12 crucial tips for small businesses
Only about 50% of small businesses survive their first five years. If you're a small business owner, you already know that succeeding in today's climate takes guts and determination, especially given the way that the recent pandemic has shaken up the world of business.
At Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, we celebrate the contributions of small business owners like you. We stand behind you and want to see your company succeed and flourish. So today, we're providing tips for small businesses and showing you how to make the most of your new venture!
1. Find your "why"
Every successful entrepreneur needs to start with a single question: Why? Why does your small business exist? What is your passion and what practical needs do your services fill?
These questions aren't just helpful for finding your niche; they help you to articulate your purpose and game plan better. And more importantly, your goal communicates essential information to your customer base.
In his bestselling business book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek points out that people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. He says that as human beings, "We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe, and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us."
This isn't just a good idea for a startup or new business. Small business owners should return to this question every year and reevaluate their priorities to refine their strategy over time.
2. Optimize the way you pay your employees
The success of your small business likely depends on a dedicated team of employees. Make sure to pay them fairly and on time. Invoice2go can help you to manage your payroll, thanks to our partnership with Gusto. You can also provide tax documents, such as 1099s and W-2s, with the help of our innovative software.
3. Discover growth opportunities with Business Reports
Sometimes, entrepreneurs need to take a look back to find a path forward. Business reports can help you to see the big picture for your small business.
Business reports provide a snapshot of your company's performance, including your income, expenses, outstanding invoices, and more. You can monitor your cash flow using online software, which makes it easy to send financial data to your accountant in preparation for tax season, too.
4. Manage your online reputation
Small business owners are already keenly aware of the influence customers have on their businesses. Even if your website doesn't have a feedback section, customers can still comment on your social media posts. Many third-party sites also invite customers to create and post reviews of your business.
Successful small business owners make customer reviews a meaningful part of their strategy. If you’re an Invoice2go subscriber, we offer options for receiving and publishing online customer reviews.
You can use this feedback to refine your business processes and incorporate these reviews into your marketing strategy. You can augment your brand by selecting the customer reviews on your company website, shining a spotlight on the quality services you and your employees provide.
5. Think "omni"
Gone are the days when businesses would either operate online or in person. Today, small businesses are pursuing omnichannel strategies, which means that small business owners are preparing to receive money from an online store and face-to-face transactions.
Using an online payment processing platform can help your small business process credit cards and digital payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Thanks to our partnership with Stripe, Invoice2go can offer your small business payment processing resources that can allow you to process payments both online and in your store. This can expand how you receive money from your customers, which is a critical factor in your growth.
6. Outsource your accounting needs
When you first started your business, you may have chosen to handle your own books as a way to cut costs. After all, hiring a full-time accountant would be extraordinarily expensive.
But now that your company has seen some growth, you might find your time increasingly occupied by the accounting needs of your small business.
Before you hire an accountant, it's a good idea to consider what your needs are. For most small business owners, your needs revolve around the following:
- Tax preparation
- Personal financial planning
Modern online accounting firms can provide solutions to these needs by connecting you with some of the most skilled professionals in the financial industry.
Rather than reserving office space for an accounting department, consider outsourcing your requirements to an online firm that has the resources to handle your books, prepare your taxes, and more.
Many companies now offer online payroll services to coordinate with these accounting forms, so you can rest assured that your financial processes are run with expert-level efficiency.
Remember, you're an entrepreneur, not an accountant. By having a skilled team behind you, you can save the cost of hiring additional employees and avoid the nightmare of having to figure out your own taxes!
7. Let your critics be your coaches
Almost every small business owner knows the feeling of reading a negative customer review or online comment. In many cases, the wisest thing to do is to ignore this kind of feedback, especially when the input becomes personal or deliberately hurtful.
However, listening to feedback from your harshest critics can be valuable to the management of your company. In Jim Collins' leadership book Good to Great he compares successful management to turning over rocks and looking at the "squiggly things" underneath.
In other words, growth happens when you're willing to face your challenges head-on — otherwise, you're simply going to get good at hiding them.
For example, suppose a customer complains of difficulty in navigating your website or contacting one of your employees. In that case, it may be a sign that it's time to make adjustments to the way you handle your business.
And because many reviews happen in the glass house of social media, responding to a negative comment can show other customers that you're invested in their concerns and willing to develop solutions to their problems.
8. Celebrate competition
There's a lot of truth to the saying that "a rising tide lifts all boats." Successful entrepreneurs view their competition as a catalyst for growth, not as a threat to their success.
Even industry giants can spur you on to developing new strategies and solutions. You might even find it helpful to tap into a niche market that your competitors had never considered.
When you're confronted with a competing business, ask yourself these questions:
- What services can we provide that others cannot?
- What niche do we serve?
- How does our brand differ from others in our industry?
Don't focus on the cost of your services — at least not right away. When you're faced with competition, the key is to figure out how to benefit from the unique nature of your company. If your business offers a superior value, let your customers know why.
9. Streamline your invoicing and payment processes
Are you still creating your invoices by yourself? Our customers report saving as much as 10 hours a month by relying on our invoicing software.
We offer free invoice templates that you can use to support your business. Our mobile app allows you to create invoices and send them to your clients with the touch of a few buttons.
Whether you choose to use Invoice2go or another service, we strongly recommend using software to help you save valuable time and look more professional.
These tools can save you the time and hassle of managing your invoices and customer payments. You can also use them to send automated reminders so that you can collect money faster.
With the time you save on these administrative tasks, you can focus on the core tasks of running your business.
10. Leverage omnichannel marketing
Modern businesses recognize the enduring importance of maintaining a social media presence. After all, social media platforms provide a free way to promote your brand and market your products to a wide range of customers. Online tips abound on how to optimize your social media content to support your core business platform.
While all of this is true, content marketing increasingly takes place on a variety of digital platforms. Content marketing refers to creating content that doesn't explicitly market a product or brand; instead, it generates interest in the services or products that your business provides.
This might include some of the following:
- Blog posts
- Tutorials and "how-to" videos
- Electronic booklets
Sometimes, this content is offered in exchange for customer data. For example, your website might offer a free eBook or product guide for customers who put in their contact information.
You can later use this customer data in marketing campaigns to continue promoting your brand. The best part is you never have to pay a marketing team a dime, so long as you're able to focus on facilitating the content marketing strategy through your website and media channels.
11. Keep your friends close (but not THAT close)
As a small business owner, you may be thankful to have the support of family or friends. But what happens when someone you know asks for a job?
While it may seem natural to work alongside family or friends (especially if they have relevant experience), money can often come between the strongest of relationships.
As a business owner, you never want to get stuck in the awkward position of firing your friend or family member from a job, as it can have a ripple effect on other relationships.
This isn't to say that your friends can't be excellent sounding boards for your business. They may have some advice or tips to help you succeed, and if they're willing, you might be able to bounce marketing ideas off of them before you try things out on your customers. Just be careful about mixing business with relationships.
12. Build your brand and prioritize your mental health
Small business owners can invest hours in their companies. If you're not careful, your job can quickly become your identity.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, an accounting firm manager confesses that she "became a robot." She knew she'd been working long hours, but she says, "I thought it was normal...you are in a kind of mental system where you are under increasing demands, and you say to yourself that it doesn't matter, that you will rest afterward, but that moment never comes."
Successful entrepreneurs need to find a balance between their personal lives and their time in the office. If you haven't done so already, you'll need to start learning to create clear work-life boundaries — or else you risk being swallowed whole by the demands of your business, customers, and employees.
Take time each week to step away from the office and get out from the demands of technology. Spend time with your family, friends, or working on a hobby.
Don't think of this time as an interruption in your business management; instead, consider it a key part of your leadership style. Your employees will learn from your example. If you provide them with similar avenues and tips for finding work-life balance, you may discover that your employees are more invested in their jobs in the long run.
Maintain your focus
We hope you've found this article valuable and that these tips bring your small business success. At Invoice2go, we pride ourselves on offering support to small businesses, providing technological solutions that can help you focus on building and growing your business.
Curious to see how our services can help your business?