Small businesses are anything but small potatoes. As a strong source of new jobs (about 65% of them), they’re an economic driver. Yet recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor show about 20% of small businesses fail in the first year.
What’s worse: the pandemic and everything that’s happened since has upped the pressure. Like big businesses, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have been forced to become more agile as they try to keep up with an ever-changing market. And with new uncertainties emerging in the form of inflation, supply chain disruptions and rising interest rates, they can’t afford to make any mistakes.
So if you’re the owner or operator of an SMB, how do you hold onto a growth mindset even in the current climate? You take a page from the big business handbook.
Leading big businesses have made agility, flexibility and scalability their keywords, even through recent uncertainties, and SMB owners and operators can learn a little something from those rulers of growth. The following best practices can help you keep your operations running smoothly and free up your time to continue focusing on your growth goals.
1. Embrace the Process
Big businesses have processes for everything. There are processes for hiring, processes for developing new products, sales processes and financial planning processes, just to name a few. Those processes are well documented and ever evolving as teams find new ways to add efficiencies and run their business better.
If you’re running an SMB and want to keep your own business on its growth trajectory, take a cue from big business and embrace the process. A set of defined and documented processes can help you add efficiencies to your SMB, create a consistent experience for both customers and employees and ensure everything is getting done to the same standard every time, no matter who’s doing it and when.
We’ll delve a little deeper into some of the financial and operational processes your SMB might benefit from in the best practices that follow.
2. Build the Right Team
Your employees are there to support your goals, so it’s not surprising that the right team will help you achieve them faster. And big businesses know that to meet their goals, they need to invest in getting that team exactly right. Just like them, you want to search out skill sets that will both add value to your business and support the values you’re building it on. You want people who want to keep learning and aren’t afraid to bring their own ideas when it makes sense to do so. And while small businesses might be looking to cut costs wherever they can, the best big businesses understand that getting the best talent sometimes means paying a bit more—and investing in the training their employees need to thrive.
Big businesses also employ workforce planning processes to help them build their ideal team and keep them ready for the job at hand—and SMBs can benefit from the same thing. Strategic workforce planning can help you identify the skills you need, build an onboarding process and determine ongoing training requirements. All so your business is positioned for the next challenge ahead and your employees stay happy in their roles on your way to getting there.
3. Embrace Technology
When Salesforce surveyed over 2,500 small and medium business owners and leaders for its 2021 Small and Medium Business Trends Report, 71% of growing SMBs said their business survived the pandemic because of digitization. In August 2021, 42% of those growing SMBs said they’d accelerated their technology investments over the previous year.
The reasons those businesses upped their technology investment? Improving business agility (59%), increasing productivity (58%) and increasing data security (52%) were the top three reasons. Meanwhile, 28% said they wanted to store data in a centralized location.
Big businesses understand the right technology can help add efficiencies to your workflow, reduce the chances of mistakes caused by human error and enable you in building those defined processes we talked about earlier. And, as those SMB leaders interviewed by Salesforce already knew, technology can be a critical driver in improving productivity, increasing agility and building better data practices too. As such, technology can also play a key role in scaling your business quickly and keeping up with your growth goals.
4. Keep an Eye on the Prize (But Also Stay Agile)
Big businesses have strong goals and carefully choose key performance indicators (KPIs) that allow them to measure their performance along the way to reaching them. And they’re constantly thinking strategically on how to improve that performance and get to those goals faster (at which point they set all new goals).
But big businesses have also learned—over the last two years especially—the importance of keeping their goals and the processes that support them agile so that they can pivot as necessary with the emergence of new market, industry and business demands. They use scenario modeling to make sure they’re ready for whatever the future holds, put real-time data to work and employ rolling forecasting so that their budget is always keeping up with their current business requirements.
Strong goals—and the agility to evolve them on a dime—are just as important to SMBs. And, as big businesses have already learned, the processes and technology you put in place today will help you stay agile for tomorrow. Just like them, processes such as scenario modeling and rolling forecasting might be the answer to your ongoing success.
Big businesses have become big not just because they have a product or service with the demand to support it. Demand only goes so far. Most big businesses have also learned how to drive growth, measure performance and choose the right people, processes and technology to support their goals. Small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from many of the same best practices as they grow their thriving business.
After all, if your goal is to continue scaling your SMB, shouldn’t you be thinking big from the start?
Learn how Vena can help support your growth goals.