I opened my first store in 2003. It was a wine store in Fort Greene in Brooklyn, called The Greene Grape and I realized pretty quickly that I had no idea what I'd gotten myself into.
I learned that when you run your own place, you are responsible for absolutely every aspect of it. You are running the books, managing inventory, training employees, looking into marketing promotions, forecasting for the coming months, trying to predict cash flow, cleaning the windows, scrubbing the floors and generally worrying that you're forgetting something important.
In short, I found out that small business is hard. The hours are long, the worries constant and the market can seem incredibly fickle. It's no secret that the failure rate for new small businesses in America is alarmingly high; across the country some 25 percent of new restaurants close their doors within the first year and 60 percent are gone within three years. These chances of success don't exactly invite long nights of care-free and dreamless sleep. And yet, it is exactly the ability to break away from the worry and the day-to-day grind that enables a small business person to make good decisions and increase their chances of success.
One of the most overused quotes in business is, 'Genius is 1 percent Inspiration, 99 percent Perspiration'. Young entrepreneurs are told that the right idea is only a small part of the equation and that, in reality, success comes from putting your nose to the grindstone and working long hours. Over the years, I've been exposed to a lot of small businesses, both as a merchant and as the founder of ShopKeep POS, and in my experience, hard work alone just isn't enough. Of all those retailers that have been forced to close their doors, only a tiny percentage did so because of a lack of effort. The real danger to small business isn't putting in enough hours behind the counter, it's putting in too many.
The key to sustainable success lies in the 1 percent inspiration. And by inspiration, I don't mean the sitting in a bubble-bath, screaming a Eureka moment favored by inventors and scientists; I mean the ability of an entrepreneur to make enough time every day to immerse themselves in the details of their business and make smart, insightful decisions. Not every moment is going to turn out to be game changing, but enough intelligent and thoughtful decisions in a row tend to equal a successful enterprise.
Lucky for us, there are a number of affordable, cloud-based programs available that can really help make day-to-day processes more efficient, give you more time, more information and generally get you closer to making smarter business decisions. I'm a strong believer in cloud-based applications and we use them everyday here at ShopKeep POS. I've listed a few of my favorites below.
WhenToWork makes it easy to schedule shifts, see when employees are working and fill empty slots with those who have availability. It keeps all employees in touch, so it makes the whole process much smoother. No more forgetting who's supposed to open tomorrow.
For small business owners, that nightmare of you falling from a high cliff is often replaced by a tower of paper tumbling onto you, waking you up right as you are about to be buried. Use Bill.com for payables management and get some sleep. You and your accountant will have everything you need to manage day-to-day finances and cash flow.
I would also highly recommend FreshBooks which offers the ability to create and manage invoices, estimates, expenses and projects all in one place. It's a really useful and easy to use tool for keeping the financial side of your business in good order. They also provide really great customer support which is something that is really close to my heart.
One thing small business owners sometimes miss out on are those amazing phone systems favored by larger corporations where everyone has the same prefix, and it's easy to access the phone number of any employee. Ring Central offers an inexpensive cloud-based phone system that does what those legacy systems do, but even better. It also works with mobile phones.
For brick and mortar retailers looking to find a powerful point of sale system that doesn't break the bank, it is now possible to get set up with a full-service POS system that includes an iPad register and stores data in the cloud. ShopKeep POS is designed to empower small businesses by giving them tools like advanced data analysis and new technologies like mobile payments that they historically have never been able to access.
There are an incredible number of resources available to the small business community to help them reduce stress, find more time and generally be smarter about how they channel their business efforts. Additionally, a lot of these services are able to integrate with one another -- which can save you even more time.
Even with all the right support, It's still a long, hard road to business success. That's why ShopKeep POS has joined Open Sky in sponsoring The Small Business Breakthrough, a national movement to celebrate, recognize and promote small businesses and entrepreneurs in the United States. If you're reading this and you want to support your favorite local business, you can nominate them for a Breakthrough Award on www.SBBreakThrough.com and then share the nomination via social media using the hashtag #sbbreakthru.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and OpenSky, celebrating The Small Business Breakthrough, a national movement to recognize and promote small businesses and entrepreneurs in the United States. For more information on the movement, or to nominate small businesses you love for a Breakthrough Award, click here.