I was excited to sit down recently with Shelina Jokhiya, former in-house solicitor and business organizer for Emirates and Dubai Holding, and founder of DeCluttr Me in Dubai, U.A.E. She took the brave yet calculated step of making a major career change and starting her own business as a professional organizer in 2013. She always has loads of solid advice for organizing pretty much everything, and this time we discussed important tips and considerations for entrepreneurs and small businesses, from both a practical and legal perspective.
Here are my 7 solutions for small business success:
1. Make a clean financial break
Shelina was in-house counsel for years and also on the board for the last company she worked for. Her boss was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) so she learned a lot from him. Most importantly, she learned to make sure everything was separately accounted for – which is something she still does. Shelina explained, “If there are any payments I make from my personal account using my credit card, then it is reimbursed by the business immediately. I do not make payments for personal reasons using my business account. Many don’t understand the seriousness of this if they want to sell the company as a going concern later.”
One of the most important things to keep in mind as you start up a new project or enterprise is to ensure you start off on sound financial footing and make a clean break from your personal finances. Whether you’re starting a new non-profit organization, or launching a new business enterprise, the thing that will potentially get you in the biggest trouble, and also make it hard to know exactly where you stand from a profit/loss perspective, is to comingle personal and professional finances.
2. Start off with systems in place
Shelina advises to make sure to have all your systems in place from the start. Create folders for corporate documents, bank documents, receipts, etc. Also, as tempting as it may be to start up your business with the intention to take care of the paperwork later, in the U.S., most, if not all, of the needed legal paperwork can be completed in less than a day – so there really is no good excuse to wait.
3. Utilize accounting software and professionals
Use accounting software immediately, not Excel, no matter how strong the temptation. Unless you’re an Excel genius you are going to run into problems down the line. Excellent alternative software solutions include WAVE, Easy Books, and the always popular Quickbooks. Also, consider investing in a boutique accountant who specializes in entrepreneurial businesses and small business start-ups. An accountant can help you with basic monthly bookkeeping, management reports, and end of the year reporting, or can also function as a freelance CFO giving you advice on cost-cutting, projections, and planning from the get-go.
4. Invest in business management tools
As far as business management, marketing, and social media goes, Shelina runs a one-woman show that’s facilitated by numerous apps and other technologies to keep her business organized and running smooth. She uses “[…] Evernote for notes, Hootsuite for social media, and then the normal Microsoft software as well. My calendar is my life. I [also] use Insightly for my customer relationship management (CRM) database and Mail Chimp […] for newsletters.” For now it’ll stay just her but she may look for an assistant in the springtime.
5. Put time and money into your website
Shelina recommends using a free app for your client database if you don’t need all the bells and whistles to start but stressed that it is important to create a well-designed and developed website. Going cheap on a website from the get-go is a false investment.
Your website is the trunk of the tree that connects your behind the scenes planning (the roots) to your marketing and visible presence out in the marketplace (your branches and leaves) so be sure that it is well constructed, user friendly, and works on multiple platforms. With The Guardian reporting that the expansion of high-speed 4G data networks has made cell phones the preferred way of accessing the internet in the UK do make sure your website is mobile friendly. Here a few other things to keep in mind with small business creation.
6. Believe you can fly
Shelina speaks about taking the plunge, “I had dreamt about starting an organizing business in early 2000’s but thought it was a mad idea. I had been in Dubai for eight years when, in 2013, I was exasperated with my role as a solicitor and in-house lawyer and started Googling about the [organizing] business. I found that there was a massive industry in the USA, Europe, and UK and decided to see if there was an industry here. There was no one here, but people [still] needed help, so I started my website and social media accounts for DeCluttr Me.”
Her friends were her first clients and strongest supporters. She got great feedback from her friends – even though they would mostly be scared at first of what she would do, but grateful at the end. A few friends helped her choose the name of her company and another friend created her awesome logo. “In August I formed the company officially here and in October I quit my job and started working on DeCluttr Me full time.”
7. Stay connected and current with others in your niche
To stay updated and current, and to brainstorm solutions for difficult projects, make the time on a daily, weekly,or monthly basis to both give and receive honest advice about your growing business. Having a sounding board and network made up of other professionals at other stages of their careers will not only help you keep your struggles in perspective, but allow you to help others and give back to the global community of entrepreneurs.
Shelina belongs to the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers in the UK and two Professional Organisers groups on LinkedIn as well which offer great support as she’s growing her business. She plans to expand to Oman and possibly Qatar in 2016 while continuing to grow her client base in the UAE and help more people.
No matter what our motivations for starting and growing our small business, having a sound management and organization plan from the beginning will ensure overwhelming success. Here are other ways to achieve success.
Photo credit: Sarah Zucca via flickr