If you’re a business owner, spare time is a luxury you can rarely afford. Staying on top of the day-to-day demands is tricky enough, and researching the latest business trends probably won’t be high on the priority list. However, even small changes can make you more competitive, resilient or creative. To lend a hand, we take a look at 7 simple ways you can modernise your business.
1. Encourage a culture of innovation
Innovation isn’t just for big corporates. As Richard Branson argues “Small businesses are nimble and bold, and can often teach much larger companies a thing or two about innovation that can change entire industries.” As a business owner, you can embrace innovation by encouraging creative thinking from your team. Whether it’s a meeting, an ideas jar or a chat in the pub, set up forums for collecting ideas. Have brainstorming sessions with diverse teams, and empower people to change processes if they can be improved.
One manufacturing firm created a ‘Giraffe of the Month Award’ awarded to those who ‘stick their neck out’, which contributed to a tripling of production. Or you could try Google’s famous ‘20%’ rule, who encouraged employees to spend 20% of their time on side projects that work towards company goals.
2. Map out your customer journey
In today’s world, it’s all about user experience. Tech companies have changed your customers expectations for how easy things should be. The same expectations apply whether you’re a tech company or not, so focus on helping users solve problems in the fastest, simplest way possible.
Gather a team together to map out the customer experience. Collect feedback from customers through conversations, surveys, or CRM data. Visualise the customer journey and key touch points – from seeing your ad, liking you on Facebook, having a sales call, coming in store or a customer service follow up. Focus on how you can improve the experience for your customers at each stage, so they come back again and again.
3. Update your brand
Is your current branding selling your business, or is it outdated and tired? If the latter, give your branding a makeover, starting with your logo and website. There are lots of free or low cost sites that you can use, but get a designer or someone with an eye for design to help put it together. You could also define your company values so customers and employees know what you stand for.
Modern consumers don’t want to be sold to either, they want to connect with brands. Use social media to tell the story of your business, how you live your values and what you’re like behind the scenes. Make announcements on events or deals. Show off new products. By sharing some of your business life you’ll forge stronger relationships with your customers. This will keep them engaged and coming back.
4. Get the latest apps and tech
Today’s world is digital: those that don’t invest in the latest technologies are likely to be left behind. There are apps and software that can help with almost any aspect of your business, including:
- Accounting and payments
- Supply chain – order tracking and fulfilment, supplier management
- Customer relationship management (CRM) to better track your relationship and communication with customers
- Internal communication between employees, like conferencing software, or instant messaging
All of these can help you save a heap of time, so you can focus on tasks that will add value for your business. When investing in any new technology weigh up cost versus value, and create internal champions to help the team get the most out of it. Read more about our best apps for small businesses.
5. Keep learning and gaining skills
As well as modernising your tools, you also need to invest in your people. Employees are your biggest asset, so you need to look after them. Upskilling, particularly when it comes to in-demand digital skills, can help drive motivation and increase overall productivity.
As well as external training and development, you could consider investing in an online learning portal. If you don’t have the cash for a portal, it could be as simple as a spreadsheet with links to reading or online courses. Encourage employees with specific talents to run training courses or mentor people internally.
Incentivise learning and teaching with targets and rewards. Make sure you invest in yourself too! Learning new skills or working on any areas you need to develop will make you a better leader.
6. Make new partnerships to drive growth
Business is all about making the right partnerships. As a business owner, there might be new and different partnerships that could give your bottom line a boost. For example, are there any local businesses that you could partner with for mutual benefit? Or key customers you work with that you could extend your relationship with?
You might also find other entrepreneurs or industry figures that can open doors, provide opportunities or give advice. Apps like Shapr connect you with professionals that can inspire you, while Meetup.com provides events on pretty much any interest. LinkedIn can also be a powerful tool when you invest a bit of time and energy. We are more connected to each other than ever before, so take advantage of it.
7. Modernise your working environment
Increasing productivity at no extra cost is a deal every business owner would take. However, when it comes to looking at your working environment, people are often dismissive of the benefits it can have on team motivation. Studies have shown that more natural light, artwork and plants help improve the overall happiness and productivity of employees. Encouraging regular breaks and the practice of mindfulness can boost productivity and reduce stress too.
You can also look at your HR policies to see how supportive they are. Do they match up with what’s expected in the modern working world? To help attract and retain new staff, try introducing policies such as flexible working, family friendly leave, and updating your company benefits. As well as saving time and money on recruitment, happy and long-serving staff will help you grow.
If you’re looking for funds to modernise your business, you can check if you qualify for an unsecured business loan in just 30 seconds at fundingcircle.com/businesses.