by Angie Patrick
Reprinted with permission from the January, 2009 issue of Massage Today. Complete issue archives and other resources available at www.massagetoday.com
With the new year upon us, now is the time to make some observations, commitments and resolutions about the way you do business. As our economic climate is changing globally, the effect to our practice or small business can be felt. Cutting back does not equate to cutting corners. Making changes in some of the current ways you promote yourself, promote your professionalism, and conduct your everyday business can net you additional assets rather than liabilities. Making sound choices appropriate for your business, your image, and your wallet can only assist you through these uncertain times, allow you a measure of consistency in the execution of a sound business plan and help provide greater financial stability.
Let's look at how you operate your business. Are you a mobile therapist? If so, do you keep an accurate record of your mileage? Have you kept your automobile maintenance receipts? Do you have a gas card that pays you a reward of some kind, be it airline points, discounts on future purchases, or free gas? Do you make all your business purchases with the same credit card, also allowing for reward points, cash back or some other benefit? If these are things you have not considered, you should. These things help you to manage the expenses and provide relevant and accurate information at tax time, often resulting in some deductions you may be missing!
Do you have a brick-and-mortar location? If so, have you considered renegotiating your lease with your landlord? With so many businesses sitting empty, the last thing your landlord will want to do is lose a good tenant. They may opt for a reduction in rent rather than be faced with possible vacancies. It certainly cannot hurt to broach the subject when your lease is up for renewal. This can potentially be a savings of hundreds of dollars a year, which can provide you with extra money you can funnel into other areas of your business that may need attention.
Do you buy your own supplies? If so, consider bulking your ordering to see if you can obtain any additional discounts. If you typically order monthly or bimonthly, consider ordering quarterly and buying in bulk. This often results in a decrease of your supply expense, and all it costs you is a bit of pre-planning and storage.
Do you do any advertising? If not, consider making the investment in your business, and get the word out to the public. You do not have to run out to the newspaper and take out a full-page ad; you can use smaller venues to build your business. Consider placing ads in church bulletins, and in community publications. Perhaps you utilize community sponsorship opportunities to get your name in the community. Little League teams, Girl Scout events, Fun Runs and charity events all reach your target market, and can help you establish yourself as a mainstay supporter of your community and a subject-matter expert.
Can your customers get in contact with you easily? If not, then you run the risk of having them make another phone call and go to a competitor. When people are ready to book an appointment, they do not want to wait for a return call in order to confirm. They want immediate gratification and the satisfaction of knowing their appointment has been made.
If you book your own clients, it is often difficult to timely manage the inbound calls when your services are booked the majority of the day. It may be advantageous to look into an online service to manage bookings for you. This would be a Web site service that enables your clients to book their appointments themselves online, and keep you from always being behind the eight ball in returning calls. One such service I have seen is www.bookingcalendar.com, and from what I can tell, it takes all the stress off of managing a client book.
Are you contacting your customers on a regular basis? If not, you may be missing opportunities for bookings for birthdays, anniversaries, client gifts, thank-you gifts and bridal parties. Taking a moment to touch base with your client base once a month by phone, e-mail, newsletter or postcard can help put your business at the top of their mind when it comes to gift-giving and celebrations. Not to mention that it can prompt them into a rebooking of your services for themselves!
Are you as organized as you should be? Do you keep receipts in the glove box, loosely in the desk drawer, or tossed in a shoebox? Are your customer contacts in a database or file for easy reference? Do you have updated client intake forms filled out for each client? Are you appropriately recording all transactions for tax purposes? Do you have billing up to date? Are your expenses managed appropriately? If not, consider working toward bringing these items in line with a concentrated effort to de-clutter, organize and manage these very real business needs. You are a professional, and a professional runs their business; they do not allow their business to run them.
Take a few minutes to consider these issues, and see if your business could benefit from making some changes. The chances are it will, and could help you achieve a better result for the time and energy you expend to make your business work. The goal here is not to be cheap, but rather to streamline and organize to maximize your growth potential in tighter economic times. By tweaking a few things, you will see the positive difference you can make, and it will encourage you to look into new ways to trim the excess, and make the existing processes more efficient. With greater efficiency comes greater profitability, and making more money doing what you enjoy is a very good byproduct indeed.