Running a small business is all about maximising your resources. With a whole host of competition out there, you need to really focus on what you do best if you’re going to make a living doing what you love. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help out there in the form of grants from a whole host of government departments, charities, and entrepreneurial funds. The trick is to make your grant money work for you from day one.
Deciding Where to Apply
As a small business owner, you have the benefit of flexibility, but this doesn’t mean that you can afford to waste a day by going in the wrong direction. The most important thing is to have a clear vision of what you want your grant to be spent on. This will then allow you to figure out who to apply to for assistance so that you stand the best possible chance of being successful.
If you’re not quite sure as of right now, that’s ok. Take an hour this afternoon and sit down with a side of paper and use it to write down everything you want your grant to achieve. Come back to it over and over until you have a clear vision in your mind of what you’re working towards. Once you have that, it will be so much easier to find the right body or organisation to approach.
The Big Day Arrives
After you’ve applied, it’s very much a waiting game to hear the results of your application. Fingers crossed you’ve been successful, because then you can power ahead with your new venture. The only problem is that this may be the first time you have come into a lump sum of money as a business owner.
By all means, have a smile from ear to ear about your newfound success, but don’t lose sight of what it is that you’re really trying to achieve. Whilst you may be tempted to celebrate with an impulse buy for your office, or a fancy new piece of equipment for the workshop, ask yourself if you really need it. Also – never forget that your grant money can only be spent for the purpose you have been awarded it, not randomly and recklessly.
A cooling off period of a couple of days is something that a lot of small businesses take once their applications have accepted. This allows you to retain focus and ensures that you start as you mean to go on when it comes to spending your grant.
Reread Your Application
On your application, you will have spelled out what you want to spend the money on very convincingly; it was accepted after all! This makes it the perfect document to refer back to so that you can draw up a timeline for your spending.
Purchasing everything you need or can think of on the first day may make you feel like you’ve got everything sorted instantly, but it’s not the most pragmatic way to go about things. Take the time to revisit and renegotiate quotes, and don’t be afraid of exploring other options that you haven’t thought of before, to close better deals.
Know the Restrictions on Your Grant
One thing that you will always need to have in mind is that your grant is not simply free money. It has been given to you to fulfil a specific task so it’s vital that you use it in that way, and that way only!
Take a look at your initial proposal before you spend a penny and make sure you know precisely what you can and can’t use it for. You may find it useful to print it out and have it in the front of your finance folder or on the wall above your desk. Usually the restrictions will be simple and easy to follow, but as a business owner, the onus is on you to make sure you’re fully compliant. If in doubt, contact the provider of the grant for clarification before purchasing.
Always Save a Little For a Rainy Day
Having success in business is as much about steady planning as it about amazing ideas and sparks of inspiration. By saving a portion of your grant just in case, you’ll be able to react to the changing environment that your business operates in.
This may not be the most exciting way to spend the money, but it is one of the most pragmatic. Create a timeline for the grant split down into months or quarters, depending on which is most practical for the specific needs of your business. This will allow you to budget effectively and ensure you’re never caught out by a fast changing market or an unforeseen breakdown of your equipment.
With a little planning, you’ll be able to take your grant a long way as you build the business that your hard work deserves. Now it’s over to you to put the hints and tips from above into action!