Strategies To Run an Efficient Small Business
Owning a small business is demanding, to say the least. This is especially true during the start-up phase when the proprietor is wearing most, if not all the hats, while also juggling the financials, inventory and ultimately trying to maintain the highest quality of customer service. It can be a very overwhelming scenario that is overcome only by the resolve of the extreme passion that inspired the business. Here are some innovative ways to make running a small business more efficient and therefore, more manageable.
A small business can easily take up every minute of your day. No matter how efficient and organized you may be, there will always be something to catch up on or improve your business potential. Part of the reason you are a successful small business owner is because you are most likely very driven. Small business owners are so used to handling everything themselves that they have a tendency to continue doing so even after they’ve reached the point of hiring employees.
Delegation is key in creating the ultimate value of time for a business owner. Knowing everything is taken care of and running smoothly, allows the business owner the possibility to evaluate growth opportunities and areas of improvement. Delegation is very hard for most business owners, especially when things are not completed properly. However, only by trial and error, can an employee learn the correct protocol of a business process. It may take a few tries, but eventually the time spent to instruct the task will be time saved if it is a task you no longer have to complete yourself.
Knowing your employees’ characteristics is a huge asset as well. They may have input or ideas that could improve your business practices. Allow them to use their talents and strengths while using checks and balances so you can rest assured that a huge loss will not result. Putting trust in your employees allows them to feel valued while fulfilling their roles. This will reinforce their sense of belonging and increase their desire to succeed.
Many processes in a small business are repetitive and therefore drain valuable time. Automation in many aspects of a business can increase revenue by allowing employees more time to work on other tasks that require more skill. A prime example of a process that can be automated is digital marketing. Emails can be automated to clients, which will prompt new leads and be followed by automated drip emails, then be retargeted based on actions and PR outreach for more visibility. Once the content has been created, the rest is taken care of without any time taken from your business. This can also be done with invoice management, customer support, network maintenance, etc.
Being open minded and willing to try new ideas is a must for small businesses. Once a method or process is established, it may seem difficult to update due to the cost, time and effort involved. However, inflexible or long-standing businesses practices cannot compete with larger companies and ever changing consumer expectations. The ability to adapt to change is crucial to long-term success. Having a positive approach towards new initiatives, marketing strategies, product ideas, procedures, or any other aspect of your business leads the way for your employees to take example. As a small business owner, you create the platform and culture of your business, setting the tone for every employee that becomes part of it.
Use Technology and Tools
Technology is essential to run a business today. It can greatly facilitate procedures and efficiency. There are so many options available and so much to learn, it can be difficult to choose the right software or systems. The simpler technology is to use, the more likely it will be effectively applied in your business. Employee stress from difficult software creates delays and reduced productivity. Technology upgrades are a large expense but may be worthwhile if the current systems your business is utilizing are inefficient or cause a great deal of repetitive work and frustration. Be open to feedback from employees. They may have simplified solutions to reduce costs, time or waste for tasks they perform regularly.
Utilizing tools developed specifically to solve productivity issues is another great way to quickly increase productivity. Some popular ones you may want to research and consider are:
- Calendly - streamline meetings without email correspondence
- ZipRecruiter - assist in the hiring employees
- QuickBooks - for your financials
- Whiplash - resolve fulfillment issues
What Do Successful Female Entrepreneurs Have in Common? Check Out These Traits That Lead To Success
Grit can be described as a strength of character that demonstrates courage and resolve. Women pursuing a goal in business are often fueled by more than just sales quota. Personal reasons, based upon their family, would usually be their greatest inspiration. Having grit is the difference between mediocre or extremely successful. Grit is a valuable trait to have, as it closely correlates to ambition and drive.
Having a strong work ethic is essential for most professionals to ensure great customer service, provide enough retail hours or access to clients. Women with families are especially geared toward this mindset as they are always multi-tasking and juggling numerous responsibilities. Sacrificing personal time for the benefit of others is a common occurrence for women with children that naturally carries over to their professions. A strong work ethic is also what will see you through the most difficult or less lucrative times of your professional journey. Persistence and resolve to continue on, no matter how challenging, are the traits that allow successful businesswomen to reach the finish line.
This is difficult for most people, even after years of achievement. However, having self-confidence is absolutely crucial to success. If you don’t believe you can achieve an objective, most likely you won’t. Your mindset is very powerful in determining your level of ability. Self-confidence is probably the single most important trait possessed by any successful entrepreneur. As stated by Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics: "If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can't, you're right."
As with anything, if you are going to sacrifice and spend hours of your time focused on a task, be sure it is something you are truly interested in and enjoy. The more passionate you are about an industry or endeavor, the more likely you will succeed at achieving your goals. If your chosen profession doesn’t feel like a job, and you truly believe in your purpose, you’ll be more willing to put in the time and effort needed without guilt or resentment. Successful businesswomen are always passionate about what they do because they usually create their companies around things they enjoy.
Never assume you are an expert in your industry, no matter how long you’ve been operating your business. New methods are always being introduced that could benefit your business, improve your bottom line or save you from becoming irrelevant. Stay current with the latest trends, technology, software and demand. Be sure to attend workshops, seminars and tradeshows with others in your industry. The more information you can gather about the changes in your market, the better educated you will be when you need to make decisions about updating your business to remain successful.
The error most women make is to overextend themselves to the point of wearing themselves out. Exhaustion is a common theme for most women that is accepted as the norm. Mentor and life coach, Rachel Hollis discusses this scenario in her book, “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Women are always ensuring the important people and responsibilities in their lives are taken care of, “…kids, partner, work, faith, etc. The order may change, but the bullet points rarely do. You know what also rarely changes no matter how many women I talk to? Women actually putting themselves on their own priority list. You should be the very first of your priorities!”
Remarkable Women in Business Who Have Created a Legacy
Eliza Lucas was the United State’s first significant agriculturalist, recognized for introducing blue indigo dye to North America. At the age of only 16, Pinckney took control of her father’s 3 plantations near Charles Town, South Carolina, after her mother’s death and her father’s deployment to the West Indies. She realized the textile industry’s need for new dyes and created a high-quality blue indigo in 1739. Her creation was successful: Indigo immediately ranked second to rice as a South Carolina export crop. She also produced flax, hemp, silk and figs. She became the first woman inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1989.
Pinkham's Vegetable Compound became one of the best-known patented medicines of the 19th century thanks to Lydia’s focus on women’s health. In 1875, Lydia Estes Pinkham of Lynn, Massachusetts, turned her herbal home remedies into a profitable enterprise by tailoring her products toward women and educating them about health issues. During an era when women’s health was rarely discussed, Pinkham was regarded as an advocate for women by the medical community. Pinkham's products can still be found at some drugstores.
As the daughter of former slaves and an orphan by the age of 7, the 20th century's most successful female entrepreneur started her company from nothing. She invented a product called Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower in 1905. Walker created the scalp conditioning and healing formula because she had lost most of her hair due to an ailment. She ultimately began exporting her product to Central America and the Caribbean. In 1917, Walker achieved a milestone by holding one of the first national conventions of businesswomen in Philadelphia. Walker's hardships and determination molded a standard for women entrepreneurs. She opened doors for the African-American hair-care and cosmetics industry, as well as the African-American community. At the time of her death, her net worth was approximately $600,000, (about $8 million currently) making her the wealthiest African American female in all of America.
Roddick was inspired by her world travels to engage in environmental activism. Her new way of living led Roddick to open the doors of The Body Shop in Brighton, England in 1976. Roddick’s pledge from day one of founding the company was always the quest of social and environmental change. Since it’s founding, The Body Shop has established community trade relationships in more than 20 countries. Recently, it launched a campaign with MTV to raise HIV and AIDS awareness for those under age 25.
Blakely spent years struggling to have her innovative idea of women’s shape-wear accepted and dealt with repeated rejection in business before discovering unbelievable success. Her brand, Spanx, is now famous worldwide and Sara’s net worth far exceeds any aspirations she might have ever had for herself, about $1.25 billion.
Arianna Huffington founded the Huffington Post, one of the most notable news publications online. AOL acquired the publication in 2011, although she still remains involved in business undertakings. Huffington is also the author of 15 books. As a mother of 2 daughters, she has expressed the guilt and sacrifice that plagues working mothers. After a health scare, she has also become an advocate for prioritizing self-wellness and getting enough rest. In fact, Huffington is so inspired to help others she has founded Thrive Global, which focuses on providing mentorship and inspiration towards personal wellbeing and purpose. She states, “By sleeping more we in fact become more competent and in control of our lives. …Women have already broken glass ceilings in Congress, space travel, sports, business and the media, imagine what we can do when we’re fully awake.”
Gender discrimination is a civil rights violation addressed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This signifies pay inequalities in situations when a woman’s salary is less than a man’s for the same position or job type. This is also applicable if a woman is demoted or not promoted because of time taken off for maternity leave.
Females in business who have attended a seminar or networking event, have surely encountered the scenario of being only one of a handful of women in a room dominated by men, which can be unsettling. It may be difficult to not overcompensate professional attributes and feel the need to prove accomplishments. In doing so, many times women come across as aggressive. Women must remember the reason they are successful is because of the qualities and talents they already possess, and they should not feel the need accommodate to others expectations.
Most new businesses need to raise capital or apply for a loan to achieve their start up goals. Unfortunately, businesses led by women are those most denied by financial institutions. When looking to raise capital, statistics show that those looking to invest are most likely to feel comfortable with businesses owners similar to themselves. Therefore, a business owned by a woman would have a higher chance of obtaining funding from a female investor. This greatly reduces the number of available investors since the majority of investors are men.
As a female leader, it isn’t always easy to establish a sense of respect when in a superior position. If a woman is in a male dominated industry or workplace, many times those that report to her may not want to recognize her management role. Negativity and self-doubt can easily break down a woman’s confidence, defying the capabilities that earned her the position.
Women, by nature, tend to be modest about their success. In reality, acknowledging your success promotes yourself professionally. It not only convinces others of your capabilities, but also reinforces your personal mindset of how much further you can push your goals. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, stated, “Believe in yourself and own your own success.”
When deciding to accept a promotion or start a business, obviously there are several factors to consider. This is even more relevant for a wife and mother. Having a support network, both professional and personal, is essential if there is any chance of either scenario having a chance of succeeding. Lack of time, expense and the need most women feel to handle everything personally is a guaranteed path to failure. Asking for support from friends and family and searching online for resources is a great place to start. Online forums and women focused networking events such as WINConference, EWomen Network and Bizwomen provide tips and resources from others that conquered similar obstacles.
Every business owner starts out with high hopes and fear of failure. While there is always a chance of failure in any business, the ultimate goal of success should always remain the focus. Never let low points and insecurities become bigger than the dream. Women are especially susceptible to the guilt and fear of a failed business because of all the help and sacrifice they must ask of their families to make their dreams a reality. Learn from your mistakes and keep going. Ultimately, you’ll get there and it will all be worth it!
Businesses founded by women are still in the minority, in large part due to the numerous hardships they must overcome to reach success as opposed to businesses founded by men. However, there is no doubt that women are irrepressible and continuing to increase the odds for the better. In 2017, more than 11 million U.S. firms were registered as owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.