Small business owners who spend any amount of time on the internet are going to find themselves getting all kinds of business tips and suggestions.
This is great… if the advice is sound and used properly. However, not all small business tips will work for all types of businesses. What’s good for the food truck won’t always work well for the landscaping company, and so on.
Following the wrong advice can be a large setback. It complicates your next move, wastes precious time, and compromises your financial well-being. With that in mind, we wanted to share five actionable tips that can benefit any small business, regardless of industry or what you’re looking to accomplish:
Small Business Tips That You Can Actually Use
Improve your marketing and advertising efforts.
No matter how big or small your business is, or how wide or focused your target market might be, there is always room for improvement. There’s a great quote about this:
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker
Advertising isn’t cheap and misguided efforts will prove to yield little-to-no return. Gone are the days where all you needed was a brochure and a good-sized listing in the Yellow Pages. In fact, most young people haven’t ever seen an old-school Yellow Pages in all its phonebook-sized glory.
Success is all about finding the best places to reach your target customers and communicating a message that resonates with them. Doing so requires a deep understanding of your audience and business.
The truth is, the vast majority of people rely on their phones and laptops to find and compare businesses, before ultimately making a purchase decision. This is good news. Why? Digital is a level playing field — efforts are highly targeted, lower cost, and you can directly attribute your spend to your marketing activities making it easier to track ROI. Successful marketing used to mean reaching as many people as possible. Now it means reaching as many of the right people as possible.
This can get pretty sophisticated. Whether you want to do it yourself or pay someone to handle it for you, you’ll need enough background to ensure your marketing budget is being put to good use.
Make sure your paperwork is in order — and often.
Surely you remember the flood of paperwork and licenses you had to apply for when you opened your business. Good times, right? Hopefully, it will never be quite that much of a hassle again. But if there’s one thing your local government loves doing, it’s following up on the paperwork you’ve previously submitted.
Once or twice a year, take some time to account for any necessary inspections, certification renewals, and permit reapplications. Make sure it’s all in order. This will help keep the Man off your back and make sure your business can operate without any disruptions.
Once you ensure nothing will disrupt business continuity, it’s a great idea to audit your expenses and resources. Following up on unpaid invoices, reviewing your vendors, and questioning your bills can be surprisingly beneficial.
Stay on top of your past, present, and future finances.
“Balancing the books” sounds like an obvious suggestion to any business that wants to stay open — (after all, who doesn’t keep an eye on their money at least sometimes?). But the mistake a lot of business make is not taking a long-term view.
If you’ve been open and in business for any appreciable length of time (six months to a year, at least) then you should take some time to look at your past financial statements. Identify where you are now, where you could be, and where you would like to be in the near future. Doing so allows you to set realistic, measurable goals and identify areas to focus on.
Are your sales growing beyond where they used to be? Are you doing well enough right now to stay profitable and functional? Can you identify any recurring expenses you can decrease or cut? Will you need to get a small business loan to accomplish any future goals you have planned, such as expansion or renovations? Math is never fun, and calling your internet provider can be even more painful. However, spending thirty minutes to lock in the best promotional offer could save you hundreds each month. Doing a little administrative upkeep when your business’ finances are involved is always a good idea.
Empower your employees, and don’t be afraid to delegate.
There’s a lot of small business owners who feel like they can do it all themselves. Some even feel like they have to. However, this mentality will prove to be painful in the long run. If you have the staff to help, or if you can afford an outside consultant or two, make sure that you spread the workaround.
Sure, reducing expenses sounds like a wise short-term option. But you’re going to fall short in scaling your business if you’re the manager, marketing guru, head chef, inventory manager, and cleaning crew simultaneously. Doing everything yourself will make employees feel incompetent. Before long, they won’t put forth any effort. You’ll be caught doing everything, and productivity and morale will be at an all-time low.
Instead, work to replace yourself. Teach employees and contractors new responsibilities. Challenging them to take on new tasks will create a sense of belonging and leave you with more time to focus on growth initiatives.