January is a funny time of the year for the small business owner. As they get back into the swing of things following the festive break there’s a sense of excitement for the new year ahead, but there’s also the prospect of a lot planning, dreaded tax returns and end of year figures to review.
But while end of year figures can often be a cause for celebration, they can also bring disappointment if the year didn’t quite go as planned. In figures released by the FSB last week, it was revealed that small business confidence has plunged to its lowest level since the Brexit referendum – with a record number fearing they will be out of business by April. So, with small business confidence clearly dented, it’s important to not get hung up on 2017 if things didn’t go the way you envisioned.
Regardless of what the figures show, January should be a time for optimism, looking ahead and thinking about what you could do differently to bring about positive change for your business.
So here are my top three tips for all small businesses aiming for success in 2018, after all January’s the month to make the changes that’ll allow your business flourish in the new year and beyond.
Increase your digital and social footprint
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to launch a Facebook or Twitter page for your business. Or, if you have one that’s last post was a three months ago, it’s time to ramp up your activity. We’re living in the digital age and social media presents a new and important way to sell your services and engage with audiences.
I’d recommend starting with one tweet per day, increasing this figure as you increase your social media presence and following. There are plenty of online tools available that can help you do this too. Hootsuite is a great tool that business owners can invest in and use to manage their social media in one place; it allows you to plan and schedule social media posts as far in advance as you like, which is extremely useful for time-pressured SME owners.
Keep your eye on cashflow
Whether your business ambition is to grow or to remain as you are, maintaining a healthy cash flow is crucial to keeping your business running smoothly. Invoice finance, a bridging loan or business loan can help with this in a multitude of different ways and there are a number of funders out there to partner with a small business in need, whatever the sector or location.
According to figures released by UK Finance, 2017 saw a 13 per cent year-on-year jump in invoice finance and it now stands at just over £22 billion, the highest ever recorded. Invoice finance can help small businesses owners that need to pay weekly wages, buy materials months before they sell their products or simply need to cover the basic bills while their money is tied up in outstanding invoices. And that’s only a few things it can help do. In an economy that’s becoming increasingly tough to function in, all small business owners could benefit from exploring other forms of finance.
Learn to delegate and prioritise your wellbeing
Small business owners like to take on more than they can chew, and it’s not surprising. When you’ve nurtured and grown a business since the beginning, it can be hard to delegate. But you can only work so many hours in a day without it having a negative impact on your health.
Recent research by Ultimate Finance find a third of small business owners in the UK have had a health scare since starting their business due to their workload and 72 per cent worry their current work / life balance is having a negative impact on their health.
Delegation is the key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and if you’re worried about passing tasks onto others, then it’s simple: communicate and invest in training. Make sure your employees are trained to the point that they can take on some of your tasks. If you’re feeling happy, free of stress and healthy, then this will have a positive impact on the overall business.
A new year offers a chance to build on previous successes, or wipe the slate clean and start fresh. We’re living in a period in which uncertainty is rife and as the FSB’s latest stats reveal, confidence is has taken a hit, so it’s important that small business owners do what they can to get off on the right foot in 2018.
Rob Mercer is senior regional director of Ashley Finance