Essential Skills for Running a Small Business
Running a small business takes hard work, passion and expertise in your chosen field. However developing it into a successful enterprise means that you need to understand and master a range of fundamental business skills.
Managing your finances is one of the most important things you can do for your business. It is more than just knowing how much cash your have in your bank accounts. It is also understanding your financial reports and reviewing them regularly to keep your business on track. We can’t all be financial gurus so it's important to have a bookkeeper and an accountant that you can trust.
Your bookkeeper will keep your financial data up-to-date and ensure your BAS, Payroll and Superannuation requirements are met. They can also assist you forecast your cash flow and monitor your profit and loss at regular intervals.
Your accountant will lodge your annual Income Tax, assist with asset planning and managing your taxation obligations and help you prevent an audit by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). They can also assist you with financial planning.
Together they can create a very efficient team to help manage your small business.
Having a plan for your business helps you to keep focused and stay on track. There are opportunities all around us and it is easy to be diverted by new ideas and concepts. A business plan covers all aspects of your business and ensures that your approach is holistic and to the benefit of your business and your personal needs.
Good business planning strategies would be:
- to revisit your business plan once or twice a year to make sure you are still on track
- review and update your business plan annually
- course correct if you find your plan isn't meeting your business needs.
There are some fantastic opportunities on the Sunshine Coast that can help you to develop and manage your business.
- The Sunshine Regional Council has partnered with Queensland TAFE to develop the TAFE Build a Better Business Program - Certificate IV in Small Business Management
- The Sunshine Coast Chamber Alliance offers a Mentoring Program.
- Business Queensland has a great website full of information and links to help you manage all aspects of your business.
Good marketing can transform your business. There are many ways you can market your business in your community. Take the time to do some research and understand what you need to do to make your business flourish.
Know your target market. You can’t be everything to everybody so make sure you know the best fit for your products or services. Tailor your marketing strategies to suit.
Make sure you have a marketing plan. It should include a budget, sales targets and goals and your marketing strategies. This will keep you and your staff on track over the year. Review it annually and make sure you are keeping up with current trends.
Have an attractive website. Keep it simple and clean and ensure that it has enough information to spark interest in prospective clients. Make sure that your phone number and email contact are readily available.
Use Social Media streams like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn regularly to create interest. Make a simple video or write a blog to share. Images are great too and there are plenty of sites available that have free images you can use.
Join a networking group or two. Your local Chamber of Commerce or a networking breakfast are a great way to meet people and share information about your business. Find other businesses that may have good synergy with yours and create an alliance.
Look after your customers. Great customer service can keep your customers returning time and again.
Keeping your customers satisfied is key to running a successful business. With so much choice available on the market today, customer service can make you really stand out from your competitors and keep your customers coming back time and again. A great Google or Facebook review can help prospective customers make a choice when comparing businesses and word of mouth is still one of the most valuable marketing tools available.
Current research tells us that customers are looking for more than just a price-based incentive. They are also looking for a personal service that makes them feel like they matter. A satisfied customer is more likely to repeat buy and refer you to their family and friends.
Great customer experience could include:
- regular communication through email and/or social media
- touching base with them after purchase
- giving them more than what they expected
- remembering them and their preferences
- inviting them to a VIP event
- providing them with the opportunity to provide feedback
An existing customer is more likely to purchase from you again than a new customer that doesn’t know your business yet.
Think about how many people you communicate with every day. They probably include customers, suppliers, peers, staff, service providers and more. You may communicate with them in person, over the phone, through emails, on your website or with social media. In general most people want to get down to business fairly quickly but they also want to know that they have been understood and that the communication leads to a good result.
A few tips to good communication are:
- Listen and ensure you have understood what they are saying to you. Make notes if you need to and reiterate what you have heard to be sure.
- Be clear and concise in your responses and ensure they have understood what you are saying. Too much information can be just as confusing as not enough. Also give them the opportunity to comment or make a query.
- SMS messages are great for quick responses but can be misunderstood in longer messages. However attached links and follow up emails can be very useful.
- Emails have taken over a large part of written communication in the business world. Using received responses and digital signing can speed up a transaction where necessary.
Collaboration is the key to effective communication. A win/win situation means everyone goes away satisfied and clear in the outcomes required.
A lot of different skills are required in today’s business world and you can’t be an expert in all of them. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses and get advice and assistance in the areas where you are lacking.