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Sunday Magazine
When you understand your customers and their needs, you will better equipped to serve them and grow your business.

The New Year is just around the corner, and everyone is thinking about their resolutions for 2020. If you are a small business owner, you should also be examining your operations in 2019 and devising ways you can do better in 2020.

Just like people create a list of New Year’s resolutions for their personal and career lives, you should come up with resolutions to ensure the success of your business in the next 12 months. Here are some of the top resolutions every business owner should consider:

1.       Lose Excess Weight

Losing weight is a recurrent personal New Year’s resolution for many people. In Eric Ries ‘The Lean Startup’, he explains that just like people, some businesses also need to lose weight to become healthier. The extra weight can be in form of over-staffing or excess inventory.

Think about what every employee brings to the business. Are they under-utilised? If you realise that you have under-utilised full-time staff, you can make the position a part-time one and pay less for it. Another way to cut weight is by getting rid of slow-moving products. You can put slow-moving products on offer, which still generates revenue (and perhaps even profits), while freeing up space and money for faster-moving inventory.

2.       Boost your Digital Presence

If you have been neglecting your online presence, you’re missing out on opportunities your competition is probably taking advantage of. To make your digital presence work for you, pay as much attention to it as you would a brick and mortar location. After all, nowadays, many people will look at your online presence before engaging you. Make that first impression count.

Your business website should be professionally done with proper signage and well-written articles. By cleverly using key words in your website content, you can boost your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and make it easier for new clients and customers to find you.

“Allocate some funds to social media marketing. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can generate plenty of leads for savvy businesses,” says Neil Patel, the acclaimed marketer. 

“If you don’t have the time or skills needed for social media marketing, you can hire a social media management company or individual to do it for you. This is one marketing strategy that provides great return on investment.”

3.       Learn to Delegate

As a small business owner, you probably wear many hats. You are the CEO, the HR manager, the accounting manager, and sometimes you even take up a mop to help with cleaning. This can work well when you’re thinking from the cost-cutting perspective.

However, in the long run it can wear you out and become counter-intuitive. Your focus shifts from growing the business to just running it.

To grow your business, you have to learn how to delegate. You can’t do everything by yourself. Learning to delegate can go a long way in preventing and relieving entrepreneur stress, giving you more energy and time to focus on the tasks which really matter.

To delegate like a pro, use these five keys:

·         Figure out the tasks you would rather not do

·         Choose which employee can handle those tasks best

·         Make sure that they understand your expectations on the given tasks

·         If you don’t have an employee to handle the tasks, hire one based on the skills needed

·         Let the person do the task without your interference and micromanagement. Acknowledge them when the task is done to your satisfaction.

4.       Secure Financing for Growth

If you have a small business, chances are that you haven’t secured enough funds for your growth plans. You can come up with a plan to obtain more funds for your business either through bank loans, personal investments, getting into business incubators, applying for government grants, venture capital, or angel investors.

5.       Understand your Customers Better

When you understand your customers and their needs, you will better equipped to serve them and grow your business.  Ask yourself these questions: Why do customers choose my business over the competition? How do my customers find me? Are my customers satisfied with the products or services? Where do my customers come from?

To keep your current customers and attract more in 2020, you have to know the answers to the above questions. Make 2020 a year to focus on your customers, and your business will thank you for it.

To understand your customers better, you can create short surveys for them to complete. However, because most people don’t like completing surveys, you can give customers an incentive – such as a possible prize. If you have a small business, you can also chat up your customers to gather useful information about them and their feedback on your products and services.

IS THE BEST TIME TO GET A LOAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS? HERE ARE A FEW POINTERS:

Expansion: If you have been turning down business because of lack of capacity, it is time to look for more funding for your business. The extra funds will finance new hires, inventory, space, or equipment. The fact that you will no longer be turning away business means that you will be able to pay off loans easily.

Cushion: Do you have a seasonal business? Consider taking a short term loan to give yourself a cushion for the lean months. This cushion will help sustain the business until the high seasons. This can help you avoid laying off key employees or panicked price cuts. This strategy protects your business’ long term interests.

Sunshine: Has your business flourished in the last 12 months? As the old adage says, you should make hay while the sun shines. Don’t wait till you’re in a desperate position to seek funds for your business. If you can secure a loan during your good times, it can give you a cushion when you encounter cash flow problems later on.

Credit building: If you have a new business with no credit history, you can take a loan to build your credit score. This can help you secure larger loans in future.

Golden opportunity: Sometimes, a golden opportunity can come to you for your business. For example, you might get a deal to supply your product to a large supermarket chain or a government institution. When such opportunities come knocking, you can take a loan to boost your capacity.

However, avoid taking loans when you have large un-paid loans, to make uncertain purchases for your business, or as a band-aid for a mismanaged business.


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