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E C A P S / / E P A H S / / E The LIN

28 tips to unlock your own

: e id u G l a iv v r u S s s e in s u B Small


Introduction Chapter 1: Management
Have a plan Set SMART goals Differentiate Manage and value your time Learn to delegate Adapt!

Chapter 4: Marketing

Demonstrate how you solve a problem Offer valuable content Offer free consultations or free trials Embrace social media Develop a social media strategy Get listed

Chapter 5: Clients

Chapter 2: Money

Consider crowdfunding Think like a banker Track your finances Pass certain costs along to clients

Understand your customers Stay in touch Learn how to listen Know when to fire a client

Chapter 6: Growth

Chapter 3: Operations

Leap into the cloud Outfit your team with the right tools Get organized Assemble an advisory board

Plan for expansion Seek referrals from existing customers Form alliances Expand via diversification

Additional reading material People behind this guide


For most people running small businesses, theres not enough time, money is tight, and there are just too many hats to wear every day. Whether youre an architect, interior designer, landscape architect, contractor, electrician, building or civil engineer, HVAC or solar-panel installer, product designer, or animator, this guide aims to make life a little easier for you. Read these 28 small-business tips and tricksincluding advice on management, money, operations, marketing, clients, and growthfor some actionable advice to help you alleviate the work-related stresses that keep you up at night.


Line//Shape//Space is a blog dedicated to inspiring and educating small-business designers, drafters, and animators to do their jobs better by providing practical business tips, educational infographics, valuable software tutorials, and inspiring small-business stories.


Autodesk, Inc., is a leader in 2D and 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software.




Ben Franklin put it best: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Those words hold true today, especially for small businessesevery business needs some kind of plan in order to succeed. As longtime financial planner Kathryn Amenta told Line//Shape//Space, a business plan should be step one. I think a business planand an action plan, which requires financial statistics for doing a business planis essential before you do anything else, Amenta says. Even people who arent looking for outside funding, who are self-funding or getting funding from their family, need to create a business plan because every startup has to be able to self-fund for around 36 months. Jim Alles, the New York City chapter chairman of SCORE, a resource partner of the Small Business Administration (SBA), adds this advice: All good plans will contain separate marketing and sales plans that deal with competitors and customers, as well as a product plan and an operation plan. Those plans drive a set of financials dealing with your profit and loss (P&L) statement, which usually goes out three to five years and will help you understand what changes will occur in terms of revenues and expenses.


Everyone knows that its a good idea to set goals. But the key is setting the right goals. As youre putting together your goals for the year, quarter, or just the end of the day, try to set SMART goalsthat is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By using the SMART framework, youll stand a much better chance of moving your business forward.


Its a big market out there, and in order to survive, its essential that your business differentiates itself. Longtime financial advisor Kathryn Amenta says that offering something unique is critical: I would have said different things five years ago, but were in a new economic landscape. So people need to have a much better widget, a much funnier joke. Whatever it is, its gotta be better, and its really gotta have a place because you can just go on the Internet and get a million of anything. What does your company offer that no one else can provide? Is it customer service? Deep expertise in one particular specialty? Speed and efficiency? How can you fill a gap in the market?


Have you ever been tempted to dramatically slash your prices in order to secure a big account or work on a high-profile project? Scoring these gigs can help grow your business, but they dont always pan out like we hope. Federico Negro, a founding partner of CASE, a Building Information Modeling consultancy that grew from three to 21 employees in five years, says his number-one piece of advice comes down to managing and valuing time. Architects get totally starstruck at projects and the opportunity to work on them, to the point that they will give their lives away for free, he says. You cant afford to do that with your own business. You think the investment is valid because of what it will bring in terms of future opportunities, but if you look at what it actually costs, its not likely to make up for your loss. If you have time to make such an investment, be very focused and clear about what youre looking to get out of it. Value your work highly. If somebody is not willing to pay for it, then move on. Bottom line: Whether youre an architect, contractor, product designer, electrician, animator, or somewhere in between, you cant give your work away for free. Youre worth more than that.

We get itsometimes its tough to let go. But you cant do it all, and thats why delegating is one of the most important things you can do as a manager. Andy Taylor, founder of Wolf+Bear Workshop, says that delegating allowed him to finally get to those mission-critical tasks. For Wolf+Bear, I wore all the hats: I was the marketing department, tech, PR, finance, research and development, branding, and sales. But at a certain point I had to be willing to let go of things that someone else could do better for the sake of growing the business, Taylor says. Last year, I made the decision that there was someone else who could sew faster and make a better pattern than I could, so I hired her. I had to get over the idea that if I didnt make every product, it was still mine. That allowed me some time to focus on a rebrand and relaunch our website.

Sometimes businesses just have to adapt in order to survive. Take the childrens architecture firm Architecture is Fun: In a climate of global economic belt-tightening, AIF saw much of its tried-and-true business dry up. Our traditional clients, which have been community-based and not-for-profit, are struggling economically, and theyre not investing in capital expenditures, says AIF cofounder Peter Exley. So were seeing far less investment in building childrens museums. People are not voting on referendums to build new libraries, so were seeing a lot less investment in this infrastructure based in play and learning. Fortunately, AIF didnt need to shift focusit just needed to shift clients.What we are seeing more of are expanding businesses trying to get in on creative approaches to play and learning, Peter says. Were working right now with a pediatrician who wants to set himself apart from the other pediatricians in his building, and hes doing that through design and service. Perhaps adapting to new forms of sustenanceer, new customersis all it takes for your business to survive in new environments.




These days, bank loans and family members arent the only source of financing for small businesses. Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Crowdfunder are helping jump-start all kinds of ventures, particularly product-design businesses. Each of these sites has their pros and cons: Kickstarter is user-friendly, offers all kinds of tutorials, and has a system that breeds loyalty in funders. However, if project creators fall short of their fundraising goal, they wont collect any of the pledged money. Indiegogo has more flexible payment options and allows project creators to keep funds they raise even if they dont meet their goals, but it takes a sizeable 9 percent cut of funds raised. Crowdfunder offers entrepreneurs a large network of funders, but is best for businesses that are further along because it requires product or service demos and heavily favors ventures that have business accreditation. Theres no question that these sites are on the rise. According to Forbes, the crowdfunding industry is expected to grow to $5.1 billion in 2013. Could crowdfunding be right for your business?


If you decide to seek small-business loans from a more traditional route, try to put yourself in the mind of a banker. As Jeff Parker, SVP of the Small Business Segment for U.S. Bank, explains, it all comes down to the 5 Cs of credit: Character, Conditions, Capacity, Capital, and Collateral. Ultimately, your ability to secure a loan depends largely on how your application answers these questions: What is the Character of the borrower? What are the credit Conditions requested? What is the Capacity for repayment? What Capital is the borrower investing? What Collateral is being used? We could devote more than a few eBooks to the art of crafting a business plan and securing a loan, but if you bear in mind the 5 Cs, youll be off to a great start.



Tax season can be painful enoughno need to make it worse by having to scramble at the 11th hour. Do yourself a favor and track your expenses and cash flow on an ongoing basis. The biggest trap for many small-business owners is that theyre so busy, they leave things until the last minute, says Lindsey Buchholz, Lead Tax Analyst at The Tax Institute at H&R Block. If they get all their invoices together, know all the expenses theyve had, and set it up in a way thats easy to go through and understand, itll make filing much easier down the road. Try a tool like Intuits QuickBooks to track your transactions, so that you can monitor your expenses and be ready when its time to file.



The costs of doing business for a small firm can threaten to blow the profit margin of even the most lucrative projects. If these costs are adding value to your clients projects, you should be passing along at least some of those costs to them. One baton that you can pass is the cost of software rental. The software industry is rapidly moving toward a rental model last May, for example, Adobe Systems abandoned updates of its Creative Suite products and boxed software in favor of Creative Cloud, a $29.95 monthly subscription service that now controls its entire portfolio of graphic design, publishing, and video/audio production software. For its part, Autodesk also offers rental packages for some of its design software, including AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite and AutoCAD Revit LT Suite.





The cloud is more than just a buzzwordits actually a great solution for many of your small-business needs. Tools such as Google Drive and AutoCAD 360 make it easy to collaborate on everything from documents and spreadsheets to CAD drawings, while file-storage services like Box or Dropbox offer a safe home for your files. These tools help keep you focused on doing what you do bestnot on things like installing software updates or trying to remember to click Save every two minutes. What about security, you say? The truth is, cloud-service providers go to great lengths to ensure security of your data because their business depends on it. A breach in security could be a death knell for a cloud-storage business, so its their number-one priority. And the fact is, theyre probably better at it than you will be (as well as better at holding onto your data). Your files are more likely to get into the wrong hands from someone walking off with your laptop than they are by someone hacking into a highly encrypted cloud storage system.



Life is full of trade-offs: quantity vs. quality, time vs. money, and cost vs. performance. How do you choose? When it comes to purchasing the gear that helps you and your colleagues do your jobs, its important to evaluate how trading cost for performance can affect your operations. Consider a quandary that many small businesses face: buying PCs vs. workstations. Most business PCs range from $500 to $1,000, whereas a workstation can be $1,500 to $3,000. Is the extra computing power worth the cost? The key question is: How much time does it cost you in downtime and in time spent dealing with issues that come from underperforming computer hardware? If a workstation saves you 30 minutes a week over the course of three years, that adds up to 26 man-hours. If your rate is $50 per hour, then a 26 hours saved is $1,300. Keep in mind, too, that colleagues will be happierand thus more productiveon tools that are more reliable. Decisions around gear arent cut and dry. But make sure to take a holistic view of the costs when evaluating your options.



A wise grandmother once told Line//Shape//Space, a place for everything, and everything in its place. Hear hear. If youre not organized with your small business you risk creating problems and possibly losing clients. For Linda Rothschildorganization expert to ber-personality Heidi Klumorganization in large part comes down to making space. You need to look at everything individually and make a decision about it. Is this something I really need? Say you have a four-shelf bookcase stuffed with books and manuals and papers, Rothschild says. Start on the top shelf and go through each item individually and decide to keep it or not, or it may be that someone else needs it, or maybe its totally outdated and should be thrown away. Its a process that you need to make part of your daily routine. Looking for extra room? Try the oft-neglected up-space. Up-space could simply be higher shelves, or putting up a pegboard to hang things, Rothschild says. That increases overall room space. Using the top part of the closet is great, that area above the pole and the shelf. Its the least-used space, so thats where you put things you dont need as often.




Lots of entrepreneurs have a can-do, self-reliant attitude. But everyone could use some advice now and then, so its important to set up your own council of elders. If youre the manager and you want your business to grow, its a good idea to set up some kind of advisory board immediately, says veteran financial advisor Kathryn Amenta. It could include someone you admire whos been in the industry a long time and is successful in a way that you want to be successful, someone who is a client, and maybe someone in another business entirely. Take them out to a very nice lunch quarterly, ask hard questions, and insist on honest answers. We all need input. We cant run our businesses in a vacuum.





Whether youre designing your website or giving your elevator pitch, its critical to explain how your business solves a customers problem. Your website should be customer-centric, says John Beveridge, a 30-year veteran of the management consulting industry. Instead of saying, Were innovative, which doesnt mean anything, your site should state, We do this, and we provide that. You want to show that you understand customers pain points and give them ideas on how they can resolve those pain points. You really want to solve their problems.



The in-your-face marketing tactics of yore simply arent effective these days. Consider a different tack: Generate leads with offers that potential customers would find valuable, such as an eBook. The eBook should offer a deeper dive into what youre already discussing on your blog or into key issues that your customers face. An interior-design firm, for example, might offer something like The Ultimate Office Redesign Handbook. Create a unique webpage for visitors to download your eBook in exchange for their email addresses, and make sure to give the offer a compelling title. Webinars can be another effective lead-generation tool. As with the eBook, youll want to provide a compelling title, and require participants to submit their contact information in order to join.



As Rapidan Strategies John Beveridge explained to Line//Shape//Space, offering free consultations can be a great way attract new prospects and bring them closer to a sale. The consultations can be an hour or a half-hour, and theyre really sales calls. The potential customer has done the research, they want to buy, and theyre ready to speak with an expert. This free consultation is a chance to learn what the customers needs are and whether they are a viable business prospect or not. It takes you much closer to a decision point. Selling a product instead of services? Offering a free trial or sample can be a great way to get one step closer to a sale.



Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. I tell people who are afraid of or think they dont need social media to either retire now and sell your business, or read a book called The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue, says Jim Alles, the New York City chapter chairman of SCORE, a resource partner of the Small Business Administration. Alles explains: Facebook is relatively cheap for advertising. That is the new way of marketing and will be increasingly so for small businesses. Small businesses typically cant afford traditional marketing. And handing out flyers and going out in the street and giving out stuff doesnt work well. Social media and all its different marketing tools have changed the world.



Okay, so youre a social-media believer. Before you create accounts on every social network under the sun, take time to develop a strategy. Target the networks that your customers are most likely to inhabit. Identify key influencers on these networks and examine your competitors presences. Set goals. Then, develop guidelines with any colleagues who will be using the company account, and sketch rough outlines for the types of content you want to share, and the proportion of shares for each type. At a loss for what to say? Share a news article. Highlight an upcoming event. Pose a question. Ask your followers for feedback. Link to something that made you laugh. Your customers will probably find it funny, too! Whatever you do, make sure to respond to those who take the time to engage with you.


Whether youre offering services or a product, your company website is often one of the first steps in a customers journey to purchase. So if customers cant find you in the first place, you could be missing out on opportunities. To increase the chances of potential customers discovering your business, its a good idea to register with the Open Directory Project and Google Places. The Open Directory Project is the largest directory on the web and critical to informing the major search engines that you exist. Make sure you find an appropriate category for your business, but dont spend too much time looking for the perfect category. Many design-oriented businesses such as an architecture or civil-engineering firm could fit under the Construction and Maintenance category in the Business section. Step-by-step instructions can be found here. Creating a local listing on Google Places will go a long way to putting your business on the radar of the largest search engine on the Internet. Google has recently made a lot of changes in order to make sure that location factors greatly into what results it presents to consumers, so dont miss out on leveraging one of your best assetslocal location! Driving traffic to your website is an ongoing process that takes time and energy, but registering with these two sites will help get you well on your way.




This might seem like a no-brainer, but according to SCOREs Jim Alles, failing to understand the customer is one of the most common mistakes small-business operators make. Ive seen 400 clients personally, and in the past three years, Ive met only one who clearly understood their clients, Alles told Line//Shape//Space. We asked them straight off, Tell me about your customers: Can you profile them? Can you give me the demographics, such as where they live? What are their habits? What do they like, and what dont they like? Almost all of them looked at me with glazed eyes. Dont let that be you! Strive relentlessly to understand the pain points and motivations of your customers.


Whether youre a civil engineer designing a water-treatment plant, interior designer outfitting a modern loft space, or plumber battling exploding pipes, one thing is certain: Success for your small business requires some hustling to find new clients and keep projects coming your way. Time spent maintaining relationships with clients between projects can pay dividends when large projects present themselves. Its also a great way to transform clients into friends and long-lasting partners. Take key clients to lunch, send a handwritten birthday card, or bring doughnuts if youre in the area. You may find that some clients do not want to be bothered between projects. They may not want to be your Facebook friend or LinkedIn contact. So treat these clients with the respect they request and stay in touch by replying to every RFP they send out. Use that avenue to show your active interest and willingness to perform.



It happens to the best of us. At some point, youll probably face a conflict with a client. When it does, resolution should always begin with this step: listening. To make sure youre listening like a pro, follow these best practices: 1. Strike a pose: Proper posture, proper eye contact, and a good smile will serve you well. 2. Wait for it: Dont speak until your client is finished talking. 3. Empathize: Put yourself in the clients shoes. 4. Acknowledge: The most difficult, but perhaps the most important steplet your client know you understand that they believe these points are valid, whether you agree with them or not.

5. Repeat: Repeat back the list of issues your client raised.



Not every client-vendor situation is the right one for everyone involved. In that event, you have to be prepared to follow the advice of Seth Godin and fire them in as civil a manner as possible. This may be as hard as canceling a contract or as simple as not accepting any further work from them. As Godin puts it, In general, organizations are afraid to fire customers, no matter how unreasonable. This is a mistake. Its good for you.




Just as its important to plan for launching your business, its important to consider how youll expand and scale. As Andy Taylor, founder of the Wolf+Bear Workshop, shared with Line//Shape//Space, failing to plan for a larger-scale business can eat into your bottom line. Making five to 10 widgets is easy, but making 500 to 1,000 can raise base costs exponentially, Taylor says. I know a new company that raised $150K-plus on a Kickstarter campaign. It seems like a lot of money, but nearly every penny is going into production of the kits they promised. They priced the kits and rewards as if they were making them in their living room. But after they realized they had to hire six people to help manufacture, the margin got pretty slim. I think they fulfilled all their orders, but they still arent buying groceries with the business they started. Its not sustainable.




Sometimes the best way to find new customers is through existing customers. Rapidan Strategies John Beveridge recommends asking your current clients for ideas on potential leads. When you are working with a client and running through the project report to ensure the client is satisfied, ask for recommendations for more customers, Beveridge says.


Jordan had Pippen. Wozniak had Jobs. Peanut butter has jelly. Are there partnership opportunities out there for your business? According to SCOREs Jim Alles, forming a partnership or alliance is one of the best ways to grow. You form an alliance because the potential partner has the client base you want access to, and youre taking something new to the potential alliance partner, Alles says. When you put the two companies together, you offer one-stop shopping. Look at how the banks have diversified by offering clients every banking service known to man. If you have excellent service delivery, look for a company that has excellent client acquisition or marketing. Its about strengths and weaknesses. You can also seek out partnerships with bigger players to gain exposure. Financial advisor Kathryn Amenta says, Go into partnership with name architects [if architecture is what you do], and look for opportunities at a larger firm to work on special projects that would look good in your portfolio.



While its important to be on the lookout for new customers, sometimes the next project might be right under your noseyou just dont know it yet. SCOREs Jim Alles explains: If you understand your clients needs, you can add a new product or service and start selling it to them, as well as new clients. I have a client in environmental engineering; he asked his clients what new service they wanted, and they responded: a service based around building sustainability. He employed experts in that area and made sure the new service was of the same quality or better than his existing services. The rule is to make sure your diversification addresses a need of your existing clients.



Further information and detailed articles on all the topics in this guide can be accessed for free at the Line//Shape//Space * blog. Four additional chapters with tips on managing operations, marketing, clients and small business growth. Autodesk understands the challenges of owning and running a small business, and we recognize that your needs are often different from those of larger companies. We make design and creation technology more accessible to small businesses, not just as traditional packaged software but through new formats and platforms such as rental plans, cloud, and mobile devices. We invite you to take another look at our software solutions for small business. Try AutoCAD LT for 30 days, free Choose the LT product thats right for you * Line//Shape//Space is currently only available in English language.



Kylee Swenson Gordon is a writer, editor, musician, admirer of great design, and content marketing manager for the Small Business team at Autodesk. Bryan Rahija is a former editor, part-time musician, and fulltime graduate student at the University of Michigans Ross School of Business. Ninety percent of the photos Dusty DiMercurio takes while traveling are of either food or architecture. Dusty is a music producer and leads the Autodesk Small Business team. Micke Tong is an artist, curator, and art director for Computers & Structures, Inc. He is a manipulator of colorful digital imagery through layer, vector illustration, and collage. Curt Moreno is a Houston, Texasbased CAD coordinator, writer, and Autodesk University speaker who has been using AutoCAD since 1990. Anne Bouleanu is a Chicago-based writer who has previously written, lived, and worked in Nepal, London, and South Africa.

This guide is the result of the efforts and contributions from a number of people.
Marielle Covington is the nurture marketing manager for the Small Business team at Autodesk.

Brian Benton is a prolific AUGI Writer, Cadalyst magazine tip patroller (and contributor), published author, creator of AutoCAD training videos, and IT director/chief engineering technician for Q. Grady Minor & Associates, P.A. Jeff Yoders is a writer and editor who has covered IT, CAD, and BIM for Building Design + Construction, Structural Engineer, and CE News magazines. Kate Morrical is the digital design manager for Robert Silman Associates, a structural engineering firm with offices in New York, DC, and Boston. Ken Micallef is a New Yorkbased writer and photographer.

Shaun Bryant provides Autodesk product consultancy and training as the director of CADFMconsultants Limited and serves as a director on the board of Autodesk User Group International (AUGI). Lori Kennedy is a writer, editor, music and design enthusiast, and managing editor for Mix magazine.

Hayley Brums is a passionate digital marketer and former director of internet marketing for a small-business startup.