We are celebrating our ten year anniversary here at ABC Accounting Services. That means we have ten years worth of accounting and business experience to share with the world. Not just that, it also means that we have seen thousands of businesses both fail and succeed in their sectors.
The culmination of this knowledge is a list of 50 top tips for keeping your business afloat based around what we have seen businesses benefit from and what we know is sound accounting advice. They wont all be Earth shattering insights, because a lot of business involves common sense, but there will be some nuggets of wisdom in there. We have also thrown in a few light suggestions to keep you amused along the way.
So enjoy and hopefully we will continue to entertain and educate our followers for another 10 years – cheers!
1. Good bookkeeping from day one not only makes perfect sense but it will also avoid a lot of long nights and accompanying stress further down the line. Get a system in order from the start and then you will always be on top of your paperwork.
2. Talk through big issues with someone else in business. If you run a business on your own another perspective can be crucial when making big decisions. You will not always agree with someone else’s insight but it does make you consider another viewpoint to that of your own.
3. Always make time for clients when they need it, even if it is not convenient for you. The same applies to customer service for commerce companies. It has to be above and beyond what the client and customer expects if you are to build real trust and respect with your target audience.
4. Leading on from point 3, the most valuable form of marketing today is still the same as it has always been – word of mouth. People talk and the only question you need to consider is whether they will be saying good or bad things about you and your business.
5. Don’t run out of tea, coffee, sugar, or milk. Firstly, because it is really bad for morale and secondly because you will look a right dummy if you can’t offer visiting clients a drink!
6. The traditional advice is to keep personal and business completely separate. ABC has more of a family style bond where the boss is the boss but still a colleague, source of support, and when needed, a friend. Do what works for your business but be careful to keep a clear line so that everyone knows where they stand when tough decisions need to be made.
7. Ignore social media at your peril. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are the big four. Instagram and Pinterest are the big movers. It is free marketing that will raise your profile so make sure you know your social media and get your business on there pronto.
8. Making mistakes and learning from them is the most valuable skill that you will learn. No mistake is irreversible unless you do not face it head on and put it right.
9. Keep all receipts from fuel, office supplies, overheads, work clothes, equipment, and hospitality/social functions so your accountant can claim full expenses entitlement against your tax bill .
10. Keep morale high by empowering staff, training them to be the best that they can be, and actively encouraging light relief and social events when the team need them.
11. Write all the important dates on a wall calendar where you cannot miss them: Year End, VAT Return, PAYE, Business Insurance Renewal, Website Hosting Renewal, Employee Birthdays…you get the idea.
12. Buy tons of pens because they have a habit of going missing!
13. Pass on your expertise – make sure people know what you know because it is great for your business, it means that one day you can reduce your hours and share your unrelenting responsibility with others who have followed in your footsteps. It also keep the company ethos strong and in line with what you set out to accomplish.
14. Expand your network so you are connecting with new people over social media and face-to-face on a weekly basis. If you can add one person to your network of contacts each week imagine where you will be in a year and then in five years.
15. Have plan A, plan B, and plan C ready at all times because the first attempt isn’t always the best attempt.
16. Keep reminding yourself why you started your business and ask yourself if it still matches your original objectives and ambitions.
17. Stick post-its on your computer but make sure they are for the most urgent task you have to do at that moment in time. It will help you prioritise critical issues and then once they have been dealt with you can throw the post-it away.
18. Your website is potentially your most valuable asset so make sure it reflects you and your business. Fill it with strong content, make sure it is optimised for searchability, loads fast because visitors have short concentration spans, and is attractive/original.
19. Automated posts, phone systems and digital communication cannot replace the human touch. Make sure your clients/customers know there is a person behind their service and someone who cares, can relate to them, at the end of a phone.
20. National Minimum Wage (NMW) often goes up on the 1st October, it is illegal not to pay employees NMW so keep updated on changes.
21. Give yourself the credit you deserve and acknowledge your success because you should feel proud of your achievements. Otherwise all you will ever feel is stress and responsibility and that is no fun.
22. Following on from point 21, celebrate successes because you are bound to beat yourself up over mistakes – the Universe likes balance.
23. Try not to say no too often, yes opens more doors that lead to more opportunities. Say no and you never know what could have been.
24. Learn to delegate, as much as you want to do everything yourself, you cannot maintain that level of commitment and workload forever.
25. Schedule in personal time. Block out days to spend with the family, trips away, and holidays. If you block out days in your calendar you will respect their importance and make them psychologically harder to put off or rearrange.
26. Connect with local businesses so your can exchange services/products, agree discounts, work on referral arrangements and have a friendly face at networking events to seek out.
27. Only take out a loan if you absolutely have to and make sure you get solid forecasts done to check and check again the feasibility of your business plan.
28. Have a mix of men and women in the office if you can ethically because the opposite sexes tend to have different qualities/strengths. They are not set in stone but generally speaking men and women can often provide different values to the team that compliment each other.
29. Have a dress code and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be suits and skirts, you may prefer a more causal approach. Many technology companies have a casual Friday to boost morale and give everyone a ‘ahhhhhhh’ day. If a policy is in place it is easier to address unsuitable attire issues.
30. Pay it forward by helping the next wave of entrepreneurs or by employing apprentices. Contributing to the future of business in both of these capacities can be financially rewarding in the long-run but it is for the personal satisfaction that most do it.
31. Keep your business account and your personal accounts separate. It makes bookkeeping far easier so if you are doing it yourself it will not take as long. If someone else is doing it that means it wont cost you as much. Sure, you can pay your business account back but will you always remember and keep the appropriate records. So much easier to keep them separate.
32. Call an expert when you are not sure of something. Many experts in pensions, insurance, banking, accounting, the legal sector, and the marketing sector to some extent are happy to offer free advice and may even provide a free consultation. Sometimes you need outside help so make sure you know when to access it.
33. Spend a lot of time interviewing people. Invite them in for trial days and make sure they fit in and you can imagine them being part of your company. Smarts count for a lot but you should also go by your gut – do they feel right? It’s your business so your feelings count.
34. Keep a close eye on in-comings and get a system in place early on that includes chasing outstanding invoices. Too many people sit waiting for the money to appear or forget about half of the invoices they have sent out. That’s your money!
35. Always remember to let your customers know where to go with calls to action. Never let them navigate around your site aimlessly, read your blog, or scan your flyer, without giving them their next destination – a strong pull or hook to something that will tell them more, offering them something better.
36. First impressions are made in seconds – are you giving a good one? Is your team giving a good one?
37. Prepare and practice your introduction for networking events so it comes across smooth and polished and says everything you intended to say.
37. Set expectations that you can exceed. The ultimate goal may take you some time to reach so put in short and medium term goals that give you a motivational push when you need it and a moment of joy and victory when you achieve them.
38. Be passionate and communicate to people with feeling. There is no shame in being excited, energetic and enthusiastic about your business. Too many people fear public reaction to a little confidence and pride but if you are happy then don’t suffocate that. The majority of your audience will actually find that refreshing and endearing.
39. Follow up on leads straight after events. For one thing it is easier because you can remember who you have talked to and are more likely to recall a detail that adds a personal touch to the email/phone call. And they also like immediate contact because it lets them know they were remembered and you are also fresh in their mind.
40. Singing around the office shouldn’t be done on a regular basis but a bit of music and self expression is great for morale and can be highly amusing. Just a thought!
41. Respect everyone that you meet and be courteous to the horrid people you immediately dislike. Why? Because you never know when you might need them or who they may know/be connected to.
42. Only sell what you would buy yourself. Only offer a service that you would be happy with yourself. It is a simple mantra but if everyone did it then we wouldn’t have call centers in countries overseas containing employees that customers just cannot understand. We wouldn’t be able to buy poor quality clothes that only last three washes or vehicles that break down around the corner from the garage!
43. Manage your email by creating sub-folders so that you can filter emails into dedicated areas for each client/staff member/subscription/service provider. You can also have an ‘important’ folder to make prioritising your emails far simpler. Then just make sure you stay on top of them.
44. Rich Tea do make great dunkers but they taste a lot like cardboard. Hobnobs, chocolate digestives, custard creams and ginger biscuits are preferable. Offering clients a cuppa or a coffee is essential, offering them a biscuit is just plain nice (also good dunkers)!
45. Appreciate and encourage staff to motivate them. Pulling them up on mistakes is sometimes necessary but if you smile and provide a solution and incentive to revise and refine that solution then you can turn a negative into a positive. Never leave a conversation on a negative unless the mistake was business or life threatening.
46. Step out of your comfort zone because that is usually where opportunities await you. Everyone would be successful if it didn’t take a few brave steps into the unknown. Be prepared to try new things, trust new ideas and embrace change.
47. Negotiate energetically on price and never take the first quote without a little bartering. You never know what you might save and it isn’t cheeky or rude it is just business.
48. Measure everything and use that data to drive decisions so you always have solid facts to reinforce the direction your business is taking. It will also make you analyse decisions with logic rather than feeling.
49. Budget for tax. Budget for VAT. You will have to pay them both whether you ignore them right up to the deadline or not so it makes sense to set money aside and be ready for them.
50. Do not give up. Most people who are self-employed go through tough patches where they are penniless, disheartened, and beginning to doubt their future. The ones that survive grit their teeth and push on hard. They drag themselves into tomorrow and manage one day at a time until they start smiling again. Not giving up is the core skill embedded in most business owners.
As with any advice this is just what ABC Accounting Services Director and team would advise based on their experiences. Everyone is different and you have to learn to navigate your own path and learn from your own experiences. If Ginger Nuts are not your thing then buy in Bourbons. Follow your gut but more importantly follow the figures and continually measure your success against key performance indicators (KPIs).
The very best of luck and if you want to discuss your ambitions or issues with someone then we offer a half hour free consultation so just give us a call: 01427 613613.