I can’t seem to match my expenses with my revenue.

What you’re really worried about is Cash flow, and Cash Flow is KING for small business owners. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just started your business or secured your biggest customer to date; without cash to pay the bills, yourself, and your employees, you may as well shut up shop now.

There’s a relatively simple thing you can do no matter what kind of business you’re in.  By just creating a basic Excel spreadsheet with a line for every category of expense you pay each month you’ll get a good and quick idea of what you’re spending your money on.

The left side of the spreadsheet lists all the expenses and the top Horizontal line has the months of the year. Here’s an example. You can create one on your own, but to make sure you haven’t left anything out and that your formulas are correct, you, might want some guidance.  Sample Cash Flow Stmt

My employees don’t interact with customers like I think they should

My first response is that you – as the owner – must be clear about the culture of your business, No, it’s not how you decorate your store or what kind of snacks you offer at the check-out line.  It’s the way employees are treated and how customers are taken care of.  Like most organizations (and families) one leads by example.

Yet in my experience, “your” attitude may come from your considerable investment of time, money, and experience.  While you can screen candidates for positions, you may need to take the time to create a manual that has some real stories of employees who performed well as well as those who didn’t. This is another way to lead by example.  I suggest you get Stories Trainers Tell: 55 Ready-To-Use Stories to Make Training Stick for some good samples.

I’m making big decisions without any 2nd opinion to bounce them off of.

What a common problem! as a solopreneur, I, too, look for affirmation of my choices.  Here’s the fascinating dilemma.  As entrepreneurs, we were our independence as a badge of sincerity.  We are authentic and seek to run our business with the clarity of truth, believing we have earned through years of watching others.  Yet, like all things that appear black and white, our perception is not in sync with reality.

One of my favorite maxims is, “The smarties people are those who know what they don’t know.”  It’s alright to be unsure, to wonder if I’m getting it right.  There are a lot of people who are ready and eager to help.  Just ask.  For a great article on the potential of being a solopreneur, click here. 

I have a Direct Competitor just down the block to me.  What should I do to get customers to come to my store and not hers?

I have a lot of suggestions, yet the very first thing to do is to visit this store and start looking around.  And then perform the following “inventory.” I suspect you’ll be surprised at what you find.

  • How do they greet you when you walk in?
  • Do they immediately approach you to offer assistance?  How do they do it?  Is it soft, “Is there something I can do to help you?” Or is it a “What you like?” after you’ve spent 3 minutes looking for someone to ask.
  • Walk around, and make note of their products; do they have different versions of yours?  Are they presented differently, i.e. does the display make you curious?
  • Visit them at different times during the day
  • Compare their stock and prices to yours
  • What’s it like when you go to pay for your merchandise?

Along with visiting, consider:

  • How do they answer the phone when you call them
  • What channels, i.e. FaceBook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter, do they use to advertise/promote their business?
  • Asking your current customers why they continue to shop at your store.

What do you think – based on all that you’ve seen and heard, are there things you do that you could highlight and what things could you “steal” from them, yet do it in your way?   Remember, in the end, it’s always about customer service.  This article gives further ideas about sussing out your competition.