By Lori Wagoner
Running a small business is a full-time job, and most SMB owners will tell you that it often feels like doing two or more jobs, depending on the season. Most small business owners juggle several tasks, including those related to accounting, sales, marketing and advertising, purchasing, and inventory control. Finding hacks to save time and improve productivity has become crucial for achieving business growth and work-life balance.
We’ve all heard about how business owners should work smarter rather than harder, but finding shortcuts and other time-saving ideas also takes up valuable time and resources.
This article presents low-cost methods of increasing efficiency and productivity. From using social media tips and tricks, and marketing on a dime (and on little time) to working with a virtual assistance for administrative needs, this post covers everything.
In 2017, small businesses are projected to continue their robust growth; and the following five tips will help you reach your business goals, without experiencing small-business-burnout.
1. Start with a Written Plan
No business strategy can be successful without a solid plan. All entrepreneurs know that it is just an idea until you write it down.
Goals work when you articulate them in detail, so be prepared to break them down into actionable steps. Every small business owner wants to grow and increase profit margins, but figuring out the hows of doing so is essential.
A marketing and growth strategy, when put on paper, will look something like a business plan. The written version will later become a schedule to coordinate promotions and take advantage of seasonal opportunities to expand customer base, online traffic and sales.
Make sure to include the following in your 2017 strategic growth plan:
- Social media management
- Advertising (including pay-per-click online promotions, and community sponsorships)
- Sales and special offers (coordinated with holidays)
- Sales projections (monthly targets)
- Staffing requirements
- Tax deduction opportunities
- New product or service offerings
- Average monthly operational expenditures (budget)
- Community events, conferences, or local small business events that offer opportunities to showcase your products or services in local communities.
Once you have reviewed your trajectory and plan for 2017, break each section into actionable tasks. Also, consider the following:
- How will you improve your social media outreach in the coming year?
- What will you do differently?
- What opportunity is there to cut costs and expenses, without impacting growth?
Allocate tasks for each key performance area, and indicate how you will review and measure growth. Be prepared to review your annual plan periodically to keep yourself focused and motivated.
2. Invest in Software That Saves Time (and Frustration)
Like several small business owners, you’ve probably looked at local competition and wondered “how do they find the time to do all those promotions?” You should know that social media is the key component in small business growth. In fact, SMB’s often do a better job of responding to customers and creating relationships through social media, especially in terms of building engagement.
No time for social posts on a daily basis? Use software like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to write and pre-schedule your posts at times and on days that work for your customers. Make it your goal to post at least four times per week, and include content that is personable, and offers insight into your product, service, and the passion you have for your business.
Don’t forget to interject photos and behind-the-scene shots of staff, customers or special projects. Surveys have shown that consumers affiliate strongly with brands that share operational events, staff pictures and other personal collaterals on a regular basis. It’s friendly and authentic, and your customers will love it.
Don’t forget to set alerts to e-mail you when a customer comments or engages with your post, and make time to respond to as many online interactions as possible.
3. Invest in Accounting and Project Management Software
All businesses (including SMBs) live in the fear of being audited for taxation. However, with the help of a reliable software program like QuickBooks, record-keeping and even securing cloud backup of data can be made easy.
Working in media and collaborating with national or international clients, or multiple staff members who work remotely? Basecamp offers low-cost, easy-to-use project management software that gets you out of emails and into organized discussions, scheduled action items, calendars, and more.
4. Get Virtual Assistance
Offshoring a remote virtual assistant can be incredibly affordable and can make a big difference in terms of freeing you, the small business owner, of mundane tasks that can easily be outsourced. Some virtual assistants are highly capable, and work for $3 per hour (USD) and above. Check out Upwork to hire a reliable assistant for tackling customer service, data entry, calendaring, travel arrangements, invoicing and collections, and more.
5. Relocate and/or Reorganize Your Office
Is your office easily accessible? Do the locals know where to find you? Will you be able to find customers in your current location? Or have you felt the need to move to another location to grow? Whatever the case, choose reliable web-based services such as those offered by Arivify to ensure that your business is situated in the right place.
Further, your work desk should be a figurative command center. But if it is cluttered, disorganized, or if you are losing important information, it is time to overhaul your work space. If you are struggling with an unreliable computer, replace it (financing is available). If you spend a lot of time at your desk, invest in a good one along with a chair that provides lumbar support.
When you feel good about your small business command center, your ideas, thoughts, confidence, and way of doing things will improve. You will also be able to have meetings in your office, without scrambling to hide all your magazines and paperwork.
Congratulations for living the dream of being an entrepreneur. While it is far less glamorous and involves much more work than the average American considers, your identity as a small business owner will drive you towards growth and success in the coming year. Make the time to invest in better software and easy-to-implement hacks that will make your hard work pay off in 2017.
Lori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, The Social Media Hat and many other business and tech blogs. You can reach her @.