This month, we’re focusing on the growth of your business to celebrate our release of three new bundles of COATS Staffing Software and options that capture the three different stages of a business’s growth. Today, we’re looking at the beginning: the startup phase.
It’s an exhilarating time: you’ve just started your company, you’re getting your first clients and candidates, and you’re ready to start filling offers. But it’s also a time of challenges and risks: only 44% percent of new companies are still around after 4 years. How can you make sure your company is in that 44%? Here are our top 10 ways:
1. Take some business classes. You know staffing, no doubt, but do you understand financing, management, marketing, operations and employment law? Your local community college is sure to offer classes in all of those areas, and many of the classes are geared to night or weekend students. The more you know about business, the better you can run yours.
2. Build an advisory team. Just as new parents often depend on extended family members for guidance, it helps to have some experts you can rely on to help you “raise” your business. This team can include your mentor, local businessfolk you admire, even out-of-area staffing experts you can email for advice. It can also include practical members, such as your banker, your legal counsel and your accountant. Don’t try to do everything yourself; let others help you.
3. Have your funding in place. Most financial planners recommend having a year’s worth of expenses in the bank. As the most recent recession has taught us, entire economies can shift in just a few weeks. Don’t jump without a financial net. (We’ll talk more about funding for staffing companies later this month.)
4. Keep building your network. As important as having a professional network was when you were employed, it’s utterly crucial now that you’re an entrepreneur. Stay in contact with all the people you’ve known over the years, and keep going to networking, business and charity events to keep adding to your network. (A tip for maintaining your network: Keep everyone’s name in a spreadsheet and have the software select 5 to 10 random people to contact every day/week, just to say hi. Make a note of when you’ve contacted them so you don’t revisit the same person too often.)
5. Know employment law and have legal counsel on call. This is a really big one for staffing firms. Employment law is vast, it’s complicated and violations can have huge financial consequences. Make sure you have a solid understanding of the basics of employment law (FMLA, wage & hour, FLSA, EEO—basically anything that merits a required poster in your workplace). But even more importantly, make sure you have a strong employment lawyer on call for the specifics.
6. Have the insurance and liability coverage you need. When you’re trying to keep your overhead low, paying for insurance can feel like a pain. But the pain of not having insurance is far greater, especially if your office floods or you get sued. Ask your advisory team what kinds and levels of insurance you need, grit your teeth and get it. You’ll feel better, we promise.
7. Plan for surprises. This goes along with having sufficient funding and having insurance: plan for things to go wrong, or at least not as expected. If you’ve worked in staffing a few years, you know how unpredictable people can be; expect that to carry into your own business, too.
8. Talk to your clients and prospects. Even as you’re trying to get everything going and stressing out, an ironic fact remains: you will never have as much time to focus on your clients as you do right now, if only because you have so few of them. Use this time to get to know your clients inside and out: conduct market research by asking them what their greatest concerns are, for employment and for their business in general. Learn what they want and need from you, and give them the most lavish customer service imaginable. Not only will you learn a lot about your clients, they’ll want to refer you to other businesses.
9. Be patient and realistic. Maybe in the late 1990s or mid-2000s, a business could get off the ground in a matter of months, but that’s not the economic world we live in now. Learn everything you can from other successful businesses, but don’t torment yourself by comparing your business to theirs, especially if their business was started in a more economically friendly time.
10. Keep your overhead low. This is a time to lease rather than buy, and that even applies to your software. The Startup bundle for COATS Staffing Software has the software leased rather than purchased, and the files hosted online rather than on servers that you’d have to buy. It also includes the Online Applications option, so you don’t have to pay a web developer to put your own application online.
What other advice would you give new staffing firms? Let us know in the comments!