This month on entreleadership.com, we’re focusing on all things financial, from basic principles to budgeting to how to run a business debt-free (Yes, it is possible.). We asked our readers and attendees at EntreLeadership events for their top money queries and shared them with our EntreLeadership coaches. Check out our coaches’ sound advice.
- Do you have any advice for a business that is growing really quickly? It sometimes seems out of control. —Bill
The number one cause for small-business failure is money problems due to debt and taxes. The second reason is success. You can grow too fast and outgrow your resources, and that can kill your company. There are primarily three areas of concern: human resources, technology and money.
Let’s start with your people. Never take on more than they are competent to handle. If you outgrow your staff’s ability to perform, your customers will be underserved and you’re going to kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg.
If you outgrow your technology—like your server, website, phone service, customer base management systems or anything on your operations side—you’ll fail, too.
And finally, the money. Lack of it from a cash perspective will get you every time.
Every business goes through five distinct stages. Find out which stage your business is in with our free assessment.
Our advice is to be the tortoise—not the hare—and take your time. Live to fight another day. You may have to turn down a deal or two, and that’s okay. Not all big deals are blessings. In fact, if you’re not ready to handle them, they can sink you. Pace yourself. When the deal comes along, you’ll be ready.
- Should we lease office equipment or buy it? —Stephen
Leasing office equipment is not like leasing real estate. It’s simply another method of financing—just a way to make payments. Pay cash for the equipment or don’t buy it.
There is a lot of good, used equipment out there that you can get unbelievably cheap. If you need another reason to avoid leasing, how about this one: When you buy technology, it’s outdated by the time you get it out of the box 100% of the time. You don’t want to get stuck leasing something that’s nearly antiquated before you even use it.
- I’ve been a business consultant for nine years and am thinking of forming an informal board of directors for advice. Should I pay them? If yes, is it worth it? —John
Any time you can get people outside to look at your business, it’s valuable. Should you pay them? If the information is worth it, absolutely! They have to bring value to the conversation though. There needs to be great ideas or accountability as a result of this interaction.
- I have a computer networking business and have been charging my clients the same hourly rate for four years. Do you think I should raise it? And if so, how much? —Chris
Bumping up your fees should be at least an annual thing. Dave learned that lesson the hard way. When he first started, he didn’t raise ad rates for a long, long time. When he finally did, everyone was shocked. Since he doesn’t want anyone to be upset again, he increases them every year!
As far as how much to up them, find out what your competition is charging. You can’t go so high over your competitors that your clients can’t see the value in your personal relationship with them anymore. Increase your rate an amount that’s reasonable for you and your customers.
- Is there a rule of thumb for what percentage of gross should be payroll? —Ken
It’s going to change from industry to industry, so your best bet is to find someone in your trade and compare. Normally in small business, your largest expense is going to be payroll. Anytime it gets above 50 percent of your gross as an expense category, you should be really, really concerned.
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