October 30, 2011

Tips for small business owners

What can businesses do to stay ahead of the pack? Peter Strong, Executive Director, Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA), lists his top tips for small business success.

What can businesses do to stay ahead of the pack? Peter Strong, Executive Director, Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA), lists his top tips for small business success.

Peter’s winning tips for small business success:

Live and breathe good cash flow management – always keep an eye on cash, projected income and projected expenses, so you’re prepared for whatever changes to currency, interest rates, inflation or employment are thrown at you.

Get chatting – regularly talk to suppliers and customers. Let them know what you have and what you want. Pick up the phone, venture online and hop in your car to visit current (and potential) customers and suppliers.

Go online – every bricks-and-mortar retailer would be wise to have an online presence, even if it’s only so that customers can find your contact details online. Then, depending on the products, there’s the online opportunity to market products, experiment online with new products and processes and drive e-commerce – a process that will never stop as the online world continually evolves.

Understand your customer – review the relevance of your core products for a changing customer base and changing customer needs. Businesses that succeed keep a close eye on customers to know what they want and they’re quickly aware of any change in purchasing habits and needs. On a similar note, review your supply chain for cost and quality and ensure it continually meets your customers’ needs.

Identify and exploit new business opportunities – taking advantage of opportunity is one of the great strengths of a small business, as you can react quickly. Set aside time every week to review any new opportunity and assess the practicality of pursuing that opportunity. This can be a meeting with work colleagues or over breakfast (perhaps with a mentor) on a nominated day away from the office. Often, it will be a very quick review but every now and then, a new opportunity will be identified and the momentum of that opportunity will drive new business plans and activities.

Sell your smaller size as an employee benefit – use your size to promote a high retention rate and combat skills shortages. Small businesses have benefits for employees that can’t be found in big business. Sell the fact that employees of small business aren’t just ‘a number’ but are closely connected to the business and the business owner. Also, sell the fact that employees can have greater chances of learning multiple aspects and specialist skills of the business.

Scenario plan if your business is negatively impacted by a change in the Aussie dollar – have a plan that addresses various future paths, especially if you work in retail, manufacturing, inbound tourism and the like. Find new customers within Australia; manage employees by either asking them to take their leave or by cutting back hours; decrease staff levels; develop new products; and/or seek partnerships with others in your sector for economies of scale.

Look after your health – you may feel fighting fit but if you do become sick, time off work will eat into your bottom line. Exercise daily and de-stress by regularly scheduling, and following through on, catch-ups with family and friends. Don’t cancel because you feel you’re too busy.