Rising to the top: How to propel your small business into the big league

Here, Sanj Bhayro shares five tips to follow to help your business hit the big time.

What do Amazon, Coca Cola, Philips, and L’Oreal all have in common?

These companies, with very diverse products and business models, all shared similar beginnings: they started from an idea, that was supported by a team of great people and grew exponentially through hard work and innovation. The result? They transformed their respective industries and are now influential global leaders.

Today, there are more than five million small businesses in the UK, contributing a collective £1.3 trillion to the economy. Each business aspires to create opportunities for their workers and offer their customers unique value, and some of these small acorns will certainly go on to become mighty oaks.

So what really sets apart the businesses that achieve rapid growth and keep pace with changing customer expectations? Here are my top five tips to help your small businesses hit the big time:

Define your vision and values

Talented employees are invaluable when it comes to making your small business a success. When your headcount is small and your team is growing fast, you can’t afford a weak link and being just one person down can be crippling.

That’s why it’s so important to define what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it and how you will get there. By articulating your values from the very beginning everyone working for you has a better understanding of what you stand for and can more easily feel vested in the company. Your workplace culture will then grow around your vision and values.

Research by the Great Place to Work Institute even shows that in the long run, a strong culture will dramatically impact a company’s bottom line: the top 100 companies average nearly twice the annualised stock market return of the general market.

Use data & analytics to make smarter decisions

Powerful cloud-based analytic tools are now affordable for all companies, large and small. For SMEs, deploying these tools means that businesses no longer need huge budgets or dedicated headcount to crunch data; now, any business user can access the data that helps them make smarter data driven business decisions in at the right time.

It’s becoming far more prevalent than you might guess. In fact, 53 per cent of high-performing small businesses are taking advantage of analytics in some capacity. In an age where you can access so much data about the behaviours of your customers, products and markets, it’s important to make use of the right data to better serve your customer.

One such company is Ebury which is taking the financial services world by storm thanks to its data driven approach. The team captures every bit of business data that comes in and goes out, so that it can easily be accessed and actioned. By having greater visibility all customer touch points the sales cycle is now 30 per cent shorter.

As companies scale, the importance of trusting the data in your organisation increases; that’s why it’s important to have the right data strategy in place from the beginning.
The advantage for start-ups is that you can become a data-driven company from day one.

Embrace the cloud to drive scale

Moving to the cloud can be one of the most impactful things a company can do in its earlier days. Firstly, by moving away from on-premise IT, you lessen the burden on the IT department (which is often the owner for very small companies!) so that they are free to focus on supporting the core business. A cloud-based model also makes it much easier to scale and support mobile working, cross-team collaboration and implementation of cutting-edge productivity tools.

London recycling company First Mile is a case in point. Prior to adopting cloud technology First Mile’s team of field agents were reliant on a manual and inconsistent approach to driving new business. Lead information was scribbled on scrappy bits of paper and often non-priority leads ended up in the bin rather than on a prospects list. Moving to the cloud has enabled First Mile to focus their time and effort on the right sales leads and the right customers as all leads are captured in real-time in an app, which everyone has access to. In just three years the company has doubled in size and been able to increase its sales conversion rate, improve customer retention and quadruple marketing ROI.

Run your business from your phone

Mobile can be a real friend to growing businesses – helping comparatively small sales and service teams connect with prospects, customers and employees anytime, anywhere. The hair and beauty online booking service Treatwell, for example, has a highly mobile salesforce. The sales team are often travelling around the country for long periods at a time, so it’s vital they can work on the go.

Using an app right from their mobile, each salesperson can sign on a new salon and bring up existing customer conversations so that they can update the sales pipeline in real time. For the company’s founders it helps them track productivity and immediately identify who needs support in closing a deal.

This mobile approach has proven to be a huge success, with the company signing up new salons and spas at a rate of 700 per month.

Remember: the customer is king

In the Age of the Customer great customer experience really does help a business stand out. Salesforce’s recent Connected Customer report revealed that 77 per cent of consumers and 75 per cent of business buyers agree that they expect companies to provide a consistent experience across the different channels they use to engage such as web, email, phone, social and face to face.

Financial services company Liberis is taking this ‘customer first’ approach to new levels. Using CRM technology Liberis has a better understanding of what their customers are interested in and can wow them by sending out bespoke content tailored to their specific interests.

The company is also leveraging technology to further personalise and simplify more traditional customer interactions. For example, when a customer contacts the team by phone, the call is routed to their assigned account manager – reducing the friction and frustration that come with battling an interactive voice response. By adopting a personalised, customer centric approach Liberis has achieved a 98 per cent service rating on Feefo – the global customer feedback system.

Sanj Bhayro is ‎senior vice president of EMEA Commercial Sales at Salesforce

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