Big data has for years held a reputation as a business tool that only large corporates have the time, money, and human resources to use effectively. But, as is so often the case with technological disruptions – what once seemed unattainable is becoming sleeker, faster, more affordable, and more user-friendly than ever before. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that with strategic usage, even small businesses can gain as much advantage from big data as any Fortune 500 company.
To start with, what is big data? Organisations deal with data every day, from customer profiles to supply chain processes and sales figures. Big data takes this operational information-gathering to the next level. Multiple data sets are drawn together to create a large resource of facts and figures, which (and here’s the most important part!) are subjected to complex analysis to pluck out useful insights that enhance business operations.
Traditionally, SMEs haven’t delved much into big data. When you’re busy trying to build a successful business from the ground up, submerging yourself in statistics probably sounds more like a hindrance than help. But times have changed, and over the years, capitalising on big data has become a lot easier and more budget-accessible for SMEs. No need for dedicated data managers and unaffordable analytics platforms.
In fact, over 70% of respondents to a global survey of small businesses found that the adoption of this type of technology exceeded their expectations. Closer to home, 27% of SME decision-makers expect to be using big data within the next five years. If entrepreneurs are brave (and forward-thinking) enough to take the plunge into big data, there are many business advantages to be gained… especially before everyone else catches on.
A detailed understanding of your customers
You may think you have a good picture of your customers, but inevitably you’ll encounter blind spots at some point. Big data can fill in the blanks and give that same customer picture HD-clarity. Buying habits, consumer profiles, satisfaction levels, social media usage – combine this information, apply the right machine learning algorithm, and the result is a far better understanding of customer wants and needs, which you can then work to better fulfil. This applies to both the product or service you’re selling and the way you’re marketing it.
Perhaps even more importantly, big data can help you get ahead of trends. There are a few things more valuable to a business than having the first-mover advantage as latent demand surfaces. And the best thing about big data is that it’s based on solid facts and figures. When it comes to predictive decision-making, it removes assumptions and guesswork, allowing you to get off the starting block first, and with sure footing.
Improved internal processes for your company
Big data is not just about heightening customer relationships. It’s a powerful resource with massive benefits for organisations internally as well. And not just in terms of time- and cost-savings around business analysis.
Crunch your operational statistics, and you may find surprising ways to optimise processes – such as identifying places where automation can be introduced or retooling your staffing to meet shifting demands over the workweek. In addition to reinforcing business decisions, big data is excellent at helping to identify problems in real-time and correct course. Today, solutions are available immediately, when in the past it could take weeks or months to mine such valuable insights.
Related: Can Your Marketing Team Speak Data?
Tools to take advantage of big data
What do you need to make the most out of big data as a small-business owner? In the digital age, the foundation is a reliable high-speed Internet connection. This is because of big data’s own evolution. Data analysis was once a lengthy process which required a large amount of hardware storage (and, before that, filing cabinets), it has now evolved into a digital product provided by many business solutions providers over the cloud. The handling of information is streamlined in this way, and setting up databases, sending information for analysis, or receiving meaningful results, happens almost instantly.
SMEs may not have the resources of their more established, big sibling rivals. However, up-and-coming businesses do typically have the advantage of agility thanks to their size. It’s easier for a start-up to move quickly, redirect as needed, and act on just-gained insights and trends. This makes big data no longer “nice but unnecessary,” but an essential tool to give your company that all-important advantage in the digital economy.
How Small Businesses Can Give Back Without Breaking The Bank
If you are not sure how to start giving back, below are some top tips on how to do just that… without breaking the bank.
As a small business owner, you might think that charitable giving is impossible on your small budget. But, this is not true. You can donate to a charity or contribute to a fundraiser, even if you have a startup or small business budget. You just have to be creative about it.
In today’s world, more and more consumers care deeply about social causes, which means that you need to seek ways to incorporate giving back into your business strategy. If you are not sure how to start giving back, below are some top tips on how to do just that… without breaking the bank.
Encourage your team to volunteer
You will see many calls from charities, such as MSF, to donate time and resources. One way to give back without breaking the bank is by encouraging your team to volunteer and offering paid time off as an incentive for them to volunteer at a charity.
You can give your employees a specific amount of time each month or quarter for volunteer work, and you will soon notice morale improving. It will also increase your community involvement and visibility in your community. You will have to ask your team which days they would prefer to volunteer, as many people might prefer the weekend over a Monday or other weekday.
Use your talents
Giving back does not always have to mean making a monetary donation. You can use the talents of the people in your business to give back to clients, or you can offer your services pro bono to charities that could use them.
For example, if you are a marketing agency, you can offer to upgrade a charity’s website or write content for their social media pages. If you are a financial business, offer a free day of accounting services to a charity that desperately needs some bookkeeping help.
Using your talents costs you nothing but can help to make a significant impact on the cause that is closest to your heart.
Set up a collection jar in the office
If you have chosen a charity, such as MSF to donate to, it can be difficult to find the funds in a small business. A simple but effective way to collect some funds is to set up a collection jar in the office for employees to contribute to.
Be sure that your collection jar is placed in a high traffic area of the office, such as in the kitchen or on the way to the coffee machine. You can make it fun by running a competition of who can donate the most and offering a prize, or you could ask those who bring in their own lunches to donate what they would have spent on purchasing a lunch that day. Be sure that your staff never feel forced into giving a large amount of money, but remind them the jar is for a good cause.
Launch a charity drive
If money and time are in short supply in your small business, you can still give back by launching a charity drive. You can collect anything from books and clothes for children, tinned food and bedding for an animal shelter or even tinned goods for a soup kitchen.
Be sure to choose a charity that everyone in your office agrees with supporting, otherwise it will be difficult to encourage everyone to take part. Take it one step further and ask your local community to contribute to your charity drive. Set up a place in your office where people can drop items off and offer them a thank you card or note so that they feel appreciated. Make posts on your social media platforms before, during and after the drive, and ensure that you share photographs of your company donating the goods to your chosen charity.
Use your voice
If you know about a cause, such as the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC in 2017, then as a business you can use your voice to make people aware of it. You can create a social media campaign for a charity or join in their advocacy, lobbying, letter writing, and other efforts.
By adding your voice to theirs, their cause becomes louder and it is likely that more people will be interested in donating to them. For example, you could set up a Facebook page for your local animal shelter and create informative posts about pet health for their followers to share. Or you could post blogs to your company website detailing the needs of a local homeless shelter and how people can help them.
You do not have to stick with monetary donations when helping a charity, although these are much appreciated. You can look for creative ways to give back without breaking the bank. As a small business, it is important to build your presence with consumers, and helping a charity is an effective way to do so.
You can encourage your team to volunteer, use your skills to help your chosen cause or you could set up a collection jar in the office. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is creative and in line with what your employees can achieve.
The Importance Of Training In A Small Business
Having happy and satisfied employees is great for business and will put you two steps ahead of your competition.
As a small business owner, you might not think that training your staff is as important as it would be in a larger company. This is where you are wrong. A small business is still a business and, in order to be successful, you will need to have staff that understand their roles and their responsibilities completely.
They should also be trained in other aspects that do not relate to their position, such as computer literacy and general administrative duties. Skills development facilitation is an effective way to ensure that your employees perform to their highest levels and feel appreciated and valued in your company.
It can help to address weaknesses
While you are not trying to make your employees feel bad about their performances, training programmes can help them (and yourself as the business owner) to address any weaknesses they might have.
By addressing these weaknesses, you can find ways to improve their skills, such as sending them on computer courses or communication courses. Training your staff also allows everyone to be elevated to the same level of competency, making for a more productive and proficient business. Any employees who feel they have weaknesses will be able to improve their skills and reach the same level as the other employees.
Employee performance will improve
If weaknesses and shortcomings are addressed during skills development facilitation courses, this will obviously help to improve your employees’ overall performance levels. You should be sure to send employees on relevant courses that are targeted to their roles and responsibilities so their departments can improve too.
Your staff might be feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed, and a training programme can help to improve their confidence and performance. Improved employee performance is a huge positive for a small business, as it will mean a faster turn-around time and projects being met on-time and within the client budget. Training your staff in their areas of expertise is a sure-fire way to boost their confidence and performance levels.
It can provide direction
If you have a department that is not operating at its full capacity, then a training programme might be the perfect tool to help this department reach its full potential and find direction. Having direction when working in a small business is vital to any employee, as it helps them to be productive and reach business goals.
You can choose from a range of skills to train your staff in, such as computer skills or office administration skills, targeting a certain department that might help with direction in their work. Skills development facilitation can also help those employees who are not sure of their roles or whose skills are too “general” to fit into one department.
If you only have a few employees, sending them on training courses can help to show them what roles and responsibilities in the company are.
Training provides consistency
Sending your employees on skills programmes will ensure that everyone who works in your business has the same level of experience and expertise. This consistency is particularly important when it comes to policies and procedures, as all employees need to be aware of the expectations and procedures within the company.
Putting all staff members through the same basic training will ensure that everyone has the same exposure to every department, which can help the office run smoothly and improve employee relations. Having consistency in your office means that everyone is operating at the same levels and that your business is able to finish projects at a much quicker rate than before the training. Be sure that you also look into more targeted courses for your different departments.
It gives you an edge on the competition
Human capital and skills can help a small business to get an edge on the competition. This is especially true if your entire workforce has been trained in their fields and has received the same training across the board.
Having an edge on the competition is not only beneficial to you as the business owner, but will help your staff to have a sense of pride in their work and can even help to retain your talented employees. Being able to outdo your competitors relies heavily on the abilities of your employees, which means that you should take your training programmes seriously. If you want to be a success, put the needs of your staff first and see how quickly your business improves.
Happy employees means better business
Sending your employees on training programmes can help immensely with job performance, employee retention, office consistency and addressing any weaknesses there might be. Your employees will feel valued and respected, which, in turn, will improve their loyalty to your company and help with quicker turnaround times.
What Presentation Skills Do Small Business Owners Need?
Presentations are vital to small business owners who want to attract and retain new clients, so if you are looking to improve your skills in the area, read on below for some simple presentation tips and a list of presentation skills that every business owner should have.
Being a small business owner means that you need to be confident in yourself and in your abilities. But, when it comes to business presentations, this confidence often fizzles out and is replaced with nerves and anxiety. Presentations are vital to small business owners who want to attract and retain new clients, so if you are looking to improve your skills in the area, read on below for some simple presentation tips and a list of presentation skills that every business owner should have.
The ability to think strategically
Rather than thinking of your presentation as a simple set of Powerpoint slides, you should think of it as part of your marketing efforts. This means that you will need to have the ability to think strategically about your presentation.
Every time you prepare your presentation, you should have this structure in mind before you go up to speak:
- What do I want people to remember at the end of my presentation?
- What is the next step my audience should take once I am finished?
- How can I gain my audience’s trust?
Gaining your audience’s trust is vital to the success of any presentation, as it allows them to immerse themselves in the presentation, which makes it easier for you to create a cohesive marketing strategy based off of this presentation. You already know your ideas will be accepted and appreciated.
Control over body language
Being able to control your body language in a stressful situation is key to any presentation success. Many presentation tips include taking a deep breath before going onto the stage, to quell any nerves, and practising in front of a mirror for a week before the big day to see if you have any nervous tics that you need to control.
Nervous tics can include anything from playing with your hair, tapping your fingers on a nearby surface, crossing and uncrossing your arms and other such anxious movements. If you are giving a presentation, these tics can become distracting to the audience, so you need to be able to control your body language in order to appear calm, cool and collected in front of your audience.
Strong communication skills
Standing up in front of a group of people can be nerve-wracking and this can lead you to forget your speech and fumble over your words, leading to a disappointing presentation. You will need to build up your communication skills by practising your speech or presentation regularly before you step up on stage, so be sure that you have clearly outlined notes to read from.
However, there is a bit more to it than simply memorising a script. In order to remember your material and make it ‘flow’ naturally, you will need to understand the information you are trying to communicate, including the following:
- The information you want to cover in your presentation, including statistics
- The flow or sequence of the material you are speaking on
- The goal of the presentation
- Any questions your audience might ask
Understanding the material will help you to remember it and explain it to anyone who might have questions. Speak as though you are speaking to a friend and you will find that your presentation builds a natural flow all on its own.
A charismatic presence
While this is more of a personality trait, having a presence is vital to the success of any client or conference presentation. Building your presence before your presentation will ensure that it is a success and that you leave your audience satisfied and their interests in your company piqued.
Having a charismatic presence means that you are able to express vision and give people a reason to be inspired by your presentation. You can achieve this by speaking about your success in terms that are transferable to others, such as providing tips on how to start your own business or providing relatable advice for entrepreneurs who have hit a rough patch in their business. Be sure that you do not use too much jargon, as this will diminish your presence and make you seem un-relatable.
Presentation tips for success
There is nothing more embarrassing than falling up or down the stairs so it is important that you know your venue before you set up your presentation. Ask the venue owners if you can have some time a day or two before you are presenting so you can familiarise yourself with the entrances, exits, where the podium is and how the sound and projector system works.
Too many people use slides to read their presentation off of rather than using them to augment their speech. When you put slides together, think like an artist and use them to show graphs, visuals and key points rather than having your entire speech on them, word for word. Your audience will appreciate a visually creative display rather than a boring slideshow with of your notes.
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