Small businesses have to be successful and tough to survive nowadays. It’s about more than just making through that first year, it’s about being forward thinking and adaptive, it’s about picking up on trends and innovations before they become common place, and doing it all on a shoestring.
As a small business, it’s actually a lot easier to implement changes than larger businesses – think of it this way, you’re a little yacht bumping along the sea of industry, and the big players are a cruiseship in comparison. When a new challenge or opportunity means you have to change direction, which boat do you think can make that turn fastest? That’s right my little yacht, it’s you. Here are three things you should be doing in 2017 to get a head of the big guys.
Customer Service First
I’m not talking platitudes and a sad sounding voice on the phone, I’m talking a presence on social networks, email, live chat, maybe even a phone number that’s easily to find. After years of businesses hiding away behind websites that lead to no contact page, and being confronted by automated systems, customers are frustrated. People want to talk to you, so let them.
Look at it another way; your industry is competitive, your prices can’t get much lower than your competition, and often you even sell the same products. What advantage do you offer over them? Here’s where brilliant, going beyond the call of duty, customer service is a real winner. A quick answer to a question can catch a customer before they lose patience, a quick and unquestioned refund can ensure a repeat customer, and a prompt, friendly, response to unhappy Twitter rants can look good even in the worst situation. Premium customer service is an investment you have to make if you’ve neglected it.
Targeted Employee Development
Is there anything more frustrating and time consuming than a high staff turnover? For a small business, even one person leaving for pastures new can leave you stuck in an endless land of employment agencies. So, give staff a strong reason to stay, give them the gift of more skills.
Employee training can not only keep staff happy, but it can also help streamline various parts of your business. Better management could mean better product processes which can save money and time, better stock management can do the same, and ensuring you’re complying with industry standards can catch problems before you even have to think of facing a fine.
Knowing how and where to implement training is a difficult task, which is why it’s an entire industry in and of itself. You can get advice on managed learning services from GP Strategies, or other companies that specialise in business developing training for your staff. Best to get in an expert than waste the money sending Sam on a management course when what was really needed was a logistics one.
Invest In Tech
If you’re not constantly looking for the next technical upgrade, you need to be. Yes, some manufacturing equipment can last decades, but your office computers can’t. Neither can your website. These upgrade costs need to be factored in every few years in order to keep your business up-to-date. That’s without me even jumping on your back to keep an eye on the cool new stuff available.
You may have noticed virtual reality is back, but it’s not (quite) the nausea-inducing ride it was in the early 90s. Nope, VR is now pretty good and honestly looks like it’s not going anywhere, if anything, it’s going to be everywhere. There are several companies working on applications that let customers view products in their homes, and other that are pushing the boundaries of education. VR is a rather extreme example, but tech is constantly evolving and knowing where it’s headed could help you make a clever investment.