As we settle into the second quarter of the year, it’s a good time to check up on your small business, and to get going on the things that may have slipped through the cracks since the start of 2015.
Your business has both moving parts to keep an active eye on, and prospects that are worth investing the time to think about. Both are necessary and proactive efforts to ensure the health of your small business. Read on to discover how to conduct your own entrepreneur checkup, no stethoscope required.
How’s Your Marketing Health?
When it comes to successful marketing tactics, the most common complaint among small business owners is that it requires too much money, or expertise they don’t possess. But the truth is that a small business owner cannot afford not to invest in marketing, whether they’re spending their own time, or utilizing their funds to outsource the work.
If you’ve paused (or have yet to start) your marketing initiatives, the first step to get going is deciding what tradeoff is right for you: time or money. Then, consider the staples of any solid marketing campaign: (1) have a true understanding of the market for your product or service, and (2) define what makes your proposition unique and valuable.
Some small business owners have their marketing concept in place, yet, have no idea how to gauge or monitor its success. Moving forward, you can nix this issue by setting a clear and measurable goal, and deciding how you’ll track progress and results. For example, consider a special offer tied to a promo code in an email, this way you can measure your audience’s response. (And remember, unless you’re willing to a strategically extend a loss-leader, be sure to test the profitability of an offer like this before you make it.)
Commit to regular reviews of your campaigns, and schedule them on a calendar so that you’re routinely faced with questions about your marketing effectiveness. Also, schedule time to check in on your competitors and any other marketing initiatives that impress you. Don’t be afraid to ask for input and advice among the people you respect either, which is a great way to reinvigorate your efforts and may even open you up to opportunities for collaboration.
Are Your Finances Feeling OK?
For those small business owners still using excel sheets, it’s time to convert to a mainstream financial accounting system. Bookkeeping software may be a challenge to learn at first, but it’s important that your financials can be easily interpreted by advisors and potential lenders down the road. Remember: you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Talk to others in your industry and see what systems they are using and why.
Cash is as essential to your business’ health as air and water is to you. Be sure to forecast and evaluate your business’ cash flow regularly. And, in an effort to save time and money, work on building a team of trusted advisors who can review your financial reports monthly and, with fresh eyes, can catch the trends and traps you might miss.
For the small business owner out there who trusts someone else with the management of their books, a word to the wise: never take your eyes off of the ball. While it’s smart to have a second person review your finances, it’s important not to give up control completely. Instead, opt for duel control. You can turn to technology to make this process simple. For example, you can set your online banking profile to limit someone’s access to only overviews of your monthly activity.
What About Your Leadership, Has It Been Acting Up?
At the beginning of each year, aspirations are high; at the close of each year, strategic planning takes place and goals are on the horizon – this all equates to enthusiasm and energy. But what’s to be said for your leadership mid-year?
To avoid your leadership getting lost in the trenches, break your year into millstones. This can be done quarterly, or by holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and New Year’s. Use these milestones as touch points for you and your staff to reflect on accomplishments and lessons learned, and establish some new goals and incentives together.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to lead this process in order to be an effective leader. Everyone has ideas about how to improve, and often it’s the employees who are on front lines interacting with your customers who have the best ideas. Your job is to cultivate an environment that is open and constructive enough to share comfortably.
Put some action behind these conversations, and implement logical, simple ideas right away. Then, get to work on trying to implement more difficult ideas, while at the same time, remaining transparent with your team on timelines and updates.
Keep in mind that you can use your staff as a resource to improving your own leadership. If this feels right for you, be candid about wanting to be a better leader, and be open to hearing what you can do to improve. Consider offering a comments box where employees can share their notes anonymously. On a similar note, make yourself available to get to know your staff as people. We all carry our own baggage and passions, and having insight into those will make you more aware of some of the ebbs and flows of your team.
As the owner of your small business you can’t be everywhere, and burnout is a risk for every entrepreneur. Consider regular team conference calls that you can dial into on-the-go. Company-only mobile chat apps are great ways to increase communication off email. Also, invest the time it takes to make your staff’s environment somewhere they want to be; pictures and paint can make all the difference. Offer up a community board where employees can communicate, not only changes in policies, but industry news and fun events too.
In the end, the success of the standards and goals you set for your small business will be a reflection of its overall health. So checkup on your efforts and check often, because the work you put in today will drive results into tomorrow.