Running An SME: Advice, Hints, and Tips

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Small Business AdviceSmall businesses account for most of the revenue and jobs in today’s UK economy. In 2014, just over 99 per cent of private sector businesses were classified as small firms. Owning and running a business is a dream come true for millions, but it comes with a number of challenges.

Here we’ve put together some helpful advice to help your SME thrive.

Building a great team

When you’re just starting out, the temptation is to cut costs and keep control by doing everything yourself. But sooner or later you’ll have to start building a team your trust if you want your business to grow.

In today’s business environment a team doesn’t have to mean employees who work only for you at a designated office space. With some trial and error, you can build a varying mix of people in any combination that works for you, including:

  • Full time, traditional employees
  • Part time employees who report to your office or work remotely
  • Freelancers and contractors that you trust to outsource to when your workload gets too heavy
  • Outside experts such as accountants and IT professionals you can call as needed

The key is to be a good communicator and set clear expectations. You’ll also want to develop good contracts and legal documentation for working with outside people.

Managing time and projects

Learning to optimize your time use is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. In order to improve a thing it must be measured, so the first step to better time management is to track how you currently spend your day. You can download a free app like timeEdition or just take notes in a calendar or spread sheet. If you have employees, ask them to do this exercise too.

After a week or two you’ll have a block of data that can help you determine what tasks are being done efficiently and where you are getting bogged down. For tasks you find frustrating or that take too much of your valuable time, explore how you can move them off your plate. Maybe you can delegate an activity to an employee so you can focus in another area, or maybe you need to outsource a particularly troublesome task so you never have to think about it again.

There are many great project management tools to help companies work and communicate efficiently. Software such as Basecamp can help you and your team juggle all your obligations and create a realistic schedule for getting things done. There is no magic solution for better time management, but being aware of how you work and choosing tools to make your life easier can help you raise your productivity at work.

Attracting customers

Of course without customers you’ll have no business to manage. Marketing to new customers and retaining existing customers is so important that thousands of books are written each year on the topic. Experts agree that a combination of correct pricing, incentives to encourage brand loyalty, and making the most of your marketing budget is the magic formula for attracting customers.

Do your homework to find out what others are charging and determine a fair price for your offering. Don’t try to compete solely on price. If you develop a great product or service and can prove that you provide value, that has more long-term use than trying to be the cheapest. If you offer a digital service, consider offering three pricing tiers with different features and benefits for each level.

Experiment with where you spend your marketing dollars and carefully track the ROI. Invest in content marketing such as a blog or newsletter, and optimise two or three social media outlets to reach potential customers. Beware of spreading your resources too thin, however. A Twitter feed that is unmonitored or a page you don’t update provides no value and can make your company look bad.

There are millions of tips for running and improving any small business, far more than can be discussed in one short article. We’d love to hear some of your time management, marketing, or team building tips.

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