If you’ve recently taken the plunge or you’re thinking of starting your own business, then you’ll want to do all you can to give it the best chance of success.
Here at Vonage we love supporting new small business owners, which is exactly who we aim our VoIP services at. With no line rental, no installation and no long-term contract but a highly professional service and crystal clear connection it’s a great option for any new business.
So, to get yourself off on the right foot, here are our top five tips for starting your own home business:
As any PR guru will tell you, appearance is key to a business’ success (or failure!) and first impressions really do count. You need to convey to your customers that you know what you are doing, can deliver on what you are offering and are, basically, a safe pair of hands. If a website is going to be your first point of contact for your customers then it’s important that it looks professional. A convincing website can instantly build trust in your brand and services and a well-maintained social media presence can help to reinforce an impression of grandeur. If your start-up is operating from a home office – i.e. residential address – give yourself a physical presence by setting up a business address such as a virtual office. This is especially important if you are targeting a specific area and want to demonstrate local knowledge, or want to have a presence in a certain city, with London being the common example.
Communication is also paramount in business, and this is no different when it comes to successful start-ups and home-based businesses. Your customers need to be able to contact you and making this as simple and professional as possible is of paramount importance. Consider setting up departmental email addresses to give your business a sense of structure and scale, even if they are just feeding into one inbox (for now!). Set up a dedicated second line for your home business. The last thing you want is a family member picking up a business call, and simply directing customers to a mobile number loses an element of professionalism that comes from a landline number. Vonage’s second line service includes visual voicemail, caller identification (to personally greet customers) and call waiting facilities. You can even choose the area code and phone number, which allows you to establish a local presence without being geographically based there.
If you think a small business can’t compete with the big ones, think again. One of the key benefits of being small is it allows you to be more innovative and reactive. Large companies may have successfully dug a niche for themselves but they are often stuck in it and hampered in their ability to do anything too radical or too quickly. Small businesses are more flexible. The owner tends to be much closer to its customers, benefitting from immediate and direct feedback, something that the CEO of a multi-national can only dream of. The size, scale and speed-of-decision making is much faster, meaning you can adapt much more quickly and effectively.
The one downside of the above is that innovation often requires extra resources, something that a small company doesn’t have internally. The way around this is to establish partnerships with similar sized operations, for instance, other home businesses in your area, and form a ‘co-operative’ where you pool resources together to devise new offerings or win bigger jobs. Vonage offers 3-way calling, a virtual number facility where you can separate calls coming into you for your co-operative’s business and, if you are working in another office for the day, calls can be diverted to your mobile or another landline.
Partnerships are all well and good but when the time comes that you’re able to take on additional staff you should really consider incentivising them with shares in the company. Many of Facebook’s first employees famously received shares instead of full salaries, and now they’re looking at their share of a multi-billion dollar fortune. There’s nothing like dangling the carrot of a big pay-out to help motivate employees do a better job for a company they believe in.