I RUN a popular rural bakery and we really need to renovate to keep the business up to date and flourishing. The trouble is, it's something of a financial gamble as we don't have huge cash reserves. What steps do we need to take - before getting a loan - to ensure we are not overcapitalising, that we are not closed for too long and that the revamp will eventually pay off for the business?

AS WITH anything, the first thing you need to do is write a plan, do the numbers and convince yourself that there is an acceptable return for your investment.

Start by analysing your costs and verify where you can cut back or eliminate expenses. Are you holding more stock than you need? Are you spending too much on transport and petrol? Are you using all your equipment and machinery effectively? What about your premises and back office expenses? How about your staff? Even smaller items can add up and eat away at your profits, so do the maths and make sure that all of your costs are contributing to your revenue.

Prepare your own cash flow statement and calculate the level of revenue you need to break even. Ideally you want to look at the next 36 months, but at the very least you should do a 12-month plan.

Compare this statement with your historical levels and validate your revenue increases with accurate assumptions that show how you're going to achieve return on investment. Your accountant should review your numbers and can provide a good check and balance.

If you are looking to preserve cash, you might want to investigate leasing and rental options. For example, new catering equipment attracts rental funding options, allowing you to pay off the expense over 36-60-month terms.

Not all banks are proactive in providing leasing for retail fit-outs, but there are many non-bank lenders that will provide financial advice, support and planning to smaller businesses like yours. Once you have convinced yourself that there is a reasonable payback period for your investment, you'll have a solid case to present to potential lenders. Good luck.

I am starting a personal training studio targeting inner-city clients. I'm aware there is huge competition out there, and thought a social media campaign might help build my clientele. I have basic knowledge of social media, but have never run a campaign on there. Would you have any ideas or advice?

SOCIAL media is a great tool when used effectively, and many people turn to it as a cost-effective way to market their business. But what people fail to plan for is the time commitment it takes to keep up with social media. Unlike other more traditional advertising, it's not a ''set it and forget it'' solution.

Social media is a two-way conversation, and the only way to get real value is to make sure that you're constantly interacting with potential customers, and that every single interaction is delivering on your bottom line.

Depending on what your goals are, I would start with one platform rather than getting in over your head and committing to several social media avenues.

If you're focusing on targeting businesses as a whole, rather than individuals, I'd suggest getting started on LinkedIn. That way you can target the businesses in your area and people within them.

One thing you cannot forget is to track your results. All too often people commit to social media without having a way to measure the impact. There are plenty of free and low-cost tools that can help you do this - Google Analytics is one of the most popular. My best advice? Don't get caught up in the distractions. Start small, track your progress and if you're not seeing results, move on.

Mark Bouris is executive chairman of wealth management company Yellow Brick Road. His advice here is intended as guidance only.

Email questions for Mark Bouris to Larissa Ham at lham@fairfaxmedia.com.au