When it comes to running a successful business, it is always important to learn to walk before you run. The biggest mistake that business owners make is attempting to compete with the sharks in the ocean when they are still only small fish.
Growth is on the agenda for 80% of UK SMEs, according to a recent survey. This is fantastic news given that SMEs are the bread and butter of the UK economy. You might even be surprised to discover that 60% of all private sector employment in the UK comes from SMEs.
However, whilst this is certainly great news for many business owners, it also hugely daunting because it means the business landscape is more crowded and competitive than ever. It has become more difficult to stand out from the crowd, which is why entrepreneurs need to stay on top of their game.
The team at Nucleus Commercial Finance want to make sure all SMEs meet their growth targets, which is why we have put together a quick guide on how small businesses can achieve success. We have identified seven key factors that every entrepreneur should consider when approaching business:
1. Always Plan Ahead
Without planning ahead, you are already setting yourself up to fail. No successful business will thrive long term without that all-important strategy and vision. It might change or need a degree of flexibility in a small business but it should be put down on paper and thought through in detail.
It is not enough to have a vague plan either. Ensure that you have a written business plan that provides direction for your SME. In order to write the perfect business plan, you will need to know everything from how you are going to market your business, to how much money you will need over the next 5 years to achieve your goals.
Planning ahead means that you will be able to achieve numerous things. Firstly, you will be able to clearly establish goals. Make sure that they are ambitious but realistic - do you want to grow your business? If, so how much? High-growth, venture capital backed businesses are very fashionable at the moment but ask yourself if that's the route you want to take, rather than self-funded stable growth which is sometimes more manageable and for some the potential success, balanced with the stress and risk of high-speed growth is not their motivation.
Secondly, you will be able to utilise all the resources you currently have readily available. By planning, management can get a feel for what needs to be done and will look for ways in which to fulfil these demands. Knowing what you are working with is important, especially as an SME with relatively limited resources.
2. Get Access to Necessary Finances
It will certainly come as no surprise that successful businesses have access to the right finances when it is needed. Your business is unlikely to achieve growth without having working capital in place to meet the necessary requirements.
Perhaps you need to move to a bigger office as your business and team have outgrown your initial location. Or maybe you want to purchase better equipment or a more extensive inventory. Whatever the case, having finances in place is the only way you will manage to push your business in the right direction for growth.
Learning to ignore the taboo involved with borrowing money may end up being the best decision you ever make for your business. Taking out a loan may enable your business to meet the impending growth demands and choosing not to access money externally could end up costing you and your business in the long run.
There are numerous options available and alternative finance providers have been helping SMEs for years thanks to the products they offer being catered towards smaller organisations. It is definitely worth looking at the many finance products available, such as cash flow finance, business cash advance and business overdraft facilities.
Secured business loans can massively help a thriving business that has ambitious plans to expand and having finances at your disposal will mean that you are giving your business the best chance of succeeding.
3. Embrace Technology
With the arrival of GDPR, companies now have an opportunity to embrace technology properly. Take for example Microsoft’s latest release – Compliance Manager Preview. It allows businesses to check whether they are fully compliant with the new regulations. A dashboard demonstrates ways in which your business can improve its data protection and compliance posture.
But remember, it works two ways and so using technology to improve the experience of your customers should also be one of your biggest priorities.
The first thing your business should do is invest in mobile technology. Millions of people use their smartphones to access the internet more frequently than a desktop, so not addressing the needs of this demographic will mean that your business loses out big time. In fact, 52% of customers have stated that they are less likely to engage with a brand if their mobile experience did not meet standard expectations.
There are tools out there to help your business with everything. Hootsuite will help your business have a bigger and better presence on social media; Slack will dramatically improve your teams communication efforts; Dropbox enables you to access files form any device, from any location around the world.
Failing to engage with technology will hold your business back, meaning your competitors enter a league of their own whilst you trail behind.
4. Take Risks, But Calculated Ones
It takes a certain type of person to fit the role of entrepreneur confidently. Whilst there are numerous common characteristics found in business owners, one of the biggest identifiers is the ability to stand strong when faced with risk and huge decisions.
When it comes to business, risk taking is always going to be involved at some level and unfortunately, it is the nature of the beast.
Learning how to make calculated risks, as opposed to gambling and relying on luck, is an important skill to add to your repertoire. There will always be some element of risk involved, but it is the ability to reduce risk by putting steps in place that allows some entrepreneurs to stand out from the rest.
5. Ramp Up Your Marketing Efforts
Creating awareness around the services or products you offer is one of the constant challenges you will be contending with. Today’s business landscape is more competitive than ever before, which is why marketing should be at the forefront of your business strategy.
Your business needs to do everything in its power to gain brand awareness and customer loyalty. There are digital tools in abundance that can help you with this, so all you really need to do is decide which ones work best with your business plan.
Try to become more buyer-centric. You need to be attuned to the needs and desires of your customers if you are to retain them. Learn what motivates them to buy, find out which types of content they prefer, discover where they hang out online and ace the customer journey.
6. Network and Build Rapport
There is a big difference between socialising generally and building rapport. Many entrepreneurs credit rapport as the foundation of success. By connecting with other like-minded individuals, you will build stronger business relationships and as a result, will land bigger and better opportunities.
To build rapport, there are a few simple things to bear in mind. You do not have to be a social butterfly to succeed with this point, as being attentive will already give you a head start.
Focus on mastering basic communication to start with. Relax, smile and look approachable. Make it a priority to remember people’s names and listen carefully whenever you are conversing with business-minded individuals. If you can find common ground, you are already half way there.
7. Offer More Than Your Competitors
Successful entrepreneurs consult with their management team to work out the strengths and weaknesses of the business, as well as those of competitors. Smart management get a realistic view of what the business is doing well and pick holes in the strategies of their competitors.
In order to do this, you will need to identify areas where competitors are vulnerable and leaving a lot to be desired. What makes fantastic businesses stand out is the ability to act on this and take advantage of those weaknesses.
It is fairly straightforward – identify the weaknesses of your competitors, work out how you can turn it into the perfect opportunity for your business and then craft marketing strategies around these weaknesses to cement your position as the better option.
If you are experiencing cash flow challenges or want to realise your business growth plans, get in touch with our team of Funding Specialists today on 020 7839 9451 or email [email protected]