When running a small to medium-sized business, there’s always a share of large challenges. While operating this type of business comes with its own set of issues, focusing on best business practices can help to minimize the obstacles that keep it from growing and scaling. Some of the most common issues facing owners of small to medium-sized businesses revolve around making an impression on a target audience, building the best team for your business and being accessible to clients. With a little strategizing and dedicated execution, these issues can be easily met headon and can even be optimal growth opportunities for both the business owner and bottom line.
Making An Impression
Making an impression can be difficult for many small to medium-sized business owners. It’s easy to get caught up in the goods and services and forget to look up and see what, if any, impression they are leaving on potential clients. Making an impression on clients, however, is vitally important to the health of a business. Impressions, especially first impressions, determine who will become a client and who will remain a long-term and loyal client. Focusing on making a positive, lasting impression on both potential and current clients often leads to an increase on both the number of clients and an increase in sales.
One way to create a positive impression while also reaching a large audience is by properly utilizing social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are an important tool because they allow business owners to reach individuals they never would be able to connect and interact with in person. However, not every social media platform is created equal. While Facebook works for the majority of business types, especially those that are a part of the local community, Twitter, with its fast-paced activity, is best for businesses that are part of a greater industry type or that can contribute to a bigger story. LinkedIn is ideal for B2B businesses as the majority of people interacting on that platform are business professionals with their minds firmly focused on their work. Last but not least, Instagram works best for businesses that have a strong visual aspect and can share high quality photographs that connect to their business.
By actively engaging in social media conversations and reaching out to current and potential clients, businesses are able to reach their clients anytime, anywhere and easily leave a positive, proactive impression. Recognizing customers’ and clients’ interests outside of the working relationship can go a long way and has the ability to make this audience feel valued. Through simply getting to know your clients or responding to a news item on social media, it demonstrates a willingness to learn more about them.
An additional way to make a positive impression, along these same lines, is to become more involved in the community. By attending events and being a recognizable face within it enables business owners to make connections with potential clients from many different facets of the community. Acting as a leader in a specific industry will leave the impression of a professional, trustworthy business.
Be Accessible to Clients Being completely accessible to clients is an extremely important practice and often sets businesses apart from their competitors. At Fattmerchant, we ensure that we are accessible to every client by always having a representative available by phone. As discussed previously, first impressions, especially with a potential business partner, can often make or break a relationship. For this reason, customer service will always remain a vital aspect of business. Having a willing, friendly and enthusiastic presence from the first point of contact goes a long way in creating a positive impression on customers from the beginning. However, as most business owners know, many clients only call if they are facing an issue related to the relationship – this is when it’s particularly important to be patient and understanding. Working out client problems effectively and with a positive attitude has the ability to turn a negative experience into a positive one by the time they hang up the phone.
Many unhappy customer service phone calls can be avoided by making checkup calls to current clients to “check in” and address any questions or concerns before they turn into major issues. This practice saves customer service representatives any headaches in the long run by putting out fires before they even start. An additional method for addressing client concerns is through an online live chat feature, used as a help desk of sorts. At Fattmerchant we utilize SnapEngage, which allows current and potential clients to ask us questions right from our website. Creating multiple pathways for clients to reach out and ask questions, provide feedback or get an account settled not only makes it easier for the client, but also makes the relationship between the client and provider stronger.
Building a Team A business is only as strong as the team behind it. That is why building a dedicated, passionate team is one of the most important keys to a small business’ ability to grow and scale. Each team member should have unique areas in which they excel and help grow the business. However, building a team is often not as easy as it sounds and can be a major roadblock to a small-to-medium business’ success. In order to hire talent that will aid in business growth, it is often best to hire from the recommendation of trusted business colleagues and members of the community. While the talents that are written on a resume or discussed at an interview are, without a doubt, integral aspects of an individual’s ability to perform a job, the recommendations that come from personal connections serve to further confirm a candidate’s ability to contribute to and be part of a team.
An important rule of thumb when building a team is to ensure every member brings a unique talent to the table. It is a business owner’s job to curate and organize a team, not be an expert in every facet. It’s easy to feel intimidated hiring personnel who may be more educated or stronger in certain fields, however, this practice can only help the business and team reach its full potential, and can even serve as a learning opportunity. Let them use their knowledge to develop the business to new heights. In the words of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, “If you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’ve got real problems.”
Although these are some of the most common issues small to medium-sized businesses face, every business is different. It’s important to be constantly aware of strengths and weaknesses and look at them objectively. After identifying areas for improvement, the best course of action is to create a plan with realistic methods for overcoming them. A detailed, well-thought-out action plan with clear goals and deadlines helps to effectively implement the necessary changes. By identifying unique road blockers and tackling them head-on, the company is able to continually grow and scale to the level it deserves.