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If you’re a small business owner, take a second now to stop the 79 things you’re doing and give yourself some much-needed kudos. The big guys might grab the headlines, but it’s the dreamers, makers and small companies like yours that drive innovation and keep the economy thriving. In fact, according to the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs from the U.S. Census Bureau, 89% of businesses in this country have fewer than 20 employees. In 2015, the last year for which the U.S. Small Business Administration has data, small businesses added a whopping 1.9 million jobs to the economy, employing nearly 59 million people. That’s something worth crowing about.
Of course, all that good you do comes at a price. Running a small business is one of the toughest, most challenging things you can take on in life and there are times it can feel like the odds are stacked against you, despite your best efforts. That’s why we’ve compiled a few tips based on advice from successful small business owners around the country. Here are a few of the most valuable:
1. Set Aside Time to Sweat the Small Stuff
Yes, that might go against life advice but when it comes to business, the small stuff matters. Unfortunately, it’s the small stuff that usually falls through the cracks. At the end of a long day of juggling an impossible number of tasks, the last thing you want to do is sit down and balance a ledger, keep track of tax data or go through invoices. These types of tasks are especially odious for “big picture” people (most small business owners are), but procrastinating only leads to bigger issues down the road.
Here’s a way to tackle them — set aside time every day (or a few days a week). Start a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and devote all of your focus during that time to completing these minor supportive tasks. You’ll know which ones are the most pressing. Setting a time limit keeps things manageable, helps you focus and relieves no small amount of mental stress.
2. Pay Attention to ROI
Paying attention to what comes in and what goes out of the business is vital, of course, but understanding your return on investment (ROI) might be even more important. Knowing where your money is working for you and where it’s not can help you maximize your spending and get the most bang for your buck.
Thankfully, there are all sorts of ways to do that. You can do it the old fashioned way by looking at lead generation or identifying and tracking sales in ledger or spreadsheet. Or, if you use software to manage finances and monitor your company’s health, there are myriad plugins and apps that work seamlessly, letting you track and even visualize where your ROI is greatest. There are even apps that help you track non-monetary ROI like time and employee hours, which can help you know how to devote your man-hours.
3. Focus on Customer Experience
It’s a cliche because it’s true — your customers are your company’s foundation. Giving them a good experience should be a top priority. In fact, according to a survey from the Tomkin Group, 87% of customers are very likely to purchase again if they had a positive experience with a business. Fostering that sense of buying loyalty will not only keep the core business float, but it will also drive growth as your satisfied customers use word-of-mouth marketing (read: free) to bring you new customers.
Here are a few time-honored ways to improve customer experience:
- Build a customer-focused culture by preaching it every day
- Let customers help themselves with easy-to-use self-service processes (FAQs, auto chat, free resources
- Engage in social media and ask for customer feedback
- Know your ideal customer service experience and strive for it
4. Know When to Get Help
These little tips are great for helping you hone your process and focus your energies in the right place. However, running a small business means you’ll be pulled in 15 different directions at every moment of the day, and there’s only so much one human being can do.
This is where a bit of self-awareness can go a long way. Step back, do some self-reflection to build a profile of yourself. What are you good at? Where do your weaknesses lie? What tasks do you loath? Which ones bring you joy?
It can be painful, but you can even bring friends, family and employees in on this process. Let them give you an impartial outsider’s view and listen to what they have to say. For instance, you might think you’re a master at managing the books. If everyone around you disagrees, set aside your ego for the sake of the company.
Getting help in your weakness areas will not only help your business thrive, but it’ll also help take some of the stress off of you, letting you focus on the parts you’re good at and enjoy doing.
No matter how well things are going, there’s always room for improvement. Utilizing these tips can help you focus on what’s important, find more fulfillment and prepare your business for future challenges.
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