Written by Steven Uster, Co-Founder & CEO of FundThrough
In the Muskoka region and across Canada as a whole, small business is big business. In fact, small businesses make up 98% of the total number of employer businesses in Canada. In the private sector, small businesses account for about 30% of our country’s GDP (gross domestic product).
The economy may be constantly in flux, but your small business doesn’t have to be. Steady, sustainable growth is achievable regardless of how the stock markets are performing, or what the employment statistics say this month. Here are five tips to help you insulate your small business against economic conditions beyond your control, so you can build and grow your way.
- Automate or outsource what you can.
As a small business owner, regardless of the product or service you sell, you’re probably your own marketing department, bookkeeper, webmaster, customer service team, and more. Where can you free up time to focus more of your energy on the unique value you have to offer?
Automate repetitive tasks and outsource administrative work wherever you can. Anywhere you can free up time needed to actually produce your product or execute your service is an opportunity to increase revenue. For example, if paying a virtual assistant $15 an hour enables you to earn $65 in your practice, that is well worth the time it’ll take to onboard this new resource.
There are plenty of simple tools available online to help automate your social media, email responses, invoice reminders, cash flow forecasting, and other critical business activities. You don’t have to go it all alone. In fact, you’re limiting your growth by trying.
- Cross-train your team.
Cross-functional teams have a number of benefits, especially in difficult economic climates. Team members can redirect efforts to where they’re needed most, when the demand is there. You can avoid layoffs of some team members even while needing to hire others when the workload is unbalanced.
What’s more, understanding the role of others in the company can generate empathy and improve team morale. Encourage team members to cross-train one another when business is slow.
- Reduce your overhead.
It may sound counterintuitive, but cutting back in operations or office expenses can help you allocate budget to areas of the business with more impact. Growth doesn’t necessarily mean taking up more space.
Prioritize output over headcount. Give your team goals and be flexible in their work routine if they’re producing the results you need. A happy workforce can be exponentially more productive, costing you less in the long run for better results.
- Put technology to work for you.
We tend to think of technology in terms of automation, but don’t limit the potential of tech to just one area of the business.
In restaurants and cafes, at-the-table ordering systems can improve accuracy and speed. Collaborative software can reduce the time spent in meetings and improve your team’s morale. Communications software such as Skype, GoToMeetings, or Google Hangouts can help your team stay connected even while some work remotely.
- Develop cash flow strategies to support growth in any economy.
Free cash flow can make or break your business. Without cash, you can’t make payroll, buy inventory, or accept a big job while you’re waiting to get paid.
Small businesses struggle to get traditional financing. Statscan reports that more than 80% of Canadian startups rely on alternative funding sources such as the entrepreneurs’ savings and personal loans taken out by owners, as only 45% can access credit from financial institutions. Just 19% receive trade credit from suppliers.
The time to find alternative funding is now, before a cash flow crisis hits. Make sure you have access to lines of credit, a company credit card, and invoice factoring so you are prepared to bridge gaps in cash flow as they arise.
Growing your business isn’t always about getting bigger.
Sometimes the best types of growth make you leaner, more efficient, and able to drive better results with fewer resources.
Steven Uster is the Co-Founder & CEO of FundThrough, an online factoring and invoice funding platform that enables users to turn their invoices into next-day working capital.