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Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

4 Tips to Kickstart Your Social Media Strategy

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With every year that passes, there seems to be a growing divergence between small businesses and multi-national corporations. In today’s world of brands boasting billion-dollar marketing budgets, there is one equaliser. It is an avenue often ignored by small businesses, but which could be generating sales and encouraging much more engagement with their customers.

That equaliser is Social Media.

Many business owners believe that Social Media is a waste of time, too complicated or just not right for the industry they are in. However, these reasons have all expired in today’s digitally reliant world. The truth is, almost any business can benefit from using Social Media. It is not a matter of IF it can work, but rather, a question of HOW to make it work.

Below are a few tips that any business owner can use to kick-start their Social Media strategy.

1. Pick the right channels.

This is the first thing that you should be thinking about when beginning your strategy. When using the term “Social Media”, it does not merely relate to Facebook any more; the online landscape is more fragmented than ever before. Picking the wrong Social Media channel is akin to forgetting to tie your shoelaces before a 100m sprint; you are setting yourself up for failure. The right channels, picked for the right business, can really go a long way to achieving your business goals. For instance, a Café could run a very effective Facebook page.

However, if they did a bit of research, they would probably find that Instagram is a channel where they would get greater leverage, as this is a channel where photos are shared most widely – especially photos of food. On the other hand, a recruitment agency would find LinkedIn a much more powerful channel to spearhead their online campaign as it is primarily a professional network and a large number of people on LinkedIn are either looking to network or find a job.

2. Be authentic.

This is the main advantage of a small business. Your customers want to know that there is a real, living, breathing human behind the keyboard, and behind your business. One of the best ways to do this is to include your team. Your employees are the faces of your business, as well as the cogs that help it run smoothly.

Your staff should portray the personality of your business because this is what customers enjoy engaging with. For instance, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first cat café, uses Social Media to introduce their customers to the café’s most loved employees, their rescued cats. But if you decide to give your employees access, be wary that they do not misuse the accounts. There needs to be guidelines in place for when and how employees can use the business’ social media accounts.

3. Listen & respond.

This is often the forgotten aspect of social media marketing. Most businesses post on Facebook and Instagram once or twice a week and leave it at that. You need to show your customers that you care about what each person has to say about your business. If your customers ask you a question, answer it, if they post a photo of your products on Instagram, re-post it. These simple gestures go a long way to managing relationships with your followers and creating a stable base of loyal customers.

One aspect of Social Media that many people are scared about, is negative feedback. If someone posts a negative review of your business, do not ignore or react negatively to the review. Rather, see it as an opportunity to change someone’s image of your business. In fact, many of these nay-sayers can become your most best customers, if you respond correctly.

4. Resist constantly selling.

Social Media, when used correctly, can be a very effective selling tool for your business. But at its core, it is about relationships and communication. When a business uses their Social Media accounts to bombard their followers with their products and sales pitches, it can be seen as desperate and annoying.

You should have a mix of content. There needs to be some that showcase your products, but others need to convey your business’ personality. Share news stories that are relevant to your industry, or photos that make you laugh. Do not underestimate the strength of emotions in selling a product.

The content that make your followers laugh, smile, or even cry, can make them feel more connected to your business. As soon as this positive connection is made, it sharply increases the likelihood of a follower online buying from you offline. If you have ignored or disregarded Social Media as a part of your wider marketing strategy as a small business, then you are missing a large opportunity.

The tips we have presented above are not the be-all and end-all of Social Media marketing, but they will go a long way to help you kick-start your business’ online presence. Social Media should be an important part of your business strategy, but it is only one part of your growth strategy.

You need to have an overall business plan that outlines how much your business will grow, in what timespan, and most importantly, the actions required to achieve that growth.

Need help specifically with marketing?

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You Spend Too Much Time Learning What To Do

This week we bring you a thought that is often a big issue for business owners. It is one of those habits that we fall far too easily into and forget to get out of…

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“We spend a lot of time learning what to do. We don’t spend enough time learning what to stop.” – Shweta Jhajharia, inspired by the words of Peter Drucker.

I have seen this time and again. I will sit down with one of my business coaching clients and some of the first words out of their mouth are, “So what do I need to do?” Then we actually dig in and explore what is happening with their business. We uncover where the profit is actually coming from and why it is not growing at the moment.

Almost every time, there is something (well, usually more than one thing) in which they are working harder than they should be and need to stop if they want to start seeing more massive growth.

We often actually find this out in the free strategy session that we offer before bringing anyone on board as a client.

This kind of thing is most evident when business owners feel that need to declutter their life and/or their business and team. Often they have heard and taken the advice to constantly take action, and yet are not getting the results that they feel they should be getting.

Take a good look at all the work, all the systems and the processes that you currently maintain in your business. I mean take a really good look.

Be honest with yourself: are you doing these things because they are of benefit to your business, or are you just doing activity for the sake of doing something? If it is the latter, it might be time to stop the things that are not useful and start working smarter instead of harder.

 

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Business coaching companies and business consulting services are designed to help business owners truly stop and think about what they are doing.

If you would like a taste, book a free strategy session where we will provide you with direct, free and no-obligation advice for your business.


What All Businesses Can Learn from McDonald’s

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Have you ever wondered why McDonald’s has been able to turn into the global powerhouse it is today? One word: Process. You will never find yourself waiting more than a few minutes for your order, and you will never experience too much inconsistency with the quality of the food they serve.

Even though many may say that their food is not something to admire, the processes and systems that they have put in place to make each item on the menu certainly is. Each team member knows exactly what goes into what menu item, in what order and how many seconds it should take them to do it. These processes have been developed, tested and redeveloped to wean out all inefficiency from the organisation.

This is what every business owner can learn from, especially if you own a small-to-medium business.

Have you ever found yourself picking up after your staff’s mistakes, or hesitated from delegating a task because you felt that no one could do the job as well as you?

The easy (and ineffective) solution is for you to take on the tasks of three people, which can cause burnout and can create a strain on your relationships and even mental health.

Instead of concentrating on the symptoms of inefficiency, you should treat the root cause. Processes and systems can empower your team to improve their performance and help the quality of their work reach a level that matches yours.

This is exactly how McDonald’s turned from a small Californian barbecue restaurant to one of the world’s most recognisable companies. Here are a few simple guidelines to making systems that work for your business.

Create Systems Where They Add Value

Not every facet of your business needs to be systemised and follow a strict process. Having too many systems in place make your team members (and you) feel stifled and constrained in their roles.

Identify the aspects of your business where implementing a system can either reduce risk or increase efficiency. Only create a system if it simplifies a task, speeds up a process, or improves quality.

At McDonald’s, they knew that customers wanted fast service, so they helped speed up the process by creating a step-by-step and second-by-second process to making each of their menu items.

Involve Your Team

There is no better person to identify the inefficiencies of a team member’s role, than the team member themselves. By involving them in the process, and really understanding the problems of each role, each team member will be more willing to accept the systems that are put in place.

Team members should also be encouraged to find faults in the systems to help the continuous improvement of their roles.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

There is no truer adage than this: Simplicity is Key. Your team members need to understand the systems in place as well as you do.

Understand the systems you want to implement, because when you truly understand them, you are more able to communicate them to your team members in a clear and concise way.

The right systems implemented in the right parts of your business can see a considerable improvement to your organisational efficiency, increasing your profitability.  

A good example is the system for team management in this PDF download.

I will leave you with this fact: as of May 2015, McDonald’s is worth $92.5 Billion.

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If you would like to know how to start creating these systems among other ways to improve your business’ efficiency, you can claim your spot in our online workshop.

Online workshops are just one component of our business coaching services. The aim of our business mentors is to help you reach the goals that you have set for your business. Find out how we can help by coming along.


Cash vs. Accrual: A Question You Should Ask Your Accountant

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When you talk to your accountant or bookkeeper, do you actually understand what they are telling you? Or are you just assuming they are doing the right thing? An understanding of how money works in business is, of course, a critical part of running a successful enterprise.

While you do not need to have same kind of depth of knowledge that an accountant or a financial analyst might have, you need to ensure you have an awareness of some basic financial concepts. You need to understand what your accountant or bookkeeper is talking about so that you can make sure you are asking them better, more useful questions. If you don’t know what you don’t know, then how can you know what to ask?

You do not need to be able to draw up your accounts, but you do need to be able to understand them. Once you can appreciate how the money flows through your business, you can begin to see which decisions make more sense for your business. A mistake we often see a lot of business owners commit is to look at their bank account statement or their ‘cash based accounts’ as their management reports.

This is a good way to ensure that your business stays alive – but a very bad way to grow and develop your business. The place to start when it comes to finances in the game of business is that there are two ways that numbers can be captured in your business. Those two ways are cash-based and accrual-based.

Cash-Based Accounting

In the simplest business model you have sales bringing you income, expenses that are costing you money, and the profit, which is the difference between the two. Sales – Expenses = Profit. (We can keep it simple for this and do not need to worry, at this stage, about things like gross profit or net profit.) If you are using cash-based accounting, you only take the income from the expenses once the money has actually changed hands.

In other words, only once you actually get the cash or the money is actually transferred to you, do you consider that sale in your accounts. Equally, only once you have actually paid out the salary to your employees or paid out an invoice, do you account that expense. That is cash-based accounting in a nutshell: based on the actual cash you have. It is what a lot of business owners use when they are first starting out – to keep track of the cash going in and out of the business.

Accrual-Based Accounting

What accrual means is that it is “due”. So while you may not have received the cash just yet, it is due to eventually come and you can still account for it. In this way, you can then make plans for the sale or contract that you have currently just completed. The customer or client may only have to pay you after 30 days or 15 days (and you should have a good system for chasing up your debtors), so the cash is not yet in your account, but the sale has been confirmed, so is being taken into account.

With this form of accounting, you can then have the sale sitting alongside, say, an expense like the rent that will be going out at the end of the month. So you know that that money for the rent has to go out, but you also know that you will be receiving money from a sale by then. You can therefore see the resulting profit and get a better picture of long-term profitability.

Should you be using Cash-Based or Accrual-Based Accounting?

Through business coaching in London we have obviously seen a full range of businesses’ accounts. Every time we see cash-based accounting being done, here’s our advice – change your accountant first and then move to accrual-based accounting. There is a very good reason why accrual based accounting was invented in the first place – to separate out a P&L from a cash flow statement and ensure that the accounts capture the ongoing nature of the business rather than its cash movements.

If you are a very small business and keep your accounts on a sheet of paper or an excel sheet, or you are using partial accrual-based accounting, then cash-based accounting might make sense. However, for any growing or slightly larger business, you really should be doing this accrual-based so that you are producing the most useful numbers for your business. Now, armed with an understanding of all of this, go to your accountant or your bookkeeper and find out – are you doing cash-based or accrual-based accounting?

Next, ask what about VAT – are you on cash VAT or accrual VAT? Why have you chosen that? What happens to your cash flow if you move from one VAT method to another? These are one of those “better” questions to ask.

This combined with your marketing knowledge, your understanding of sales, and augmented with knowledge of other important concepts such as markup and margin, you can start making smarter decisions and more calculated risks that will accelerate your business growth.

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How to be a Happy Business Owner

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Running a business is hard work and most small business owners eat, breathe and sleep their enterprises. In a highly competitive market this kind of dedication is often needed in order to stay afloat. Being your own boss can also be extremely rewarding but it’s essential to keep the balance just right to avoid business burn out.

According to a survey conducted by small business service provider GoDaddy ‘…most small business owners are happier than in their previous jobs’ and 82 per cent said that ‘they enjoy life more running their own companies’. Here’s how to keep it that way…

Do what you love (and what you are good at)

Your business should be your passion, or you really shouldn’t be doing it. But like every job there will be certain parts that you dislike more than others. One of the main mistakes a business owner makes is thinking that they have to do everything themselves. If you need help don’t be afraid to ask for it; having the right support network in place will enable you to focus more on what you love doing. Play to your strengths and outsource your weaknesses as it will save you time and in turn increase your happiness.

Keep your focus

The day to day operations of running a business can get monotonous. Always remember your goals and what you set out to accomplish. If you ever feel demotivated, you might have to remind yourself what you are working so hard for and what your vision is. Not only will it keep you grounded but it will also give you satisfaction in knowing that you’re getting there.

Set achievable goals

It can be exhausting to feel like you are working and getting nowhere. Try to envisage your long term goals as achievable through a series of smaller ones. Make a list of those short term goals; things to do for the next few days or the week ahead, making sure that they are manageable. This will motivate you to get them done and increase your productivity levels. Nothing beats the feeling of ticking off a to-do list.

Network Running a small business can be isolating at times, especially if you work from home. It’s extremely important to interact with others to create opportunities for your business (and stay sane!). Networking is an essential and important part of any enterprise but unfortunately it’s also one that often gets neglected. Join your local Chamber of Commerce, attend networking events, make your business known, create contacts, customers and even make friends in the process.

Keep learning

No business owner knows everything about running a business. There are always things new things to learn and areas that you could improve on. Investing in training will not only build up your confidence but it will also increase your productivity as you will also be able to use your newly learned skills to help others. There are plenty of options available, from taking classes at your local business development centre to evening classes or online courses.

Be flexible

Flexibility is crucial to being a happy business owner. In the business world things are constantly changing; resisting this can be damaging to your business. Whether it’s adapting to the latest industry trends, or updating your technology, make sure that your business grows well within its commercial context.

Update and Simplify

We’ve all been there, spending hour upon hour on tasks that really shouldn’t take that long (think expenses and extensive emailing). There are now plenty of apps and programmes to make your life as a business owner that little bit easier – so let them do the hard work for you. Use technology to your advantage and to build a more efficient and productive business by using cloud services, email automation, social media scheduling and expense reports.

Communicate 

Workplace relationships are integral and communication is key, so get to know your team. Good ‘intra team communication’ is held in high regard by many small business owners as it boosts morale and productivity. Try holding weekly meetings to catch up with people and don’t be afraid to praise your staff – it all goes a long way to create a healthy and happy work environment.

Relax

A strict routine is great for output but not necessarily for well-being; always remember the importance of stepping back now and again. Make time for yourself outside of your business, don’t let it define you and remember that it is only one part of your life.

Make sure that you maintain a good work life balance, without forgetting your interests and passions, your family and friends. When was the last time you was properly stopped and stepped away from it all (without looking at your phone or reading your emails)? Don’t forget to disconnect and recharge once in a while – you’ll come back a happier business owner!  

By Melanie Luff, staff writer for BusinessesForSale.com, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Melanie writes for all titles in the Dynamis Stable including PropertySales.com and FranchiseSales.com.

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