Running a small-to-medium size enterprise, or “SME” for those who have so little time to spare you prefer to communicate in acronyms and text speak, isn’t getting any easier. The reality is that running a business it will always get harder as the new millennium pushes forward. Industrialism is all but dead and corporations are always looking for ways to use software and other tech to replace their white collar workers. The traditional workforce is being forced into entrepreneurism, whether they welcome this change or not.
SME owners, and people who aspire to run their own business, should take pride in the fact small and medium size businesses create more than half of all jobs in the United States. Numbers around the world are very similar including the UK and Canada.
Most who fail do so because the money dries up (if it was ever there to begin with) and this generally happens because of poor communication skills, lack of effective networking, owners who double as accountants, and failure to adapt to the changing business landscape including adapting new technology.
1. Be polite and watch your PCs.
Being politically correct isn’t something we’re born with — you have to work at it!
I walked into a popular local business in my community the other day and the man running the store — who I knew to be the owner — went out of his way to ignore me when I was standing at the counter waiting for service — he wasn’t doing anything but staring off into space. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (around 2 minutes) he gave me a grumpy nod that said “what do you want?” See you in the next life buddy!
Then there’s all the politically correct stuff that you need to keep on top of. Don’t talk down about religion, sexuality — your views on transgenderism — what you did on the weekend with the opposite sex, or how much of an idiot your competitor down the street is. Keep inappropriate questions and socially-charged talk to yourself around employees and customers, or you’ll pay for it dearly.
2. Actively spend time seeking networking opportunities.
If you’re not out there looking for charities to get involved with, starting up foundations in your community, going to social functions were locals meet, and offering your products and services to organizations that matter, you’re sunk.
The old woman that lived in the shoe was not a business owner because she spent all her time in that darned shoe! Get out and mingle and your business stands a chance of thriving — try to stay out of the limelight and well, maybe after enough failure you’ll realize it is indeed all about who you know and who knows you!
3. Pay a bloody bookkeeper/accountant to watch your books for you!
It really doesn’t cost that much. A bookkeeper can cost as little as $25/hr — which works out to a couple hundred a month. Accountants can be triple or quadruple those rates, but you don’t necessarily need to consult with them as often (ie., tax season, audits, lawsuits, expansion, etc.)
The fact is that these folks can do your books faster, call you on bad financial decisions before they destroy your business, and advise you as to the best route to take in all financial areas of your business. Unless you yourself are certified, take the small hit to your bank account, the reality is these guys will literally pay their own salaries with the money and torment they’ll save you from.
4. Know and exploit all digital marketing opportunities.
I was talking to a local business owner the other day who runs a vape shop. I’m sure you’ve all seen people walking around with their “mods” huffing flavored vapor into their lungs and blowing massive clouds. Nearly every business in this industry has to carry all the equipment needed to vape and a large line of yummy juices to satisfy every taste. And they have to know where there customers hang out in the digital sphere in order to market the business most effectively.
This guy I was talking to is on the verge of absolute failure after two years in business. The government is taking everything he makes because he hasn’t paid his taxes (likely due in part to blunders mentioned in #3). This guy had no idea what Reddit is (a major marketing platform for businesses in his industry), doesn’t make or sell his own juice line, and called Facebook “the Facebook” and still has a Ymail account as his main email contact.
Basically, he’s screwing a lot of things up, but the lack of online presence is a biggie. Most of your leads are going to come largely in part due to your online marketing plan, which needs to include active marketing and monitoring social noise and review sites like Yelp and Google Reviews. If you’re waiting for people to start lining up into the street just because you’re there, you’re doomed to failure in most cases.
5. Be present and available to your employees and customers.
Until the business is a well-oiled machine and you have managers and staff you would trust (literally) with your life, you need to always be available. It’s fine to take the weekend off, but as a storefront SME owner you always need to be on call for when pressing questions and situations come up that can muck up your bottom line. Such as when a customer demands to speak to the owner “or else”, or when a big contract with a signing deadline arises suddenly.
When you find yourself interrupted for issues you don’t feel require your input, simply let your employees know how you expect to deal with similar situations in the future. Eventually, everyone will know what’s expected of them and you’ll have more and more time to spend on analyzing, innovating and growing the business, along with getting the most of your downtime!
How’s your SME doing?
Main Image Credit: M.V. Jantzen/Flickr