- Cash is king. Manage your cash effectively – cash flow is the life blood of a small business. Quite simply, it’s the difference between success and failure. So implement a budget; set clear targets; track your cash position; agree clear payment terms; invoice quickly; make it easy for clients to pay; check cash is coming in; and get good credit control in place. All simple things to do, but vital for success.
- Outsource the stuff you don’t know. Whether accounts, recruitment, marketing or (and I would say this, of course, but it’s true) your employment law and health & safety advice – don’t try to do it all yourself. Put the stuff you don’t know about onto someone else’s plate so you’ve got more time to grow your own business. Delegate, outsource and focus your energies on your own strengths.
- Hire great people and look after them. Never be afraid of hiring people who know more than you do. It’s the only way you’ll grow your business and bring in new ideas. Then look after them. Whether it’s giving them great facilities to work in, incentivising them through extra rewards, or helping them through tougher times with support schemes such as an Employee Assistance Programme, make sure you’re doing all you can to protect and motivate your most important assets.
- Make the most of your technology. Many businesses invest in all sorts of technology – phones, IT, online apps, document sharing – and then don’t use it to the fullest, or sometimes don't even scratch the surface. So look more deeply into the opportunities offered by your technology or hire someone who can maximise its potential to help your company work smarter and more efficiently.
- Keep an eye on costs, even when the going’s good. Statistics show that 10% of small businesses never review their costs. Never. However well you’re doing, don’t let your costs get out of hand. Get a cost review in place, at least annually, or task someone in the company to do it. Start with your biggest costs and work your way down. Look at your utility bills and see if you can get a better deal. Review suppliers and check you can’t improve your major contract terms. Negotiate when it comes to rent increases. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” might be a reasonable philosophy for Christmas, but it won’t help your business last beyond the New Year.
As we start the New Year, I’ve thought about five things all SMEs (and, in fact, all businesses) should keep at the forefront of their mind. These are my top suggestions that can make all the difference to your business in 2018.