When you’re a hard working parent, it can feel as though you’re always straining against the restrictions of your job. In an age of wage repression, we’re all having to work harder and for longer hours just to be able to keep our head above water financially. Inevitably, this comes at the expense of the amount and quality of time that we get to spend with our kids. Raising a child in 2020 is expensive especially given the cost of childcare for working parents (typically between £220-250 per child per week). It can feel as though for co-parents achieving anything resembling a work / life balance is extremely difficult. And for single parents, it’s virtually impossible.
Setting up your very own home business may seem like the perfect way to take your life, your income and your career into your own hands, liberating yourself from the limitations and frustrations of your current job. But while this is an inherently romantic notion, and one that certainly can end in success, it can also result in disaster for the ill-prepared or those who jump into their home business feet first may be setting themselves up for a financial disaster. Especially if they start their business journey with heavy borrowing and no customer base on which to build. Remember the one guiding principle that should guide everything you do in your home business…
Your small business lives or dies by its reputation
Reputation is everything to a small business. Unlike the big multinational corporations with whom you’ll be competing for customers you don’t have a huge marketing budget or the resources to skew search engine results in your favour. Your home business will survive, thrive or falter based on the strength of your reputation. This might grow as a result of word of mouth or what people are saying about you online. And while this can be leveraged by encouraging happy customers to post positive reviews online, the surest way to build a solid reputation is by constantly delivering operational excellence.
It’s a good ideas to start small. Don’t quit your day job just yet if you can stand it. Try and build your business in your free time. Get a small but loyal core of customers and make sure you’re doing all that you can to retain them. Then, you can start running your business full time while building from a strong foundation rather than jumping right in at the deep end.
It’s also vital that you keep an eye on these 5 things which can either make or break your business’ reputation.
If you’re starting a home business, there’s a good chance that you’re selling products or services online. And that means you need to invest in a great website. When you’re just starting out, and conscious of costs, setting up a WordPress site based on a premade theme may seem like a no-brainer. But this can make your business look amateurish. Instead, invest in a good web designer who will not just make your website look beautiful, they’ll be able to design it with easy and intuitive User Experience (UX) creating a pleasing flow and making it easy and intuitive for customers to move through your website and get to the products and information we need. Bad UX, long page load times, poor mobile optimisation and any friction whatsoever in the customer journey will scare customers away from your website and send your conversion rates plummeting.
Your vendors and suppliers
Your business is only as good as the businesses you rely on to service your customers needs. And if you’re making your own products, whether they’re homemade baked treats or construction solutions, you need to ensure that you’re using vendors and suppliers whom you can trust. While you may be conscious of costs in your early days, the good news is that there are lots of suppliers out there who’ll allow you to find that sweet spot between quality and price. Self employed contractors and construction firms for instance can easily find building products at trade prices when they know where to look, building value in their brand without crippling themselves with expensive overheads.
Not only can the right vendors help you to save money and deliver quality, they can also help you to manage your cash flow with flexible terms. The more you spend the time building a good relationship with your vendors, the more amenable they’re likely to be to allowing you to make late or staggered payments if your cash flow is less than stellar.
Your cyber security provision
Cyber security is a huge concern for all businesses. If you handle customer data of any kind, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses or card details this data should be considered highly sensitive. If this data is breached, it can deal a serious blow to your home business’ credibility and may well see you lose the goodwill that you’ve spent years building quickly evaporate.
Many home businesses and small businesses make the mistake of assuming that they’re too small to be of interest to cyber criminals. As such they under-invest in cyber security believing that they’re flying under the radar. However, the statistics show that small businesses are firmly in the crosshairs of cyber criminals with almost 10,000 small businesses just like yours targeted daily. Under-invest in protecting your data (and that of your customers) at your peril. Some measures you can take to insulate your business from the threat of cyber crime include;
- Install robust anti-virus software
- Choose a secure payment gateway to insulate your customers’ credit card data from risk
- Switch to a cloud based IT infrastructure
- Keep your software and operating systems up to date
- Make sure that you hardware is secure
- Have a clear policy for Bring Your Own Device Days and ensure that all employee devices are security checked
- Ensuring that all your staff know how to spot phishing emails
In the digital age, your customers trust you to protect their data. And if you fail in meeting that ob;ligation to them, they’re unlikely to give you a second chance.
Your actions on social media
Many new entrepreneurs think that managing social media for their home business is easy. They set up a presence on multiple platforms, post fairly regularly and kind of expect success to jump into their laps. But success in social media isn’t just about posting regularly (although that’s certainly part of it). It’s about taking the time to research where your target audience are spending their time online, what platforms they’re using and when they tend to log on and who they tend to interact with. Remember that you don’t need to post when your target audience is online in real time. Most platforms allow you to schedule posts or you can use a seperate application like Tweekdeck to make sure the content you post is always in the right place at the right time. Think outside the box in terms of the platforms you use. For instance, if you’re targeting a younger audience, Facebook probably isn’t the best place to engage them. Instead, try using more visually led platforms like Instagram, Snapchat or the relatively new kid on the block Tiktok. And if your products are aimed at women, for Heaven’s sake, make sure you’re on Pinterest.
Don’t be one of those businesses that only ever talks about themselves. Yes, social platforms are a promotional tool. But it can’t just be all “you, you, you” if you want the kind of quality online engagement that will help you to grow your business.
By all means post regularly to keep customers in the loop of what’s going on with your business. But also make sure you take the time to reply when customers tag you in posts. Like and share their content. Celebrate when they say something nice about you on social platforms. But, crucially, you should know how to handle it when they say something less than flattering about you online. Don’t make the mistake of burying your head in the sand. Get proactive, engage with the upset party, apologise and demonstrate your willingness to resolve the matter in front of everyone.
You might not be able to achieve a successful resolution every time, but customers and prospects will be able to see that you’re doing your very best.
Finally, even small businesses need to understand the value of big data. Every time a customer interacts with your website, says something about you online, makes a purchase or even abandons their shopping cart, they’re providing you with data that can help you to take your business to the next level. But while data can provide a lot of opportunities, it can also be a yoke around your neck. A lot of home businesses are either run by a very small team or just a single person. As such, they can have their hands so full with managing the day-to-day that they don’t have time to wade into their data, much less mine it for insights.
Even home businesses benefit from investing in Business Intellugence tools that can help them make sense of their data.