When you’re starting a small business, problems and solutions constantly occupy your mind. And you’re not alone. Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). In the U.S., small businesses are responsible for:
- 54 percent of all sales
- 55 percent of all jobs
- 66 percent of all new jobs
- Occupying 20–34 billion square feet of commercial space
But starting a small business often becomes an uphill battle. According to recent reports, fewer people are striking out to start their business. Between 2014 and 2015, small businesses saw a drop, from 14 percent to 12 percent.
What’s behind the drop? And what can you do to avoid becoming another failed business? We’ve collected the top concerns for small businesses, and we offer a few solutions to help combat them.
Problem 1: Attracting and holding onto customers.
This is a challenge for any business. Established companies usually have some momentum and advertising dollars to help them along. But a small business usually has to rely on word of mouth. That’s why 43 percent of small business owners cited improving customers’ experiences and increasing retention rates as crucial to success.
At Jive, we enjoy a high customer retention rate. In a recent whitepaper from Frost & Sullivan, the market analyst firm credited our retention to our industry-leading customer service. To achieve this, we pulled out all the stops. We made structural changes to our departments, automated our onboarding process, identified key metrics to track, and set tough but reachable goals so we could deliver a world-class experience. The result? Forbes called us a customer service “rockstar.” That’s how we recommend you attract and hold onto customers: make their satisfaction your top goal.
Problem 2: Hiring the right people
Hiring is an investment. According to a recent report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost-per-hire is 42 days and $4,129. A survey of business owners revealed that 50 percent consider hiring one of their top concerns. Another found that 70 percent experienced problems during the hiring process.
Here are a few steps we recommend to help you find the right hire, and to make the hiring process as smooth as possible:
- Identify your hiring needs. What duties will your new hire take over? Is it a full-time or part-time position?
- Create a hiring timeline. By what date do you want to have the job filled? When will you begin interviews, and how long will it take you to decide on a candidate? Make sure you leave time for your hire to give two weeks’ notice and to undergo training.
- Write a clear and effective job description. Communicate your job expectations, including a list of skills, responsibilities, and qualifications. Don’t forget to advertise any job perks.
- Recruit through your network. Start your recruiting on a local level through your professional connections, existing employees, and social media platforms.
- Screen your candidates. The invest you’re sinking into a candidate justifies a little social media stalking. Look up your candidates online and see what they’ve attached their names to over the years.
Problem 3: Getting marketing right.
It’s easy to get overloaded by all that goes into small business marketing these days. Of course it’s important to amass basic knowledge about online marketing, social media outreach, and lead conversion—but basic marketing comes down to telling a story well. Before delving into the mechanics of marketing, nail down the big picture. What’s your company’s story? What’s the emotion you want to have customers associate with your product?
Once you have that in mind, you’ll have a direction for your marketing. Moving forward, look for opportunities to provide your potential customers with thought leadership. Show how you’re aware of (and leading) current trends in your industry. Provide resources your customers would find helpful. Answer their possible questions and provide them with value, even if they haven’t bought your product yet.
Problem 4: Promoting effective internal communications.
Internal communications should always be a priority. But as your company expands, and as you hire on new employees, expand your customer base, and build out marketing efforts, effective internal communications become essential. On average, faulty internal communications eats up an average of $62.4 million in lost productivity every year. A few possible reasons for this loss are:
- Confusing or unclear directions. Trying to decipher unclear instructions result in an average loss of 40 minutes per day.
- Increased interruptions. More than a quarter (28 percent) of an average employee’s workday is spent managing interruptions.
- Lacking the right tools. It’s important to utilize helpful collaboration tools like business chat, conference calls, video conferencing, softphones, and other services.
Starting your own business is extremely challenging, but also very rewarding—especially when you overcome a difficult problem with a strategic solution. Jive offers resources and telecom technology solutions to businesses. Check out jive.com/resources/blog for more tips on a range of topics, including personal branding, and how to manage remote workers.