Is it enough to repeat your strategies from last year? Here are five areas to look at for 2016.
It’s the start of a new year again and, once again, the best time to assess where the health of your business is. Are there product lines that need relooking? Do you need new staff for a particular area? Or is there a poor company culture that needs refreshing? Here are several easy ways to bring new life into your business without costing an arm and a leg like a consultant would:
1. Upgrade your employees
Smarter employees, better businesses: Training your employees is one great way to upgrade your business as a whole. If you’re a business in Singapore, 2016 is a fantastic time because the local government has just launched an ambitious workforce training initiative called the SkillsFuture programme. Otherwise, one other easy way to train employees is to encourage a culture of cross-training. This means that employees, and even yourself as the business owner, are trained in job functions other than your core role – the purpose being to gain a better understanding of how the business runs as a whole.
Not only will this foster better cooperation among departments, it will also help you to better plan and assess business operations, enhancing overall productivity.
2. Automate your processes
Many small businesses are put off by the seemingly high costs of automation – both in terms of the investment in “complicated” software and the constant training and upgrades that are usually required with any sort of investment in technology.
However, automation has too many benefits to ignore. If done right, it will leave you with more time to focus on strategic growth instead of worrying about day-to-day business processes. There is an increasing range of business software products that can automate various business operations. From accounting software to cloud-based data-collection services, there’s something to help simplify and smoothen most, if not all, business functions. Take some time to identify the various aspects of your business that are especially time consuming or labour intensive and explore the options available for automating these functions.
3. Protect your data and your customers’ data
As long as your business has an online presence, you will be vulnerable to malicious attacks such as phishing emails, viruses and hackers attempting to steal sensitive information. Cyberattacks have been on the rise throughout 2015 and are a real issue for businesses to deal with.
Small business owners might find it costly to invest in sophisticated web security, but it pays to have some sort of measure in place to protect the integrity of your business site as well as information stored online. Web security measures demonstrate to your customers that you care about their safety, which strengthens your reputation. It can also save you time and money in the aftermath of an attack.
4. Visualise your worst-case scenario
Most, if not all, businesses regularly set goals and project for growth, but few spend as much effort in visualising and preparing for their worst-case scenario. It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on the “bad” can be a beneficial exercise.
This goes one step beyond simply identifying threats or weaknesses, as it involves a focused look at specific outcomes that could take place, not just potential causes for losses.
But how does such an exercise help and what are the practical steps you can take as a result? First of all, it forces you to confront your fears and assess your risk appetite objectively. This in turn will allow you to set realistic budgets and financing to cope with a worst-case scenario situation. Secondly, such an exercise will help you identify what kinds of preventative or counteractive measures you should invest in. Last but not least, you will be forced to take an objective look at your business and to set more realistic goals and projections as a result.
Talk to professional advisers – such as accountants and IT professionals – to gain their insights on this. Another way to go about doing this is to invest time in studying other businesses through case studies and reading business and B2B publications related to your industry.
5. Network at regular intervals
In any business, it’s critical that you continually grow and maintain your network of contacts.
A simple touch-base once or twice a month with different contacts could open the door to new opportunities and ensure you are kept up to date with the latest developments in your field. Networking is also the perfect opportunity to exchange ideas and appreciate fresh perspectives and doing it regularly can help keep the creative spark alive.
To make your networking process seamless, consider investing in software such as Sansan, which smoothly integrates new contact details into your company’s database. This makes it easy to store and access all of your contact details, streamlining your networking process, so that this data can be accessed for sales activities, customer updates or other communication opportunities.