Small business owners are a unique bunch – they are resilient, brave, hard-working and, often, master of all trades because, well, they have to be! SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population (6.0 million businesses). And at the start of 2020 there were 5.94 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees). This is a whopping 99.3% of the total business in the UK. It’s not all about big business then, so no wonder with these statistics that small businesses need support too.
Being in your business can be tough, and there is not a lot of time to raise your head and make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Many times, I see small business owners who are successful but who are working at a rate of knots. Then unfortunately they become unstuck and lose sight of their end goal, objectives and values. Their business has changed, but they have often not noticed as they’ve been so busy or have failed to adapt with it. Then it’s time to work on their business and not just in it.
Busting some of the myths around why small businesses need support too
A big misconception is that small business owners don’t need to invest in some support. This is, in my opinion, the exact time they need to do that. As well as working with larger businesses, I work with small business owners too. We might work on a number of things such as scaling up, managing expectations and getting clear on their strategy. I love working with small business owners on this as real change can be made quickly and the impact can be felt almost immediately. This is compared to dealing with reams of red tape and sign off often found in the bigger businesses. And when working with small businesses, you really get to know the founder – you don’t get lost in the system, you actually work with the boss! Decision making is fast and the buck stops with them.
Here are a few tips from my work in this area
Data, it might not sound fun but it’s vital
Yes, for many data is a boring word but it is the heart of all you do as a business owner and should drive your every decision. It means you can make objective decisions rather than putting a finger in the air and making your best guess. What product or service is selling well, and what aren’t? How are you adjusting what you offer to your customers or clients in line with the data? So many times, business owners aren’t on top of their numbers. By getting to know them, or employing someone that does, really can be the key to unlocking success. This isn’t just accounting, but really digging into your fixed and variable overheads, profit margin and varied income streams is so important.
Businesses change and adapt over time and when you throw a global pandemic in, this is truer than ever. It’s always worth re-visiting the goals you set at the beginning of the year and when you started your business. Ask if they are still the goals you want to be working towards or have the goal posts shifted? Have you shifted to offer a digital arm of your business and this is where the growth and noise is happening now? If so, change your strategy accordingly and look at how to support this function. You might want to assign more marketing focus and budget and cut back on less profitable and popular offers.
Scaling up, and we’re not talking unicorns here
Let’s face it, there is loads of info out there for start-ups but not that much about businesses who are a few years in and want to scale up. I’m not talking about the high-growth fast-tech space but it could be an natural evolution of your current business. You might want to get staff or premises, or develop a new area of your business but are unsure of how to do it. It can be a lonely road on your own and often, even with family and friends’ best intentions, they don’t really ‘get it’. This is when a helping hand to work this through with you is vital and when small businesses need support too.
There’s power in your community
One thing I have definitely learnt is that the small business community is a fantastically supportive one. There is the unspoken understanding of the trials and tribulations of being a business owner which makes this hub of people so special. So, if you haven’t already, do get involved and meet fellow small businesses either in your area or in your sector, or both. I dare say many are going through the exact issues you are.
Enterprise Nation, Small Business Britain, the Federation of Small Businesses and your local Chambers of Commerce are all full of connections and insight. And sometimes it’s just about chatting through some challenges over a coffee – you’ll be sure to find someone who’ll join you.