Small business owners are usually a jack-of-all-trades when starting out. Without a budget for staffing or outside help, busy entrepreneurs often work day and night to establish and grow their business. Here are some areas where business owners should consider concentrating their energies.
Failure to properly manage cash flow can be catastrophic for a small business. In fact, poor cash flow causes many small businesses to close each year. Even a short-term cash flow problem can make it difficult to buy inventory, make payroll, or cover expenses like rent and utilities.
SmartBiz® University has an article to help you accurately determine where you stand: Analyzing Cash Flow | SmartBiz University. You’ll learn about what cash flow is, why it matters, and tips to help you manage it. If you determine that your cash flow needs to be increased, the SmartBiz Small Business Blog has steps you can take including how to cut back and when to seek outside financing: How to Increase Small Business Cash Flow.
What do giant corporations have that many small businesses don’t? It’s data-along with a team of data scientists, analysts, and researchers to dive in and use that data to their advantage. However, there are many ways for a small business to gather data and gain insights. Data collection is critical no matter how large your business or what stage of growth you’re in. Don’t ignore this important factor.
Business News Daily suggests nine affordable big data solutions for small businesses that includes easy-to-use platforms like Google Analytics: 9 Big Data Solutions for Small Businesses.
Those who fail to plan, plan to fail! It can be tough for a multitasking business owner to step away from day-to-day tasks and focus on the future. However, taking the time to formulate a strategic plan is one of the best ways to reach short- and long-term goals. “Strategic planning” might sound daunting, but the process doesn’t have to be complex. Evan Singer, CEO of SmartBiz Loans®, shares his small business expertise in this article published by Forbes: How to Create A Long-Term Plan For Your Small Business.
Understanding profit margins
A company’s operating profit margin, also referred to as its return on sales, measures the proportion of income to revenue. This number reveals how much profit your business is generating from sales and can help you set goals and gauge your progress. This SmartBiz blog post has information you need to help you calculate and improve your profit margin: What Is a Good Profit Margin for a Small Business?
Brett Lewis, Co-founder of Skillbridge®, sums up why small businesses need a solid recruiting strategy in place. He says, “Great people versus okay people is the difference between success and mediocrity.” Hiring is one of the most important things a small business owner will do to spark company growth. It's critical to hire competent staff members who are in it for the long haul and stay committed and motivated. This all starts with placing the right employment ad through onboarding and retainment strategies. Review the steps outlined in this article to help you get going: 5 Hiring Tips for Every Small Business.
Once you’ve hired an employee, don’t just “set it and forget it.” You should remain highly engaged with your staff to stay on top of their skill development and overall satisfaction with their position. It’s extremely expensive to hire and train. It’s in your best interest to create an atmosphere where employees want to stick around. Our post, 12 Proven Employee Retention Ideas, has great steps you can take to help ensure employee happiness.
These days, people see about 3,000 messages every day. Of that, a person will remember an average of just 4. It’s extremely important for business owners to understand marketing and use the right tools and platforms to reach their target audience. You don’t have to have a huge budget or marketing team to perform marketing engagement activities-the key is to develop your brand and know your audience. There are tons of marketing resources on our blog that you can use to help shape your marketing engagement strategy. Check out these articles to help spark ideas you can use to reach consumers:
Both articles include a mix of digital and traditional marketing methods you can tailor to fit the needs of your unique business.
Performing an analysis of your competitors is a great way to stay one step ahead of the competition. A competitive analysis helps you look at the big picture. When done the right way, you’ll learn what has changed, what’s working, and what isn’t. The BigCommerce blog has an easy-to-use guide here: How to Perform a Competitive Analysis in 2019.
Building a website
Even if you’re not an ecommerce seller, having a website and online presence is vitally important. A business website helps build credibility and professionalism, increases customer reach, and is a cost-effective way to market your product or services. Your website is part of your overall marketing strategy. If you don’t have a website, now is the time to do it. Our post will help you make decisions as you plan your online presence: 5 Things to Decide Before Building Your Small Business Website.
Did you know that 85% of consumers use the internet to find a local business? It’s no secret that social media plays a very important role in shaping the success or failure of your business. If you’re looking to cement your company’s online presence and enhance its growth, establish social media channels and keep them active.
"It takes discipline not to let social media steal your time." These words of wisdom are from Alexis Ohanian, an Internet entrepreneur who co-founded the social news website Reddit®. If you don’t have the discipline to run your social media channels or the bandwidth, it’s a great idea to hire an outside specialist. Our post has tips to help you find the right fit: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist.
Need some inspiration? Read 7 Companies That Use Social Media Marketing Effectively. Once you’ve established your channels, the SmartBiz Blog has a resource to help you move forward: How to Quickly Master Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses.
In the past, unhappy customers didn’t have many choices when things went wrong. They could write a letter or pick up the phone. These days, a simple tweet can get the attention of a giant corporation – and millions of people if it goes viral. According to a Microsoft report, 54% of all consumers globally say that they have higher customer service expectations than they did just one year ago.
Providing the best customer service experience possible should be a top priority for every small business owner. Make sure it’s clear to consumers where they should go for customer service support. Once they reach out, they should come in contact with an employee who has been trained well and knows your business inside and out. Here are guidelines to follow as your shape your customer service strategies: Keys to Great Customer Service – Even if You’re a One Man Organization.
Payroll is defined as the total amount of wages paid by a company to its employees and other workers. Your company’s payroll may be your biggest business expense.
Processing payroll is complicated as you’re responsible for collecting insurance premiums, retirement plan contributions, and tax withholdings. Failure to do payroll correctly can result in costly fines or you might even end up in a lawsuit. Luckily, there is payroll software available that offers a system that can do all the calculations, cut checks, and even pay taxes and file the documents with state and federal agencies. Check out review site Capterra® for information about software and reviews from real users: Best Payroll Software | 2019 Reviews of the Most Popular.
Innovation simply means improvement and invention-it doesn’t need to be complex. Small businesses are in a great position to innovate because they can move quickly to implement new ideas.
You can kick off innovative thinking by simply setting aside time in your week to creatively focus on improving products and processes. Once you’re in the innovative mindset, create an action plans to bring your thoughts to life. As a business owners, you’re not the only one with innovative ideas. Create a process where your customers and employees can make suggestions to improve your products or services.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), lean planning allows you to turn strategy into action. Small business owners who use lean planning create day-to-day tasks known as tactics and then determine how to best execute them. Regularly reviewing your lean plans is also necessary to confirm that your plans are indeed bringing you closer to your business goals.
When it comes to what small business owners need help with, establishing proper hiring practices is high on the list. If your hiring practices are discriminatory – even if not intentionally so – you could be setting yourself up for legal troubles. Additionally, a bad hire can cost your company up to 30 percent of the hire’s annual salary. For both these reasons, you should thoroughly review your hiring process for compliance before you hire your first employees.
As you launch and grow your business, you’ll have to formally establish its structure with the government for tax and regulatory purposes. You’ll also need proper licensure to operate legally and business insurance to protect yourself from certain lawsuits. You can read more about all these legal needs via the SmartBiz Loans Blog:
- Type of Entity: The Complete Guide. Learn about nine common business entity types and determine which one might be best for your business.
- Where To Apply For Business Licenses and Permits and How To Do I. Learn which business licenses your company might need and how you can get them.
- Why Growing Businesses Need to Invest in Insurance. Find out which business insurance policies your company needs and how much they might cost you.
Small business owners like yourself may find themselves so thinly spread that rushed communications with employees, customers, and the general public might result. You may thus want to ask for help, depending on which area you need the most help. You may want assistance with customer service through social media channels or internal communications help to facilitate discussions within the company. A third-party public relations team may help with broader public communications, and an internal project manager may be necessary for interfacing with clients.
Small business failure is far from uncommon, and overspending – in other words, poor budgeting – is often at least partially to blame. That’s why you should seek help capping your expenses in ways conducive to both maintaining your cash flow and expanding your business. For more information, read the SmartBiz Loans guide to financial forecasting.
Business accounting goes hand in hand with budgeting. You’ll need to track every dollar and cent that moves in and out of your business to keep your company on budget and thus financially healthy. Third-party accounting firms can help on this front, as can business accounting software.
Although some elements of running a business can be unpredictable, you can better shield yourself from unforeseen obstacles through scenario planning. When planning scenarios, you’ll guess how your company and industry will look in the future and make plans based on these assumptions. As a result, you may lower your short- and long-term operational costs and risks.
Products and Services
Presumably, you’ve started your company to offer a firm set of products and services. In some cases, though, growth is much easier to obtain if you expand what you do. At other times, adjusting and improving your current offerings is best. Find an expert on the relationship between business offerings and growth to address this key business need.
Company culture isn’t just an internal concern. Yes, company culture involves deciding what kind of workplace you’ll operate and which types of employees best fit that mold. However, it also involves cementing your company’s values and teaching your team how to uphold these values while interacting with employees.
Your employees can use the values you establish in your company culture to improve customer satisfaction, so don’t be shy about seeking a company culture consultant. Better internal and external affairs are within reach – asking for help is all it takes.