When it comes to launching and running a small business, the less you leave to chance the better. Knowledge is power. Keep a tight rein on your start-up and you'll identify problems more quickly, allowing you to patch them up. Here's how you do it.
We understand that the last thing you, as a small business owner, want to do is drop everything and take stock. But taking stock (and not just once, but all the time) is one of the most important aspects of running a business.
It helps you identify problems and rectify them quickly, or adapt to extra demand for particular products and services in your portfolio. It tells you who among your employees is 'making it happen', and who needs a rocket up 'em.
But how do you collect and manage all of this information without becoming overwhelmed? Stalking your employees and customers is one way, but much more efficient is to use software on your desktop and on your mobile phone to access data.
You need to be able to access an aerial and granular view of your company finances at any single point, no matter where you are. After all, you shouldn't be able to make decisions without knowing how they'll impact on your bottom line.
Get daily, weekly and monthly financial reporting set up so you're always on top of sales, income and outgoing. Break it down across departments, products or individuals, or however your main revenues and outgoings are best assessed so you can drill down to assess profitability and performance and set key performance indicators to measure against.
Better still, get good accounting software so you can access all of these whenever you need and can run numerous live or historical reports.
To keep track of your business, you need to keep track of your customers and there's a range of customer relationship management (CRM) software available. A good package should connect you to your data seamlessly with an easy to navigate interface pointing you in the direction of information about productivity, sales and repeat customers.
If your focus is sales, you might want software that emphasises this. Again, there are plenty of companies offering hundreds of products and a search online will reveal the best ones. Sales software should let your sales team work collaboratively, share leads, track competitors, talk directly to each other through the system and store data about customers. Most important, make sure you can see it all.
If you don't know about online analytics software, where have you been? In this ultra-switched-on technological environment it's absolutely essential that you track the traffic passing through your website.
You need to know not only how many people, but when did they enter your site, how long for, what pages are popular, how many did they visit, did they sign up to your newsletter, and which pages send customers bouncing away?
All of this information will give your sales team a big advantage and will help you deliver the right products or services to the right people, ignore it and you're signing up to a scatter-gun approach.
Make sure you're using a cross platform social media tool such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck so you're constantly able to see what your customers are saying about your business on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc and join the debate.
There's no excuse for no longer having the right document in front of you. The cloud.
You know what would be really useful? If the most important parts of the above list were somehow combined in one easy to manage package…To help you on your business journey, we've created Smarta Business Builder, the complete online tools package for growing your business. Website Builder, Business Plans, Accounting Software, Legal Documents and Email - all in one place - from just £20 per month with no contract! Try it out today!
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