Owning a small business is hard work at any time, let alone right now. In fact, for many owners, the combined impact of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis probably adds up to the most challenging economic circumstances they’ve ever experienced. As a business owner myself, having started my own company, Tala, just over 3.5 years ago, I can confirm it’s definitely been a challenge!
But here’s something a bit less doom and gloom! Despite all the uncertainty, 33% of UK small business owners say their priority for the next months is not only balancing the books but achieving growth too. And 37% of Gen Zs claim they want to start up a business to earn more money to deal with life’s rising costs.
So, with all that ambition around, here are my five top tips for small business success, whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your company to the next level…
Be totally content with your content
Nowadays, most people don’t want the stuff they watch or read to look like an ad, they want it to feel as though they’re talking to their friend. This means they actually respond very similarly to well-made organic content as they do to paid content. So, instead of going straight to paid ads, post your marketing content organically on your Facebook or Instagram to see what your audience engages with the most. You can then back the best performing stuff with some paid ads and reallocate your paid spend in real time to fit demand, like shutting off an ad when stock is low and promoting the next best product. All of which means you’re only spending your marketing budget on content that you’re confident is going to have the right impact with your customers.
Innovate in what you do and how…but not why
Innovation is the lifeblood of every small business as it means you’re constantly moving forward and unlocking new and better ways to deliver what your customers want. But if you are thinking of targeting a new market, testing a new product or trialing a fresh way of working, don’t lose sight of why you started your company in the first place. People want to buy into your business not just from your business. So whatever changes you decide to make in order to grow, ensure that every person that comes to your page knows what your business’ mission is. Now more than ever, it’s them that will keep your customers coming back.
Boost your productivity not your working hours
How often do you hear that, as a small business owner, you have to work every day of every week of every year. It’s not always true (although admittedly there are periods of that!). In fact, this kind of hustle culture can burn you out. The key is to be more productive with the time you do spend working. So, instead of long to-do lists without timings, try dividing your day into quick ticks (<5 mins), tasks (5-30 mins) and projects (30+ mins) and three non-negotiable things you have to achieve. This should include blocking specific time for admin and for personal stuff like hobbies. Doing so will help you focus on the stuff that really matters for your business’ long-term success rather than getting bogged down in bagging quick and easy wins to announce on social media for some extra kudos, and help you to fit in the things you love too
Be prepared if you’re looking to raise
Securing financing as a small business owner can be tough, especially if you’re a woman. In fact, for every £1 of venture investment in the UK, less than 1p goes to all-female founder teams compared to 89p for all-male ones. That’s shocking – and something investors and policymakers need to address as quickly as possible. What’s true for everyone though is that raising capital isn’t something you can just wing. Instead, you need a razor sharp knowledge of your business, a clear vision of where you want to go and be ready to model every single penny you’re going to spend. When you present your pitch, be yourself because people invest in people, not just ideas. And if you get some interest, remember to think about whether the investor is right for you. Always follow your gut.
Take advantage of help
Getting help as a small business owner isn’t an admission of failure, it’s just smart – especially in tough times like we’re in now. Consider taking advantage of initiatives like the government’s Recovery Loan Scheme or digital skills programmes. Join a local small business network to make useful contacts and meet people you can learn from. And if you’re lucky enough to be located around Birmingham, Manchester or Edinburgh, take a hefty chunk out of your energy and operating costs by cashing in on Meta’s offer of free digital skills training and office space for the winter at fb.me/goodideasstudios.
Grace Beverley is founder of the highly successful sustainable activewear brand, Tala. To help small business owners navigate the current uncertainty, she will be speaking at Meta Good Ideas Studios, a series of events where small business leaders in Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh can attend insightful panels, talks, workshops and training to help them grow their businesses, primarily online.