Did you know that there are over 4.5 million SMEs in Britain? In the last three years, they’ve created 80% of the new jobs in the private sector – I think that’s amazing.
SMEs make up 99.9% of all private businesses in the UK and employ 14.4 million people. With an annual turnover of £1,600 billion (18% of total turnover in the UK) they’re very important for the economy. [Figures come from the Department of Business Innovation & Skills Report.
I’ve worked with businesses from all sorts of sectors based locally, nationally and abroad and, in my experience, however different that are they all face similar problems.
So here are my five top tips:
One of the most common issues I’ve come across when talking to small business owners is a lack of time to get everything done. The solution? Outsource.
If you outsource the jobs that don’t require you to do them, you can free up your time and focus on the work that does need you. Then you can grow your business to help you overcome the other most common problem: lack of money!
2. Set up systems
I love systems. Without them I’d struggle to get everything I need to do done. People often say they haven’t got time to set up systems but once they are set up they save you loads of time and effort so it’s worth spending an hour or two looking at areas of your business that could be streamlined…
If you find yourself writing the same email to a number of different people, could you have a template for it instead? Do you have a system for monitoring and processing your finances or is it done on an ad hoc basis? Even something simple like dealing with your emails is easier with a system so you don’t lose important messages or get inbox overwhelm.
3. Do your research
Whether you’re hiring someone, expanding into a new area or about to commit to a big marketing campaign – do your research. Again, people often don’t want to spend time checking everything upfront but it’s always a good idea. What’s that saying?
“Act in haste, repent at leisure”.
I’ve seen too many people make the wrong decisions when a bit more research would have helped them make a more informed and ultimately better decision.
4. Use tools
As you know, I’m a BIG fan of using any tools that make my and my clients’ lives easier. I talked about my top collaboration tools here, some other tools I recommend are:
QuickBooks – inexpensive, easy-to-use online account management software
MailChimp – my favourite way of sending and tracking email marketing
Buffer – manage your social media platforms in one place and schedule regular updates
LogMeIn – log in remotely to other computers (a great tool for a VA!)
5. Chase late payment
Being paid late is a big problem for SMEs. A recent article in the Guardian reported that small businesses are owed £40bn in unpaid invoices. Of all the business that are owed money 29% say that it is hampering their growth and only 12% charge their debtors interest.
Have a system (!) so you know when payment is late and a process for contacting the debtor and trying to get paid, don’t leave it until you can’t pay a supplier. Often a quick reminder is all that’s needed but if your customer can’t pay you or there’s going to be a long delay it’s better to know sooner rather than later. And you may need to get a credit control company involved.
Make sure you keep a record of all the communication you have with the debtor and know your rights [more about that here: https://www.gov.uk/late-commercial-payments-interest-debt-recovery].
If you’ve got any advice to add or any questions please feel free to leave a Comment.