Over the past 10 years, one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy has been small business. In fact, one of the biggest sources of our growth has started to come from small to medium sized businesses, and those businesses are on the move.
The economy is coming back, albeit more slowly than any of us ever wanted, but coming back none the less. Our business, call center, e-commerce support, answering services and especially the virtual receptionist services, are a great way for a business to grow, but stay lean and mean until enough capital becomes available to staff up. Even then, because of the level of service and convenience we offer to our customers, companies tend to keep using our services.
USA today writer Rhonda Abrams wrote an interesting article full of strategies for small business owners. It’s not only about how to create new business, it focuses on how to maintain current customers, and making certain you get paid. See if these hints help you:
“I’ve come up with a list of New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business, and since it’s 2016, it seems only natural that I have 16 of them:
1. Make a decision to grow. Growth doesn’t just happen. If you want to grow your business, you need a vision of what that growth would look like and a commitment to make that happen. It means putting your resources — mental, emotional, financial, personnel — toward growth.
2. Figure out what makes you money. All money is the same, right? Wrong. Businesses have two kinds of money, cash flow — which keeps the doors open short-term — and profits — which provides long-term security. Understand, and concentrate on, the parts of your business that bring you profits.
3. Focus on recurring revenue. The best kind of customers? Repeat customers. If most of your customers or clients are one-time buyers, figure out how to find and secure customers who have the need and capacity to buy repeatedly.
4. Send out invoices. No money comes in if your invoices don’t go out. Yet many small businesses — especially self-employed consultants — fail to get their invoices out on time. Better yet, accept credit card payments at time of sale to eliminate invoicing.
5. Find a niche. Here’s a surprising irony of small business life: to get big, go small. By targeting a specific type of customer instead of trying to serve everyone, you can make more money and face less competition.
6. Bother people; get rejected. Most small business owners think that if they create a better product or service, customers will naturally come. They won’t. You have to go out there and sell. If you’re afraid of making sales because you think you’re either bothering people or are afraid of being rejected, get over it.
7. Get found free. Who doesn’t like free advertising? Take 30 minutes and list your business free so your company shows up when people search for a business like yours on the Web or a mobile device. You can get listed free at Google, Bing andYelp.
8. Turn off social media. Social media gobbles up time. Even if you’re using it for business, establish a time limit — say 30 minutes a day — and use scheduling tools, like Hootsuite or TweetDeck, then click off and get back to work.
9. Manage your money. What’s happening with your money? Go beyond checking your bank balance, and regularly evaluate your profit and loss, cash flow and aging accounts receivable and payable.
10. Develop a business plan. If you want to survive, let alone grow, every year evaluate what’s going on with your business, your customers, competition, finances and operations. Planning gets everyone moving in the same direction.
11. Move to the cloud. Switch from on-premise software to cloud-based applications, so you can be mobile. Start with online document storage and collaboration such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Box, or Microsoft OneDrive.
12. Get help. You may be trying to do much yourself. Examine your operations for routine tasks that take too much of your time, and hire a consultant or employee.
13. Start a reserve account. Cash flow in a small business is always a roller coaster. Build a reserve account of a few month’s operating expenses, and you’ll get less queasy from any sudden drops.
14. Attend or exhibit at a trade show. Trade shows are extremely efficient ways to reach motivated and qualified prospects in one location. Start with local or state trade shows rather than more expensive national shows.
15. Vote, wisely. 2016 is a presidential year and and every House of Representativeseat and 34 Senate seats are up for election. Nothing affects the well-being of small businesses more than the health of the overall economy. Not taxes. Not regulation. So vote carefully, choosing candidates who are smart, thoughtful and willing to work with the other party to make the best decisions for our country.
16. Shop local, shop small. Small businesses should stick together. Work with other small businesses in your community to do joint marketing and spend your dollars with other small businesses too. ”