Type up “small business failure” on a search engine and you get tons of overwhelmingly depressing results showing various statistics demonstrating that there’s a realistically slim chance that any business will survive past the 15-year mark.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the chances a business founded in 1994 will have survived to this day dips down to 20 percent. There is, of course, the issue of context whenever you’re looking at a cold statistic that does little to paint a picture of how businesses reach such a high failure rate. In addition to that, failure rates vary depending on other circumstances such as industry and political climate.
You will find a vast ocean of pundits attempting to provide their own two cents on why businesses have a high failure rate, and they will tell cite anything from poor management to the lack of a presence online.
After looking through the various reasons, there’s one thing that many have in common and it’s in your control:
Businesses will often lose the momentum they first had because they do not manage to keep up with the demands of running their everyday operations.
They can’t talk to their customers effectively online, their service quality doesn’t match the expectations of a fast-paced fickle market, their inventory is disorganised or the business itself doesn’t differentiate itself enough to make a mark on visitors.
Businesses that don’t have all of their ducks in a row cannot hope to address these issues. It is only logical that the first thing everyone needs to do before going any further is to face the elephant in the room by streamlining daily business activities in such a way that they are (at the very least) manageable.
Organise the backroom environment
Behind every jar of honey you buy is an army of bees that have traveled thousands of miles to make each spoonful. We know honey is made this way, yet we seldom ever ponder the journey each bee took to making that entire jar that’s now sitting in your cupboard.
Businesses work in much the same way; there are backroom processes that keep the ship afloat each and every day. Although few customers will ever see these mechanisms, their impact on the forward-facing side of a company is on full display.
Having the right software to run your back office will come a long way in helping you to avoid experiencing trouble in these departments. Applications like ProWorkflow do an excellent job of streamlining task management, invoicing, and many other functions that are often overlooked when hunting for inefficiencies that need addressing.
Get social with your online base
One of the things making large corporate entities stand out online right now is their ingenious use of social media. While there are many who see this as a carte blanche to spread a dizzying array of bland boilerplate marketing content in a desperate attempt to be relevant with the “cool” crowd, there are stellar examples of companies like Starbucks, Etsy, Calvin Klein, and McDonald’s using platforms like Twitter to embrace trends and engage directly with customers.
When you look at these brands extending their presence, it’s tempting to think that they have teams of people entirely dedicated to browse social sites and start conversations.
The truth is that much of their social media engagement efforts come from the use of applications that help automate this in an intelligent way, letting them concentrate solely on the parts of social branding that help build engagement and retain it.
Tools like Narrow provide an enormous boost by taking a no-nonsense approach to Twitter interaction, showing you who’s talking about subjects that are relevant to your goals. Other applications like Hootsuite help you schedule posts ahead of time so that you do not have to spend every living moment on social networks.
This will effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on this activity to a couple of hours a week, freeing you from the headache of having yet another front to fight on.
Keep your inventory in check
The reason that retail giants have no problem opening a gazillion locations is because they were able to keep their ducks in a row when it came to tracking everything they sell and acquire.
Having a systematic approach to inventory simplifies operations to the point that reproducing the model is a simple game of “plug and play”. They do this like every other successful and long-living enterprise still alive in the 21st century does. They use the magic of software.
Without this ingredient, you’ll be spending more time tracking where things are going and who’s paying for what than taking care of any of the other 18 million different things you have to do to keep the lights on.
It’s a not-so-well-guarded secret that there are solutions that even smaller contenders can use to keep themselves in good competition with their much larger counterparts, and one of those solutions is inventory management.
Software like Vend, for example, contains a variety of smaller applications that come together to form one of the most powerful point-of-sale and inventory management suites, even allowing for things like layaways, parked sales, and gift cards.
Technology may have advanced to a point where it perhaps has a stronger grasp on our daily lives than we’d like, but the game of retaining customers still operates on the same rules it did back when the first street markets began appearing thousands of years ago.
You have to make sure that they don’t find greener pastures elsewhere and one of the main ways you can do that is by showing them that you provide a fluid environment and a dedication to serve.
The difference is that today there are pieces of software that make these things a lot simpler. Take advantage of this and you’ll have a very strong chance of living to see another decade (or ten).