by Marilyn Miller
“Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress.”
Charles Kettering, American inventor and engineer
Want to start 2016 off right? Here are 5 things you can begin doing today that will make a big impact on your small business in the coming year.
Always use a contract with your customers.
Depending on the nature of your business, your contract could be short and sweet or long and detailed. At very least, you should spell out the nature and price of the product/service you are providing and how you expect to be paid for it. Business relationships that begin with a clear understanding and agreement of terms and conditions have the best chance of becoming long term, satisfied customers.
Make it easy for people to pay you.
Use online payment portals, credit/debit cards, payment plans. Consider giving a discount for prompt payment. Granting credit to customers can give you an edge over your competitors, but you have to manage the credit risk. If you are going to offer payment plans, make sure you document them.
Pay as much attention to your accounts receivables as you pay to your sales.
Always be aware of customers who owe you money. Track the aging of your open receivables and have a plan to collect the money that is owed to you. Many small businesses give all the attention to the front end (sales) and not enough attention to the actual cash that hits their bank account.
Have a plan to recover money owed to you.
Never be afraid to ask to be paid. If someone owes you money, chances are they owe someone else, so you must have a system in place to collect past due accounts. Do as much as you can yourself, but do not hesitate to bring in outside help (attorney or collection agency) if you need it.
Find new ways to thank your customers and thank them often.
Customer loyalty is golden and should be rewarded. You can use a “thank you” letter to offer a new product to your customers, or simply thank them for their confidence in you.
Offer special deals for repeat business. Let your creativity run wild here. We had one client who hosted a “Groundhog Day” Special, and customers only had to call in and ask for “Phil” (as in Punxatawney) to receive a discount.
You can also use this opportunity to gather more customer information, such as an email address for future contact or promotions. Customer “thank you“ emails are an opportunity for a quick survey to ask how you might improve your product/service in the future.
Have a happy and profitable 2016!
Marilyn “Mara” Miller is committed to small businesses. For over a decade, she has been a strong advocate for her clients. She not only helps customers recover money due to them, but also works to strengthen their credit practices and procedures.
Marilyn is founder of M3 Consultants, which helps small business owners improve their cash flow through better credit practices. She lives in Portland with her husband and business partner Paul. She is a devoted mother and grandmother, and enjoys spending time “upta camp” in Dedham.