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Big 4 things for small business owners

Starting and managing small businesses - or being a sole trader - is risky as well as rewarding. To stay successful in tomorrow’s marketplace, you always need to address skills gaps.

Big 4 things for small business owners

You owe it to yourself to invest in ongoing professional development. You’re bound to make mistakes in your first few years of operation, but you needn’t resign yourself to constantly cutting corners. Upskill in industry best practice to stay confident and committed to your vision.

1. Improve (or outsource) your website and social media presence

From metrics and engagement to curation and automation, the world of social media, ‘community building’ and sophisticated website templates can be challenging and time-consuming. More often than not, websites and social media are last on your to-do list when you’re caught up in the everyday operations of your business.

“It’s common for small business owners to go, ‘Wow, I don’t have any idea about how to develop a web page or social media presence’,” says Anthony Jones, TAFE NSW’s Skills for Business program coordinator.

“But it’s important to have that mindset shift from working in the business, to on your business. It’s a different skill set.”

Building a social media presence and website that reflect the personality and values of your business can pay off in unexpected ways: it’s a way to communicate with customers and prospects when they’re not in-store, you can reach new audiences, build your authority in the market, and drive traffic to your website, which could also contribute to a boost in sales.

Anthony recommends two ways of maximising learning about digital media:

  • Developing your skills in a hands-on way
  • Using your skills to brief a professional to take on the work –  scoping, budgeting and maintaining a consistent presence in line with best practices


2. Stay on-target with financial planning

Financial acumen may not come naturally to most people, but small business owners who commit to honing their finance and accounting skills will be able to make better day-to-day decisions once they have a financial plan in place.

“Most small businesses fail because of lack of capital - they’ve got great ideas but they just don’t have that money to handle leaner times,” Anthony says.

From making sure you have a cash cushion in place, to staying ahead of your competitors in the long run, to spotting and taking advantage of market trends, to measuring your progress, financial planning keeps you grounded in the overall health and efficiency of your business.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup or a corporation, you constantly need to be able to look at how your business is tracking financially,” Anthony says.


3. Document everything – from receipts to operational budgets to taxes

Dealing with your finances at tax time, preparing operational budgets and keeping track of your expenses can be a minefield if you don’t have a systematic way of documenting and sorting through all the information that contributes to keeping your business running.

“A lot of small businesspeople don’t appreciate that actually spending more time initially to set those systems, procedures and processes in place gives you a big efficiency dividend,” Anthony says.

Keeping records, setting up filing systems, downloading software to store information that is easily retrievable and putting budgets together are examples of how different aspects of a business’s operations can be documented, he says.

A fear of financial literacy can disadvantage small business owners, but this can be remedied in a supportive environment.

“There’s a lot of people that have a great fear of just being able to do simple maths. Things like percentages and weighted averages, for example. We want to help small business owners by building up their confidence and saying to them, ‘Look, it’s not a big deal. You can do this.’”


4. Feel confident managing a team

There comes a time in every small business owner’s career journey when they realise they can no longer operate as a sole trader. Hiring staff, and growing a team, offer the opportunity to build something more ambitious.

People skills may not come naturally to every small business owner or founder, but these skills can be developed and nurtured over time, Anthony says.

“Being able to relate well to other people and to be able to encourage those other people is important. It’s absolutely critical to be able to build open and honest relationships with your employees.”

There’s also a big difference between managing and leading a team of people you’ve hired or have been placed in charge of.

“Leadership is about recognising potential in other people and developing that person’s potential That’s the critical part: empowering someone to take risks on your behalf. That’s pretty hard to do.”

Anthony encourages small business owners to consider the advantages of bringing more people on board: “The only way you’re going to grow is to bring in more talent and to bring in people with different skills to yourself. That’s how innovation happens. It’s a risk, sure, but it’s the way forward to actually grow your business.”

Take control of your small business with training from TAFE NSW. 

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