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Marketing: What Does Your Business Card Say About Your Business?
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I’m about to start a new business and need to get business cards. Would it be appropriate to use the punch-out or pre-designed paper stock I see in the stores?

Congratulations on starting your business! Be sure to visit your local SCORE office to increase your chances of success. 

Your stationery, business card, newsletter, proposal, etc., are all part of your sales team. They will often get through the door in an effort to sell your products or services long before you do. If the suit they’re wearing appears to be of inferior quality, so will your business. 

The quality of this paper is not sufficient to project the image you’ll want. The more inferior your image, the harder you’ll have to work to prove your value to a potential client.

The paper you dress your business card in says more about your business than you may realize. Quality paper feels good and rich to the touch, much like the fabric in a fine-tailored suit. It speaks to you. Do you want your paper selection to whisper words like: quality, stable, and professional? Or do you want it to shout: cheap, fly-by-night, or smalltime? If it’s the latter, your package will rarely get to the hands of the decision-maker: it won’t get past the gatekeeper. 

Design is also crucial to creating an image that shouts success. You should avoid using ClipArt and pre-designed cardstock for the same reasons as choosing good paper. If you can’t afford a professional designer, it’s best to keep your card very simple, using lettering that matches the type of business you’re in (e.g., avoid using a typeface that’s more appropriate for a wedding invitation unless you’re in that or a similar business.) 

Making the additional investment of using quality paper and hiring a good designer will put you one step closer to the decision-maker and is a giant step toward building your brand. The difference in the cost becomes negligible when compared to the cost of losing the deal.

To get help with your design, try Websites such as www.elance.com, www.guru.com, www.freelanceforum.org, www.craigslist.com.   

-Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta
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I'm a productivity and technology speaker, trainer, author, and consultant. I own The Digital Breakthroughs Institute in Atlanta GA.

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Finance: The 3 C's of Cash
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As an entrepreneur, your cash flow and cash position are paramount.

Collect Cash

Deposits. If you bill for services, collect a deposit of 33 percent to 50 percent up front. Who does this? Landscapers, interior decorators and consultants. Call it a deposit or call it a retainer, but collect it.

Payments. Send out invoices promptly mark “pay upon receipt” or “net 15.” As an entrepreneur, you want to get the payment, which you are owed, quickly. With these terms you can begin collections follow-up in 15-30 days, instead of 30-60 days.

Conserve Cash

Watch Your Budget.Watch the dollars. Watch the $50s. Watch the $100s. The extra purchase of office supplies, the added of another mobile phone in your network, the money you spent that was not on a budgeted item, blows the budget. The gasoline that gets used because of three separate trips in three days instead of one roundtrip to three stops–that’s where the money goes–overhead costs.

Stick to your budget. If you start drifting over budget, then look for somewhere else to cut next month. It’s discipline and looking at the numbers that keep you on track with expenses.

Carry Cash

Carry cash on your budget. Yes, you can have a line item in your budget that’s operating cash reserve. This means you have planned cash to be in the bank, so if your cashflow is slow on collecting payment, you go over budget, or if sales dip–you still have operating cash to keep the business moving forward.

Set a cash floor for your peace of mind. Know your total revenue, total expense and your upcoming sales goals. You have a good sense of your monthly expenses. Before you ever draw on a line of credit, set a floor for how much ready cash you keep on hand to meet expenses.

-Christine Banning, SCORE
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SCORE
For 50 years, SCORE has helped aspiring and current small business owners achieve their dreams. Through a network of over 11,000 volunteer business mentors in 340+ chapters across the country, SCORE connects decades of business experience and knowledge with those who can best use it.
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