Monday, 24 November 2014
Should I stay or should I grow?
When businesses first start up the focus is getting customers and increasing sales so you have enough income to survive. Assuming this is successful, after a period of trading for 4-5 years (sometimes earlier for others) there comes a different situation of having so much work that you struggle to keep up with either delivering your core offering/product or doing the other critical activities such as sending invoicing, chasing late payers, responding to enquiries, sending quotes and knowing your bottom line let alone doing any marketing. This can be an overwhelming feeling and often keeps business owners awake at night. The stress is sometimes in tandem with feeling of guilt of not delivering in your business or due to lack of time with loved ones. I've seen this with new customers recently who've decided to get some support from Blueberry. So what are the options?
Achieve more by doing less
Who are your perfect customers? Can you drop the customers you don't want, increase your prices and retain the customers you like? Earlier this year I finished with a client I loved working with, not because of a disagreement, but because the client's business was growing and they needed more time that I could give. It was a blow and I worried about how to replace this regular income. Having focussed on marketing I've been able to take on new customers on at a slightly higher rate right from the start. I've now got a wider base of customers, spend less time away from the office and the financial result is positive. For those who don't want to go down the route of employing people or subcontracting this is a good option.
Focus on what works best
What is your most successful product or service? Figure this out, focus your efforts on the services that bring most success and do more of it. Bear in mind that your most popular product or service may not be the most profitable! This is most likely to be doing what you enjoy best, increasing sales and freeing your time from doing things that perhaps aren't working so well.
Streamline your processes
Many small businesses start off using Word to send quotes and invoices, using Excel for their accounts. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, as your business grows having systems like this can be cumbersome and time consuming. I've come across this with customers who have spent hours calculating their vat returns and after we've switched them to accounting package it can be done at the click of a button. There are so many software systems that mean you can run your business efficiently and virtually anywhere with an internet connection. I used to spread sheets for tracking billable time now I use an online time tracking widget and a mobile app which pulls together my time and my teams' time so reporting and therefore invoicing on projects is so much easier.
Grow your team
What do you spend your time doing? Consider the tasks that you can delegate effectively or outsource completely. Those who are experienced can often be very productive and efficient. There are dangers here though – choose them carefully or you could get your fingers burned. Set the scene right from the start. Communication is key to make sure they understand what is expected of them. Have an induction process so they can be briefed properly. Don't be afraid to ask questions, oversee the work and ensure you understand the output. Avoid the situation of "I don't know how it's done – xxxx takes care of that" as you wouldn't want to be left high and dry if they were to move on. Delegating or outsourcing frees your time to grow your business. You may take a small hit on your profit for a while but focussed effort on marketing and building a strong team will reap rewards.