Running a successful online business isn’t easy. It takes careful consideration of many factors that can have drastic effects on your business. This article will discuss some expert tips for expanding your small business, hiring new employees, getting your legal documents in check and some helpful solutions for common problems faced by online businesses.
WHEN TO EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS
If your business has reached a stage where it is steadily increasing its customer base and you feel as though you’ve outgrown your current business model it may be time for you to expand your business.
There are many different ways you can expand your business; you could hire more staff, move to larger premises, rent or buy other premises or even increase the range of products or services that you offer.
Before you do however, it’s important to ask yourself:
- How well is my business doing? Is this growth sustainable or temporary?
- How do I want my business to expand? Do I want to increase my range of services or produce more of an existing product?
- Do I have the finances to invest in more resources? Staff, materials, tools, programs?
- How will this affect my business? Is this going to be a good investment?
Before your business has even reached a point where it is ready to expand, whether that be due to high demand or not – you should always have a growth strategy in place; a way of operating that allows you to constantly expand with little disruption to the running of your business. You want a scaleable model. It’s all about anticipating demand and having systems in place to deal with growth, otherwise things can fall apart; client’s needs are not met or employee’s roles become redundant after a short spout of growth and your valuable opportunity can be wasted on poor planning.
Develop Your Products and Services
Your products and services should be consistently delivered to your clients. This way as your business grows and changes and adapts, they know that the products and services will never be left behind in the process.
Focus on consistency when creating your products and services, especially when introducing new ones and find systems of production or ways of delivering a service that can do this effectively. This will strengthen your client loyalty and ensure that your business grows accordingly.
Have the Right Tools and Systems in Place
Detailed training systems are so important for businesses when expanding because you need to communicate your goals, ideas and expectations to employees effectively in order for them to do their job. Although we often wish they could, they can’t read your mind and so the next best thing is having an effective training system and in place, that you’ve feel encompasses all of the things they will need to know for the job. You need to ensure your employees can carry out their tasks as efficiently as you.
And these systems are not just applicable for new employees either, all employees need effective workplace processes to operate effectively with one another.
This means things like internal messaging systems, training manuals, plans of action for different departments and growth systems, levels of responsibility – chains of command, a strong display of business cornerstones and values; all of this contributes to the ways in which your company grows and how effectively staff can help you deliver these changes.
An effective services management system should ensure you have control over all of your active projects, see who is assigned to each project and track their progress in an organised and systematic way.
We all know how varied each small business can be, which means that everyone needs individualistic systems in place that work for them. If you’ve put deep consideration into all of the above points you should be well on your way to creating an effective plan of action for the expansion of your small business.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT EMPLOYEES
When you are hiring new staff, it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll often be after qualifications and experience, but what about personality traits and career goals – there’s so much to consider. The smaller your business, the more important your decision becomes. This is because the success of your business is dependent on a smaller number of people that must be able to carry out their tasks effectively. Below is a collection of tips to help you hire the right people for the job.
Someone with a personality
Think about your favorite co-workers and employees at your local coffee shop. What traits do they have that stand out to you? Typically, they’re outgoing, positive, friendly and enjoyable. These are the people you want around you, not just to improve your day, but to promote that attitude to your clients and customers. In hiring employees that have a great personality, they are more likely to create positive relationships with prospective customers too which means more sales and a better reputation for your business.
Someone with a good attitude
If you’re a small to medium sized business, you’re going to require more of you employees than a set selection of tasks that are all related to their professional expertise. You’re sometimes going to need someone that doubles as a bookings officer, someone in charge of the groceries for the lunch rooms and someone that takes the trash out of an evening. All of these tasks need to be done and so you need an employee that’s not afraid to step up occasionally and do the jobs that no one really wants to do. Hiring staff that are open-minded and happy to do whatever are important to the overall success of a workplace.
Someone that isn’t concerned with workplace hierarchy
This point kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point about being open minded about their job descriptions. If you’re hiring someone that’s concerned with strict job tasks, chances are they aren’t going to be willing to take out the trash – which means they’re not team players. Also, you don’t want to hire someone who is more concerned with delegating their responsibilities to employees in lower ranks, than finishing the tasks themselves, because it will always cause workplace conflict and reduce employee morale dramatically which is an unnecessary hindrance to your business.
Someone that’s ambitious
There’s few things more frustrating for business owners that employees that have no passion about their tasks at hand, no zeal to complete their tasks or take pride in their work. You want an employee that wants to learn from you and develop their skills. This ambition often drives innovation and creates new and improved ideas for your business. These are the staff that are able to take over other important tasks on your behalf when you are unable to. While these types of employees can sometimes be quite high-maintenance, it certainly pays off in the long run. Just be careful that these employees are ambitious for the right reasons, that they aren’t out to simply take over or have power over other employees.
Someone that can multi-task
As we’ve discussed, small businesses often require employees that are willing and able to take on a wide-range of roles. When you’re interviewing staff, always include questions about projects they’ve worked on or experience they’ve had where they’ve had to multi-task or work in roles that were foreign to them and ask them about those experiences to ensure that they’re the right fit for the job.
Someone different to you
Hiring someone that’s different to you can be a great decision for your company because it allows you to see things from a different perspective. If you miss something, they’ve got it covered, if you’re dealing with a customer you can’t relate to they will be able to, if you’re completing a task you’ve never completed before, they know what to do. Hire someone with a different approach to problem solving, that might offer up a new or interesting perspective because that’s what creates innovation. Hiring someone that’s had different experiences to you, with a different personality, perhaps even with a different skillset, will ultimately make your business more robust in the face of adversity.
Hiring Freelancers vs.Full-Time Employees
A popular trend emerging out of every industry at the moment is hiring freelancers, interns and contractors. Why? Because they are much cheaper, they already have set expertise that they can easily apply to your roles, and they don’t come with any extra expenses such as annual leave entitlements, superannuation and holiday pay. They are a short term solution which can be ideal for businesses that might not be able to afford full-time staff, are looking for a temporary fill-in or just experimenting with different roles. Ultimately, they allow for flexibility which can be good for a business on a budget.
Hiring a full-time employee however, comes with the benefit of security, their first priority will always be the work they are doing for YOU and they’re good for building solid relationships with your clients; a staple trait for any small business. Further, it’s far more simple for training purposes because it’s a one off process that usually results in loyalty to your business, and much higher employee morale.
It’s really up to the individual business to decide what’s best for the role and the overall business. In hiring staff, you’re expanding your business so above all, make sure it’s someone the shares a passion for your business as they will bring with them new ideas for improvement and always remain loyal.
COVERING YOUR ASSETS
With all that needs consideration throughout the development process of establishing your small business, something that’s often overlooked is the legal side of things. Getting your documents, contracts and licenses in order can be a real headache, especially for someone with no experience in dealing with this kind of thing. But not doing so effectively can have dire consequences for your business; not just for your finances but your reputation too. If you fail to adhere to the rules and regulations put in place, you risk losing the trust of your customers, and a large chunk of start-up funds, before you’ve even opened for business. This is an area that has to be completed with the 100% assurance that you have ticked every box and you’ve satisfied the legal requirements of your industry. Below are a few tips to help you along the way.
Watch Out for Your Advice
It’s common practice for a professional to provide an interested audience with advice and opinion when asked about their field of expertise. It’s what is expected of you. But it’s important to know what legal implications can arise from what you are saying. It’s not unheard of for people to take your advice and claim that it has caused damage to their lives. If this is relevant to your profession it may be advisable to seek out liability insurance to protect you from this sort of thing.
Know What Documents You’ll Need to Organize
Of course, legal documents are a pivotal component of this process. Confidentiality agreements, payment agreements, patents, copyrights; there’s a lot. But the point of these documents are essentially to protect you and your employees from harm, whether that be physical or legal, so they’re totally necessary if you wish to provide a safe, fair and working environment.
For every person you do business with, it is imperative to ensure you are writing up contracts that outline the agreement made between you and them. Whether they are one-time contractors, employees, investors, customers or friends, you must have these contracts to ensure you both provide and receive what was promised. This happens time and time again by new, perhaps inexperienced businesses put their faith into someone to be left disappointed and at a loss. Whether it’s a dodgy construction job or a customer refusing to pay for your services, having these contracts provides you with a legal case against them should you need to take action.
There are many different types of legal specialists, each dealing in specific areas of interest. Choosing the right one for the right issues is imperative because they can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Say for instance that you hire a general practice lawyer when you seek to obtain a patent. While they might be familiar with the rules and regulations surrounding, intellectual property, they will seldom be able to complete the task as efficiently as a patent lawyer with specific experience in patent and trademark litigation.
SURVIVING THE HICCUPS
Opening a small business is a dream for many people. In many ways, it allows you to turn your passion into a viable career. What’s often disregarded however is the challenging process that comes with not only getting started, but staying afloat when things get difficult. This article is full of tips and tricks to make sure that you and your business remain successful during these difficult times.
If your workload is huge and you’re feeling run down…
Consider outsourcing some of your tasks to qualified contractors. Now, more than ever, outsourcing professional freelancers is extremely affordable and can save you a lot of stress and valuable time. There are hundreds of sites that allow you to filter through specialists to help you with anything from accounting to cleaning services. Although it may feel like every aspect of your business needs to be handled by you, it’s simply not the case. Fatigue makes you less productive, less attentive and more likely to make mistakes which can really harm both yourself and your business.
Another tactic you could try is adopting some organizational tools to help you with your time management. Take it upon yourself to download an online scheduling system, plan out your days, weeks and months in advance using these systems and watch what a difference it can make for you.
If you’re struggling to stand out from the competition…
Figure out why that may be by conducting some market research. Understanding your market, and where your business lies within it is vital for all marketing efforts. You can do this in a number of ways such as asking for feedback through polls, surveys and suggestion boxes, put together a focus group or an interview with prospective clients. You need to know what makes your business different. One of the most popular tactics to do this is by using the SWOT analysis which asks you to consider your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Use every bit of feedback you gather to work on your business and develop better methods of marketing your strengths and eliminating your weaknesses.
By developing a more premium service for your customers, that offers higher quality services, you eliminate the need to compete based on pricing, which is a falldown of many startups and can really harm your business’ capital.
If you don’t really know what you’re doing…
Hire a professional. Hiring a coach, or a guide does not mean that you lose control of your business, it simply means that you have someone to help you maintain control. If you’ve never run a business before, you can’t expect yourself to learn the in’s and out’s of everything overnight. That’s often what leads to careless and avoidable mistakes that can become quite expensive to fix. Professionals are not cheap, but they’ll save you a lot of money in the long run. You’ll also be able to learn a thing or two as time goes on. At the very least, when hiring a professional, you’ll know your business is in goods hands and that you’ve eliminated the risk of accidentally self-sabotaging your business.
If you’re getting poor marketing results…
Re-evaluate your game plan. Ultimately, effective marketing will achieve brand recognition for your business and instill trust in your prospective customers. If your marketing plan is failing you, you need to figure out why.
Are you investing enough money into your advertisements and campaigns? Are you targeting the right market? Do you understand how your products/ services relate to this market? Are you advertising in the right places, on the right platforms? Effective marketing begins with having robust answers to these questions and considering them when making executive decisions.
While most small businesses seldom have the funds to spend up big, marketing is arguably the best area for your to invest money if you hope to receive a strong return from your efforts.
But not all marketing tactics have to be expensive to be effective. The most successful campaigns involve spending money in the right places, and exploring other avenues. Consider buying some pay-per-click advertisements, start a blog, set-up an email campaign, network with experts within your field or sponsor industry related events. Think about your business’s SEO, and how easy it is to see your content. Is there more you can do to improve it such as optimizing your URL’s, page titles, hyperlinks and keywords? Consider how strong your social media presence is. Should you be posting more or interacting with prospective clients? Could you funnel more of your advertising through this avenue to achieve better results? Perhaps you could trial more daring tactics such as a guerilla marketing and viral videos.
If you’re running low on money…
You’ve got to get a plan in place and hire a professional. Chances are, your money is disappearing because you’re spending it without having planned for it, or you’ve forgotten to account for some expenses. This is perhaps the most common issue for small businesses; expenses pop-up all over the place and if you’re new to the game you would have never seen them coming. It can be impossible to effectively plan a budget if you aren’t fully aware of ALL of the costs involved. That’s why an experienced CTO or financial accountant can do wonders for your business. Again, while their help may be costly, it’s extremely justifiable when you think about how much they’re really saving for you.
Another tips is to take advantage of the plethora of FREE online software available to business owners of every size. This is a cost reduction of 100% so it’s definitely worth searching for something that you may be able to substitute in. Remember, free software doesn’t mean lesser quality, but it pays to shop around.
For other big-ticket items, it’s a great idea to get at least three quotes to make sure you’re getting a good price.
Knowing where your money is coming from and going to, and having accurate records of this is important not just for legal reasons, but for ensuring it’s going to the right places. Having the right people and using the right tools for the job can save your company a lot of money in the long run.