5 Actionable Tips for Scaling Your Small Business

Do you know how to scale your business? Starting your business took a lot of hard work. Now that you’re ready for expansion, you will likely face an entirely new set of challenges.

Already, as part of your routine, you must serve customers, supervise your staff, keep the books and fill other administrative roles. With so much to do, scaling your business might seem impossible. Where do you start? How do you find the time?

Use the following actionable tips for scaling your small business to do the job without becoming overwhelmed or busting your budget.

Embrace Success

Already, you’ve overcome the odds by building a successful small business. You know what failure looks like and you probably don’t like it. So, as you scale your business, think big and approach everything you do with a “success” mentality.

You can probably find thousands of fantastic ideas that can help you scale. Prepare yourself right now to say “no” to most of them. You have limited amounts of time and money, so stay focused on the things that matter the most.

Always keep the big picture in mind. Make every decision with an eye for the future. If you don’t, you could incur unnecessary expenses. For example, if you skimp on your data network or software applications, you may have to replace them if they can’t grow with you.

So, when you invest in systems, make sure they can scale with your business. Take a similar approach while assembling your team.

Get Help

Find someone who can serve as your mentor and advisor. Such a person could be anyone with experience either in your industry or your type of business. An investor, business owner, or someone with similar experience can fill this role.

In addition to getting advice from peers, you should learn to depend on your team. Rather than trying to do everything yourself, try delegating responsibilities. By letting other people share the load, you can have more time to plan and execute your growth strategy.

Of course, as your business grows, you will need to expand your team. Avoid the temptation to take shortcuts with your team. You need well-qualified people who can deliver a high level of performance. To do this, you’ll need to offer competitive wages, perks, educational opportunities, and other benefits.

Use Technology

As you scale, look for ways to work smarter rather than harder. Here, technology can play a vital role. For instance, you can use a cloud-based collaboration app to unify remote workers with your traditional employees.

When done right, your entire team can work together on documents, share files, and hold group brainstorming sessions. Tools that support instant messaging, live chat, video conferencing, and virtual whiteboards can also help your staff become more productive.

Automation offers you additional ways to scale your business. Thanks to technology, you can eliminate redundant data entry and automate many routine tasks. In the end, you can substantially improve productivity while eliminating opportunities for making errors.

Other opportunities for improving your business’ performance include analytics tools. These can collect and analyze multiple data points from your organization and provide insights into its performance.

Get Online

Your website and social networks are assets that you shouldn’t ignore. Spend time assessing their current state and then develop a plan for moving forward. Remember that a fresh and active online presence can grow your sales.

Now is a fantastic time to refresh your market research. First, identify the type of customers that need what you offer. Next, learn about the problems and challenges they face. You should also learn about their desires and aspirations.

Based on your research, create a persona that represents your ideal customer. As you create content, keep this person in mind. Create value by addressing the real-world issues that your persona faces.

Most of all, be consistent. On social media, share your brand’s personality. Socialize with your followers and share content. Do more than pitch sales. Become part of the community.

Encourage Feedback

In your quest for growth, never forget about your current customers. For starters, you can dramatically reduce your selling costs by closing repeat sales. In other words, by expanding your base, you can boost your profitability.

Your customers can also provide you with feedback that can support your ongoing success. They can provide you with answers to important questions:

● What new products and features should you sell?
● How can you create a better customer experience?
● What factors limit their frequency and volume of sales?
● How can you deliver more value to the marketplace?

Consider sending customers a survey after every sale. This gives them a chance to express their level of satisfaction and share their opinions. To encourage participation, keep your surveys short and simple. Additionally, offer an incentive such as a discount on a future purchase.

In conclusion, rest assured that you can successfully scale your business. However, to avoid the mistakes that have doomed other business, you should apply the above tips. Start by thinking big. your winning attitude will help you overcome failures and mistakes.

As you make progress, avoid distractions, get the help you need, leverage technology, and build your online presence. In the end, scaling your business requires a lot of work and some risk. What do you think about this topic? Share your comments or experiences that may help small business owners rise to the next level.

Joe Peters

Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate tech enthusiast. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie enjoys reading about the latest apps and gadgets and binge-watching his favorite TV shows. You can reach him @bmorepeters

4 Procurement Strategies for Small Business

Procurement in relation to small business takes on a much different meaning than it’s big biz counterpart. Sure, they both involve similar practices, but in small business, it’s generally approached by a single person or small group — the most pertinent being the business owner. Small businesses don’t have access to a team of interns or professionals to handle research, vetting and communication. Instead, they have to do it all themselves.

Already, a small business owner has many demands and challenges on their plate from staffing and inventory management to customer service. Procurement, then, tends to be a much lower priority. But it shouldn’t be this way. In fact, most small businesses spend between 45 and 65 percent of their sales revenue on the procurement of inputs. It’s a massive undertaking for any company, big or small, so it should be afforded the appropriate attention.

In light of all this, let’s explore some tips and strategies that small to mid-sized businesses can leverage during procurement.

1. Form a Business Consortium

As a small business, you just don’t have the same buying power and influence as a major organization, at least not by yourself. In some cases, this issue can mean that many potential suppliers and vendors are off-limits simply because they work only with larger outfits. It also means that when you do find a potential partner, you may not save as much because you can’t meet optimal quantity limits. Vendors and suppliers will often offer exclusive discounts and deals for ordering in bulk.

Much of this inconvenience can be remedied by forming a consortium between local or similar small businesses. By partnering with others who need the same supplies, you can instantly meet volume requirements for additional savings and hold much more potency when it comes to buying power. Even when volume discounts aren’t offered, you can still benefit from cost savings, because the total investment is split between multiple parties as opposed to remaining solely on your shoulders.

2. Maintain Supplier and Vendor Relationships

Long-lasting relationships, especially with suppliers and vendors, tend to come with many benefits. It can save a lot of time and resources, for one, that you would otherwise waste looking for additional support. There’s also something to be said for the buildup of trust between loyal partners, as you can generally speak more freely and openly with a strategic partner you’ve dealt with over an extended period.

Perhaps even more relevant is the point that you’ll likely be evolving and scaling your operations as time goes on. This process will come naturally as your business grows, of course, but eventually, you’ll make an effort to improve efficiencies or output or just look for potential improvements to make. Having a strong bond or relationship with your vendors and suppliers means that you can include them in this process as well. You might even be able to stretch more enhancements out of helping them achieve optimizations too.

Indirect spending can also be reduced or mitigated by working with a single or small selection of vendors. The money you would spend on research, placing bids or seeking partners — and even varying prices from working with separate parties — can be outright eliminated. In fact, improving your procurement process can result in cost savings of 25 percent or more from indirect spending.

3. Consider Outsourcing

Outsourcing — in its many forms — may not be for everyone. However, if there’s one area of the business world where it can offer incredible benefits, it’s for small to mid-sized businesses. Generally, these operations don’t have access to extended resources, staff or equipment, so it’s difficult to keep up with the current state of the market and scale accordingly for more demanding customers.

Outsourcing involves balancing the work and operations so that a more qualified, capable party handles the tasks that your small business could not. There are many opportunities, service possibilities and providers out there, including outsourcing companies for finances, strategic analysis, IT, security and cloud computing solutions. Even supply and vendor management companies are available and will handle all duties related to logistics and inventory management.

Taking advantage of outsourcing also frees up the time of your limited staff so that you can handle more important or pressing matters. Taking into account the sheer number of responsibilities you have on your plate, that benefit in and of itself might be worth the investment.

4. Employ the Right Technologies

When researching potential suppliers, having access to the right software and systems can be instrumental. Even beyond that initial phase, software solutions can help create job postings and handle bidding processes, reference qualifications, submit and process payments and cover general vendor management duties. Not only will this assistance significantly cut costs associated with time and resource investments, but it will also simplify the entire process, eliminating most of the manual activities you’d otherwise have to follow.

Out of 200 businesses surveyed, 50.72 percent said their biggest tech adoption challenge was cost, being that the solutions they might be interested in are too expensive. A further 40.58 percent said that they didn’t have enough time to invest into finding or testing proper solutions, while 26.09 percent said the tech is too complicated.

If those businesses actually invested time into finding proper tech-based solutions, they’d also find cost savings, more free time — which could be used in better ways — and much easier process management. The reality is almost exactly the opposite of what many claimed in the survey.

When considering all these tips and potential procurement strategies, it becomes much easier to see how a business owner or small team could handle their duties. More importantly, it’s not just about getting the work done, but doing so efficiently and accurately. You need the proper time to research, trial and build a relationship with potential vendors, if only to improve the quality of your own products and services.

Procurement should never be an afterthought, even for small business.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

3 Ways the Internet Can Make or Break Your Home-Based Business

The internet has absolutely transformed how companies do business and how consumers purchase products. This transformation has been dramatic and has affected all sectors of the economy. If you ignore how the internet has changed commerce, you will likely be left in the dust of competitors that have implemented the internet to expand their reach to consumers.

However, despite the benefits of the internet for businesses, selling your product online from your home isn’t necessarily easy by any stretch of the imagination. There are a lot of common mistakes you need to avoid. With that in mind, below are three ways the internet can make or break your home-based business.

SEO

One thing that can make or break your home business on the internet is SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO includes the strategies that are utilized to obtain a preferable ranking on the major search engines like Google.

Google processes about 1.2 trillion searches a year. It’s how nearly everyone on the planet finds what they want on the internet. If you have poor SEO, it can certainly hurt your bottom line significantly. Definitely make fine tuning your SEO a priority. You also need to adjust your SEO over time since Google is always tweaking its algorithms.

Downtime

However, there are other issues apart from SEO you need to worry about. One of them is downtime. Downtime refers to times when your website can’t be loaded by visitors or refuses to operate properly. Downtime is a serious issue that causes businesses to lose millions a year. Most often, the cause of downtime is a higher volume of traffic than what a website’s hosting account is designed to handle. Make sure to search for web hosts and internet providers that will grant you the bandwidth you need to ensure that your website is always online and available to customers.

User Experience

Lastly, even if you obtain a high ranking on Google and avoid downtime completely, you can still fail. Part of this may be the fact that your website’s user experience is poor. This may happen, for example, if your website is hard to navigate. Today, most people surf the web on their smart phones. If your website scrolls from left to right instead of just up and down, most smart phone users may get frustrated. Make sure to test your website’s user experience on multiple different platforms.

Overall, running a website for your online business isn’t easy. Your success isn’t guaranteed. However, if you make sure your website has strong SEO, is always online and produces a good user experience, you can significantly increase your chances of success.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

4 Types of Insurance You Need to Protect Your Small Business

Optimism is high among small business owners, with revenue and staff growth on the rise as 53% of small businesses reported that they planned to expand in 2018. Growth is great and indicates positive trends for many small business owners in various industries, but it also brings with it more questions regarding company compliance and protection as you work to cover all your bases. Business insurance is a tricky subject that really depends on the type of business you run and how you are operating, but if you want to ensure you are covered, you will want to take a look at these four policies.

General Liability Insurance

If you are just getting started and are only going to invest in one type of insurance for your small business, then it absolutely must be general liability insurance. This will ensure your company and all of the time and money you’ve invested into is safe as it protects your business and any employees from any damages incurred as the result of bodily injury, property damage, medical accidents or associated expenses, libel, slander, the cost of defending lawsuits, and settlement bonds or judgments required during an appeal procedure. Every small business, even if it is home-based, should invest in general liability insurance.

Professional Liability Insurance

This is particularly useful and important for businesses that provide services to customers. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance, covers you against any claims or damages caused to your clients that result from mistakes or failure to perform. General liability insurance policies generally do not provide this type of coverage and it is crucial in ensuring you are protected against any false claims as well as malpractice.

Business Owner’s Policy

If you are interested in getting a little bit of every type of coverage, try looking for a business owner’s policy that includes various features that benefit your small business. This type of policy will not only include all of the types of insurance you are required to carry as a business owner, but it will also include other things such as business interruption insurance, property insurance, vehicle coverage, liability insurance, and crime insurance. You can usually tailor your specific plan to fit what you need, making this type of policy one of the best as it often costs less than the total cost of all the individual coverage you might be looking for.

Personal Property Insurance 

Seeing as most small businesses operate out of homes, it is important to note that home insurance doesn’t always cover home-based losses. You may be required to add additional riders to any existing home insurance policy in order to cover losses associated with your business, which is where personal property insurance might come in handy. If you own the building you operate out of and it is not covered by any other insurance, personal property insurance will cover the property inside of it, such as office equipment, computers, inventory or tools.

Staying Insured From the Get-Go

While it may not seem so if you are just getting started, as your small business grows and takes on additional risks and responsibilities, business insurance will quickly become a must. By taking these four different types of business insurance policies into consideration, you can formulate a plan that makes sense for the size of your business, the industry you operate within, and what type of product or service you provide.

Guest Author, Jenny Holt, is a former HR executive turned freelance writer, who now spends more time with her young family and ageing, but ever eager Labrador, Rover.

Is It Time to Grow Your Small Business?

How long have you been running your small business?

Whether many years or only a short time, you want to do your best to have the right amount of funds in your bank account. Not doing so can make it quite difficult to keep your business healthy and moving forward.

With that in mind, is it time to grow your small business?

Where Should You Go for a Loan?

If you are leaning towards seeking a loan for your small business, where best to start?

Your first move should be going online to see the loan providers available to you as a small business owner.

Most offering small business loans are going to have websites. Some are also going to be present on social media sites. As a result, you can learn a fair amount of information about them in the process.

In the advantages to the web, check what options you have with an online business loan calculator.

With the calculator in hand, you are able to come up with what amount you would be eligible for. Also, figure out how much money you would be seeking in the process.

Second, get to know some of the loan providers out there.

  • Among the things you’d want to know:
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What kind of track record do they have?
  • Are they known for top-notch customer service?
  • How do they compare to their competitors?

In doing your research, you move closer to finding the right loan provider for your needs.

Growing When the Time is Right

Another important factor in this decision-making process is to know when the time to grow is.

With that being the case, you should look at several factors.

Among them:

1. Trends in your industry – One of the things you want to do is look at the trends in your industry. For example, are you seeing a lot of growth in your line of work with business, companies adding workers and more? If things appear to be pretty stagnant, this may then not be the best time to want to expand your business.

2. Your ability to stay on top of technology – Also take the time to look at the technology you are using. If you seem to be falling behind in the area of technology, is your competition taking advantage of this? If they are, it could be putting some distance between you and them in their favor. You may well decide you need to take out a small business loan to upgrade your technology needs.

3. Expanding in your area – Last, if you want to expand office space, do you have the means to do so now? You may be in a position where expanding is not an option. This can be due to limited growth possibilities where you are now located. It may mean taking out a loan and building a bigger office somewhere or expanding an office that is for sale.

No matter the reasons you contemplate to grow or not grow your small business, be sure to put thought into it.

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics on the web.

4 Ways Businesses Benefit From Outsourcing Services

In the past, small to medium-sized businesses had a much harder time competing with the ‘big boys’ industries  due to a lack of adequate infrastructure within their organizations. However, thanks to the most recent technological breakthroughs, this is no longer the case, as small businesses all around the world are given a more level playing field by outsourcing their non-core processes elsewhere. As such, these non-core processes can include anything ranging from marketing and design to IT support. Moreover, with the use of new cloud and project-management software, outsourcing these processes has never been simpler. Yet, how exactly do small businesses benefit from this lucrative arrangement? Keep on reading to find out.

Lower operating costs

Hiring new staff to take care of your in-house marketing and IT sectors is a huge investment for small business owners. According to the Training magazine, on average, companies spend around 1,000 US dollars per learner, and this does not account for the time and effort it takes to post job ads, review CVs, and interview potential employees. Also, the more workers you employ, the more money you have to spend on equipment, office space, workers compensation, and taxes. Hence, the most logical solution for small businesses is to go lean, in order to maximize efficiency and lower the cost of operating.

Outsourcing services helps small businesses do just that, as the cost of hiring another company to, for example, manage your company’s marketing efforts is much lower than doing it yourself. With larger corporations, it’s a totally different story, as they can handle their own in-house marketing sectors due to having a lot more resources at their disposal. This is why, by outsourcing, smaller companies can be at an equal footing with the big corporate giants, as it allows them to enlist the help of professional marketers at a much lower cost. 

Access to the latest technology

Another reason why outsourcing is so beneficial for small businesses is the fact that outsourcing companies bring their own equipment and technology into the fold. A good example of this phenomenon can be seen in the legal industry, where Artificial Intelligence is seeing an increase in use. Especially so in the process of legal transcription, where sophisticated AI plays a crucial role in transferring raw video and audio data into a more accurate, readable format. Without this, legal firms would struggle to process vital materials in time for the next proceeding. By using this kind of human-aided AI services and technology, businesses save precious time and increase efficiency.

Increased focus on core business processes

The thing with some small businesses, and startups in general, is that they usually operate on a much tighter deadline and do so with a skeleton crew. By outsourcing all of their repetitive and time-consuming back office tasks, such as sales, marketing, and IT support, small businesses get to focus all of their attention on core-business functions, which greatly improves their overall efficiency and productivity. Thus, the key staff gets to work on improving critical business areas instead of wasting their time dilly-dallying with computer updates and composing new marketing strategies. Furthermore, apart from lowering the cost of re-training the existing employees to accept new roles, focusing on key business elements helps small businesses cultivate talent, which is crucial for staying ahead of the curve and gaining a real advantage over your competitors.

Acquire the assistance of business experts

Training your own staff members to perform non-core functions won’t yield immediate results. In fact, this approach will lead to many trials and errors before they finally get the hang of it. Moreover, some of these tasks take weeks, if not months, to learn, which is time better spent elsewhere.

Hence, it’s a good idea to employ the services of a company which is an expert in that field. This will not only bring in more results, but do so at a much faster pace. Plus, you get some real, concrete, advice from people who know exactly what they’re doing. Also, by outsourcing you’re actually opening the door of your business to global talent and not just settling for second-best in your immediate vicinity. At the end of the day, you get to pay for quality services which would otherwise be too costly on your own.

All in all, outsourcing services is a great way for small businesses to stay ahead of the competition by funneling priceless manpower and resources into development and growth instead of wasting it on irrelevant back office tasks.

Guest author, David Webb, is a Sydney-based business consultant,online marketing analyst and a writer. With six years of experience and a degree in business management, he continuously informs the public about the latest trends in the industry. He is a regular author at BizzmarkBlog. You can reach him on Twitter or Facebook.

PR Is Essential For SME Firms – Big Business Shows Why

A public relations fiasco will sometimes feel like the death knell for a company. However, for digital business, poor publicity can provide more of a boon than you’d expect. Digital-based cab company Uber provide excellent evidence of this. Despite blow after blow in the media, Uber made $7.4bn in revenue last year. How does a company absorb wide scale negative publicity and turn it into benefits – and how does digital business prosper even further?

When expectations are at rock bottom, your options are unrestricted. Outside of the digital sphere, Volkswagen showed this; the very green friendly $25bn electric car scheme did the trick, as did generous compensation. For SME, there’s lessons to be learned here; even a crisis can be turned into a positive.

Setting the tone

Despite being confined to a screen, digital business isn’t excepted from having a tone of voice. In fact, it’s more important than ever, and is referred to as brand voice. Behind the brand voice is an established science behind it, and it forms a key part of your PR approach. According to Contently, up to 61% of customers are minded more towards engaging with a company that has a positive tone. Your tone is elicited through all of the mediums you use, as a business, to communicate – whether that’s face-to-face, email, or standard webpages.

How, then, does tone translate to transforming bad PR? To return to Uber’s example, their fortunes noticeably increased once a conciliatory tone. Not every customer can be happy – even if your service is perfect, it’s likely there will at some point be an issue. Adopting a positive business voice regardless of outcomes, and regardless of the message you are delivering, will have a twofold benefit: one, it can turn the unhappy customer around  and make them less likely to leave negative reviews, or, in some cases, they become the customer. Two, it can attract new customers to the company who are enthused by your manner.

Managing crisis solutions

All good plans are laid bare when crisis hits. For small businesses, this can be a raft of bad reviews. This is where PR really is crucial, as history has shown time and time again. The first step is to establish the threat – if the reviews are bogus, it can be beneficial to meet them with positivity and to continue showcasing your restaurant’s benefits. When the content is a legitimate, real cause for concern, the best option is honesty and gratuity. Another huge digital business that suffered from a PR scandal, Facebook, climbed back up the stock index following the adoption of a honest tone from their embattled CEO.

Examples of an honest and dedicated voice returning the business to prosperity are found through history. Take, for example, the 1994 Texaco racial discrimination lawsuit. This brought adverse attention from across the country, but with it the attention and expectation that that level of attention garners. The result was that Texaco were able to make honest and sweeping changes to their business, weighting continued productivity against the hit taken from settlement. In the modern day, take a look at the McDonalds Szechuan sauce fiasco last year; as a result, sales were generated and the business was associated positively with a new group of influencers associated with digital communities.

PR is applicable across all levels of business. From huge conglomerates to SME, it really is of benefit to closely consider the voice of your company and your response to disasters. Having a cogent strategy and the tools to implement it will ensure you make the best out of any bad situation.

Guest Author, Jenny Holt, is a former HR executive turned freelance writer, who now spends more time with her young family and ageing, but ever eager Labrador, Rover.