Running your own business can be hugely rewarding, exciting and profitable. But it doesn’t come without its challenges.
In the UK, around 660,000 new businesses are registered every year. According to the Telegraph, of these businesses, 20% will fail in their first year, and 60% within three years.
There’s no denying that running your own small business can be tough.
If you work alone or in a very small team, then it may often feel like a juggling act trying to keep every arm of your business running smoothly.
Most problems faced by small business owners are caused by a shortage of time, resources, or money. This often results in the business owner taking on too much themselves in a bid to save money, especially during the early days of a business’ conception.
Whilst being economical is very important, it’s important to ensure that your efforts to save money aren’t impacting the quality of the service you’re providing, limiting your capacity, or otherwise getting in the way of progress and growth.
Here are six common problems that small business owners in all industries are likely to face at one time or another and suggestions for overcoming them.
Too much time spent answering calls
Most business owners will agree that there are never enough hours in the day and that the biggest drain on their time is answering telephone calls and emails. Even if you’re only on the telephone for a few minutes at a time, you will find that this adds up over the course of the day, especially when you factor in how long it takes to regain concentration after an interruption. Answering phone calls and emails can be a repetitive and time-consuming task that takes your focus away from the decision-making tasks important to your business’ growth.
Letting calls and emails go unanswered, however, is not an option. If your business is not yet established enough to justify employing a person full-time to answer communications, then you may benefit from outsourcing the job to a professional company. Outsourcing to a call answering service like SMARTstrat is an affordable, practical and efficient solution that will help to free up your time without all the expenses and risk associated with hiring someone permanent.
Being unable to switch off
Whilst it is difficult not to live and breathe your business, being unable to switch off puts you at risk of burning out. Finding a good work/life balance can help you to be more focussed and productive during your work hours and more present and relaxed ‘out-of-hours’ when you’re spending time with friends and family. In order to properly switch off it’s important to resist checking work emails and answering work calls during your down time.
Of course, many entrepreneurs loath to do this, as not being readily available can result in missed opportunities and lost business. Using the help of a call answering service like SMARTstrat is an affordable solution to help maximise business growth whilst also giving you the time you need to relax and recharge.
Missing new business enquiries
If you work alone, or in a very small team, it can be difficult to ensure that the telephone is always staffed, particularly in the evenings and at weekends. If you’re a sole trader then every moment that you’re out the office, in a meeting, on the phone, or taking a break could result in missed opportunities and sales, slowing your business’ growth. Luxe Beauty in Lymm faced a similar problem with no budget to hire a receptionist and therefore they were missing important calls and ultimately sales. With the help of SMARTstrat’s call answering service, the beauty salon enjoyed increased profits and didn’t miss one telephone enquiry.
Every lead counts when you’re a small business, and a missed call can not only damage your profits, but your reputation too. 85% of customers will not call back if their call goes unanswered, so not getting to the phone in time could mean passing your lead on to a competitor. At minimum, you should ensure that your office phone forwards calls to your mobile when you’re not at your desk. But this still leaves calls going unanswered if you’re in a meeting or in the middle of a job that can’t be interrupted. Using the help of a call answering service will ensure that all calls are answered professionally and seamlessly, ensuring that your customers can always speak to someone when they need to, and you never miss an opportunity to grow your business.
Many small business owners forgo going on holiday because they’re too anxious about leaving their business is someone else’s hands. Taking time away from the office can be just as important as the hours you spend grafting as it gives you the chance to relax, unwind, and reflect on your business. When you return to work you should be revitalised and may even have some inspired new ideas.
If you employ other people, then trusting them to look after your business whilst you’re away can empower them and help them to grow in confidence and learn new skills. Of course, careful planning and training will need to be carried out beforehand to ensure that everyone is adequately prepared and armed with all the information they may require before you leave. If you work alone then going on holiday can be a little more complicated. If possible, try to wind down business before you go, tying up loose ends and letting clients know the dates that you are away. It may be useful to hire temporary help to look after your business whilst you’re away or enlist the help of a call answering service to make sure that all queries are still dealt with professionally in your absence.
Covering busy periods
Few businesses enjoy a consistent level of sales all year round. Many will find that they experience at least some seasonality. Small peaks and troughs in sales can still be handled comfortably by a small team without too much stress, but during particularly busy periods it can become unmanageable, stressful, disorganised, and even damaging for you or your team to try to take on too much. SMARTstrat were previously approached by Loc8Me Letting and Estate agency, to assist with an overflow of calls from students. With an out of hours service in place, SMARTstrat were able to reduce agency costs by reducing on-call staff and improved morale impacted by burnout and frustration.
Busy periods should be a reason to celebrate, not despair, and whilst it may not make good business sense to employ a new permanent member of staff straight away, seeking temporary help during these times can help your team to work more efficiently and maximise profitability. Temporary help could come in the shape of seasonal staff, contractors, freelancers, a call answering service or a virtual assistant.
Wearing too many hats at once
From accounting to sales and administration to marketing, it’s inevitable that small business owners become adept at wearing many different hats at once. Whilst it’s beneficial to have a sound understanding of each aspect of running your business, it’s also important to ensure that you don’t stretch yourself too thin. Knowing when to delegate tasks to specialists can help your business to perform professionally in all areas whilst also freeing up your time for working on the aspects that you are most skilled in and passionate about.
When the time is right, employing specialists to help with the day-to-day running of your business is the most favourable option. However, small business owners often require more affordable, temporary solutions in the meantime. Outsourcing time-consuming, repetitive, and very specialist tasks can help you to make better use of your time and get jobs done efficiently and to a high standard. It is also a cost-effective and flexible way of gaining the expert help you require to grow a flourishing and professional business.
Many of the problems faced by small business owners could be solved by employing more skilled people. However, hiring permanent staff is a big financial commitment that many small businesses simply cannot afford. As well as wages, full-time employees cost you in holiday, maternity/paternity and sick pay, training, equipment, and increased overheads.
If you look around you will find that it is still possible to receive professional help from skilled, qualified and experienced individuals without permanently employing them. There are plenty of flexible and cost-effective temporary solutions available to small businesses, including freelancers, call answering services, and virtual PAs.
When you outsource tasks to remote specialists you will usually find that you only need pay when their services are required. This flexible approach allows you to invest in specialist skills or knowledge as and when you need it, reducing labour costs, and improving efficiency, whilst providing you with more time to concentrate on your core business.
SMARTstrat’s call answering service ensures that all your business calls are answered seamlessly and professionally, so that you never miss another call, sale or opportunity because you’re not available to answer the phone. Our team can even pick up your calls out of hours in the evenings and at weekends if this is a service that you feel would benefit your business.
Our call answering services start at just £30 per month, for more information or to request a free trial, give our team a call today on 01257 429 677.