Small businesses make up 99 percent of commerce in the United States. This means the majority of companies and businesses in the country were started by individuals and grew into successful enterprises.
If you are just starting out with your own small business, achieving success and stability is probably one of your main goals. One of the best ways to help your small business thrive is to make it as professional as possible. This can come through services, branding, marketing, or customer service.
However you relate to customers will reflect on your business, so consider these tips to build a trustworthy brand and take your small business to the next level.
1. Look the Part
Especially if you are opening a small business that offers professional services, you want everything to look as professional as possible so people will trust you.
Whether you are working out of a portable warehouse office or the spare room in your home, having a dedicated phone number for your business is an easy way to set yourself apart. This shows you keep your business separate from any personal matters and also allows you to dedicate a certain time and space to your work.
Having a work number also makes it easier for clients to share your information with other interested parties, which could potentially grow your business. If you don’t have a landline service provider, there are plenty of other options for establishing a work phone number such as Google or Grasshopper.
Along these same lines, you also want to set up some type of mailing address. If you are working in a dedicated location, then you already have one, but if you are working remotely or from your home, it may be a little trickier.
Most people don’t want to disclose their home address to clients or vendors, so in that case, setting up a P.O. box is an easy fix. This allows you to give a mailing address to customers and vendors, as well as receive mail for your business. It ensures important mail such as returns or tax documents aren’t mixed in with your personal items and potentially lost in the shuffle.
As a bonus, now that you have a phone number and address, you can draw up business cards to hand out to prospective customers.
Finally, you want to be sure to set up a website and buy your domain name. Although there is nothing wrong with using a free website service, people tend to trust websites more that don’t have the extension of the service you are using.
When you choose your domain name, try to pick something as close to your business’ name as you can get. This makes it easy for people to find and remember when you’re sharing your information with them.
2. Hire Intelligently for Your Small Business
Once you’ve got the professional appearance down, you can shift your focus to the function of your small business.
What is an office without its employees? Taking stock of your workforce is a must if you want to start expanding your business. One thing that keeps lots of businesses stagnant, even if they have the customer base to grow, is not having the staff to support a larger enterprise.
So when you are ready to start making strategic moves, think of how many more people you’d need to hire to support your new vision.
There are tons of job seekers out there, which can make it difficult to feel like you are choosing the right candidate. Some small business owners might feel wary about the choice they make because what if the person doesn’t stick? They might end up in the same position two months down the line without much to show for that time.
For this reason, it can be helpful to look for people who are hoping for a second chance or to have another go in an industry that didn’t quite work out for them before.
An option not many know about is hiring people who were previously incarcerated and learned certain skills or gained a certification while serving their jail time. These employees are eager for an opportunity, held accountable by a third party, and often want to find a stable life and job.
They could turn out to be the best employees you’ve ever hired! Plus, your business can get a tax credit or incentives through most states and the federal government for hiring these individuals.
Another largely untapped employee market is the up-and-comers. So many companies will focus only on people with years of experience or specific education requirements for their new hires, but this rules out a vast pool of recent graduates and young people looking for their start.
Young millennials and Gen Xers are all searching for someone to give them a shot. Despite some of the bad press these generations receive, they are mostly made up of hardworking individuals who are willing to learn and want to impress their employers.
Hiring young talent allows you to teach them processes the way you like them done and groom the future leadership of your company. Investing in a young recruit is an investment in your company and its future.
3. Boost Productivity
This tip might seem obvious, but boosting productivity is an easy way to bring your small business to the next level. This step is easier said than done, though.
A fun way to work on improving your sales is to set goals and use positive reinforcement with your team. For example, if you work in a sales environment, you can set sales goals for the week, month, quarter, and year.
You can also have your employees help you to pick fun prizes or incentives for reaching this goal. Maybe people who meet their weekly goals get entered into a drawing for the end of the month. Or if the office meets its quarterly goal everyone gets an extra day of paid time off.
Telling your staff exactly what you expect of them and setting reachable goals can help to motivate everyone to go above and beyond in their jobs, which results in better business performance overall.
Another trick to increase your sales is to focus extra energy on customer service. Your business can’t function without customers to help keep the lights on and the doors open, so investing as much as you can in their satisfaction comes back to your business in a positive way.
If you don’t already have one, consider building a customer relations team to specifically speak with customers, take complaints, and resolve issues in real-time. This is one area where people love to talk to another person instead of being routed through an automated system.
You might notice that problems are being solved quicker and customers seem happier overall. These results can lead to more people recommending your brand or business and improved growth of your business.
Lastly, it is always helpful to learn to delegate tasks. If you are trying to handle the big picture and the day-to-day, you probably feel overwhelmed by the end of your workday. Delegating tasks is an easy way to add responsibility to an employee’s role, move the less important things off your plate, and give you time to focus on the macro side of your business.
Without daily distractions like answering phones, dealing directly with customers, or restocking your shelves, you are free to analyze your business performance and chart paths for future success.
4. Utilize Social Media for your Small Business
A big struggle for lots of small businesses is visibility. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, 99 percent of the U.S. marketplace is small businesses, which means there is tons of competition for people’s attention.
When you are running a small enterprise, you might not have the time, resources, or employees to dedicate to a marketing team. This often leaves you with little to no web presence or social media activity. We’ve already discussed the importance of a website, so let’s look at social media.
Creating accounts on a variety of social networks and posting on them regularly can make a huge difference in attracting and retaining customers. It gives you a platform to keep customers in the loop with new products, services, or discounts in your business.
It also provides a space for you to interact with your client base and make them feel like part of your team. Responding to comments, following people back, and hosting giveaways or raffles through your social media are all classic ways to engage your customers.
Depending on what your business is, some social media platforms may serve you better than others. For example, if you are a clothing retail store, you might do best on Instagram because you can post pictures of new shipments, models, or special products.
If you offer financial advising, you might prefer Twitter to send out text-based messages about special services or financial news that could impact clients. Finding the right platform and utilizing it to its fullest is a great way to connect with customers and become more visible in the marketplace.
Growing a professional business takes hard work, but if you look the part, hire intelligently, boost productivity, and utilize social media, it can feel like a walk in the park!
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Paisley Hansen is a mother of three and a small business owner. She spends her time caring for her children and taking her business to the next level. When she’s not busy working or taking care of her kids, you can find her at the gym or curl up with a good book.