Owning a small business is hard. Keeping it going is even harder. However, there is hope. Out of all the small businesses started in 2014, 80% survived to their second year. That’s good news for business owners trying to get started.
Part of owning a small business is the struggle to constantly improve. It’s not enough to just coast along and feel comfortable with where you are currently. You have to strive for improvement if you’re going to stay ahead of the competition and keep being profitable.
There are a lot of ways you can improve your business. Some of them are as simple as just keeping on top of the tasks you should already be doing.
If you are more ambitious, and have the means, you can take on some larger projects in order to improve your business. These might cost you time and money now, but they will result in long-term improvements so you can stand out among other businesses in your area and field.
Here are seven tips for how you can improve your business in 2020 and stay ahead of the competition.
1. Do Necessary Repairs and Maintenance
Doing necessary repairs might not sound like a way to improve your business but it actually is. These sorts of simple, routine repairs can be a big deal in the way customers think about your business. Their perception of your business can definitely be impacted by whether or not you are up to date on your maintenance.
If you are already really good about staying up to date on maintenance, you might not need to change anything. However, if keeping up with window repairs, regular cleanings, septic maintenance, and all the rest is daunting for you, now might be the time to make a plan to change that.
You may find that your business can improve a lot just from getting a little time, love, and care. Maybe you’ve been putting off a repair you know you need. Perhaps you aren’t aware of some maintenance needs at your physical location and will discover them along the way.
In either case, it is a good idea to make a list. What will need routine care in the future? What is a bigger project that you might need to put off for now or plan more thoroughly for? Even something as simple as a cleaning schedule can reveal these things. Don’t think of them as chores so much as areas where you can improve your business going forward.
You might find you need professional help with some of these repairs and things. That’s OK! Most of us aren’t commercial electricians by trade. Dealing with something like an old electrical system can be not only daunting but downright dangerous. Get professional help when and where you need it.
2. Make Some Upgrades
That was the boring, routine stuff. The more exciting side of maintenance and repairs is when you get to dive into some actual upgrades!
Upgrades can give your small business a big boost. Even something as small as a commercial air conditioner can totally change your business. If you don’t have air conditioning currently, you might have customers who are avoiding your business on hot days and you don’t even know it, so don’t dismiss these small upgrades as useless. They can drastically improve your business.
It doesn’t all need to be modest, though. You can, and should, dream big. This is your business. You are the master of your domain. As long as you stay within your means, you can make big upgrades that really improve your business.
If you are thinking of doing larger projects, you might need some help. A major construction project, for example, isn’t something you may be equipped to handle on your own. You might find you need to hire commercial construction services in order to install a patio area or redo your interior or give your storefront a facelift.
Shop around if you think you might need professional help to improve your business. The contractors in your area are also small business owners, so you may find folks you can work really well with in order to improve your business. This will not only be a good thing for your business, but also for your community. You can get to know other local small business owners and perhaps build a partnership that will serve you well for the long haul.
3. Brush Up on Business Learning
It’s never a bad time to get smarter as a small business owner. There is so much you have to be an expert on. The list feels like it may never end. You have to be good with your money, good at managing other people, creative, resourceful and diligent all at once.
Because of this, increasing your own knowledge can’t help but improve your business. The more knowledge you have, the better off your business will be.
There are a lot of ways to go about this. A lot of information is available for free online. You can search in your industry or just among small business tips in general.
You might also find opportunities for continuing education, perhaps via something like night courses. Here you might fine-tune your knowledge and delve deeper into topics you are already familiar with.
Of course, there are always good old-fashioned books. Finding small business accounting books or other books on topics you want to learn about can be a handy way to build your knowledge. Plus, you can keep those books around as a guide and resource any time you might need them.
No matter how you go about it, increasing your personal knowledge is always a good way to improve your business. You can’t possibly know too much as a small business owner. The more resources and information you have at your disposal, the better you will be at your managing your business.
4. Get Your Paperwork in Order
Speaking of being knowledgeable, you probably have a lot of paperwork you’re contending with as a small business owner. If you don’t yet have it organized and filed, you may want to spend some time doing that.
Having your paperwork in order is critical for any small business. Things like taxes and income statements can get complicated and confusing very quickly if you are not on top of your organization. As with routine repairs, this might not sound like a very exciting way to improve your business, but it is critical to your success.
Having your paperwork organized isn’t a one-time fix, either. If you are already organized, you should stay on top of that system and perhaps check that it is still organized and in good order. If you aren’t yet organized, now may be the time to get on top of that.
Yes, it’ll be a little boring in the moment, but the next time you need to file your taxes or do a permit acquisition, you’ll be very grateful for that organizational work you did.
Staying organized is about the big picture. Say you want to do a major renovation to your physical store location. You can’t really dream big and do the major upgrades if what you already have is disorganized and chaotic. If you want to improve your business, you need to be methodical and organized when you go about it.
5. Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media isn’t for everyone, but it can improve your business a lot. Everyone is expected to be searchable these days. The lack of a social media presence can actually be harmful to your business.
If you are already savvy with apps and social media – great! You can leverage that knowledge and experience to make an account for your business.
If you aren’t, you might want to hire someone who is. It can be a larger responsibility than you imagine to manage a social media page. If you don’t have knowledge and time for it, it’s worth it to hire a social media manager who can take care of that for you.
Either way, you will want your social media presence to be professional. You can have fun and be personable, but do so within limits. A friendly social media presence can improve your business, but an unprofessional and hostile one can harm you. You need to walk this line carefully to ensure you’re only getting the benefits of social media and not the downsides and pitfalls.
Whether or not you go the social media route, you can also explore some apps that are out there specifically to help small business owners. There are things that can help you keep track of tasks, manage your documents, or invest for the future. Some of the best investor apps are made for everyday people like business owners and not just for Wall Street stock traders. See which, if any, might improve your business.
6. Protect Yourself
Of course, while making all these upgrades and improvements, you should also make sure you are protecting yourself and your business. One easy way to improve your business is simply by protecting it.
There are lots of ways you might protect your business. Perhaps you don’t yet have insurance or have insufficient insurance and could better protect your business by searching around for new or better insurance plans.
Or maybe you have been considering a security system. Along with garage door services to protect your vehicles, now might be the right time to invest in a security system to protect the physical location of your business. Break-ins at businesses sadly are not uncommon. Even having a sign in the window stating you have security can be a big deterrent.
Not all threats are physical, though. Some come in the form of things like litigation.
If you don’t already, you definitely want to know which lawyers in your area specialize in working with businesses. It isn’t pleasant to think about, but there could come a time when you need a commercial litigation attorney to protect your business.
This does not always mean something dire has occurred. It could just be a routine problem or piece of paperwork. Still, it’s good to have a legal expert on your side if you think you need one. They might help you address problems you don’t even realize are headed your way.
Legal issues can take a big hit out of your business and change your fortunes dramatically. Improve your business by ensuring it is protected from both physical and legal threats.
7. Dream Big About the Future
OK, that’s all the practical stuff. Among all of that, however, it’s still important to dream big. This is your small business, after all. Even though it’s a business, it is still personal.
When you are dreaming up ways to improve your business, you should let your imagination run wild. If you are worried you are going to far, you can always talk to a licensed contractor to temper your dreams with reality.
Working with a contractor can help you take your dreams to reality. This doesn’t mean giving up the things you want, but rather adjusting in order to make them plausible. You also should keep in mind your budget and operating costs, as big improvements can momentarily eat into your business’s profits.
Long-term, however, these kinds of projects should improve your business. They do this not only by improving a physical location, but also by making customers better able to see your vision. When your business is closer to your ideal vision, your customers will see and feel that and it will make them more attached to their business.
When you’re ready to make your dreams a reality, look for the right professionals to help you. Whether you need commercial glass contractors, building contractors or electricians, the right professionals can make all the difference when you want to improve your business.
Turning dreams into reality is about diligence and imagination. You should try to keep your house in order, but without losing sight of your grander vision. This way, you can improve your business in a way you’ll love and be able to sustain for a long time to come.