There’s a lot to think about when starting a business. There’s even more to think about once you’ve made it through the start-up phase and are ready to grow. The most important focus area should be your people – your customers and your staff – and how you can build the strongest team to delight your customers.
Here are eight places to start:
Be noticeable. A clear, compelling message tells prospective clients what makes you different. The most successful businesses focus on providing friendly, efficient customer service and highlight their unique selling points. You might be ‘just another book shop’, but if you donate a book to underprivileged schools with every sale you make, that’s something to shout about.
Get online. 82% of smartphone users research products online and 45% read reviews before deciding to buy something. If you don’t have an online presence, get one fast. The biggest mistake any business can make is thinking that it doesn’t need a website. You do. Your website, social media pages, and newsletter are the quickest and easiest ways to let customers know about new products, promotions, and other important news. There are plenty of free tools you can use, like WordPress and Wix, to create your website – and you don’t need coding knowledge.
Make it an experience. As a consumer yourself, you know there’s a lot of choice out there. Make it easy for your customers to decide. Know what they want, what they expect, and how you can solve their problems. Then delight them with your service and always go the extra mile – 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, which will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.
Expand your horizons. Entering new markets is an obvious way to grow but, before you do, take the time to research and understand your new competitors, threats, opportunities, and trading environment. You’re also serving a different customer base – get to know them because you might need to change your product or service to meet their expectations.
Build a strong team. Your team is as important as your customers. They’re your brand ambassadors; the ones on the frontline who deliver on the promises your brand makes. If you don’t have the skills internally, and don’t have the time or resources to upskill your existing team, hire the best person you can afford – the one with the most experience who is also a good cultural fit and shares your brand’s values.
Plan to succeed. Business plans help everyone focus on a common goal. But they shouldn’t be complicated or set in stone. Dynamic, living business plans should be able to adapt to changing markets, regulations, and customer needs. Keep it short and focused on short-term, achievable goals, and revisit it every month to make sure you’re on track.
Take your software to the cloud. Cloud accounting software, like Sage One Invoicing, automates many financial and HR functions. Create quotes and invoices, check and replenish stock, and manage your team – from anywhere, on any device. This frees up your time to focus on everything else on this list.
Get on top of your cashflow. You’ve heard the phrase, you need to spend money to make money. This is especially true for growing businesses. You’ll need to invest time and financial resources into understanding your new markets, and then marketing to your ideal customer. Before you do this, make sure there’s more money coming into your business than there is going out, so that you don’t go insolvent.
It’s hard work growing a business. But if you can tick off a few things on this list, and you focus on building a strong team that’s passionate about customer service, you’re well on your way.