Small business owners have advantages and challenges that leaders of larger companies do not. Whether an entrepreneur is in the early stages of executing his or her business plan, or they are years into building their company, the ability to recognize trends in their industry is important.
When an owner spends time learning and evaluating what’s to come in the next few months or year ahead, they are better equipped to make decisions about whether or not adopting trends will give them the competitive edge they desire, or whether the benefits are likely to be short-lived.
There are, however, a few tried-and-true best practices that leaders of any company should employ and monitor as new opportunities become available. It is always prudent to take a fresh look at business operations by reviewing the year that has passed, being better equipped to make necessary adjustments when planning for the future.
Embrace technology. Technology is constantly evolving. Customers and employees will likely take notice if a business begins investing in ways to improve its overall online and mobile presence and functionality. For example, when a company offer goods or services, it is key they make sure their online platform is set up to accept payments or book services with ease. Customers notice little things like this and will possibly take their business elsewhere if a company lacks the convenience technology offers.
Consider adopting digital wallet and peer-to-peer payment methods, as they are increasingly popular. Take advantage of automated processes and spend time thinking about the overall digital business strategy before making big decisions regarding costly technology improvements. Do try to inquire as to whether any new technology is fleeting or here to stay before making the investment. Embracing technology that improves the customer experience can result in customer loyalty and ambassadors.
Discover efficiencies. Getting the job done in the most efficient and effective way possible is always a practice small businesses need to follow. It can be difficult to get the to-do list under control once business picks up, putting at risk customer service, relationships with vendors and certainly one’s ability to manage stress and problem solve.
There are several ways to streamline the management of staff expenses and business costs. For example, consider a corporate credit program that comes with real-time advanced management and tracking tools. Furthermore, if the company requires employees to travel, many credit cards offer auto rental insurance, automatic travel accident insurance and many other complimentary services. The use of rewards points may also be useful in streamlining business costs as each individual cardholder can acquire them. These points can be redeemed for travel, cash back and more.
Take security seriously. Cyberattacks are widespread and can be extremely costly for businesses. Small businesses are not immune to data breaches. According to Symantec, a global provider of cybersecurity, 43 percent of cyberattacks last year were on small businesses. More than half of small companies, whose information was compromised, went out of business within six months of the attack. Keeping customers’ information and other data safe is extremely important. Explore what options are available and know how to best protect the business and customers’ information.
Make it personal. Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) will soon make up 40 percent of consumers in America. These customers want a more personalized experience when working with small businesses, so companies should be intentional when targeting that demographic, as their buying power exceeds $44 billion. Understanding this group as employees and consumers will become increasingly important for businesses.
Some experts note that this generation expects and responds to personal marketing and experiences. So, it may be time to assess whether the business is ready to provide personalized customer service and interaction whenever and wherever possible. Try to incorporate the use of social media and email to offer special deals to reach these customers.
When preparing for the future, keep in mind that looking back at past business performance can also prove to be an enlightening exercise and can help avoid future mistakes. Taking an educated approach to aligning the company’s goals with proven trends can help ensure a company meets, and possibly exceeds, expectations and profitability.
This column from Arvest Bank offers general consumer and financial information and runs monthly in the business section.