The most critical elements of successful small-business operations include building a customer base, managing your finances, and continually cultivating new customers through targeted advertising. Building your professional network also is key. Here are some tips on how you can meet your business objectives.
Small-business owners and entrepreneurs often operate on a shoestring budget, and as such, they rely on social media, website, and email marketing as three primary areas of small-business development and promotion. Other best practices for a small operation include providing high-quality customer-focused service, competitive pricing, and a willingness to get into the community and be the public face of the business. Sponsoring local events and activities, participating in civic life, and getting involved in community events are ways to help people learn about you and your agency, which can help expand your customer base.
Small-business operations need to be just as professional as their larger counterparts. Best practices in this arena include ensuring you have an established and well-defined business model and a financial management system that includes protocols for record-keeping; managing cash flow; and handling payroll, invoicing and tax, and accounting-related matters.
To comply with government regulations, you’ll need to keep accurate and organized payroll records. Keeping accurate payroll records allows you to make more informed decisions about hiring and forecasting cash flow. If you don’t have a lot of employees, instead of investing in payroll software, a 2021 payroll calendar template can help you track your employees’ time and schedules.
Developing a good relationship with a bank that caters to small businesses also is essential—both for operations and for seeking small-business loans. You’ll want to look for an institution that provides not just a business bank account, but also seamless integration with your payroll software.
Hiring and training the best employees for your business is essential to your long-term success. Create detailed job descriptions and carefully screen applicants. Once you hire, make sure each staffer is onboarded and trained accordingly—these people are the face of your business and should be friendly, talented, and well-informed ambassadors of your brand. [EDITOR’S NOTE: To help PIA Northeast members find, hire and train new employees, PIA Northeast has created its Agency Staffing Assistance Program.]
Employees who understand your business and your expectations can help elevate your company to new heights. A lot of small-business growth comes from positive word-of-mouth advertising, so don’t shy away from having employees ask happy customers for referrals. Providing incentives in this arena can help you bring in profitable new business, as well as keep staffers motivated toward high performance.
Every major metropolitan area has one or more chambers of commerce or industry associations—some of which are aimed at different demographics and cater to different populations of business owners. Joining organizations like these can be a wise investment, particularly if you’re willing to get involved rather than just be a name on a membership roster. Typically, these organizations offer small-business training and development programs, as well as opportunities to network and build your business contacts. They also may provide marketing and communication resources that will help you get your company in front of a larger audience.
Starting and running a small business takes a significant investment of money, a workforce, and operational savvy. Understanding your market, hiring the right people, promoting your company, and expanding your base will help you meet your objectives.