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7 Secrets for Growing Your New Frugal Business

 

[7 Secrets
for Growing Your New] Frugal Business

Starting a new business is exciting – but also scary. Like a roller coaster ride. Some days, things go well, and other days, it feels like you are never going to get going. You’re stuck at the bottom of the roller coaster with no way to go up.

Want to get off the business roller-coaster? Consider the concept of having a Frugal Business.

“But how will being frugal help me?” you ask. Good question.

I’m not talking about just being frugal (saving money, for example). I’m talking about a different way of running your business.

Having a Frugal Business is a new way of thinking about your business.

Having a Frugal Business involves

An initial commitment to doing what it takes to create or change the basics of your business to the Frugal Business Principles – working smart, staying simple, and saving money.

A day-to-day continuing commitment to using the Frugal Business Secrets to make your business grow faster and to make it more secure.

I have 7 Secrets to share with you. They will give you a jump start on your Frugal Business and get you ready for more and more Secrets as we go along.

At the end of each Secret, I have some specific NEXT STEPS you can take to begin working on your Frugal Business. You may have some ideas of your own, and there will be space to make notes on these follow-up ideas.

7 Secrets for Growing Your New Frugal Business: Start Simple. Work Smart. Save Money

Published by The Larkin Press
©2016 by Jean Wilson Murray
ISBN: 978-0-9912561-6-7

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, stored in an information retrieval system, or used in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher.

“This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher and author are not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, seek the services of a competent professional.” – from a Declaration of Principles, jointly adopted by a committee of the American Bar Association and a committee of publishers

Because the internet is ever-changing, links and websites in this book may have changed. The author and publisher make no representations to the current accuracy of the web information shared.

A disclosure about links in this book: I am not an affiliate of anyone, so links to websites are for your information only. With one exception: I occasionally link to my page on The Balance, on which I discuss topics relating to business laws, business startup, business legal forms, and business taxes. I do receive a small amount for page views. I think you will find them to have helpful information for your business. These links are in italics, so you can recognize them easily.

I often discuss specific examples of products, but you can find similar products online. I’m not an affiliate of any of these companies, so you’re just getting my opinion. In addition, I am not guaranteeing anything about the usefulness or accuracy of the information on these sites.

About Me

I’ve been working at this small business thing for more than 35 years. Actually, as far back as 1974 I was thinking about small business. I did my first business plan as my thesis project for my MBA on “Grandma’s Day Care.” As part of my requirements, I talked to small business owners and tried to help them with their problems. Some of what I learned during that time has stayed with me over the years.

I have taught small business courses since 1982 at several business schools and to professionals at a chiropractic school. (Yes, chiropractors have to run businesses.) I learned so much talking to all these eager, budding entrepreneurs, as they started their businesses. You might say it’s “educating the educator.”

When I retired from teaching in 2008, I had thousands of stories to tell, of successes and failures, and of lessons learned. So many more lessons than I would have learned if I had just learned them myself. I’ve kept memories of all those small business stories. You’ll be reading about some of them in this book.

People ask me how I know this stuff. I tell them I went to school to learn about how to run a small business. In addition to my MBA and my PhD, I went to HKU. Never heard of it? It’s Hard Knocks University. Believe me, it’s the toughest school I’ve ever attended. I continue to study at HKU and most of the Secrets I’m sharing with you come from this prestigious place of learning.

Much of what I’ve learned at HKU is what NOT to do when starting and running a small business. It’s always best to get the “what not to do” stuff out of the way so you can focus on “what to do.”

My goal with this book is to help you get through the process of starting and growing your FRUGAL BUSINESS without having to spend so much time at HKU.

If you are ready to solve your business money problems by discovering the Secrets to growing a successful new FRUGAL BUSINESS, I’m eager to tell you!

 

Secret #1 – Start the Way You Want to Go: Set up Rules of Thumb

As you start your business, think about how you want to do things to make your Frugal Business a success. Then start doing them – right from the beginning.

It’s easier to start tough and lighten up later than to start easy and have to toughen up later.

Set priorities for spending. Create a list of must-have items, and another list of nice-to-have items, and work your way down the must-have list as you have the money.

Start out pricing high. It’s a costly mistake to price too low when you are just starting your business. I see it all the time, and I’m guilty of it myself.

You’re afraid to lose business if you price too low, right? But if you create the perception of value, and if you are within the range of rates others are charging, you don’t have to work for too little. It’s always easier to lower prices than it is to raise them.

Start with high expectations for employees. Expect a lot from people you hire (that includes freelancers), and let them go quickly. Here’s an example:

 

Carol Cosgrove (a friend; not her real name) has a dog-walking business. She hired Karlo as a dog walker to take on some of the walking jobs she didn’t have time for. She said, “I want you at the client’s door 5 minutes early. EVERY TIME. I tell my customers that you will be 5 minute early, and they have to plan on that. If you are late just once, I will have to fire you.”

Karlo was five minutes early the first day, but he was 7 minutes late the second time, and the client complained that she was late for work. So Carol fired Karlo. Does this sound tough? She could have given him another chance, but she didn’t want to have to deal with lateness. Carol knew she had to start out the way she wanted to go.

Why is starting the way you want to go so important? Well, it’s all about starting with good habits. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says it’s very difficult to change a habit. It’s easier to establish good habits from the beginning.

What if you already have a business and have lots of bad habits? It will take some doing, but you can replace the bad habit with a better one. It’s certainly worth the effort to get back to where you need to be.

Be thoughtful about how you want to do business. I’m not saying you have to have RULES or POLICIES, just ways of working; let’s call them “Rules of Thumb.” The first time something comes up that could be a problem if it isn’t handled correctly, stop and decide how it should be dealt with each time.

What are Rules of Thumb?

Rules of thumb are guiding principles, based on experience or practice. Rules of thumb are ways of doing things.

The phrase “Rule of Thumb,” is very old, going back to the 17th century, and it’s found in many languages and cultures. It’s believed to come from the use of the thumb as a measuring device, for carpenters measuring wood or farmers deterring how deep to plant seeds.

One of the most frugal things you can do in your business is to find and write down ways of doing things. This sounds like it would take a lot of time, but I’ll show you in a minute how easy it is.

Why Rules of Thumb Are Important to a Frugal Business

Rules of thumb help us remember. We forget things. If you do a certain task a certain way once and it works, write it down. You may say, “I’ll remember it later,” but often you don’t. You’re busy with so many tasks that it’s easy to forget.

For all the little things I do on the computer, I have Rules of Thumb. Having these save me time, so I don’t have to figure out how to do it all over again. Rules of Thumb are especially good for those tasks that we don’t do very often, but that are important.

For example, if you must periodically deal with a payroll issue, knowing how to get into the payroll system and do a manual override can save you from having to figure out the process or having to call (and pay) someone to do it for you

Rules of thumb save time. Finding an efficient way to do a specific task, and writing down the steps, saves time. If several people are doing the task, all should do it the same way, so everyone can save time. (And we know that time is money.)

Rules of thumb help in times of change. Rules of Thumb are great to have when someone is sick or on vacation or your key employee quits suddenly. Giving someone else the information.

Rules of thumb make your business scalable. Scalable is the hot new word on the web. It means that as your business grows you can handle the increased volume of orders, customers, and workload easily. If you have Rules of Thumb, you can use them when new employees or freelancers are added, and they save time when you add new customers and vendors. As your business grows, you’ll find Rules of Thumb more and more valuable.

Rules of Thumb are for Every Job or Process

Anyone who works for you should be trained to suggest Rules of Thumb for the work they do. I’m talking the major parts of their work, but also routines and processes that occur frequently. Work on the 80/20 principle here: Take the most important tasks and do those first, then do other tasks or processes as you think of them or have time.

How to Create Rules of Thumb

Find an easy way to take notes as you work. It must be easy and I work mostly on the computer, so I use Evernote. It’s always open to my “Rules of Thumb” pages, and jot down a note when I do something.

If you aren’t in the office, you could use a voice note app on your phone or tablet to record your thought. Then later you can transfer these voice notes. Again, I send them by email to Evernote (you can have your own email address on this app). Keep your notes in categories or just record each one with a title so you can find it quickly.

Rules of Thumb Must Be Shared

Find a way to share Rules of Thumb with others. I worked as a consultant to a dental office and helped the office manager create some rules of thumb for the important tasks for her job. We included how to schedule an appointment, take payment, and how to open and close the office.

She wrote down the processes in step-by-step format, but you don’t need to be that formal. When we had reviewed them, she created laminated sheets and put them in a binder, so anyone working at the front desk could quickly refer to them.

You can share Rules of Thumb on Evernote or other apps, if you want to do it online, or use a binder and put notes in it if you have a small office.

Rules of Thumb Are Fluid

If you are working on a problem, and you find a better way of doing things, or your team comes up with a new idea doing something, change it. Apps change, jobs change, everything changes all the time.

Starting the way you want to go will avoid the costs in time and money of wrong turns and misunderstandings, contributing to the success of your Frugal Business. And creating and using rules of thumb will save you both time and money in your Frugal Business.

NOTES:

As you read this first Secret, maybe some possible rules of thumb came to your mind. Take a few minutes and record your thoughts.

Secret #2: Start simple and build: Use the KISS principle.

Starting simple is an important part of beginning your business. Starting simple will keep you focused and make it easier for you not to get lost in the craziness. Of course, starting simple is starting frugal. And the KISS principle (keep it short and simple, in my version) is a great way to be frugal in your business.

Evaluate each decision and ask “Is this the simplest possible way to start?”

When I started my bookkeeping business, Murray Business Solutions LLC, I knew I needed a phone to talk to both local customers and online clients. I evaluated possible phone systems, and then waited until I was really ready to have customers before I bought one. I knew I wanted just a cell phone, but I didn’t want to pay a lot of money for the phone or for phone calls.

I did my research and found an inexpensive Android phone that had pay-as-you-go service, so I was buying minutes and only paying for the minutes I needed. I’m perfectly happy with this simple solution for now.

Finding a location for your business is another opportunity to be simple. You don’t need the biggest and fanciest office or retail location. If your business is making things, find the smallest possible place.

Commercial real estate people love to show you the biggest and best place for your business, assuring you that you will attract more customers (not necessarily true) and that you will be able to “grow into it.” That might work with children’s clothing, but it’s not a good business decision.

Don’t pay more for your location than you can afford right now. You can always move when you outgrow your place.

Maybe you can work from home forever. (See Secret #6.) Or find a small location and stay there.

A local pizza place is in a tiny “hole in the wall” location here in Florida. It’s been there for many years. It’s busy every weeknight, with long lines on weekends. Every time we go in, my friend Darrell says, “Why don’t they expand?”

What he forgets is that the business isn’t busy at all for lunches and all those other off-times, and during the off-season (most of the summer) it’s pretty quiet. The owners have to pay the rent even when no one is coming in or ordering pizza.

 

If they expanded, the pizza place would (a) lose that cozy feeling the clients love, and (b) have to worry about paying the rent at slow times and summers. They have kept it simple on purpose.

Start with a Simple Business Structure

New business owners are prey to lots of advice. Some of it is well-meaning, some self-serving. Much advice comes to a confused new business owner who wonders about the best business type. A lot of this advice comes from the internet, where pseudo-experts are waiting to take your money.

Some of it comes from professionals, who either (a) don’t know what they think they know, or (b) are going to tell you to do something that’s more complicated than you need, so they can get more money for helping you.

The business acronyms are confusing: C corporation, S corporation, LLC, LLP, PC, etc. You can do a lot of reading about business legal types, and you can get really mixed up. If you ask an attorney, they will (almost) always tell you to incorporate. I talked to an attorney a few years ago who said, “Attorneys tell people to incorporate because (a) it brings them (the attorney) more money to do all the tasks needed to set up a corporation, and (b) many attorneys don’t understand limited liability companies (LLC’s).

You don’t have to select a business type immediately. As long as you get a business license from your locality (city or county) and you can get a business bank account, you are in business.

I want to be really clear here:

1. I am NOT telling you NOT to get an attorney. You will need one pretty quickly. In fact, I do advise you to get an attorney at the beginning. But don’t get talked into a complicated business structure at the beginning if you don’t need one.

2. There may be very legitimate reasons to have a formal business structure at the start of your business. One reason might be a product that has some liability associated with it. For example, if you want to sell a product that could cause people to get sick or injured, you might want to limit your personal liability by forming a corporation. You may be in a position to make a good profit the first year, in which case you might want to form an S corporation.

Unless you need to have a complex business structure for a good reason, start simple. You can always make things more complex later.

Use the KISS Principle in Buying

A good example is a book I recently bought for a friend. This book was by Dave Ramsey, who advocates frugality. Along with the book was an offer for a “Deluxe Executive Daily Money Planner.” Really?! In a book about not spending money on things you don’t need?!?

I can make a simple daily money planner by taking a cheap spiral notebook and marking pages with categories for business expenses, or, even better, using the tried-and-true envelope system.

I’ll bet the people who bought that deluxe planner never used it for more than three months, max. Only the first few pages of the planner were filled in, which tells me the person didn’t even finish the first chapter.

Ask yourself this question before you buy: How would this thing I want directly

Improve sales, or

Increase efficiency, or

Cut expenses?

If it doesn’t do one of those three things, don’t buy it.

Keeping things simple in your decisions and purchases as you start can save you money and make your Frugal Business grow.

NOTES:

Now’s the time to look at your start-up list and consider whether you can do these things more simply. What can you take off your “to buy” list? Keep cutting until you get to the essentials. Find several things you can delay or get rid of. Jot down your thoughts here before you move on to the next Secret.

 

Secret #3 – Stay Focused

Getting stuck in Bright Shiny Objects (BSO’s), aka, distractions, as you start your business is a top time-waster.

I was doing research on one of the Secrets for my new print book, and I went to Tim Fisher’s awesome website (PC Support at About.com) for some tips to share. I found several articles about doing online backups. Then I saw an article about Tim’s favorite online backup system, then, of course, I went to the site (Backblaze.com), and …

Well, let’s just say it’s was an hour before I got back to my writing.

I promised myself I would never say this, but I’m breaking my promise for this Secret: DO AS I SAY, and NOT AS I DO.

Internal and External Distractions

In my analysis of why we find ourselves caught up in distractions, I have come up with two different kinds: internal and external.

Here’s what I mean by internal distractions: They are related to the work we are doing. When I am writing, I am compelled to stop and fix grammar, adjust margins, underline and bold and cut and paste. I’ve never learned how to just write and make it pretty later.

When you are working on your business, you’ll find yourself thinking about lots of things you should be doing. Many of them are two-minute fixes, and you think: Hey, I can do that quickly and get back to what I was doing. But we all know how two minutes can turn into an hour. Those are internal distractions.

My external distractions come in two varieties: internet and food. I have to get up and walk around every hour or so, and I find that I end up eating while I’m up. And, of course, there are always things to check on the Internet.

Was that thunder? Wonder if it’s raining? I better check my weather app. Yes, I could go outside and look at the sky, but it’s easier to look on the web. And then read the news story scrolling across the top of the page, and …

I originally titled this Secret “Avoid BSO’s,” but I have come to realize that it’s impossible to avoid them, so we need to learn how to manage these distractions that sap our productivity.

Distraction is built into our lives in the 21st century. We live in an age of distractions. We have distracting devices on us all the time and Google is making us stupid. [+ DON’T CLICK ON THIS LINK!+] It’s a trick! It will take you to a fascinating article about how Google is making us stupid, but don’t give in.

You get the idea. So, how to manage those BSO’s? Some tips that have been helpful to me:

Make a note. While I was writing this section, I made a note to check out Backblaze for online backup, check to see if I have the Dirty Dancing music on my iTunes (“I Had the Time of My Life” was in my head), and I made another note to find something about how to stop a puppy from biting.

Minimize computer windows. I have several different windows I work from. One is for what I’m writing now, and another is for personal stuff, and third is for some research I’m doing. I minimize everything except the window I need to focus on. It seems to help a little not to see what else I could be doing or if I have email.

Get up and walk around. Break that chain of BSO’s and come back refreshed. I set a timer for when I can get up, and another timer when it’s time to come back to work.

Play background music to help with focus. I like [email protected] (that’s focusatwill.com). It’s great background music and it keeps going to help me think.

Reward yourself. Set a timer (I prefer a half hour when I’m writing.) When the timer goes off you can take a short break (10 minutes usually for me). In that time, do those little things you wrote on your list. You’ll feel virtuous and satisfied and after a while, you won’t even need to set a timer. You will get into the habit of making quick notes and taking care of them during breaks.

The Best Way to Keep Focused

Every morning, I write down one or two things I must accomplish that will be KEY next steps to getting me to my goal. Having these in front of me helps me get rid of the distractions. If I accomplish those, I can add new ones for the day, or I can reward myself by working on some of those notes I made.

Try this for a week and I think you’ll find it becomes a habit.

Manage BSO’s to keep your time focused, to help you work smarter on your Frugal Business.

NOTES:

As you read this Secret, make yourself a commitment to one thing you can do to minimize the distractions. One other tip that has worked for me is to set a timer for 30 minutes. I work during that time, and if something comes into my mind, I briefly stop to jot it down, then I go right back to work. At the end of the time, I get up and stretch and take a few minutes to do some of the things on my list.

What do you think would be the most effective thing you could do to minimize BSO’s?

 

Secret #4 Slow Down the Start

There are two kinds of people when it comes to starting something or planning a big event, like a wedding or a trip, or a business startup.

The “Type A” people make A BIG TASK LIST, subcategorized into financial, marketing, hiring, location, and more. They create schedules and they follow them scrupulously, worrying if they don’t mark off the next item on their big task list.

The “Type B” people run around doing A LOT THINGS at the same time, as they think of them. They don’t worry about lists; they just seem to run from one thing to another

Both types get to the same place, in their own way. So, I’m not telling you that you have to work toward your Frugal Business in one specific way. What I’m going to suggest is this:

Don’t try to do everything at once. Whether you are Type A or Type B, start working towards the day you open your Frugal Business, or start working on a specific goal. Break down the tasks into small chunks. Then take each task as it comes.

Do at least one task a day toward your startup or other business goal.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be as simple as making a phone call or finding out a piece of information. If you want to do more, do three tasks a day, but one a day will work.

You don’t have to take a lot of big steps every day. I know you are in a hurry, but you have a home and a life, and forgetting about them while you start your business won’t help you get there any faster.

When I started on my PhD, I had three teenagers and was a single parent. I could work at home on research papers, so I had to be very disciplined in order to finish in a reasonable amount of time.

I enrolled and started working on the first project. Some days I did just one small task, like reading a couple of journal articles. Some days I did nothing except print out papers to read, or go to the library to pick up a book I had ordered. My vacations were spent writing papers (big tasks on those days). Some weeks I did no big things, but I managed to do something small almost every day.

The goal was on my mind every day, but I took it one day at a time, at least one task every day.

I did what I could toward my goal when I could every day. And I received my degree in three years, about average.

Don’t Be in a Hurry to Get Customers

That sounds strange, but the last thing you want when you are starting a business is too many customers. If you don’t have your processes down, and all the details mastered, you can have frustrated customers. Once lost, they may never return.

In his book The Dip, Seth Godin relates a conversation he had with Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google. Brin said as they worked on Google in the beginning, they realized they were getting better every day, and they didn’t want too many people to try it too soon. “°ur feeling was that the later you tried it, the better it was for us because we’d make a better impression…. So, we were never in a big hurry to get you to use it today. Tomorrow would be better.”

What a great thought! As you work on your new business, struggling to make it all come together, think, “tomorrow would be better.” This phrase can keep you from pulling the trigger on your website, your sales pitch, your product development, until it’s almost as good as you can make it.

The old saying about “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” is incomplete. It should be “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step and continues with ten thousand.”

Taking it slowly as you work toward the opening of your business will assure that you don’t burn out and will promote the success of your Frugal Business.

NOTES:

Why rush? Do as much as you can each day to start or grow your business, then relax. If some days you get only one task done, that’s okay. It’s a step closer to the goal. Take a few minutes and think about making your business better as you go, and waiting until it’s “better” to start looking for customers.

Secret #5: Get a team of experts

Everyone needs help. Don’t try to be the Lone Ranger here. Every successful entrepreneur has had advisors, mentors, team members to help. These people should be experts – people with knowledge and experience in the business you will be starting. You’ll need two kinds of experts:

Experts to give you the benefit of their experience as advisors and mentors. These people can be informal advisors or they can be part of your board of directors.

Experts to help you do the tasks you can’t or shouldn’t be doing.

Some tips for selecting advisors and mentors:

Select people for expertise, not for friendship. You might want friends to help you, but don’t count on them as experts. Unless they truly are.

Select a range of experts. Include a CPA or tax professional who is knowledgeable about your type of business. Add an attorney and a banker. Include a business person who is in your field.

Include someone who is good at selling, to help you craft sales and marketing projects and do one-on-one promotion of your business.

Keep your core group small. The more people, the more opinions, the more meetings, the more time wasted.

The Kind of Expertise You Need

You will need help getting your business started. Find a core group of advisors to give you their expert advice and time. Specifically, you will need:

A CPA or accounting/tax advisor

A general attorney

A banker

An insurance agent

Put the CPA and attorney on your board of directors or advisory team, and let them help you on a regular basis. You will certainly have to pay them, unless one is your sister-in-law, but it’s worth it to get top quality advice.

Get a great team of experts to help you grow your Frugal Business faster and better.

Secret #6 – Harness the power of the internet

In this Secret, you’ll learn some ways you can use the power of the internet to be more frugal in your new business.

Work from Home

Working from home is a huge money-saver as you start your business. If you must see clients or customers, get the smallest office you can.

I run my bookkeeping business from my home. I use both QuickBooks Online and desktop versions, and for local clients I go to their offices once a month to pick up records. For online clients, it doesn’t matter where I am.

Recently I talked to a non-profit organization in the San Francisco Bay area. They run their organization completely online. All of them work from home, communicating virtually. Their non-profit hires instructors to teach self-defense classes. They rent space for the classes, but they don’t have any need for a brick-and-mortar business office.

They use apps like Skype to keep in touch, and they share files and to-do lists with Trello. They interview prospective instructors by Skype and they sign up members with a membership app that also handles their payments.

Think about it: What could you do in an office that you couldn’t do from home?

With all the tools we have today to enable us to work online, we may never need to have an office again!

Working exclusively online saves money on renting an office, paying utilities, and dealing with drop-ins who waste your time.

Getting Information on Business Startup

Many of your non-legal business startup questions can be answered by online forums. Here are some places where you can ask questions:

*
p<>{color:#1a1a1a;}. Entrepreneur.com has several ASK ENTREPRENEUR forums, including business startup, human resources, legal basics for startup, and marketing.

*
p<>{color:#1a1a1a;}. SCORE (it was formerly called the “Service Corps of Retired Executives”) is a nonprofit associated with the Small Business Administration. They have local chapters with advisors to help you with your business startup questions. Find your local SCORE office and make an appointment.

*
p<>{color:#1a1a1a;}. Ask Susan. Susan Ward, one of my colleagues at TheBalance(she writes about Small Business in Canada[+)+], has been writing about small business topics for many years. You can email her with questions about your business startup.

*
p<>{color:#1a1a1a;}. RocketLawyer (an online legal service) allows you to ask a question of a real lawyer. I haven’t tried it but it might be worth asking.

*
p<>{color:#1a1a1a;}. Justia is a general “ask a lawyer” site.

*
p<>{color:#1a1a1a;}. If you are on LinkedIn, you can join a group and ask questions.

Business Cards, Brochures, and Reports Online

I had a discussion with a local printer recently about the quality of printing at a bricks-and-mortar printer compared to an online printer. The local printer (a franchisee, by the way) said the quality of paper for online business cards was not as good.

I disagree. I’ve ordered business cards online and I found the process easy and the cards just as good. They take about the same amount of time, and they are a little less expensive than a local print shop.

Yes, you don’t get to preview the paper online, but you could go to an office supply store and check out paper samples.

Get Free Stuff Online

Getting free stuff from the internet breaks the rule of TANSTAAFL (you know, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”). Kind of. Many free apps have limitations, but if you don’t need all the extras, they are great.

I use Hootsuite for scheduling blog posts for my various blogs. The basic version is free and it works just fine. For a while I decided I needed the Pro version ($120 a year!) to add more accounts and more analytics. After a while, I decided I could get the information I needed from Google Analytics (free), so I went back the free version.

Always try the free version of an app or website first. In most cases, you will have to enter a credit card, so make sure to shut it off during the free period.

Here is some other free stuff from the internet for your Frugal Business:

Use a free email newsletter app. Attracting and keeping a group of followers is a key to marketing. Whatever kind of business you have. Everyone has an email newsletter these days, and they have been proven to work.

I’ve used paid email newsletter services and free ones, and the free services are really quite good. Mailchimp is a good example, but I’ve used several.

Use a free online business accounting system. I never thought I would say this, but I’m beginning to think that free online business accounting services have a place in the world of bookkeeping. These apps, like Waveapp.com, are best for startups of simple, one-person services businesses. They don’t work as well for businesses with (a) employees, (b) inventory, or © complex legal structures with lots of owners.

If you want to do payroll, you can get an app that integrates with your accounting system. If you want to manage inventory, you get an app. This is a more complex subject than some of the others in this book.

Keep track of travel expenses using free apps. Everlance allows me to keep track of mileage as I’m driving for business purposes. It will automatically track the mileage then I can decide if those are business miles or personal ones (you can’t deduct personal mileage expenses, including commuting). It sends me a monthly total that I can add to my bookkeeping notes.

Keep track of your billable time using free apps like Hours. I use this to keep track of hours worked for my bookkeeping clients. I just go to today, click on the client name, and start. When I’m done working, I click “stop.” That’s about it. Then I gather reports, and bill clients. As I write, this app is free. It may not be forever. But it won’t break your budget either.

As I do more accounting work online, I’ve been using Toggl, which includes a timer you can set to record your time. It integrates with QuickBooks Online, so I can use it to bill clients.

Sign up for free previews. Many internet marketers will give you something free to get your email address – and sign you up for their email newsletter, of course. These free publications have lots of great information.

I save them on Evernote and read them during “reading” time (to avoid BSO’s!). If the newsletter is valuable, I keep getting it, but most of the time I cancel the newsletter. Don’t feel you have to keep getting emails from people. Cut them off quickly.

Create your own forms. You can find many free forms online to use for your business. Your accounting software company should have forms and business reports you can modify and use. If you own a copy of Microsoft Word, you can probably find form templates. Actually, since most everything is paperless, paper forms are going the way of the horse and buggy. With electronic signatures and fillable PDF forms, it’s easy to get signatures. I have used Docusign services for signatures. You pay monthly, or by the year for a lower rate.

Tips for Evaluating Free Stuff

Check the quality of their support. Support is a deal-breaker for me. If the question is at all technical, email and chat support are worthless. I want to be able to talk to someone on the phone. If you have a free app or plug-in, you may get little support, or it may come by email several days later. If I am seriously considering a service, I try out their chat or email to see how long it takes them to respond.

Make sure you can upgrade easily. I worked with a bookkeeping client who used QuickBooks Self-employed. He wanted to upgrade to QuickBooks Online, but we found out that we would have to either spend a huge amount of time transferring the files (First to a desktop version then to QBO), or start from scratch. Because he had only been in business for a year, we set his business up from the first of the year and I created the past year in by hand.

Save Money on Online Marketing and Design

Most businesses these days use the web for marketing, including selling, social media, websites, and maybe email newsletters. Let’s look at some ways you can save money and work smarter online.

Use Facebook to blog instead of paying for a blog service. I just ran across this idea. It has received mixed reviews, so I’m presenting it here as a no-cost alternative to traditional blogging. It’s called Facebook Notes. It’s a little tricky to figure out, so you might want to look at the Notes page in Facebook’s help center. I will say this seems to be more for personal notes, but it could work just as well for business blogging. Be careful about “double blogging,” by copying your regular blog posts onto notes. Google’s algorithms don’t like duplicate content.

Use free photo sources. If you google “free images,” you will find lots of place that say they have free photos. Unfortunately, many of these sources have only a limited number of free photos or they really mean “royalty free” photos (like istockphoto, which is owned by Getty Images). I use istockphoto, but I pay for the images. It’s relatively inexpensive, especially if you get the packages.

Use free online design services. I love to create logos, sayings, and custom images for my blogs. The resource I use now is Canva. Here’s how it works: I want to create an image for a blog post about printing. I go to Canva and use one of my previous designs for an image as a template. That way, I have the same background and font I used before, which saves a lot of time. I find a new image.

Canva has many free images, but they also have more that cost only $1. What a deal! I add the image, new text, and save the design. Then I can download it for the web and away I go. These designs on Canva are only for one-time use. Like, one blog post one time. But that’s a great price – free or $1! You can also buy an extended license.

Make business calls online – mostly free. Since we are all going to be working virtually in the future, having a way to communicate face to face is essential. For one-on-one business calls, I FaceTime or Skype, but for business meetings there are free conference calling services, like freeconferencecall.com or gotomeeting.com.

There are two parts to these services – the conferencing service and the phone call charges. Each services allows you to use them free, but they each have a premium level if you want a higher level of service. When you are evaluating online conference services, look at:

How many users can you have on a conference call?

How many calls do you expect to make a month?

Can you access the service on your smartphone (Android or iOS) or tablet/iPad?

Does the service have a toll-free line?

Can you record calls?

How reliable is the service? Check reviews and try it out internally before you go live with 100 listeners!

Go Paperless

I hate paper! I used to have tons of pieces of paper around. But I have vowed to run my business with a minimum of paper involved.

Here’s why I hate paper:

Paper is messy. Especially on your desk.

I can never find that piece of paper when I need it.

Who needs big clunky file cabinets these days?

I work on multiple devices – two cell phones (business and personal), an iPad, and two computers (again, work and personal). I can’t carry paper around from one to another.

Paper isn’t secure. Since I’m working at home, I don’t worry too much about security, because there’s no one else around to see it. But paper doesn’t work if you are in your office at your business. So I have found online alternatives.

Yes, I know paper kills trees.

Keep Notes Online

I have been using Evernote for several years and I love it. When I find something online that I want to save, I clip it and save it. I don’t bother with folders. I save everything to “All to Do” and use tags if I want to search for something that isn’t intuitive.

When I have documents I want to keep or notes I want to make about something, I create a Note and save it.

Just to give you an idea of the range of what I save, in the past 48 hours I saved:

An article about a cure for jet lag that someone had shared on Facebook

A list of sites in Great Britain related to Shakespeare (I tagged this page “England trip”)

Several articles on formatting a book for Kindle. I shared this information with my writer’s assistant, Eileen Behr.

Quotes on “simplicity” for an article I’m writing, for this book, and for my personal blog Finding Your Green.

Places to search for bookkeeping jobs for another business I own (Murray Business Solutions), in which I do bookkeeping and business startup help)

An article about how to use ActiveCampaign (for email marketing)

Information about my new business smart phone.

(This might say something about my inability to avoid distractions.)

Save Passwords Online

What do you do with all your passwords? I have over 200 business and personal passwords. Impossible to keep track of.

I used to keep passwords in a notebook. Bad idea, I know. Now I use LastPass. My ex-husband is the ultimate security freak, and he did a lot of studying and found that these password sites are pretty secure. There’s no such thing as completely secure —even the NSA and the IRS get hacked — but it’s close. So I trust him.

Plan Work Online

I ran across Workflowy a while back. While I dislike the name, I love the concept. Some users have said they have actually planned out startups on Workflowy. I can see what they mean. This app is basically an outlining system, which sounds too simple, but it works.

Save Documents Online

For documents I’m working on, I use Dropbox. I write in Scrivener and save all of the files in Dropbox. I can save up to 5 GB free, and I’ve never used more than that.

Working from home and online saves you time and makes your work life paper-free. It’s a great way to streamline your Frugal Business work.

NOTES:

Did you get a great idea while reading this section? Is there something you want to try? Make a note of it here. Evaluate before you buy, then save money and time by using the internet.

Secret #7: Forget mission statements, vision statements, goals, and strategic planning.

Being older has its advantages. Part of what I learned at HKU (Hard Knocks University) is this: There is nothing in a business that is such a waste of time, energy, and money as trying to create and implement a long-range strategic plan.

I have worked in seven different organizations (for-profit businesses and not-for-profit colleges) over the years, not counting my own businesses. I’ve seen businesses get really bogged down in the mission/vision/long-range planning/ strategic planning/goal setting stuff. I’ve never seen a single instance in which this process made any difference to the business.

A while back, all the employees of a business school where I taught were sent on two buses to another city about an hour away. Classes were cancelled for the day, and the staff joined us on the buses to meet with the faculty and staff of a sister college. There, we were fed and treated to (I use the term loosely) presentations and discussion sessions to help us create a long-term strategic plan for the organization.

About a month later, we endured another meeting (no bus, no food this time) at which the new long-range strategic plan was presented. Bells and whistles, dogs and ponies all around.

And then, nothing. The college was trying to get regional accreditation, and they needed to have a long-range plan to show the accreditation team who were coming for a visit. Everyone had to be able to tell the accrediting people that they had participated in the creation of this plan.

A year after, no one remembered a word, and no one cared. This wonderful plan had no meaning to the success of the business.

I’ve written about this stuff, taught it to students in classrooms and adults in small business seminars, and never once has anyone ever said, “That was a huge help to me in my business, Dr. Jean. Thanks so much!” Proves my point.

From a Frugal Business perspective, the other issue I have with all this planning is that it takes valuable time and money away from your core business responsibilities. Sure, it’s fun to take your employees and have a day together to talk about big lofty goals, missions, and visions. But find a better purpose for this recreation than doing strategic planning.

Create a short-term business plan instead

I have helped many students and small business owners create business plans to take to a bank to get money for startup or expansion of their business. Putting together such a plan is extremely worthwhile, not only to get money, but as a thinking process for the business owner.

A true comprehensive business plan, done right, helps the business owner think about the important stuff, like:

Where the business will be located

Who the owners and managers and employees will be (over the first few years)

What the business will be selling

How the products and services will be promoted

How the business will deal with money and finances

How the business will be managed and who will manage it

How the business will operate day to day.

The right kind of business planning

Just to be clear, I’m not against business planning, but it should be:

Short-term, for the immediate future.

Focused on the essentials: your primary product or service, marketing and promoting it so people will buy, and operating your business and finances to support your primary purpose.

I also believe business planning should be top-down, not bottom up. If you ask your employees what they want, or the vision they have for your business, it’s like asking your children what they want to do at Disney World. The response you get won’t be what you want or need, it will be what they want. Who’s running this business, anyway?

You’re the owner of your business. Take ownership and make the tough decisions, make the plans. I guarantee you’ll get the blame if your business doesn’t succeed. You might as well take charge and get the credit when it DOES succeed.

Your ability to do short-term focused planning can lead your Frugal Business to success.

NOTES: Want to get started on a business plan? Send me an email and I’ll send you a brief overview template to get you going.

So there we are – your first 7 Frugal Business Secrets.

There are actually 50 Secrets – and more! – to help you start and grow your Frugal Business.

To give you more information, I want to go back up to the beginning to talk about the basic Principles of a Frugal Business.

If you received this book by signing up for the Frugal Business Secrets newsletter, you should be receiving that information in a series of emails. You’ll learn:

The three essentials of a Frugal Business

How to make better business decisions

How to simplify your business spending

Why time is money, how to value your time and do only the most important tasks,

And more…

Want to join the Previewer team? Previewers receive all my upcoming books at no cost, before the books are sold online.

Sign up here for the Preview team.

If you want to contact me directly, I would love to hear from you! Email me at [email protected] . Thanks for reading!

Here’s to the Super Success of your New Frugal Business!

~ Jean

www.frugalbusinesssecrets.com 2016 Jean Wilson Murray


7 Secrets for Growing Your New Frugal Business

  • Author: Jean Wilson Murray
  • Published: 2016-09-29 22:35:10
  • Words: 8681
7 Secrets for Growing Your New Frugal Business 7 Secrets for Growing Your New Frugal Business