I was introduced to a printing guy about a year ago. His name is Tony.
Tony is 24, lithe and always wears trench coats that end right below the belt. He has them in different colours – beige, black, red – and in oversized lapels and in Chinese collars.
Some have vents, some are double-breasted. Sometimes he matches them with sockless moccasins, sometimes in monk strap brogues.
In a single word, Tony is a suave chap.
He’s mastered the art of dressing for success and matching it with the gift of gab.
Tony knows how to negotiate rates and make you feel that you bagged a chunky discount. And he’ll call you every morning – after his cup of tea, I suppose – to give you updates of the printing work. He’ll also go out of his way to deliver within your deadlines (no matter how tight they are).
I was running a workshop last week and he printed for me the learning material. He delivered them to my house on the evening before the workshop.
Like I said, Tony will do all what it takes to beat your deadline.
There’s a loop hole, though.
Tony runs his business like a kiosk: He doesn’t send me quotes or invoices.
He doesn’t issue receipts for payments I make.
I settle payment via M-pesa to his personal line.
I wrote him a cheque for this last job but we couldn’t bank it because his account – a personal account – had some tax issues.
It was a frustrating experience, to be honest. I became increasingly impatient.
I told Tony he can’t run his business like this. “Look, Tony, you’re young, driven and ambitious. You have excellent customer service, excellent delivery timelines and clean work.
“A majority of small business owners struggle with this, you do it naturally with such ease and charm.
“Do you know what I’d like you to do now?”
I didn’t wait for his response, I hastily added, “I’d now like you to set up some internal financial structures to meet your level of customer service.
“Polish up your brand’s image, Tony, and I tell you, there’s no reason you can’t charge your clients double what you already charge.
It’s all about branding and image.”
Question is, what should Tony do to improve his business’ image?
I suggested to him the following:
#1. Register your business as a business or a limited liability company
It’s the first step toward flinging off that kiosk image.
It costs about Sh3,500 to get a business name, and about Sh18,000 to register it as a limited liability company.
You could do this yourself. Or you could hire an agent to do it for you.
It’s a tad of a lengthy process. I will share with you in my next story what to expect.
After successful registration, the government will give you a business certificate or a certificate of incorporation.
Also remember to do the following after: a) Apply for your KRA PIN. b) Buy a stamp. c) Frame that certificate and hang it up in your living room.
#2. Have a Till or Paybill number, and a dedicated bank account
Opening a bank account for your business requires all what I’ve listed in point number one above.
Opening a till or Paybill number requires all that plus a bank account.
Safaricom have set up the system such that cash moves directly from your Till/Paybill account into your designated bank account.
A Till or Paybill number is important for image – of course – but it’s also good for managing your finances. You won’t mix your personal cash with business cash.
Tip: Open your account with a bank that won’t charge you monthly ledger fees.
#3. Do away with the ‘gmail.com’/’yahoo.com’ prefix on your address
I recoil whenever I see a business address that goes something like ‘[email protected]’.
What this immediately suggests to me is that you’re settling for the freebies from Google and Yahoo. That you’re taking your official communication a tad too casually. And that this may seep into the quality of your product or service.
Most of these preconceptions are likely untrue. But it’s the image you paint by communicating from such an address.
The image of your business will greatly improve if you communicate via an address as ‘[email protected]’.
Such an address appears official, the casualness of poorly written emails taken away from it. It also plants an idea in your clients’ minds that you have this 10-man team dedicated to responding to the avalanche of email inquiries you receive daily.
#4. Issue your clients proper quotes, invoices and receipts for payment
You could get these in two ways: either by designing them yourself or having a graphic designer do it for you. Or you could automatically generate them from a phone app.
I suggest you take the second route.
I’m familiar with Wave.
Wave is a free app that generates very professional, simple, thorough and beautiful documents with your logo on it. It also emails them to your clients.
When a client makes payment and you update their tab, it automatically emails them a receipt.
Wave also has ledgers for outstanding payments, unaddressed quotes, incomplete invoices... basically anything you need to manage client’s financial data. Did I mention that it’s easy to use?
Another app I’ve tried and loved is Simple Invoice Manager. I use it from my phone.
It links to your contacts and can WhatsApp your clients the documents.
I haven’t tried any others.
Why don’t you guys share some you’ve used before or are still using? Email me, please. I’ll share them with our community here.
#5. Outsource an accountant
An accountant will iron out the creases in your books of account.
He’ll have a look at how you account for your income and expense, costs of sales and inventory, and all those accounting mumbo jumbo that are important to you and your business.
He’ll also teach you on how to account for daily transactions – what to record how and when. Which is the basis of bookkeeping, anyway.
An accountant will also help you with your taxes and file your annual returns.
Hire one on a contract need-be basis, don’t keep him on salary or a retainer. He can regularly come in bimonthly or quarterly or monthly... it all depends on the volumes of your transactions.
And guess what? You don’t have to hire some university graduate with three certificates under his belt.
A sharp CPA 3 will do the job just as well.
Do you have questions for the writer? E-mail: [email protected]