Get those SME processes running like clockwork
Rather tiresomely, the pandemic era continues to test the resolve of workers and business owners, far and wide. If there is any kind of silver lining, it’s that many folks who were toying with the idea of starting a new business have been forced (or inspired) to make the leap, only to find that it’s really not that scary after all. Similarly, established solopreneurs, micro-enterprises and SMBs have had to ‘level-up’ and ‘pivot’ (buzzword bingo, anyone?) to meet market demands.
One thing that all such enterprises have in common, is that they will find it hard going to maintain a competitive edge without robust and scalable end-to-end business systems in place. When we say ‘end-to-end’, we mean everything from a website, to a CRM platform, to financial, operational and order fulfilment systems.
Needless to say, it’s not a walk in the park to put these systems together overnight. It’s possible to get the fundamentals in place in pretty short order but, to be at their most useful, they need to be tailored to fit the needs of the business, which is something that takes time.
Here’s how we see the typical evolution of a new business’ systems over time.
You can hit the ground running on day one, with simple internal systems such as email and a productivity suite. This covers your basic communication needs, while also equipping you with the tools to create business documentation and to track things like transactions, orders or inventory via spreadsheets. These tools are easy to set up, so you have no excuse for poor record-keeping from the outset! Your external-facing presence can be catered for via simple social media and a single-page website; as long as it communicates your value proposition and enables you to gather new leads, you’re good to go.
Levelling up (stage I)
Now that you’ve got some momentum, and revenue is starting to flow in, you can (and should) invest in some of the systems that will both increase efficiency, and grow with you over time. Good examples would be things like a proper accounting platform (you can import existing transactions from a spreadsheet) and a CRM system.
An accounting platform is a brilliant time-saver because it can reduce the effort involved in a whole range of processes, from invoicing to expense management, VAT returns, payroll and year-end reporting. You can also grant access to your accountant if you have one, so they can do their thing without you having to curate spreadsheets to send to them. A great CRM system will allow you to start building a customer/client database that will, over time, facilitate your marketing efforts.
Levelling up (stage II)
Here’s where you can really optimise your operational performance by putting in place specialist systems that help you to deliver value to your customers or clients. Whatever it is that you make, sell or do, will benefit from a system that’s well-tailored to your business needs. This is where you might benefit from commissioning a bespoke package that will help you toward offering a competitive advantage. It could be an external-facing system- such as a smartphone app or an online configurator – or an internal system that co-ordinates order fulfilment.
Please note, for the avoidance of doubt, that the above evolution works for a wide range of businesses. However, if your core offering is (or relies on) a tech platform, in and of itself, then stage two, will actually need to come first. In which case, you’re looking at building a minimum viable product (MVP) at the earliest possible stage.
Whichever route you choose, we can help!
We’ll sign off by offering up some suggestions which you can either dip into yourself, or ask us about.
Getting started toolkit
Suggested productivity suite:
Google Workspace – well established productivity platform offering browser-based applications (and native device apps) for word processing, professional email, presentations, spreadsheets and forms. Great for collaborative working and online meetings via Google Meet.
Suggested website platform:
Squarespace – https://www.squarespace.com/ Popular site that makes it easy to get up and running with very clean designs.
Carrd – https://carrd.co/ Leftfield choice. Its strength lies in its simplicity.
Level-up toolkit 1
Suggested accounting package: Xero
Level-up toolkit 2
This is where is gets harder to make recommendations. We don’t know you or your business yet, so it wouldn’t be right, or even possible to point you in the right direction. However, what we would say is that you can greatly increase your chances of commissioning a successful bespoke platform if you can do the following…
- Get to know your business and your emerging pain points, first
- Ask yourself the question: Which operational problem, if solved, would have the greatest impact on your business’s ability to grow?
Prototype your ideal system. You don’t need to be an expert in systems. You need to be an expert on your own business. Just get your ideas down onto a whiteboard, sketch, post-it notes or the back of a beer mat. We’ll help you with the rest.