5 ways flexibility can help your business grow
Technology has been one of the most significant enablers to business in the past decade. Over half a million people each year in the UK become their own boss – because they can. Technology gives you the flexibility to start a business in your spare time and keep growing through entering new markets and hiring a top team.
Enterprise Nation founder, Emma Jones MBE, has a few ideas about how flexibility is key to the success of small businesses.
1. Start by working 5 to 9
Employees in their thousands are starting a business while holding onto a job. It’s the best way to start as you give yourself time to build cashflow and confidence in the business, without giving up the security of a salary. Many people start a business based on spotting a gap in the market or turning a passion, hobby or skill into a way of making a living and this is often in an area that’s very different to the day job ie there’s no conflict.
When I wrote the book Working 5 to 9 back in 2010, I spoke to employers who were delighted that team members were starting up new enterprises as it meant they were developing new skills, without the employer having to pay.
2. Build a profile and make sales
Technology has been a friend of the small business owner when it comes to getting known and turning a profit. Small businesses have embraced social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn to post, tweet and share, and quickly become an expert in their field. Mastering social media costs nothing but your time and comes with built-in flexibility as you can pre-schedule content using tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer.
3. Make more sales
Attract repeat customers using tech techniques such as email marketing, which acts as a regular reminder that you’re still in business – and have offers in store. The most popular email tools we see used include Mailchimp, SignUpTo and Constant Contact.
Scale up sales by selling to larger customers where you can, such as the Government. Did you know there’s a government commitment to spend £1 in every £3 with small businesses by 2020? That spells a big opportunity for you. Contractsfinder offers the chance to select the opportunities that fit your product or service and, if tech or digital is your offer, get yourself onto the GCloud framework. Government is harnessing technology and online platforms to ease the buying process – and open up opportunities to all businesses, regardless of size.
4. Go global
With a decent website, you have a window onto the world. Despite worries about Brexit, small British businesses are feeling bullish about exporting – something we’ve seen at first hand with the popularity of our upcoming Go Global missions.
Consider trading on powerful marketplaces such as Etsy and Amazon which can open you up to millions of international customers, or build a professional e-commerce presence with site builders such as Squarespace and Wordpress which require little tech knowledge and can be launched on a budget. With monthly payment plans, you have the flexibility to increase capacity or scale back, whenever you please.
5. Hire a top team
As the business and sales grow, you’ll want to build a team around you. With many employees (the younger generation, new mums, the recently retired) looking for flexible work, this is what you have to offer to attract the best. Use tools such as Yammer, Trello and Basecamp to stay connected to a team that can be operating at different times and across borders.
But don’t forget the totally non-tech social gathering for your team to ensure your people come together to understand the company vision, their role in achieving it, and to build common ideals.
All these steps require a flexible approach and an open mind. The technology is available to enable us to sell, manage money and build a brand – it’s all possible to achieve in your spare time and while working on the move. In short, if you embrace the power of the flexible economy, the world and its customers could be yours.
Emma Jones is founder of Enterprise Nation, delivering modern business support for just £4 a month. O2 Business customer? Want expert business support free for 12 months? Sign up free to Enterprise Nation
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