Growing and expanding a small business can be a challenge on so many different levels, whether it is having the right resources, skill set or financial constraints. Therefore many small business owners find themselves needing to be adaptable and able to turn their hand to all sorts of different areas of running a business, some of which may be outside their amassed knowledge.
This month, I wanted to share some important tips and practical approaches to help and support a small business owner to grow their business.
Plan for contingencies
You can never accommodate for every eventuality when running or growing your business. One of the key pieces of advice I share with all my clients is to encourage them to take the time to plan for contingencies, whether that’s stock control, financial or factoring in the loss of a key member of staff, supplier or service provider. You want to avoid finding yourself caught on the back foot with no plan or idea of how you will keep the business functioning in the event of something unexpected. Planning can be one of the most important tasks you do.
It doesn’t have to be a lengthy activity, but the benefits of having something written down to refer to when the unforeseen happens can be a huge relief.
Find the right people to fill in the skill gaps to grow your business
No single person, let alone a business owner can do every-thing themselves, especially when it comes to expanding and growing a business. However, a savvy business owner will bring in resources and help to complement the current skills and knowledge in the business and bring in new skills required to support the success and growth of the business. Another key aspect to this is to know how to delegate the right tasks to the most appropriate person(s) with the best knowledge and expertise. A business cannot grow with-out the right people in the right roles.
There are many ways in which you can employ the right support for your business, whether that’s direct employ-ment, freelancers, apprentice-ships, contractors or virtual support among many others. Never hold yourself back thinking you can’t afford another pair of hands, or you can’t afford the support you need, there are so many available and flexible ways to bring in the right knowledge into your business. Don’t let doubt hold you back.
Find the tools that suit your needs
Take advantage of systems, IT and software that support your business by automating key aspects. The right software can help propel your business to the next level.
There are many tools and resources available to a small business owner to support greater efficiencies, reduce time, and reduce manual intervention. To automate is the way to go. Whether it’s automating administrative duties like payroll and human resources, such as QuickBooks for accounting, Sage for payroll, Slack for communication/collaboration, Wunderlist for task management, iCal or Google Calendar for calendar management and Hubspot or agile for a CRM system; to ensure you never miss a lead is crucial for any business. If you can change or adapt your current working practices to reduce your time and increase your potential sales and productivity, this is a clear win-win situation.
Review your cash flow regularly
If you constantly find yourself tight on cash, it might be time to have a detailed review of how you are approaching core areas of your business because cash problems often stem from:
- Low gross margins because of discounted prices or unchecked direct costs
- High overheads
- Credit policy that’s too liberal
- Undervaluing your products/services
- Cautious pricing thinking lower price equals more sells
- Ineffective collection strategies
- Money tied up in inventory
- Have budgets for expenditure and monitor them
- Regularly review your cashflow against expenditure
Without a good grasp of the numbers, it is more likely to find yourself struggling.
The right culture
You may feel that as a small business owner culture is not necessarily a focus as much as it might be for a larger employer. But the way you run your business will not only be picked up by those who work for you, but also clients, suppliers, and any companies that work with you. A positive ethos, vision and culture will support the reputation and image of your business, product(s) and service(s), such as:
Work ethic – works hard, sets goals, cares about their clients and the customer services they provide.
Social intelligence – the business interacts well within their market and is aware of what trends and changes are taking place that could affect their client or business.
Dependability – willing to follow through and commit to providing the highest quality of products/services.
Communication – communicates clearly and understands that miscommunication can lead to things going from bad to worse.
Adaptability – adapts to changes when necessary
Positivity – creates (or contributes to) a positive work environment
Delegate – With the right people, you can delegate your way to growth.
As a small business owner, you can only do so much, and even if you think you’re better off doing certain things yourself rather than delegating, it’s better as the business owner to focus on what you do best and bring more value to the business.
Delegating the right tasks to the right people ensures tasks are accomplished on time and gets work done even when the business owner or manager is not around. It also sends the message that you trust the people around you, which, in turn, will make them trust you, increasing productivity and engagement.
Treat your customers well
The better the experience a customer has with you, your business and its product(s) or service(s) the greater the likelihood they will return time and again and do more business with you. Treat them poorly, and they will speak unfavourably of you, which could lead to a negative reputation or harmful social media, all of which could significantly affect your brand. Make sure your product or services are what your customers want and need and be prepared to adapt. A lack of market need for a product/service is a significant reason why businesses struggle to grow.
Resilience and Versatility
Running a small business is often about being resilient and your ability to manage the highs and lows that can come your way. You need to accept that there will be good and bad times and to try hard not to let them affect you negatively. To adapt and stay positive is key; there will always be another opportunity or client around the corner, so please don’t let the hard times stop you from achieving your goals.