A New Year is almost here – and many SMEs are setting targets and making resolutions for 2016. To help you get off to a flying start, we’ve put together some top tips to help small businesses grow over the next 12 months:
Setting clear objectives will help you focus on the end goal, and create interim targets to keep you on track during the year. You can also share it with your wider team, to ensure that everyone is working towards a common target.
Look after your staff
People are the greatest asset for a small business. You might not be able to offer them the long corporate ladder of a larger company, but they can play an integral role at the heart of a rapidly growing company. Be honest, constructive and praise them when appropriate, and they will repay you with their loyalty.
Manage with enthusiasm
As the leader of the business, your state of mind will rub off on those around you. Being positive, energetic and innovative will encourage the rest of your workforce to do the same.
Listen to others’ opinions
You may be steering the ship, but the power of your sailors could take it in an even quicker direction. Always have a listening ear and be patient with the advice being given to you; it might not be appropriate for that moment, but it could prove useful further down the line.
Cash flow is king
The quickest way to grow your small business is to increase cash flow. This rests on two areas of focus: firstly, streamlining operations to reduce unnecessary spending. Secondly, increasing sales to bring more cash into the company. One way to give cash flow a quick an easy boost is to invest in payments technology, such as card terminals and electronic invoicing, to speed up transactions with both customers and suppliers.
Implement change as you grow
One of the best and worst things about SMEs is the flexibility within your business. As you expand during the year and your infrastructure becomes bigger, you may want to implement more processes and structures to control communications. This is a positive step, but be careful not to get too dictatorial – even employees in huge companies wish there was less bureaucracy to deal with!
Trust your team to get the job done
If your growth strategy is successful, you may well find yourself employing new talent during the year. As the founder of the business it can be hard to take a backseat, but give staff the space and encouragement to find the methods that work best for them.
Always put your customer first
One of the things that separate SMEs from other retailers is the pure passion they have for their customer base. Make sure every decision you make is based on what the customer wants. This may sometimes mean investing in store technology to give them a better experience.
Increase customer loyalty
It’s much easier to grow spend among existing customers than attract new ones. With that in mind, find ways to communicate with your regular shoppers. Collecting their email addresses and setting up a monthly newsletter is a cost-effective way to create ongoing conversations.
Listen to your shoppers
Encouraging your customers to provide feedback is another way to improve your offering. They will identify issues you may not have even thought of, which will ultimately help your company to make more money.
Plan your promotions
In order to go toe-to-toe with retail’s big boys during key trading peaks such as Easter, Back to School and Halloween, you need to plan and execute your promotions with expert precision. Consider not only what product offers you want to put in place, but whether there’s anything entertaining you can do in-store to draw additional crowds.
Tell your brand story
Many shoppers choose to visit independent retailers because they’re buying into the business as much as the goods they purchase. Crystallise what makes your brand special – its heritage, its staff, the products you sell – and share that with customers.
There are areas of the business, such as marketing, where you may wish to allocate spend next year in order to attract new business. However, you may need to remain frugal with other elements to maximize margins. It sounds silly, but even switching to a cheaper brand of coffee can have an impact over the course of 12 months!
When you’ve got your nose to the grindstone it can be easy to miss the everyday victories that go into running a small business. Take time to congratulate your team for meeting their sales target, or reward key employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. It will boost morale and motivate staff to work even harder.
Network with other like-minded entrepreneurs
Running a business is like living in a bubble at times, and getting in touch with other leaders in similar situations can put a new slant on some of your key challenges. Look out for local networking events for a chance to get tips from those who have been in the same boat.
Take a step back – regularly
While it’s important to create a 12-month roadmap for 2016, inevitably your path will take unforeseen turns during the course of the year. It’s important to step back and look at the bigger picture every couple of months, to assess whether your objectives need tweaking.