CUSTOMISING WEBSITES

If you are frustrated at not understanding mark-up language used on websites and want to make minor changes to your site, here is a good place to start the learning curve.

Get up to speed with html / css – two of the fundamental 2 codes needed.

These will enable a surprising amount of design and customisation:

W3 Schools

What is VBA .. What use in accounting? ..

History of VBA

Visual Basic For Applications arrived in 1995 for use in non critical office grade applications – yes, MS Word, Excel and the like.

It is a “subset” of a “proper” coding language , Visual Basic.

Think of it as one step up from macros in Word and Excel . There is a vast range of “objects” which the user manipulates in code type language – but it is slow by comparison to VB so really it still produces “macros” and is not mainstream IT.

Structure

You manipulate Objects (eg a range in excel, a paragraph in word) with statements / commands. We can change both properties (colours etc) and create actions / use methods (copy or paste contents).

In the case of Excel, functions (in VBA language as well as on the face of a spreadsheet) then exist to perform calculations and return values, stored in variables.

Thats it in a nutshell. Although there is a lot of detail to hand, the user requires only a few key statements (eg if.. then ..else) , objects (ranges), methods (eg file open, copy, paste) and properties (eg bold) in simple macros.

However it can go on to produce some gnarly routines and crunch big amounts of download data.

Use in accounting – Conclusion

There is no doubt VBA has its place and many accounts departments became XL havens long ago. Reliant on it is a risk. It was never intended to be a mission critical element.

Tips

Stay tuned to the blog for some curated code snippets.

Bank reconciliation – screens confusing ?

With Xero all accounting is apparently now simple and quick. I beg to differ, the fundamentals still very much apply in order to properly use the screens Xero provides. This is perhaps particularly true with the humble bank rec, which got a huge makeover. Here is a short video overview guide.

Developing New business

Finding New Customers

Accepted wisdom tells us it is far cheaper to sell old customers  than find new customers, but – new sales are the lifeblood of business.

Naturally referrals may come from existing and happy customers, but still the vital area of entirely new business leads cannot be neglected, and should form part of business development plans.

It’s all about communicating with the customers you could have as well as those you’ve already got.

Where to start?

You could apply some logic and attack the challenge in 2 stages.

First take a look at overall market / product segments. This applies if your business is already established – for new startups see below, its all about acquiring the first 10 customers to get going.

Are you trying to sell existing products into new markets? Or new products into existing markets (ie  developing current customers)? Or perhaps new products into entirely new markets ( the most risky)?

Options 1 and 2 are clearly going to be less risky and expensive, while option 3 , a greenfield of dreams, is the most risky.

Having a clear idea of the big picture from this analysis, you can move on to the nitty gritty – getting customised messages out to those who may be interested and profitable customers in each of the segments identified, and tailoring the sales process.

Dan Kennedy coined a term for this – split the work into 3 areas and address “MMM”:

  • The market
  • The medium
  • The message

In this idea the whole picture is covered from the internet / social media to old school billboards. Simply break up the task into manageable parts and drill down to devise activities which are cost/effective in each area, rather than take on the whole thing at one go.

Start ups

For new starts, developing opportunities from zero is the name of the game. What do customers really want, that they cannot find now, and how can you supply the demand at a profit?

To keep it simple ignore the threats and weaknesses in your fledgling idea, focus on the upside.

To start with you may have an idea, based on industry knowledge, but failing that you will start with some research and financial estimations to see what ideas may be profitable based on assumptions about pricing, distribution, and marketing/selling costs.

Almost everything in marketing research is expensive, but there are some free sources to try:

  • Your own records
  • Your competition
  • Your suppliers
  • Government trade assistance and statistical research
  • Getting out and about with your eyes open – asking questions
  • Trading platform reviews – look for solutions to compaints

Once a likely candidate product surfaces the work has only just started. All aspects need to be examined and somehow documented for assessment.

Then the key – find 10 customers by whatever means possible – to transform your idea into a real business with cashflow. The key will be actually talking, toe to toe, and the selling proposition.

Conclusion – Product succession

One thing is constant and that’s change.

Having one success is only the start, the process must be repeated and ongoing in order to stay up with trends and keep the new sales coming in.

First Year Tips For Small Business Entrepreneurs – My experience

Expert Author Keith M

The Number One first year tip – it’s ALL about finding customers and keeping them happy

Whether you are at the feasibility, seed, or launch stage, you need customers!

If someone is showing interest but is not asking about prices, then you may have a new hobby, which is nice, but not a business.

Ideas and plans are a dime a dozen. Cashflow is King. A potential customer is proof positive you may have found a genuine demand or gap in the market – but only when they start talking price.

A vision means squat without a plan for customers.

“A customer base equals capital”

Attracting investors will be much easier if they can see you are already generating a cashflow.

Also customers will attract people interested in working with you – and eventually you will need a team to go anywhere significant.

Having a few customers means you are not dreaming!

Don’t wait for qualifications

You could be forgiven for thinking that in the 2020’s you will need a string of qualifications and / or an MBA before making a move. It’s not the case. Examples abound and if necessary you can hire to cover the gaps. Rather, try to emphasise product, ideas and team.

Which book learning are we skipping over here? What are some of the nice to have’s you might defer?

In the initial stages of a business there are marketing skills – be content with seeing the original gap and creating a product to fit. Then finance skills – skip high finance and stick to the basic organisation of personal and business finance to cover risks, and finally time management skills where the essentials can be mastered quickly.

Later in the development phase we have operations – leadership, management, IT, property, culture/psychology, teamwork, loyalty, communications and regulations – the list goes on.

While it may seem heresy to some, the fact is there are many successes in business who started young with no management training and this is one of those perennial truths.

Beware Franchising

Starting out under the protection of a franchise is a seductive option. Beware! While it may be a way to start-up with less risk, pay particular attention to:

· The franchise sale

Franchise operators are very good marketers – of their franchises. Be wary that you are not sucked in too much by the promises and pictures. Seriously, it’s their job to sell you, just make sure they have a viable plan and you can sell their product.

· Your independence

The bottom line is that you have decided to become an entrepreneur, for reasons which quite likely include working for yourself, and by signing up with a franchise you have immediately given that independence away.

Will you be happy working for a head office? How much input to the business do you really have? Have you just bought yourself a job?

Take a real close look at your marketing plan

How are you going to find and reach customers? Your first job is to run like mad just to find them:

First, are you in an active sector and do you have a ready path to market? Where are you sourcing your leads – today?

Watch out for your own psychology. When starting out you may want to just go with the first half decent opportunity you come across. Relax; try to look at things objectively.

Beware of the “1% of the market is huge” syndrome. Yours may be a billion dollar market, but how do you get any of it? What do you think the competition is doing right now?

Any idea of the cost of acquisition of a new customer? Will your model develop repeat customers? If not you will be forever selling, and this is not a good place to be.

Most forms of marketing except word of mouth are very expensive. When starting out there is no doubt the best marketing model is word of mouth.

Branding. Despite the hype it’s nothing new. Don’t even think about mega-brand style exposure. A start-up is about a reputation, person to person sales and keeping a handful of customers happy.

What is the shelf life of your idea? How are you going to protect it in the internet age?

How smart is the business model?

A business model is the way we do things – how we find and reach customers, differentiate the business from the pack, price, sell and deliver our product.

But there is more. Other desirables include a residual structure, one that compounds growth, and which is leveraged either in time (employees) or money (loans).

Is it going to be a dynamic business or a dead end job?

Realistically – are your finances strong enough for the first year or two?

Being an entrepreneur is a gamble and you must be prepared for the worst if it happens. How do you view losing money? Perhaps try investing on small bets in the stock market and see how it feels before investing in your own ideas.

Don’t get into debt you cannot handle. We should be bold but not take risks. Avoid betting your lifestyle, limit the investment to what you can “afford to lose”, then do everything to make sure that does not happen.

Entrepreneurs should always have backup plans. Not everything will work by any stretch of imagination.

How many hours are you working?

Have you really planned your diary? How will you fit everything in? Not all of us can survive on 4 hours sleep per night.

Remember the rule – work hard and smart.

And if you do work all hours, what is your effective hourly rate? Planning any time off?

Do you have a good business partner?

If you aspire to anything other than a micro business, you will have to think “team”. The synergy gained outweighs potential downsides. While a committee of one gets things done, eventually you need others in your corner.

Are you ahead of trends?

No business can ignore trends. Try to have an eye on the picture three to five years ahead.