Guest Post: How to Harness the Power of Automation to Optimize Your Time

This week’s guest post is from the team at Integrated Technologies Australia:

As an entrepreneur, you often have to wear many hats to succeed in business. One day you’re updating the company blog and managing your social media pages, the next day you’re responding to customer enquiries and calling back clients. Unfortunately, this busy work can eat away time that could be better spent on growing your business.

That’s where automation comes in. By letting software automation tools take care of the medial tasks, you can gain more time to focus on the core business activities that matter to you.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can harness the power of automation to optimise your time:

Social Media

If you have multiple social media profiles, you need to keep each page active by regularly posting new content, responding to customer enquiries, and letting your followers know about upcoming events, sales and competitions. While these tasks are important, they are also time-consuming.

Social media automation tools let you manage all of your profiles from a single platform. They’re also equipped with a range of powerful tools to save you time and increase the output of your social media campaign. You can automatically schedule hundreds of posts in advance, review in-depth analytics to find out what is and isn’t working for your campaign, and filter through conversations by keyword, hashtag, and location to find out what people are saying about your business.

Furthermore, you can cross-post all of your content across multiple platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. Some software tools even recommend the most ideal time to post your content.


Automating your invoices can save you a lot of time on manual paperwork. And ensure you get paid sooner too. Some of the most popular billing and invoicing software are Invoicely, Zoho Invoice, Xero and Replicon. Regardless of which software you choose, each one is highly customisable and jam-packed with features to make your life easier.

With automated invoicing software you can create professional, custom invoices from scratch. You can also automatically schedule repeat invoices, track your time, monitor pending invoices and be instantly notified when an invoice is paid. If you want to invoice on the go, most software tools offer cross-compatibility between desktop and mobile devices.

No matter how big or small your business is, you can fine-tune every aspect of your invoicing to suit your specific needs.

Wireless Presentations

How many times have you had a business presentation held up by technical problems? Your laptop won’t connect to the projector, you brought the wrong cables, or you have no cables at all. These issues are not only inconvenient they can cost your business in lost sales and reputation.

The good news? These days you can use a wireless presentation system to broadcast your presentation. These products typically come as a single black box and let you use Wi-Fi to wirelessly transmit data from your smartphone, laptop, tablet, or desktop straight to your room’s screen.

Better still, you don’t need any special software to do this, just the device itself and a solid Wi-Fi connection. All you have to do is connect and present – it’s that simple. By saving time on costly setup, you can present seamless and engaging presentations without any disruptions.

If you want to discover the benefits of a wireless presentation system for yourself, get in touch with an automation expert who can assess your existing room and propose a custom presentation solution for you.

Email Marketing

Thought email was dead? Think again. According to WordStream email is the third most influence source of information for B2B audiences, while 73 percent of millennials identify email as their preferred means of communication.[i] So if you want to reach your audience faster and on a more frequent basis, automated emails are the way to go.

There are two ways you can automate your emails. One way is to setup autoresponders that send an email when a customer performs a certain action. For example, the system could send a welcome email when a customer signs-up to your newsletter, or a customer instantly receives an email after they buy a product from your website. The other type of automated emails are those as part of a larger drip campaign. These may be emails sent to new subscribers over a longer period of time in order to introduce new products, promote sales and events, offer a free trial, or share monthly newsletters and video content.

Better still, most email automation tools have a simple drag-and-drop interface to let you customise the look and feel of your emails. Platforms like BombBomb and Covideo also let you record and upload high-quality video into your emails to help boost CTRs.

Integrated Technologies Australia (ITA) are a Melbourne based Automation company. They take the latest technologies, untangle the complexity, and embed them straight into your home or business. Whether for entertainment, automation, energy management, or security, they do more than provide technological solutions, they enhance lifestyles.

Guest Post: How to Reduce Your eCommerce Supply Costs

This week’s guest post is from Nathan Sharpe:

E-commerce is the business of buying or manufacturing products and then reselling them for a profit. Business owners painstakingly search for the best suppliers or manufacturers to do business with. Without realising it, most e-commerce businesses maintain an inflated budget to cover operational costs.

Look at different areas of the business and work to get them all streamlined. Optimise business processes to save money which will allow the company to run on a lean budget. Cutting costs would radically boost company profits, this fact is in all the best business books. There are several methods to save an e-commerce business money.

You just need to analyse existing processes and adjust them accordingly. Decrease supply costs to make sourcing products even more efficient. It is one of the most effective ways to increase annual profits. Along with supply management, proper inventory management processes also need to be streamlined as well.

Quality Control

Customers will sometimes receive defective products. They will contact the seller to complain about the low-quality product and return it for a full refund. The worse case scenario is after the refund the customer writes a bad review about how they received a defective item. Not only will there be a loss of revenue but the negative review may also damage future sales conversions.

The best solution to prevent customers from receiving defective products is to establish quality assurance guidelines. Start at the manufacturing stage of the product. Talk to the manufacturer and make an in-depth quality checklist that each unit must pass. Order samples to ensure that the set quality standards are met before making a bulk order.

It would be ideal for the business owner to visit the factory where the products are made. In case that is not an option, hire a certified product inspector to perform a thorough quality inspection for you. It is vital that all products, every unit is checked to ensure that quality is up to standard. This process would help prevent loss of revenue from returned products.

Lower Total Inventory Cost

Some sellers make the mistake of ordering too much quantity. They get overly excited about the vision they have for their product and order way too many units. Being too headstrong about selling and not doing the proper market research is a bad idea.

You run the risk of getting stuck with too much product that doesn’t sell. The funds used to acquire the excess products would have been better used for more productive endeavours. Instead of overstocking product, set aside a sufficient budget for PPC campaigns in Amazon or Google. That marketing method would increase sales conversions and help move products faster.

The TIC(Total Inventory Cost) also consists of the other charges. It can be broken down into three separate segments. Ordering costs, shortage costs and carrying costs. These three segments represent different processes in the supply chain.

Ordering costs include the price of the product, insurance, transport, currency exchange differences, taxes and other fees as well. Ordering costs otherwise known as landed costs also include any extra services such as paying for a certified product inspector.

Carrying costs are all the charges incurred when storing products. Warehouse or storage fees, insurance and any fee related to holding or storing products. Ideally, carrying costs should only make up about 20-30% of your total inventory costs.

Maximise space by arranging products systematically at every storage location. In case it is costing the business more than the recommended 30% of the TIC then it may be time to re-evaluate how to store the products more efficiently. Take a look at other storage options, and it may be time to tweak existing fulfilment processes as well.

Inventory health

Shortage costs are a result of not keeping good inventory health. Sellers that run out of stock would be forced to put in a rush order of products. A rush bulk order would cost extra. Shipping that rush order will also cost more if you use airmail instead of a freighter.

If you are selling on Amazon, good inventory health achieved by using the Amazon inventory management tools. These tools, such as the Amazon sales coach or inventory management tab, provide sales related data.

There, you can set inventory minimums which can then be used as an alert to order the next batch of products. Other e-commerce platforms do also provide inventory management tools. Master these tools and read all the sales reports and sales projections for each listed product. These reports provide an accurate estimate of how many units should be ordered for each product to fulfil customer demand for a specific time period.

Data from previous seasonal events can be used to forecast customer demand for the current year. In case that data is not available, check the sales of competitors to gauge the demand and purchase enough stock to cover possible orders.  

Expand sales Channels

This method will not only reduce supply costs but also increase business revenue. Instead of making a lateral change and adding another online retail store think about selling products wholesale. The profit margin per unit will not be as good as selling each unit individually in an online marketplace.

Believe it or not but the profit margin will be more significant due to the fact sales will be in bulk instead of per piece. The shift from retail to wholesale will take some getting used to.

A business that has mastered the art of selling online will just need to tweak operations to process, accommodate and sell bulk products. Growing a business to a much larger scale will need direct supervision until it is streamlined.

Getting into wholesaling will allow multi-channel sellers more flexibility. Establish new business relationships that can support ventures into wholesaling. Network with businesses that need your products, it would be best to have the products directly shipped to your B2B customers.

Coordinate with manufacturers about setting new terms for bulk orders. That will also provide the business with a better profit margin as well.

Fulfilment Logistics

The crucial final phase in the supply chain process. Hiring someone to just process orders can become expensive depending on the number of people employed to do just that. Some sellers choose to do process each order themselves.

That can work if sales are sporadic, but once sales start to pick up, processing orders will eat up valuable time. Consider using 3PL(Third Party Logistics), provider. The 3PL option can prove to be more cost-effective since they will be the ones to store the product and process each order.

Once an order comes in their staff will pick the product, package and ship it to the customer usually on the date of the order. For sellers familiar with Amazon FBA, 3PL are the external version of that service. It is vital to set up the most cost-effective fulfilment option to process orders quickly, efficiently and get them to the customer.  


Enhance business processes to become more efficient. Decrease supply chain costs by accomplishing the methods listed above and increase company profits. Have the vision to start selling wholesale, carefully select B2B customers and process their bulk orders while effectively selling across multiple channels as well.

Nathan Sharpe is the entrepreneur behind the business blog Biznas. He knows that you must wear many different hats for your business to be a success. He helps others achieve this success by sharing everything he knows on his blog, as well as any new lessons he learns along the way!

Guest Post: Accounting Advice for New Entrepreneurs

This week’s guest post comes from David Hughes:

Forming a business is the easy part. Sustaining it, however, is another matter, considering the fact that 50% of newly formed companies fail in their first year. Out of those businesses that survive, only one in 20 will still operate after five years.

The chances of failure are alarmingly high. Entrepreneurs, however, don’t mind these odds as they continue to form new companies every year. True, you’re never sure if your business will survive and prosper especially during an economic slowdown.  You can, however, increase your chances of success.

While running a business requires your full attention, you need to keep an eye on your finances. After all, it doesn’t make sense running a business for the sake of yielding poor profits. Unfortunately, this is a fact that many business owners fail to grasp.

So how do you keep your finances in order?

Here are several accounting tips you need to keep in mind when forming and running a new business.    

Understanding Start-up Costs

When forming a new business, you often incur start-up costs. These are one-off payments that are grouped into two types:

  • Investigatory – These are the costs incurred during the market and product research phase. These include transportation, labour or hiring, consultancy fees, and cost of making deals with potential suppliers or distributors. At this stage, you haven’t formed the company yet. You’re still exploring the feasibility and potential income of the business.   
  • Pre-launch Costs  –These are expenses usually incurred for the launching of the company. By this time, you’re now ready to sell the products or services. The costs include advertising, rent deposits, staff training and salary.

Fixed vs Variable Costs

Once the business starts to operate, you’ll incur two kinds of costs – fixed and variable.

Fixed costs are expenses you have to pay regardless if your company made money or not. Here are some examples:

  • Rent
  • Salaries and fees
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Insurance

Meanwhile, variable costs are expenses that can increase or decrease depending on the number of sales generated or production rate. These include:

  • Actual cost for each product produced
  • Deliveries
  • Sales commissions

Benefits of Hiring an Accountant

Hiring an accountant will be advantageous to your start-up company. This particular professional can provide your business with:

  • Financial knowledge and insight
  • Eyes to detect potential financial troubles
  • Advice on how to deal with tax legislation, PAYE, NI benefits and other payables
  • Updates regarding changes in government legislation that can affect your business
  • Ways to maximise the growth potential of your business   

London-based Accountants 4 Small Business offer a range of services such as these..

Acquiring Basic Accountancy Skills 

Having an accountant will improve your company’s financial management. Still, you need to learn even the most basic accountancy skills. You don’t have to do the bookkeeping yourself. Instead, you should learn basic financial management skills as well as accountancy ideas and terminology. By taking the time to learn these skills, you can:

  • Determine the net worth of your business
  • Understand basic accountancy terms like cash flow and profit
  • Communicate effectively with accountants, employees, investors and investors
  • Make well-informed decisions and apply strategies suited to your business
  • Gain insight from your competitors by reading and understanding their annual financial reports

Learning these basic accountancy skills require little or no money at all. There are plenty of resources that are free and available to read online. You will, however, need to devote your time to this subject.

Choose a Suitable Business Entity 

Now it’s time to decide what kind of business entity you’re going to set up and register with HMRC. Here are the kinds of trade options you can create:

a.      Sole Trader or Partnerships

Setting up a business as a sole trader or partnership is the simplest way. Here are some of their advantages:

  • You only need to register with HMRC
  • You don’t have to publish your accounts in public
  • You only pay the tax based on the profits you make

There is, however, a disadvantage. You have little protection against creditors and unlimited liability. If your business has acquired debts, creditors can go after your personal assets. 

b.      Limited Company

Registering your company under this setup will mean:

  • More regulations to comply with
  • You have to register with Companies House
  • Informing HMRC how many people you employ

Just like sole trading and partnerships, you’ll still pay income tax and national insurance. In addition, your company needs to publish an annual basic financial report. You should also take note that this data is accessible to the public. In return, your company enjoys:

  • Limited liability
  • Protection of personal assets
  • Better access to credit, compared to sole traders and partnerships 

Adopting an Accounting System

You need to choose and use an accounting system that will provide accurate financial details. Be aware  that fines and penalties are imposed for:

  • Erroneous and incorrect record keeping
  • Late submissions of returns and accounts

You also need to consider a suitable system that can handle all your accounting data. Do you prefer:

  • Handwritten ledgers or accountancy software?
  • Cloud computing or simple spread sheet?

Many companies today favour using cloud computing. It’s a convenient way for sharing data with your accountant who can check and verify it regularly. Online accounting also allows you to file and pay your VAT returns electronically. In addition, companies that pay VAT online are rewarded with longer payment deadlines.

Entrepreneurs also need to invest in reliable accountancy software run by knowledgeable accounting or bookkeeping staff. Remember:

  • The software can only give out results that are based on the data input.
  • Some software can be pricey and may also require regular paid updates.
  • You’ll need qualified staff to run complex software operations.
  • If you or your people don’t have much experience in bookkeeping, better adopt a manual spread sheet system. While this process is time-consuming, the records are easier to update and understand.


Making profits is not enough for a business to succeed. You also need to exercise proper financial management as well as an accurate accounting of transactions. By adding a reliable accountant to your team, you can keep an eye on the sustainability and profitability of your business.  

David Hughes is the Managing Owner/Director of Rodliffe Accounting. He has over 15 years of experience working with small business owners. He offers specialist accountancy services, including business planning and bespoke tax strategies.

Guest Post: Why It’s So Important to Establish a Healthy Work Culture for Your Business from the Start

This week’s guest post comes from Patrick Bailey:

Starting a business is very difficult, and that’s not even the bad news.

A study by UC Berkeley & Stanford revealed that 9 in 10 startups fail in the first year. Clearly, having a good idea is not enough. Millions all around the world have thought that they had the next best thing. Then they got a rude awakening.

Unless you are working solo, you have to understand that an organization is the sum of all parts. Everybody must be working together in unison to achieve the same task. Each of the workers must be on board with what you are trying to do.

Now, every company has a culture. This is different from a brand, which can be your identity from the customer’s perspective, or from your own point of view.

The company culture isn’t always seen by outsiders. Good organizations already have an established culture that any new employee will have to learn and adjust to.

The culture is the set of values and mindsets the employees develop in the course of working for the organization. This could either be imposed or organically assumed. An unhealthy culture is one where everybody is working for their own selfish agenda at the expense of the others and the organization itself.

An unhealthy culture is a toxic environment.

You can’t hope to retain your employees for a long term even if the pay is good.

The Cost of Employee Turnover

In general, employee turnover is costly.

We say this because some companies have managed to create a resilient business model that can weather a high turnover rate. Take McDonald’s, for example. It’s a huge training ground for employees who want a temporary stop while they finish school or move on to better careers. 

Yet, McDonald’s consistently is one of the top-earning companies globally.

But you don’t want to follow that model.

You want to retain employees because it makes the most business sense.

For example, you don’t always want to be training new hires because of the high turnover rates. Training costs money and lowers productivity, especially if you are a small organization where there are no clear delineation of functions. You have to assign somebody to train the new employee, and that takes away from their regular tasks.

Besides, you can expect the new employee to produce less while still learning on the job. That means the productivity of the organization suffers unless the others work more to fill the gap.

Imagine going through the same cycle every six months?

The 2017 Asia Pacific Employee Pulse survey revealed that even if employees work longer hours they wont to leave if they believe in the organization.

The most common reasons why they stay are:

  1. The company understands that they also have lives to live outside of the organization
  2. They trust their co-workers
  3. Their career path is clear and there’s an opportunity to move up

A 50:50 balance between work and life could never be achieved. Unfortunately, there’s no metric to measure that. Instead, it’s mostly about the impression that the company doesn’t just see you as a worker but a person.

For new organizations, it’s important to determine the estimated cost of employee turnover. Once they see the numbers, they are going to be really serious about ensuring their workers stay.

Let’s Talk Numbers

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average employee stays with the company for 4.2 years. This is as true in 2018 as it was in 2016.

Younger workers (25 to 34 age group) tend to have a shorter stay (2.8 years) compared to senior workers (55 to 64 age group) who have an average tenure 10.1 years.

Turnover will also depend on the type of industry you are in.

State workers typically stay longer probably because of the security of tenure and pension. The mining and manufacturing industries have the highest employee retention compared to the other sectors.

On the other end of the spectrum are those working in the food service industry, which has an average employee retention of 1.9 years.

Here are some of the findings of the BLS

  1. The hospitality, tourism, and leisure industry, which has an average employee retention of 2.2 years.
  2. Architects and engineers tend to stay in one company for 5.7 years
  3. Lawyers stick to one law firm for 5.1 years
  4. Teachers and librarians also  shift jobs after 5.1 years
  5. Managers and professionals stay in the same job for 6.4 years

You always want to keep your workers happy because when one leaves, it generally costs your company an equivalent to 6-9 months’ worth of salary.

Another study by the Center for American Progress also presented some worrying figures:

  1. Specialized skills cost 21% of the annual salary of the employee
  2. Workers with an annual salary of $50,000-$75,000 will cost the company about 20% of their wages when they decide to leave
  3. Those who earn less than $30,000 in annual wages will cost the organization 16% of the total employee salary

How to Know if You have a Healthy Work Culture

The good news is that you are not trailblazing a new path. There are successful business models that you can follow to ensure a good working environment that will motivate employees to stay longer.

What are the traits of a healthy company culture?

  1. Employees trust each other. Everybody knows that the company is a safe place. They can be themselves without their colleagues backbiting or ranting against them on social media. Nobody plays politics in order to get ahead.
  2. Good performance is recognized. Nothing builds frustration faster than being overlooked. Sure, a bonus would be nice, but just calling their names during the company meeting after they’ve done a good job will go a long way. Of course, a bonus would be better, which will also motivate others to do well.
  3. Everybody picks everyone up. When somebody is going through hard times in their personal life, (they are people, after all), everybody pitches in so productivity doesn’t suffer. This is because workers believe in the vision of the company so they work hard to realize that vision.
  4. Employee voices are heard. Even if the salary is high, what employees really want is to know that their opinions matter. Encourage everyone to voice their concerns, ideas, and suggestions. During company meetings, employees should feel that they can speak up without fear of any backlash. There’s no better feeling than your idea being adopted by the executives and seeing it succeed. 
  5. Good communication. The CEOs value the opinion of the clerk as they do the top executives and project managers. In the same vein, project managers are in constant communication with their teams to make sure everybody is still on the same page. The beauty of the technology today is the number of tools that can enhance communication within the workplace.
  6. Healthy work-life balance. The employees can only put in what they can put out. Meaning, the effort is not a perpetual resource. If they continue to work without recharging their batteries, they are bound to experience a burnout. Encourage them to also take care of themselves and their families. Get some exercise, develop some hobbies, and make some friends outside of the workplace.
  7. Your employees are people, too. The worst thing you can do is to treat your employees like robots and grind them to the ground. They do feel tired. They will sometimes face problems in the home, which will impact on productivity. They do have children who also need to be attended to, and this includes school activities, birthdays, and other milestones.
  8. Teambuilding is a must. The company organizes team-building activities at least once a year. These may not be limited to further education, training workshops, and seminars, which can enhance individual talents. You should also take your whole company on an outing to the beach or resort just so everybody can also view their colleagues as more than co-workers.
  9. Bosses are leaders. If you have no idea how to be a good leader, there are actually a lot of articles about the difference between a boss and a leader. For instance, the boss thinks that he knows it all so the opinions of the employees don’t matter. The leader knows he knows nothing so he values the opinions of others. The boss criticizes when somebody makes a mistake, the leader encourages and helps the employee avoid committing the same mistake. The boss is quick to find a weakness while the leader is quick to find a strength that can be enhanced.

The bottom line? Employees tend to be loyal to the leader rather than the boss.

Running your company from the ground up is already difficult, especially since the odds are stacked against you. However, don’t make it impossible by not working toward establishing a healthy work culture that can benefit you and your employees.

Patrick Bailey is a blogger and professional writing focused on mental illness and addition.

Guest Post: How a Billing System Can Improve Customer Retention

Today’s guest post comes from Elaine Bennett, a digital marketing specialist focused on helping Australian startups and small businesses grow. :

Attracting new customers and expanding your customer base is critical for your business growth. However, customer retention is even more important. Statistics show that the cost of acquiring a new customer can be five times higher than the cost of retaining your existing customers. Given these digits, it’s not surprising that a good customer experience is expected to become even more important than your products or prices by 2020.

In this customer-centered era, your billing system can become a key factor in boosting the overall customer experience and building stronger relationships with them. Let’s see how to use it to increase customer retention rates.

Building Highly Personalized Customer Experiences

Today, personalization dominates every segment of your customer interactions, including your invoice management. People are used to highly customized services, tailored just for them. For example, some of your customers prefer to make payments using different credit cards, while others would go with a bank direct debit. And, before they book your services, they will first check whether you offer their desired payment method.

Precisely because of that, you need to make sure payment options are highly flexible and adapted to your customers’ needs. This is where automated payment processing shines. Namely, the implementation of a direct debit system allows you to manage recurring direct debit payments across multiple sites, helping your customers carry out transactions using multiple payment options and currencies. By providing a plethora of ways to pay, your target customers will be more likely to sign up for a repeat purchase.

Greater Security Builds Trust

The rise of online payments provides cyber criminals with easier access to customer information. And, your customers are aware of that. Precisely because of that, they choose those companies that can guarantee that their personal information will stay safe during the transaction.

Therefore, to get your target customers to choose you over your competitors and come back to you again, you need to meet the highest payment security standards. Of course, this is an extremely time-consuming and costly process, as it requires strong servers and hiring in-house tech support.

However, with the help of automated billing software, you can reduce your operational costs significantly. No matter if they’re used as a standalone platform or they’re integrated into your existing business software, these platforms are cloud-based and comply with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). By investing in them, you will make sure that your customers’ sensitive data, billing, and payment processing are out of hackers’ reach and handled at the highest level of security.

Don’t Let Failed Payments Hurt Customer Relationships

Studies show that more than 64% of small businesses face the issue of failed and late invoices. For any business owner, handling this major problem is inevitable. It includes sending multiple dunning emails and reminders that are not pleasant to their customers’ ears, too. Therefore, it’s a great challenge to get your customers to pay you and, at the same time, maintain strong relationships with them.

This is why you need to automate your rebilling efforts. A reliable payment platform will first try to rebill your customers automatically and collect the payment again. Most importantly, it will notify your customers of any failed payments and empower them to resolve the problem as fast as possible.

Real-Time Information Boosts your Customer Retention

To keep your customers satisfied, you need to tailor your billing system to their needs. And, to do so, you need to monitor your business health and performance, track your customers’ behaviors and understand what their major problems are when carrying out transactions. Of course, tracking your major KPIs and creating regular reports manually would eat up loads of your time.  

So, instead of handling a myriad of digits and using complicated Excel spreadsheets and formulas, you can invest in an automated billing platform and generate your financial reports effortlessly. Most of these platforms have in-built reporting tools that you can customize and adapt according to your needs.

With these reports, you will have a full insight into the distribution of billings, a comprehensive customer list, a list of invalid customer information, transaction details, and so forth. By tracking your financial health, you will be able to make better-informed decisions in the future and tailor your business operations to your customers’ needs and expectations. Above all, you will be able to identify the major problems in your billing system and prevent these from hurting your customer relationships.

Over to You

To win your customers over and turn them into your brand advocates, you need to focus on building strong relationships outside your products. And, this is where a solid recurring billing system comes as a blessing from the skies. It will help you interact with your customers more effectively, help them complete the desired actions faster, and tailor your invoicing and rebilling strategies to their needs and expectations. Above all, you will be able to make data-oriented decisions that would boost people’s experiences with your business.

How do you use your billing system to retain customers?

Guest Post: 11 Signs It’s Time to Expand Your Business

As a successful entrepreneur, CEO, or business manager, you know that taking your business to the next level in its development is not much different from launching it. The same considerations and dedication are essential for an expansion to be successful.

Depending on the size of your business, expansion can be as simple as hiring your first employee. Growing your business depends on a wide range of circumstances. Economic forecasts, market considerations, and the business cycle all play a role. Other factors in play include the availability of reliable shipping and transportation, labor markets, and access to raw materials.

Determining the best time to expand can be tricky, but if you know the signs to look for, the decision becomes much easier.

  1. The Customers Demand Expansion

Repeat customers are an indication of ongoing demand for your products or services, as well as satisfaction with what you offer. Loyal customers will request expansion, whether it is a store closer to where they live, an online site or even a local warehouse for faster shipping.

Consider all options before following through on customers’ requests for expansion. Your budget has to be able to sustain opening another facility, adding a line or hiring more employees.

  • The Business Is Busy

Management and staff may find they are too busy too much of the time. If people feel as if they’re spread too thin, then you have more business than you can handle. If the company is not a seasonal phenomenon but year-round, then expansion is in order. Managers who consistently wonder if they can complete their work are managers of a business which must grow.

Expansion is not just increasing the number of employees or shifts—although both of those decisions can pay off. Expansion is finding the next level for the business.

In considering the right number of employees, consider the “Rule of 150.” Businesses and anthropological research find that when the size of a firm exceeds 150 personnel, it changes in culture and quality. Below that number, the structure is much less hierarchical and far more flexible. Above 150, the structure becomes slower and less reactive.

Gore-Tex famously builds a new factory when the staff at one reaches the 150-person level. 150 people is about the maximum number a leader can stand on a chair and address directly before “speak louder” calls begin.

  • The Business is Out of Room

Physical expansion is indicated when there’s no room left in the workplace to function efficiently. People can tell when space is cramped, even before accidents caused by limited space occur.

Poor staff morale is an indicator as is lower production. Meeting clients away from the office because no room exists is another sure sign of needing more space. Clutter and mess are another — everything should have a place and be in its place.

Try reorganizing before relocating or using flexible work hours if possible so employees can share workspaces. 

  • The Team is Solid, Capable, and Ready

Expansion requires people who have bought into the business. They are personally invested in the success of the business and want it to get to the next level — they see that as a way of increasing opportunities for themselves.

With a talented team in place, your company can consider expanding. Talented employees may end up relocating to branch off and create their own remote team, adding further value to the business. Some may decide to take on a new product line. Whatever way your expansion takes place, having people who are part of the team before it takes place — especially if new people are being brought onboard — will make the expansion’s success more likely.

Some employees may be unable to relocate, prefer to work on the floor than be in management or dislike additional responsibility. Don’t assume your team is ready for expansion. Canvas them for feedback.  

  • The Market Is Growing

Businesses in a growing market will face the demand to expand. With more customers, businesses find that current operations are strained. They may even be turning away customers.

Study the market conditions carefully, and make sure this strain is not a temporary or seasonal issue. See what competitors are doing, especially if some customers have transferred their business to them.

  • Developing New Lines of Business

Enterprises develop new lines of business frequently. Many of those new lines are variations on existing ones or are logical extensions of them. For example, a retail men’s clothing store may add accessories, jewelry, and drink glassware into its offerings. A logistic supply company known for cartons and drums may add shrink-wrap, tape, and green shipping solutions to their lines.

New lines of business are as much an expansion as building a new factory. They should fit smoothly into your current marketing model—or the model needs to be adapted so that all lines work within it.

Use focus groups to research if a new line will work. You might think it is a great idea, but the market may disagree.

  • You Have the Capital

For a successful business expansion, you need sufficient cash flow to cover unforeseen costs and investments that won’t have a return on investment (ROI) for several months. Adequate revenue or financing to support an expansion is a good indication you are ready to ramp up your business.

But simply being profitable isn’t enough to justify expansion. Create a business forecast as a reliable representation of your company’s potential indicating the best and worst scenarios if you expanded. If the results between both forecasts are narrow, then it’s time to scale up. 

  • You are Meeting and Exceeding Goals 

If you are meeting your milestones ahead of schedule, it might be time for expansion, especially if other factors like the right team, cash flow, and a growing market are in place too.

If you don’t have the money ahead of schedule it isn’t the time to grow even if you have met all your other milestones. 

  • You’ve Done Your Research

Whether it is adding another location, creating an e-commerce site, or expanding into a new market, do your homework first. If you have well-researched plans in place, it is likely time for growth.

Don’t rush into the next stage of development without extensive research. 

  1. You’ve Outgrown the Local Market

If you’ve tapped out the local market, it may be time to consider another location or even an e-commerce site. Expanding into a different vertical will attract new clients and help your business grow.

Make sure you have explored every avenue locally because most people like to support businesses where they live and work. 

  1. Follow Your Gut Instinct

The best entrepreneurs and CEOs have an instinct for good business. Don’t allow success to overshadow that instinct. Always explore your hunches, even when business is a little slow. Successful entrepreneurs can identify market services and products that are not being met, or have an eye for just the right location. Knowing exactly when the iron is hot enough to strike is a trait only the most successful capitalists possess.

You may experience failures from time to time, but trying again is what makes a successful entrepreneur!

Cory Levins is the business development director for AirSea Containers, a family owned and operated company dedicated to the safe transportation of dangerous goods. Cory oversees the development and implementation of ASC’s internal and external marketing program, driving revenue and profits from the Miami, FL headquarters. Linked In:

Guest Post: Marketing Tools and Trends Every Entrepreneur Should Know About

Today’s guest post is from Laura Andrews:

Some fledgling entrepreneurs take marketing for granted, when in fact, it’s the best way to jumpstart your business. Marketing will allow you to put your product out there and let your customers know what you can do for them. Continue Reading