1.26.2016

Three Business Goals Every Startup Should Have

It’s the third week in January and it barely feels like a New Year anymore. Most of us are already neck deep in the daily grind that is handling business obligations, all of which seem equally important and urgent. So, how do you choose what tasks to tackle first? How do you decide which goals you should focus on for the rest of the year?

Here are three goals you should have on your list that are essential to your business’ success and, if you put a good process in place, would start 2016 right for you and make it a fulfilling year for your company:

1. Talk to your customers
Every minute, a new company is being registered. As the business space gets more crowded, there is a need to stand out from the crowd. One sure way to stand out and be remembered by your customers is to provide excellent service, and the best way to know what services your customers consider excellent is by finding out what they want. How do you do that? By talking to them.

It’s not enough to hide behind surveys and feedback forms, try to establish lasting relationships with customers. Set aside time on a regular basis to listen to and learn from your customers -- What are the things that make them happy? What things cause them pain? How can your business alleviate their pain? When you’re starting out, we recommend talking to your customers at least once a week. At the end of each week, collect and analyse the feedback you get from them.

There are a lot of resources on how to build relationships with your customers. Two of our favourites are Steve Blank on Customer Development (summarized here by Eric Ries) and these videos by Customer Dev Labs. Remember, keeping customers happy is a sure way to get free publicity through referrals and to expand your business.

2. Be more process oriented. Document everything.
The end goal for most business owners is to have a well-known sustainable business that outlives the owner. For this to happen, a business needs to hire others to drive this end goal, and as much as we like to believe that people will immediately know what to do on their job, this is rarely the case. Think about it, sometimes you even forget  how you solved a problem last month.

To ensure that useful solutions and quick hacks that help your business run more efficiently don’t get lost when you are away, or if an employee leaves, always write things down -- from simple tasks like an email template to more complex ones like your expansion strategy to a new market.

3. Keep your books (of accounts)
Nobody starts a business so they can do paperwork all day, and unless you are an accountant whose full time job is adding up receipts and summing up invoices, you know this is not enjoyable work. Unfortunately, bookkeeping is a necessary evil for business success, and the longer you put off this task, the worse it gets. No one has to sell you the benefits of having your accounts in order; as Lanre Akinlagun, CEO of Drinks.ng puts it, “Setting up a business anywhere is extremely challenging but the biggest lesson I learnt last year was, the most important hire is an accountant!”

So, what happens if you can’t justify having an accountant your payroll full time? If you’re like most people who absolutely detest numbers, or if you are looking for a more localized bookkeeping service, contact us.

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These are some of the goals we think you should have for your business this year. Did any of them make your list? Share with us in the comment section.

If you’re looking for a way to keep these goals, check out our post on How to Keep Your Business Goals. You can also contact us for a consultation; we provide support to early and intermediate stage African businesses through our consulting, training and bookkeeping solutions. Here’s what some of our clients have to say. Our goal is to empower businesses like yours by providing them with the tools and knowledge necessary to drive high performance.

Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: info@startsmartgh.com

1.12.2016

Starting the New Year Right: How to Keep Your Business Goals in 2016

It’s the beginning of a new year and at this time of the year, most people are getting used to their resolutions and hoping they stick to them till the end. Most of us are used to making resolutions for our personal lives -- you hear people say things like I want to lose weight, I want to stop procrastinating, I want to visit my parents more often -- but as an entrepreneur, you should also set goals and resolutions for your business. As a friend puts it, “Your company is as much a living and breathing entity as humans are, and almost everything you do for yourself, you should do for your company as well.”

After unwinding over the holidays, now is a great time to capitalize on your fresh perspective and renewed vigor to create the future that you want for your business in 2016. It is also the best time to put processes in place to achieve these goals. A lot of entrepreneurs we have spoken with say that setting goals is the easy part; following through, on the other hand, is where the challenge lies. Here are some tips to start your business right in 2016 and help you get closer to achieving your business goals:

Start with a vision board
A vision board, used by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey, is a tool to help you clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on a specific goal at any given period. Unlike a business plan where you have strict formats and a rigid structure, with a vision board, the point is to create something that keeps you focused on where you want to be. You can choose any form or design that works for you, be it post-it notes, magazine cut-outs or doodles with markers.

The good thing about vision boards is that they are not only limited to your company. You can also use them in various aspects of your life. Here’s a really helpful resource on How to Have Your Own Vision Board.

Break Your Big Vision Into Smaller Goals
You have created your vision board, and maybe it’s even hanging on the wall in your office for all to see. Now that you (and everyone else) can see the big picture, the next step is to break it into smaller, actionable chunks to make your goals more specific and measureable.

For example, say you own an ecommerce platform that sells shoes and your big vision for 2016 is to be in the top five searches on Google for ‘shoes in Ghana’. Your actionable chunks could be to create an online marketing strategy, to hire a digital marketing manager, or to get featured once a week by three media outlets. The more specific you are, the better.

The point of breaking your vision into smaller goals is to have a clear roadmap of how to get from where you are right now to where you want your company to be. Make sure you document all this using Google Drive, Microsoft Office Suite, or any other tool you currently use for documentation. Whatever tool you choose, make sure it is easy to share with your team. Which brings us to the next tip...

Share Your Goals With Your Team
A sustainable business is hardly ever made up of just one person. As the African proverb goes, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Sharing your goals with the members of your team whose opinions you trust and who will give you a different perspective on how to achieve your goals cannot be overemphasized. At this stage, you must be open to receiving and incorporating feedback. Some recommended tools for team collaboration are Slack, Google Apps and Evernote for Business.

Assign Tasks and Track Progress
Now that everyone is on the same page on what needs to get done, the next stage is to assign tasks. We do this so everyone is held accountable for their tasks and there is a clear understanding of whose responsibility any given task is. For this, use whatever tools you are most comfortable with, as long as the following fields are included: task, responsible party, priority, due date. Some tools to help are Asana, Prowork, Trello or Weekdone. Don’t forget to schedule regular reviews with your team, at least once biweekly, to see how everyone is doing.

For your business to make the most out of 2016, you need to be very deliberate about what goals you want to achieve from day one and take advantage of techniques such as the ones above to make it happen. What are your top business goals for 2016? Share with us in the comments, we would love to hear them.

Wishing you a productive and process-oriented new year!

Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: info@startsmartgh.com

5.18.2015

Helping You Grow Your Business


As our motto states, Start Smart is a “start-up for start-ups” and our goal is to help entrepreneurs turn their business dreams into reality. Take a look at some of the clients that we’ve helped!
Interested in learning more about how we can help you? Send us an email or give us a call!


Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

5.04.2015

What's Your Team Culture?


Whether you’re referring to colleagues or employees, your team plays an instrumental role in the success of any business. You can help improve the quality of your team by taking the time to:

  • Train People To Do Their Jobs: Many people want to do their jobs, but they just don’t know how!
  • Be an Example: Your behavior should model the kinds of behaviors that you want to see in your work environment!
  • Criticize Constructively: Reward your teams go right and help them to troubleshoot when things go wrong

Sign up for our Building a Winning Start-Up Course to learn more about how you can build a stronger team and a better business! 



Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

4.20.2015

How Can You Network Authentically?


In business, there is a perpetual emphasis placed on networking. We are constantly reminded that more often deals are made and jobs are offered over dinner and drinks versus through formal channels. But how do you build a network without being inauthentic?
One of the best pieces of advice I have been offered is that having a network does not mean knowing 100 people whom you can contact and ask for favors. Rather, your network can be any size, yes, even small, and built of people with whom you have genuine connections. How do you make those connections? Start looking for them in your everyday life.


Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

4.06.2015

How Can Social Media Hurt Your Business?


In the internet age, social media has become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. For businesses, it’s a great way to build our network and customer base. While being actively engaged on social media can benefit your business, it is important to remember that quality is more important than quantity. Here are a few tips we’ve shared in the past:


Share how you are using social media to build your business!


Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com

3.23.2015

How Can Social Media Transform Your Business?


Being online is a crucial characteristic of any successful business. It seems easy, right? Post a few entries on a blog, share a few thoughts on Twitter, or create a Facebook fan page. Yet, so many businesses fail to gain traction using these platforms, which makes them wonder, is the cost and effort really worth it?
The answer is an enthusiastic “Yes.” However, if you are not seeing the results you are hoping for, it is probable that your strategy needs improvement. Keep these things in mind:

  1. The purpose of social media is to be “social”.  Every good sale begins with a conversation. What does the consumer want? What does the consumer need? How much is the consumer willing to pay? You want your social media presence to encourage interaction with your clients. Post ideas that are relevant to them and make sure you respond to the comments they leave.
  2. Pick the right platform. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, YouTube, etc. all have their functions that make them particularly strong platforms for certain types of businesses. If you are an artist, leverage Facebook and Instagram. If you are a brick and mortar store, utilize Foursquare for special promotions and sales.
  3. Don’t over commit. If you are a small business owner, you likely do not have time to create videos for YouTube, blog posts, Tweets, and Facebook content for one week, let alone one month. You want your social media presence to be an extension of your brand and you don’t want potential customers to feel like you are overextended. Thus, choose one platform to make your expertise. Once you’ve mastered generating content for that, consider adding in other social media. 
    4. Measure your progress. Like in any business commitment, you want to set goals for yourself. Measuring how your social media is doing (i.e. how many visitors? How many retweets? How many new followers?) is easy with built-in platform mechanisms and tools like Google Analytics.


Visit us on the web: www.startsmartgh.com Send us an email: startsmart.info@gmail.com