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.

Starting a Business: How to Find the Right Technology Solutions for Your Company

Starting a business can be a complicated experience, but it is often rewarding. If you are starting a business, you should consider using technology solutions to make the business run more efficiently.

Use Technology for Time Management

Time management is a necessary part of starting a business. You need to have a timeline, goals for your time and know what you’re doing at all times. If you know these things, you’ll always know exactly when you need to be performing a task or something similar. It’s important to start doing this right away.

IT Operations Matter

Handling IT aspects can be hard especially for someone who has never worked in IT before. Using Managed IT operation services might make it easier for you to handle different aspects of IT. It may also make it easier for you to form connections with the people you’re working with since it can be easier to get started with your business if you handle the technological aspects of it.

Team up for Technology

If there is a piece of technology you really want but just aren’t quite ready to invest in right away, you might want to team up with another company that’s getting off the ground. Split the cost of the tool and then split your use of it. There are different ways you can do this, but the easiest is finding software that can easily switch between different systems or companies.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Technology is all about working smarter instead of working harder. Dedicate different tasks to the way you want to work and make sure you’re doing everything you can to make the tasks easier. It’s important to try different things and make sure you’re prepared for anything that could come in the way of your business being successful.

Research before Investing

Always do your research. The chances are you researched about your business before you invested your time and money in it. Do the same thing with technology you plan to use in your business. If you know what you want, start researching it right away so you can make the necessary changes. It’s important to focus on how technology can improve your business instead of how it could cost your business a lot of money.

Starting a business doesn’t have to be difficult. Even though it takes a lot of work, there are things you can do to ensure the process goes smoothly.

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 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.

Key 21st Century Tech For Your Business

It doesn’t matter whether your small business is focused on importing the latest aerodynamic ball bearing, providing accountancy services to SMEs or building an eBay empire, you will need to move with the times if you are to succeed. One of the main reasons companies fail to expand and instead see their business vision begin to crumble is because they are resistant to change. To thrive, you need to welcome new initiatives, working methodologies, and software. Take a look at these vital pieces of technology that every startup, new or established, should be chomping at the bit to obtain.

The Cloud

Rather than looking up and admiring the cumulus that you see above your head, the cloud that you need to consider is one that will revolutionize your business. Your office should be a digital workplace, where people can upload and download necessary documents, images, and files from the virtual environment; namely, the cloud. This online storage function means that you no longer have to worry about USB sticks or your hard drive. Instead, your staff team can all have access to these documents at the same time from virtually anywhere on the planet. This increases productivity, leads to fewer hardware issues affecting work streams and increases collaboration.

Workplaces are no longer rows of desktop cubicles. They are open plan, foster teamwork and water-cooler moments, and are designed to encourage collaborative ways of working. It makes sense that technology would echo this ethos.

CRM Software

While you are keen to utilize the millennial’s platform of choice and have a well maintained Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Instagram grid, how well do you know the customers that you drive to your site? CRM software or Customer Relationship Management, analyzes the traffic to your website. It will focus on their buying habits, the products they look at most on your site and the referral that led them to your company. This can aid you in constructing a nuanced and targeted marketing campaign when launching a new product. CRM software is the perfect technological solution to try and maintain customer loyalty and expose your brand.

Payroll Automation

While it may seem a little random to include a piece of software that completes a business function that you can do yourself, the automation of payroll can free up a ridiculous amount of your time. At least half a day can be spent on this mundane administrative task. Working out 401(k) considerations and tax allowances can be mind numbing. Instead, you could invest in a software package that periodically sorts out payroll for you. This leads to fewer chances of human error, looks more professional and allows you to work on more pressing areas of your strategic vision.

Being your own boss is thrilling, and you want to become a market leader in your field. The effort you have put into launching your company cannot go to waste. Don’t be one of the eighty percent of startups that fails within the first eighteen months of trading. Welcome change and embrace new technologies and your business will thrive.

Steps to Choosing an Outsourcing Partner

When you run a business, there are so many different specific areas which you need to concentrate on that it can be difficult to keep up. And you only have so many hours in the day. One possible solution is to hire staff members, but this can end up getting particularly expensive. The other main step which companies take is to outsource to a firm that specializes in a particular field. However, it is not always easy to choose the right partner who is going to fulfill the needs of your company. So, here is a bit of guidance on choosing one.

Choose the Most Pressing Areas

The first areas which you need to consider outsourcing are the ones which are most pressing to your business. Perhaps you are nor properly in control of your finances and need an accountant to sort out the situation for you. Maybe you desperately need a marketing campaign to generate increased awareness of your company. Otherwise, it could be that you need something highly specialized such as https://www.consultingradiologists.com/teleradiology-services/. Ultimately, the choice is yours and it is not something which anyone else can decide for you.

Check Experience Levels

Now that you have decided on the specific areas which you would like to outsource, the time has come to check the experience levels of the vendor. Some of the measures that you can use include a number of projects successfully completed, types of clients, and measurable statistics. You can also check the experience levels of everyone on the team who will be working with your business.

Ask for References and Work Samples

Just like you would if you were conducting interviews for possible staff members, you should ask for references and samples of their work. Of course, you may have to respect the confidentiality of the clients which they have worked with, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t give you an overview of what they have done and the results that they have achieved in the past.

Establish Good Communication Channels

One of the most important aspects of working with partner organisations is the communication. For example, how readily available is the company for support? Do they operate in the same time zone as you? What are the preferred methods of communication? Do you have a single point of contact which you will be going through? These are all questions which are worth clarifying before you go any further down this path.

Assess Financial Stability

Obviously, you want to be working with a company which has a decent level of financial stability. When a complete business function is being outsourced, it makes sense that the vendor provides you with some assurances that they are going to be able to continue offering you the services that they had promised.

Choosing outsourcing partners is a task which should be completed with the same level of scrutiny as selecting members of staff to work at your business.

Recruit The Best Staff With The Help Of Modern Technology

Companies are constantly finding new ways to attract the best talent and improve their hiring process. Here are some cutting-edge ways in which you can use modern technology to help source the best new employees for your company.

Advertise beyond online job boards

Whilst online job boards like Indeed and Monster are some of the most popular places to attract applicants, they shouldn’t be the only place that you advertise. Advertising on other platforms can increase your chances of attracting more applicants. Social media is now a big place for advertising jobs – you can run ads and promoted posts on Facebook and Twitter as well as posting news of your vacancy in community pages. You can also create web ads for search engines such as Google to help people stumble across your ad. Don’t forget to also use LinkedIn, which is great for scouting out talent.

Create online tests and surveys

You could also try creating your own tests or surveys for applicants to complete – these could be used to make a better judgement of someone’s personality or they could be used to test someone’s knowledge in the field. You can post a link to a survey in your job ad. There are many sites such as SurveyMonkey for generating these surveys.

Keep the application process organised with software

If you’re getting lots of applications coming through, it could be worth using an applicant tracking system to help stay organised. Being able to read and reply to applications in an organised manner will prevent you from overlooking a CV or failing to reply to an important question.

Consider hiring virtual employees

If your work is entirely computer-based/phone-based it could be possible for you to hire employees virtually rather than requiring these new staff members to come into the office. There are many advantages to hiring staff virtually. You can firstly cast your nett wider and employ staff members on the other side of the country, who otherwise would live too far away to commute. Hiring a virtual team could also prevent you from having to expand your office – if you currently work from home and are taking on your first staff members, it could prevent you from having to buy an office altogether. Studies have also shown virtual employees take off less sick days, are able to concentrate more and are generally happier.

Interview applicants via video-communication

Applicants don’t even need to come to your office for the interview – many employers are now conducting interviews via video-communication. This allows you to still have a face to face conversation with the applicant, whilst saving them the cost and hassle of having to travel to your office. Start considering this tool whenever you interview people.