Growing your business is exciting. You and your team strived to reach this stage with hard work and determination. Even if you're happy with the current state of your business, you should keep looking for ways to develop. The secret is being prepared.
In this article, Amy Roberts, senior business development manager at Spotcap, provides us insight on what entrepreneurs should consider before embarking on the journey.
Understand your business environment
The first step to take is asking yourself a series of questions. Is there an increased demand for your product or service? How much additional funding will you need? Do you have a plan on how to spend it? Honest answers can help you make a realistic decision on whether it’s the right time to grow.
Once you’ve decided to take this next step for your business, getting to know the ins and outs of your company and competitors becomes essential. Take the time to research and get a good grasp of the industry or environment you operate in. A good practical step to start with is a SWOT analysis, where you look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Let’s break it down into smaller steps:
Thinking about these factors will make it easier to put together a clear step-by-step strategy. And don’t forget that circumstances and your business environment can change at any time, which is where a contingency plan will help you prepare for unexpected events.
Find the funding that’s right for you
Securing finance is the next crucial step – one which might seem daunting if you don’t know what’s right for you. Beside traditional loans and grants, there is a myriad of financial products that are designed to meet different types of business needs: online business lending, asset-based lending, crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending.
Some growth opportunities will need more funding than others. For example, if a customer commissions a larger than expected order, you might require a loan quickly to bridge additional expenses in the short-term. In this case, it would be best to turn to alternative funding products, such as business lines of credit, invoice financing or merchant cash advances. If, however, you plan to make a large-scale investment like purchasing new property, then a traditional, long-term business loan would more appropriately fit your needs.
Having a good understanding of your business plays well into this step. Once you’ve determined what your goals and needs are, you’ll be able to decide on the most fitting product. There are many resources available online, but don’t forget – you can always ask for advice, be it from your accountant or a financial adviser.
Prepare your staff
Growth applies considerable pressure on every part of your business, most noticeably on your team. When you plan to scale up, you also need to consider the impact this will have on your employees. Rapid growth might look like a sign of success, but it also has the potential to create a high pressure environment, resulting in burnout.
To counteract the added demand, you should begin recruiting before you begin to scale. Alternatively, consider temporarily outsourcing tasks by hiring a freelancer. You don’t want to set out to grow, only to end up losing your employees in the process due to too much stress.
Victor, a marketer from London, confirms that this can easily become the case: "I worked for a company that was growing rapidly. Our number of users doubled but our team stayed the same size. After six months of working 12 hour days, a third of us resigned."
Use Technology to help you
Admin can be time-consuming, burdensome and not at all inspiring. But it’s necessary – without a robust back office, a growing business risks dealing with unnecessary setbacks further down the line.
The good news is that technology can help automate a large portion of administrative responsibilities, like book keeping, invoicing and HR. You can also make it easier to manage your business while travelling - why not integrate a digital solution for document signing and management, or an online platform that organises all your payments and invoices? The right software can allow you and your staff to invest more time where it really matters.
Go with your own timeline
Growing your business doesn’t need to be a short and fast process. Rushing through changes can damage your performance and negatively impact your bottom line. You should choose a pace that fits your specific situation, allowing you to respond to changes and deal with additional workload. This way you can manage expectations more effectively and prepare for increase in pressure from customers, suppliers and employees.
In the end, much like entrepreneurship, scaling is about calculating risk and preparing. Make sure you and your staff are ready to take on this new challenge, and you’ll be able to keep your business moving forward!
Amy Roberts is a senior business development manager with Spotcap. Her focus is on adopting growth opportunities that allow Spotcap to provide UK SMEs with tailored finance.
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In the last 20 years the use of mobile devices has grown rapidly across the world, so it’s no surprise that people choose to connect with a business through this medium. Nowadays, we use our phones to research services, search for business, and choose which things we wish to buy. Even though phones can now do more than ever, the mobile phone is a device built with calls in mind with 75% of consumers considering phone calls to be the fastest way to receive a response from a business.
According to BIA/Kelsey (a leading marketing data and research company): mobile search will generate 73 billion calls to businesses in 2018, up from 30 billion in 2013. It’s clear that companies who open up their telephone lines as a touchpoint have a competitive advantage over those who don’t. This tremendous rise in phone call communication gives many businesses a greater opportunity to increase inbound call conversion rates. Ignoring the significance of phone calls could be depriving businesses of valuable insight and data into their customers’ sales journey. So encourage website visitors to make that all important call to your business and discover how to convert those calls into business.
The Untapped Potential
You can generate more interest by engaging with your customer over the telephone than through any other medium. People who initiate inbound calls are on average more likely to convert 30% faster and spend 28% more. However despite this potential, some businesses do not clearly display a phone number on their website and many are unaware of which marketing campaigns are driving consumers to call. Ensure these 5 steps are implemented in your marketing strategy to drive the growth of your inbound calls:
1)Call to Actions (CTAs) - Ensure you make your main CTA a phone number as this can significantly influence your conversion rate when it is the main focal point of your website.
2)Provide a Local Number – A local phone number can make your business seem more trustworthy than a generic 0345 or 0800 number and encourage more calls.
3)Display your Availability – Whether that’s providing opening business times to call or an icon to show ‘Phone Us Now’ to prompt a call and overcome possible hesitation.
4)Offer a Call-back Request Option – Greatly improve the customer experience by providing customers the option for a call back request – a win-win situation for both parties
5)Define your Return on Investment (ROI) – Call tracking is a key element if you want to profitably grow your business. With call tracking you can calculate a more definite ROI with instant access to the overall performance of your individual marketing channels. By integrating call tracking from Mediahawk, your business can identify which of these channels, campaigns or ads are generating phone call conversions. Without clearly measuring your ROI, you are uncertain which marketing campaign is responsible for generating phone calls and what is working successfully.
With a strong marketing strategy in place to drive your inbound calls, you are generating high quality leads to your business. A study by Google states 61% of mobile users call a business when they are in the purchase phase of the buying cycle. Discovering what exactly takes place when a call converts is the key to increasing your conversation rates, growing your business and reputation.
Take a look at the 8 things happen on calls that successfully convert:
Identify how to fulfill the customer's needs more clearly by asking open-ended questions to gain meaningful insight and engagement from the caller.
The caller shows appreciation for the support of the agent, uses words or phrases to compliment the service or product. This happens both ways as the agent is able to compliment the business, products and services during the call providing reassurance to the caller.
The agent proves a positive representation of the business through speaking with clearly, slowly, and with a high level of professionalism, which leaves callers with a favourable impression.
4.Consideration of the Other
The caller uses words, phrases and speaks politely to the agent – there is a mutual respect and consideration of one another during the call and conversation. This builds rapport.
5.Agent to Expert
The caller engages in further questions and enquires about a product or service during the call – the agent then proves their expertise of the business.
The agent stays with the caller throughout the duration of the call rather than passing to multiple agents. The agent shows good communication skills through a combination of using ownership language and an equal dedication to effective listening. The agent uses phrases that take responsibility for the caller’s demands such as ‘I can assist you with that’ and ‘what I shall do for you now is…’
7.Personal Detail is Given
The caller states their name to the agent, gives their phone number, or provides their personal address during the phone call.
8.Ask for the Sale
Asking the caller ‘are you ready to purchase?’ The caller has taken time to call due to their interest in the product or service however the call has not converted until the agent confidently asks for the sale, and moves it through to the next level.
A business is only as good as the tools it uses. And thanks to technology, there are more tools out there than ever before to help businesses with productivity, accounting, organisation, anything that is crucial to a business’ survival. Small Businesses especially cannot afford to use anything second-rate, so Small Business Advice Week looked at what we, our partners, and other businesses use to stay on top. We’ve put together a list of five apps, platforms, and websites that can help you get faster, better results.
Trello is a team management and task planning system that makes it easy for any business to keep track of who’s doing what, and when. Its simple interface and layout mean anyone can use it: a truly modern to-do list for the 21st century. Make plans, amends, and see how things are progressing at any stage or section of your business.
A plug-in that scans websites to determine their domain authority (DA), Moz provides an invaluable service in telling you how your website is being viewed by Google and other search engines. If you don’t know what that means, or don’t think it matters, you need Moz. If your DA isn’t strong, and if it isn’t growing, you will suffer as a business. You cannot be an offline business anymore. A strong online presence is one of the best indicators that your business is stable, viable, and connected.
Accounting is complicated, important, and expensive. A mistake can be costly, potentially damaging, costing you time and money. Trying to do it on your own will mean working longer hours, less sleep, and more stress. Keep track of expenses, send invoices, and manage your cashflow in a sustainable way. With helpful graphs and visual aids to illustrate how your money is coming and going, QuickBooks' software makes accounting simple, meaning you have more time to focus on your business.
A smart platform for team messaging that is entirely focused on a positive user experience by a large group of disparate people, Slack allows for seamless communication without the hassle of other messaging systems. You can also share files through Slack, meaning you can work on something together and talk about it at the same time.
Hootsuite allows to co-ordinate, plan, and stagger your social media posts for optimum traffic times, giving you a higher degree of control over what you can post and when. Its easy-to-use dashboard lets you see how your account is doing, and the premium version gives you analytics to implement a serious plan to grow your base, get more followers, and become a social media juggernaut, which can help generate business, and build your profile in the eyes of the public.
Small Business Advice Week wants to help SMEs become the best businesses they can be. If your company provides services that streamline the business process, help people get organised, or can make SME’s lives easier, you could be a partner for Small Business Advice Week 2018.