover, if you’re considering using automated responses for most common questions, don’t overdo it. After all, consumers prefer to contact a human representative they can interact with.

Consider live chat

Live chat has become one of the most popular customer service and support channels recently. As a matter of fact, 79% of consumers who prefer live chat do so because they claim they got their issues resolved fast. What’s more 46% of consumers state that live chat is one of the most efficient methods of communication. One of the main reason live chat became so popular among consumers is that its, in fact, quite convenient. 

While browsing the company website, consumers can contact customer service and support on the spot and as soon as they run into any difficulties. Moreover, the issue can be resolved straight away without any delays or inconveniences. That said, live chat is one of the best ways to optimize your customer service. Aside from providing help to customers straight away, you can also gather feedback from them so that you can leverage that information to further improve and optimize your customer service efforts.

Summary

Customer service has become vital for not just business success but also for the overall customer experience. Optimizing customer service depends on your business, as well as on the needs of your customers. That’s why it’s important to determine which is the best way to optimize that will suit both your business and your customer needs.

More about the author

Elaine Bennett is a blogger, currently writing for Bizzmark Blog. She’s a digital marketing specialist, passionate about helping small businesses grow. Follow her on Twitter to find more of her articles.

business cloud migration

Checklist for Migrating Business Operations to the Cloud

Guest Blog Post by: Joe Peters

The cloud has become the quintessential way to manage a business in 2019.

Offering flexibility, scalability, and consistency, the cloud allows businesses to get complete access to their data faster, without compromising on performance or security.

cloud business
Picture source: Pixabay

Depending on the kind of business you run, you can rely on the cloud for many different purposes.

Some companies use the cloud for automated online appointment scheduling and customer messaging.

Other brands might rely on the cloud to collect data from multiple touchpoints with customers and translate that information into useful insights that they can use to make business decisions.

Used correctly, the cloud will give you more agility and power than any on premise system.

The question is; how do you move to the cloud with as little stress and downtime as possible?

The following checklist will help:

1.  Plan and Prepare for Your Migration

Before you begin your migration into the cloud, you need to know why you’re making this transition.

Do you want to make it easier to connect with your customers across multiple channels, and improve your brand reputation in the process?

Are you looking for an easier way to manage critical business and consumer data without having to rely on on premise data centers?

The cloud can offer endless benefits. If you want to map out an effective migration journey, you’ll need to start by knowing what your end goal is going to be. Ensure that all of your employees and shareholders are on the same page too. This will reduce the risk of confusion when you begin to move portions of your data and processes over to the cloud.

2.  Choose Your Cloud Environment

Once you have an idea of why you’re moving to the cloud, you can begin to explore the kind of cloud model that might be best suited to your business.

Remember, there are different kinds of cloud solutions available.

A single cloud environment is what you get when you use one provider to serve all the applications and services that you’ve chosen to migrate into the cloud.

Today, many companies are beginning to take a different approach, using a multi-cloud environment instead.

In a multi-cloud space, you access a variety of different cloud solutions from multiple providers to create your own best-in-class solution. Here, you can use the various cloud in your portfolio for different services and requirements. You may have one cloud to manage reporting, and one for contact management, etc.

3.  Get the Right Support

Moving into the cloud requires more than just the right technology. You’ll also need some expertise and guidance too.

The first step here is choosing a vendor that you can rely on to deliver all the cloud features you’re looking for.

If you need to use a multi-cloud environment, then your vendor should have a cloud system that integrates well with other solutions and applications.

It may also be worth bringing cloud experts and developers on board to help you implement the tools and functionality you need. Fortunately, there are ways to access multiple features and functionalities in the cloud without having to invest in a developer too. All you need is the right platform.

4.  Keep Security and Resilience in Mind

Whenever you’re implementing new business strategies, it’s essential to keep reliability and security in mind.

For instance, when moving into the cloud, it’s worth thinking about where your data is going to be stored, and how you’re going to protect that information in the long-term.

Many cloud vendors offer encryption at-rest and in-transit to help with this.

However, you’ll also need your own security standards in place among your employees.

For reliability, the best way to make sure that you don’t lose any crucial data in your transition to the cloud is to create multiple backups.

Copy your critical systems into drives from Microsoft, Google, Amazon Web Services, and other similar storage facilities. You can also set up automated backups for protection in the future too.

5.  Know What Doesn’t Need to Move

Some companies will benefit from moving all of their operations directly into a cloud environment. Other organizations might find that it’s safer to keep some of their solutions on premise.

This is usually the case for businesses that have specific industry regulations to consider.

To make sure you know what needs to stay off the cloud, and what needs to be migrated, do your research before you get started. It’s easy to get carried away during a cloud migration.

Remember that although many cloud applications may be exciting, not every business will need every solution.

For instance, most companies will need email tracking tools in the cloud to help them nurture their leads, but not everyone will need in-depth data analytics and machine learning tools. Examine your options carefully and only choose the tools that solve problems for your business or deliver significant benefits.

6. Manage Each Step of the Process

Finally, remember that moving to the cloud is a big step – and something that can have a substantial positive impact on your business.

However, such a significant change also comes with various risks. It’s not as simple as just flipping a switch and making the change all at once.

You’ll need to learn how to properly manage your new cloud environment and take advantage of the benefits that are available.

Ask questions about your cloud technology and get to know the solutions and services that you’ll be using in the years ahead. This will also make it easier for you to identify and eliminate any single point of failure in your architecture that could lead to unplanned downtime and lost revenue in the future.

More about the author:
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters

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