If you want to learn how to do something, go straight to the experts. If you want advice about running a small business, there’s nothing better than finding some successful business owners to talk with. Last week I shared some wisdom from our roundtable of small-business entrepreneurs and today they’re going to share a few more tips from the trenches.
A quick recap of our panel of business owners:
Amy Owens is owner and operator of Hydrogroom, a mobile pet washing and grooming service in Thomasville, North Carolina.
Deanna Mayberry is a licensed Occupational Therapist who owns InterAct Pediatric Therapy Services in Greensboro, North Carolina. Deanna takes her therapy services into the homes of her clients.
Sherry Lawson is a personal trainer and fitness expert in Archdale, North Carolina. Sherry contracts with local gyms and health clubs to provide exercise classes and personalized fitness training.
Joey Hoover is founder of Clean Guys Incorporated. Joey and his all-guy team of experts offer residential and commercial cleaning and handyman services all over the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina.
Biggest Money Waster
In a sluggish economy, successful business owners know one way to increase profits is to better streamline their expenses. I asked our panel to share what’s been their biggest area of waste when it comes to spending money for their business:
Amy (pet groomer): “Forget the yellow pages; it’s a big waste of money. At first, they might sign you up at a cheap rate, but after that, you’re locked in for a year and the price always goes up. They’ll keep contacting you forever. Think about it, when’s the last time you actually used the yellow pages?”
Sherry (personal trainer): “Time would be my biggest money waster. Crazy, but true. The more productive I am with my work time, the more money I make. I do this (job) so I can spend more time with my kids and volunteer at school. When, I’m working, I need to make every minute count.”
Joey (cleaning/handyman): “Supplies are a money drain for me. Don’t stock more supplies than you reasonably need, or will actually use. And, don’t waste money on expensive brand names, either. Professional-grade generics are just as good.”
If I had it to do all over again …
Looking back upon our business launch, we all think of those little, or perhaps big things we could or should have done differently. I asked our panel to tell me one thing they would have done differently if given the chance.
Deanna (therapist): “I was so excited to get my business off the ground I just jumped in with two feet. That can be good … but sometimes it is better to wait until you’ve got everything ready to fall into place. I hurried – and because of that I had to go a few months with no paycheck. That was really tough. Just make sure your contracts are in place and you’re actually ready to open your doors and do business. Don’t let emotions get the best of you.”
Sherry (personal trainer): “I would have started earlier in my life! When I was younger. Big mistake. For many years I worked in jobs that I disliked – I thought they would make us good money but I didn’t enjoy them. If I had known I could do this and make a decent living, I would have started much, much sooner.”
Parting words and a final question for our panel:
If you had just one piece of advice to give to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?
Amy (groomer): “Track your time and your expenses carefully. Look at the actual hours you work and the money you bring in. Document all your expenditures. That can be a real eye-opener to where you’re wasting time and money.”
Deanna (therapist): “Whatever it is you’re going to do, make sure you love it. Have a passion for it. Days get long and sometimes it can get hard, but if you love it, you’ll be successful and those hard days will seem a little easier.”
Joey (cleaning/handyman): “Start with as little investment as possible. As you make money and work your way up, then you can start to buy more equipment, hire people … whatever it is you need to do.”
I’d like to thank our panel of experts for their time and advice. In our next column, we’ll talk about customer pet peeves and what you can do to keep your customers happy and coming back for more.