As National Small Business Week approaches (April 30-May 6, 2017), what can you say you’re doing to further your entrepreneurial dreams or bolster your business’s potential in 2017? The future looks bright — job growth is steady and consumer spending is rising. The National Federation of Independent Business reported higher overall optimism in the market; their findings were based on ratings related to business factors such as being a good time to expand and plans to increase employment (NFIB Small Business Economic Trends, February 2017).
So what can you do to work toward enhancing your business and reaching goals? Running through a proactive assessment list at least yearly can help you identify opportunities for growth and revitalization. Arm yourself with these to do’s to stay poised for an ever-changing marketplace:
- Cost Savings and Expense Monitoring
- Annual Goal Setting
- Competitive Analysis
- Tools and Trends Usage
Cost Savings and Expense Monitoring
In the spirit of working smarter, not harder, an essential business function is keeping an eye on the bottom line and using financial tools to manage expenses. You probably already have vendors providing point of sale, banking, accounting, or expense platforms to run your daily operations, but are there any specific capabilities they offer that you aren’t taking advantage of? If you have to pay for this with your current provider, is there another vendor that offers those capabilities as complimentary?
For example, many commercial credit cards offer budgeting or spending analysis tools
you can leverage to get a better look at your finances. You could have access to an annual summary statement that itemizes and categorizes all transactions, even to the merchant level. This allows you to quickly see type of spending and category percentages to better monitor your budget. There are also tools to help you restrict spending or add users in real-time on your accounts.
Look into streamlining your spending accounts to save time. If you have multiple business credit card accounts, take a look at which one offers you the best rates and rewards
and consolidate. And many offer free balance transfers.
Are there loyalty or rewards programs that give you bonuses, free products, services, or even cash back for your business
? You probably have many of the same typical expenses monthly. Choose selectively where you spend, as well as what form of payment you use to maximize earnings.
Annual Goal Setting
It is paramount to first consider the goals you want to reach as (at least) a partial measure of success to keep you on track. Separate them as essential versus aspirational/nice to achieve. Pick a month and week that makes sense for your specific business type — maybe it’s your low season in June — that you commit to yearly, concentrating on where you’ve been and where you want to go. It’s important to have clear objectives so you can create an actionable step-by-step plan for achievement.
For example, Mike’s Coffee Shop needs to increase foot traffic and revenue. They therefore want to measurably grow their marketing reach and repeat customer base. As one part of the plan to reach this goal, they will train the staff to consistently tout their loyalty program and have customers sign up with emails and/or mailing info to reach a target list increase of 25 percent within a year while monitoring profits.
It’s important to be aware of who and how many you are competing with for market share, what they offer comparatively and how they reach their customer. How does your business stack up to them, and what can you do better or differently to set your business apart? It’s all about keeping your business relevant and therefore driving interest and sales.
Perhaps you can’t be the leader, but you can set your products or services apart as a niche winner in your industry space. Maybe you don’t have every single product type or SKU the big box store down the street has, but you provide the best quality, unique independent vendor offerings or excellent individualized customer service otherwise unavailable. Specialization after competitive analysis could bring your business major revenue.
Tools and Trends Usage
There will always be something shiny and new claiming to help you better run your business; it’s important to be selective on which are worth the investment of your time and/or money. Here is a small sample of online tools applicable to just about any type of business. Most are either free or offer trial versions to test before you commit.
In today’s world, you don’t exist (especially to millennials) if you don’t show up in an online search. What is your online presence?
- Website builder: Wordpress, Wix, Weebly, Jimdo, Yola
- Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Reviews and search: Yelp, Zomato, Google business listing (search and maps)
What about the tools you can use to help you create content and streamline professional marketing for your business?
- Manage and schedule social media: Hootsuite, Everypost, Buffer
- Graphics (flyers, social media images, newsletters, etc.): Canva, Piktochart
- Survey customers or co-workers: Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo, Google Forms
How can you more effectively collaborate and communicate?
- File sharing: Google Drive, Dropbox
- Video conferencing: Skype, Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex
- Project management: Trello, Asana, Freedcamp
Anytime you can shave off unnecessary expenses, achieve new goals and streamline your internal business processes, you make an impact to the success of your business. Any other tools or changes in your business you find helpful and want to share? Tell us in the comments on this blog or comment on our LinkedIn
post on this topic!