9 Unconventional Steps to a Thriving Very Small Business

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For more than ten years I’ve operated a string of one-woman businesses. My mantra is: keep it easy, don’t hire anyone, and outsource next to nothing. I’ve made a lot of mistakes (who hasn’t?), but one thing has remained constant—I try to add extreme value to my customers, and I want to make a good living without working too hard.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Hire no one. Money Savvy Mums took off in early 2017, and for a while I felt pressure to hire some kind of virtual assistant—mostly because that’s what everyone in the internet world seems to advise these days. “Let someone else do the things you don’t want to,” is how it is usually sold.

I finally realised that another answer to dealing with “the things you don’t want to do” is to just not worry about doing them at all. If I have to organise someone else to do the boring work, I might as well do it myself.

2. Outsource very little. An alternative to hiring employees yourself is to outsource through virtual assistants. I don’t want employees, assistants, or clones in India to answer my email. I like hearing from my readers and don’t want to create a wall between them and me.

3. Offer no customisation. As Henry Ford famously said about his Model-T automobile, “They can have any colour they want, as long as it’s black.” Once you start providing options, colour, sizes, and so on, things get complicated. If you want to stay deliberately small, don’t customise.

4. Pursue a lot of opportunities, but don’t be afraid to cancel. Last year I developed three new products, but I almost developed three others. No one heard about them, because they ended up not being a good fit for the mission. Failing is OK but dying a slow death is not. Don’t worry about what you’ve spent to get to the point where you are. In the words of Seth Godin, “The only cost that matters is the one in front of you.”

5. Offer more to the right people.  Cross-selling and upselling can increase your business untold. Most businesses generate much more income from existing customers than from newbies. When I first set up my first cross-sell – “Would you like fries with that?” – I increased sales by 21% immediately, without increasing any workload. Then I went on to set up an easy upsell – “If you bought x, you’ll love y” – and increased sales a further 10%.

6. Set a clear, non-ambiguous goal. My business goal is very basic: happy customers who benefit from my website and products, and to make a good living for myself. I don’t need seven-figures or an overseas call centre to achieve either of those objectives. Instead, I like to be able to enjoy my own time and work from anywhere at any time.

7. Provide the best guarantee you can, and stop worrying. I don’t mess around with guarantees. If someone doesn’t like what they’ve bought from me then they get their money back.

You might ask, With such a generous guarantee, what’s the refund rate? Answer: less than 1%.

But don’t people take advantage? Answer: most people are honest, don’t worry about the dishonest ones? Life is too short.

8. Focus entirely on customer building and cash flow. That’s what your online business will live or die by, so avoid worrying about anything else. This will include talking to customers and developing new products based on their feedback; cash flow activities can include joint venture promotions, sales, and offers to your existing customers.

9. Track these two key metrics and don’t concern yourself with the rest. For me, I want to know: how many new subscribers did we add today? For my business I like to know: how much money came in today? Everything is evaluated according to those figures. At the end of the month I also quickly look at a few other metrics like visitor value, sales from affiliates, and a few social media stats. But it’s all very simple; it takes fifteen minutes to update monthly, and I ignore everything else.


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