Small Business Tips: 10 Success Secrets of an SME Owner

Discover 10 Tips for Small Business Owners

In my 18 years as an SME owner, I have often learned the hard way through trial and error the complex route to success for a small business. I would like to share my tips and secrets to help other small business owners, particularly during such a challenging time. Sadly, too many SMEs fail each year. Just maybe with a little different thinking, I can help you achieve the success your hard work deserves.

1. Website vs Blog vs SEO Juice

You cannot get away from being an online business because at the very least you’ll need a static website, even if you are a business to business (B2B) business. Therefore understanding the difference between a static website, a blog, SEO juice, knowing what is important to Google to rank your website, Alexa, keywords, Core Web Vitals and so much more. Getting to grip with the basics is an essential tip for any small business owner.

The letters SEO in patterned design laid on a white surface

Understanding SEO and the impact that this can have on your website is key

This is a minimum requirement because whilst you may not want to do this stuff you’ll have the knowledge to ask the right questions.

2. A Great Accountant

In just about every book about running your own business that I have ever read, a great accountant is always advised as critically important. I concur with this thought because doing it yourself is a minefield which you’ll either get wrong or spend an eternity getting it right. Instead, I suggest spending your time on why you started your business and not spending time on your accounts. That said a great accountant is no substitute for understanding the performance of your business, understanding your cash-flow and knowing your profitability and how to improve it.

3. A Great PA

Personal Assistants are only for CEO’s, MD’s and city bankers, aren’t they? No, they are not. A great PA will help you achieve greater success because focussing on what you are good at it is the key whilst they do the tasks that either you are no good at it or aren’t worth your time. You could be earning more doing what you do rather than booking a meeting, ordering stationery, doing web research, etc. Please consider, you earn £x per hour, a PA earns £y per hour – Who would you get to arrange a meeting?

4. ‘Feedback Is the Food of Champions’

We’ve all heard it but do we do it? It is not a new tip, for any small business owner, feedback needs to be business as usual. Tell them when they are doing well and tell them when they are not. Encourage them; employees and outsourced partners, to ask for feedback and remember to qualify your feedback – ‘Well done because…’ and ‘Better if…’.

Wooden sign in street with Awesome pointing right and Less Awesome pointing left

Encourage employees to ask for feedback, and qualify feedback yourself

The downside of no feedback is that feelings start to build. One day they just blow into a monologue of feedback that the person should have heard 6 months ago. Normally, this results not in improved performance, but in a strained relationship.

5. What the Hell is ‘CRM’?

A fancy acronym for tracking your status with customers through a ‘Customer Relationship Management’ system. This all sounds very noble but does it actually work? Yes, and it is essential to your business. Using a good CRM system is imperative to understand where you are in the selling process with each of your customers so that you can keep on top of your selling.

6. Outsourcing Effectively

I am all for outsourcing to add the skills to your team or to a project that you or your team do not have. My advice is to do this effectively by spending the time upfront to agree on the right deal for both parties. Draw-up a plain English agreement, nothing too legal, describing what is in scope, what is out of scope, how you will work together and most importantly agree KPI’s & KRA’s that are challenging and achievable. And lastly, a key tip for any small business, as best you can pay more when a bonus is achieved and pay less for a normal day. For instance, Incentivise the other party to achieve the agreed targets by making the deal ‘bonus heavy’.

7. Network, Network, Network

The people that you know are a great source of income. The trick is in how you approach your network. Thomas Power, a great networker at the top of most online networks, really lives the principle of ‘Pay it Forward’ and his book, Networking for Life will help anyone who needs to make that shift from ‘Selling to their network’ to ‘Helping their network’.

Singular red cube surrounded by several wooden cubes

Making use of your network will act as a great source of income

Who can you start helping in your network? What can you give away? Who can you put them in touch with that they want to know?

8. Keep Learning, Making Mistakes and Moving Forward

As a small business owner, you’ll be making plenty of mistakes, the key tip here is to always learn from them. Remember that you are learning and it is ok. Only worry when you stop making mistakes because you have stopped learning. Sign-up to a newsletter, watch a YouTube channel, listen to a podcast or webinar, share your thoughts on the latest piece of personal development, read our blog, just keep moving forward by learning and improving. One-piece per week is all that is needed.

9. Time Management Unlocks Everything Else

As an SME owner, you’ll work incredibly hard. Remember that ‘hours spent at work’ does not always equal success. If you want to achieve anything, from selling more, to writing a business plan, to developing better products to taking time off, you’ll need more of a fixed commodity – time.

Dave Allen, the time management guru and pioneer of GTD (getting things done), says:

‘Time Management is a mislabelled problem because you cannot get any more of it, you just need to figure out how to spend the time you’ve got more effectively’.

He’s, of course, right. Effective time management skills will help you begin.

10. Know What you are Trying to Achieve

A business plan will help. Business Plans sound boring and seem only to be written well when you have an interview with a bank to borrow money. They don’t have to be endless pages. I suggest writing a one-page business plan and sharing it with your employees and appropriate outsourced partners. Let them clearly know what you want to achieve and what their ‘part to play’ is in this plan. People come to work to earn money, but they also come to work to be part of achieving something.

Man holding up glasses with glasses in focus and man is blurry

A business plan will allow you to see clearly what you are trying to achieve

There is plenty of advice on how to write a business plan. At the very least write down these pieces on a single sheet:

  • An aspirational vision – ‘To be the best….’
  • A tangible Goal – ‘£1m by 2025’.
  • Sales and Profit Objectives for the next 5 years, by year.
  • Sales and Profit Objectives by quarter for this year.
  • Projects that will enable you to achieve the Sales and Profit Objectives above, e.g. Integrate a CRM system. And then meet with your team quarterly to review last quarter’s progress and discuss the quarter to come.

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