5 Tips for Staying Productive While Relocating a Small Business

Relocating your business, no matter how big or small, can be a somewhat tricky endeavor. If you fail to organize all of your business tasks properly during the relocation period, your business is bound to experience some downtime which may have some serious consequences later on. What’s more, your employees will be affected by the move as well, which can seriously compromise their productivity and motivation. That’s why you, as the business owner, need to make sure you do all that’s in your power to make the move go as seamless and as stress-free as possible.

Here are some ways you can achieve that and make both your business and your employees stay productive during the move.

Time it right

While timing the move precisely is not quite possible, you can at least try to minimize the gap between moving out of your old office and moving into the new one. Also, make sure you completely set up the new office before the start date, to enable your employees to start working again as soon as possible – preferably as soon as they enter the new office space. Timing the move during the holiday season is possibly the best way to go, especially if your business practices collective vacation or annual shutdown.

Shift your offer to the online realm

If you haven’t done it so far, make sure you shift your offer to the online world during the move. By making your products or services available to your customers online during the move, not only will you seriously reduce the downtime your business is bound to experience, but it will also help your business to grow in the long run. However, it’s advisable to start working on your online business endeavors well-before the move, as it can be somewhat overwhelming.

Support working from home

Picture this scenario: your employees are sitting at their desks trying to focus and complete the task at hand while the movers are trying to pack the office furniture and equipment and relocate it to your new office space. To avoid this scenario, encourage your employees to work from their homes until the new office space is set up. This way, they will have the freedom to create ideal working conditions for themselves in the comfort of their own homes instead of having to struggle to stay productive in the office. Besides, every business-related task that can be taken care of remotely – should be, as that’s another great way to reduce downtime.

Make the move fun

Team building is everyone’s favorite office activity. So, why not try to make moving fun and turn it into team building? Since you’re a small business, chances are that you don’t have a ton of resources you can afford to spend on moving. If that’s the case, know that there really is no need to hire professional movers. Instead, you can opt for a company that offers truck rentals to find the best deal and ask your employees to help you out with the move. This can include everything from equipment organizing and packing to loading the trucks and driving everything to the new location. This way, not only will you save up a significant sum, but you’ll also offer your employees a chance to get to know each other better.

Always have backup

Now, while we do live in the digital era, there are still instances where you’ll simply have to meet a client, employee or a business partner in person. In such cases, holding the meeting in either your old or your new office space is not quite the best way to go, especially if neither of those places is fully functional. So, instead of risking potential unpleasant situations – e.g. having to deny your client a meeting due to the lack of office space – you should have a backup plan in place. For instance, there area lot of temporary rental office spaces where you can relocate everyone whose job can’t be performed from home, and where you can hold important meetings until your new office space is ready.

Therefore, when moving your small business, make sure you organize all of your business-related tasks accordingly, to lower the impact a move is bound to have on your company. Additionally, show your employees that you value them by asking them to help you out and try to make the move as seamless and as stress-free as possible. Finally, make sure that your business is still up and running during the move to avoid risking becoming irrelevant and falling out of touch with your audience.

About the author:Mike Johnston is a home improvement and business blogger from Sydney. He is a regular writer at SmoothDecoratorand contributor on several interior design, real estate and eco blogs. Mike’s goal is to create and share meaningful content that helps and inspires people.

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.

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.

The Reality of Hiring a Consultant for Your Small Business

As a small business owner, you probably like to be involved with every aspect of your business, from the mundane to the most critical tasks. Hiring employees is one step to getting help for your business, but there may be some problems outside your and your employees’ knowledgeable scope.

Perhaps you need the help of more specific professionals — which is the void a consultant can handily fill. Still, you find yourself wondering if you really need a consultant, and if paying them would be worth the knowledge and skills they bring to the table. As a small business owner, you have to learn when to ask for — and find — cost-effective help.

Do You Really Need a Consultant?

Consultants come in a variety of flavors with different niche skill sets to potentially suit your needs. Trying to figure out if you need someone’s specific experience to help your business might be as easy as asking yourself a few questions.

First, make sure you’ve done all the research on the subject you could. If information was beyond your grasp or unavailable, reaching out for paid help might be the way to go. Second, focus on the job you want them to bring to your business. Is this skill something you or an employee can learn in a few days or weeks, or is this an area that takes years to master? If the funds are available, but the skill set isn’t, a consultant may be exactly what you need.

What Does a Consultant Do?

A consultant is an outside expert you hire through an agreed-upon contract to help your business. The consultant is independent of your company, so they keep to their own schedule and may have more clients than just you at one time. You might even hire a consulting team, rather than one person.

There are many different types of consultants for different jobs. Some of the most commonly used consultants work in accounting, IT, human resources and legal services, each able to bring a new and better direction for your business.

There is a general process for every consulting project. The pre-consulting phase is before the work starts, where you and the expert discuss terms and come to an agreement. The consulting period consists of discovery, research and the final presentation for your business. Lastly, the post-consulting phase is where you may choose to extend the agreement or implement your own.

Find a Consultant

Finding a consultant for your specific needs may be easier than you think. You have to know what you need from the hired expert. Searching through friends, business partners and online are sure ways to find the person you need. However, you need to make sure they fit the role. They should be fluent in data modeling, in addition to an ability to connect information from seemingly random sources, also known as dot-to-dot literacy.

An ideal consultant is someone who has experience as a coach and a fellow small business owner to relate to the process. Coaching skills are important so they can take action and get involved with your employees. You can also check their LinkedIn profile for testimonials and recommendations if you’re still in any doubt.

While looking around for a consultant, you may run into a lot of contractors and need to know the difference between the two. Both are temporary experts hired via a contract, but a consultant works outside the business, while a contractor is an internal component. Knowing the difference can keep you from hiring the wrong job title, especially if you’re in the market for a contractor instead.

Payment and Budget

Typically, your consultant is going to work with you for about three to six months, with the open option to renew the contract. The pre-consulting phase is the time where you talk to the expert you’re wanting to hire to hash out pay, time and your budget. An important bit of advice is to remember value determines price, not any pre-set rules.

However, on average, expect the price to be anywhere from $150 to $10,000 an hour, with projects ranging from $1,000 to $250,000. Here is where you have to find your budget. Once you discover how much the expert help is worth to you and how much you can afford, the rest should be easier. Figure out your sales percentages and where you need them to be, versus what you’re willing to pay the expert, and discuss your options with them personally.

What’s Best for Your Business

A consultant will be an expensive add-on to your business either way if you discover you need the help. However, the reward can easily outweigh the cost. Decide what you want the future of your business to look like, and explore all the avenues to get you there. A consultant may be expensive, and hiring one could be a process, but they could bring your business to new heights you likely hadn’t imagined before.

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