Spring is fast approaching and many parts of the country are preparing for sunnier skies and warmer weather. As a small business owner, you have some prep work to do as well. Spring cleaning doesn’t just have to involve literal cleaning (although, what a better time to do it), but it can also include upgrades to different systems or hardware your business is currently using. Consider implementing a new payroll system. Nowadays, everything is done online and you can bet there are many excellent online payroll systems to make it easier for you to pay your employees and manage other things like benefits and taxes. Start utilizing social media. Having a website for your business is no longer the only thing to help you stay competitive in today’s landscape, especially with the younger generations like Millennials or Generation Z. Try promoting your business on different social media websites like Facebook and Instagram, where you can showcase a new product or service your company is offering and see how people react to it. There's a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it, but luckily all of these steps are easy and simple and will ultimately help get your business ahead in time for spring.
Consider a New POS System
You can’t get by as a small business in the 21st century without a functional and efficient POS system, or “point of sale system”. A point of sale system is the place in your business where a retail transaction occurs. This may involve using a cash register to calculate payment followed by a printed receipt; or at least, that’s how POS systems used to work. Increasingly so, new POS systems are being adopted by businesses that are “cloud-based”, or work using the internet. These systems are usually much faster and allow a simpler check-out process as they have features of modern technology including touch screens that allow people to sign with just a touch of their finger as well as the option to get a receipt sent directly to the customer’s phone or email. One of the most popular cloud-based POS systems is Square. The Square app is free to use on your phone and you can opt-in for a free credit card reader. This makes calculating transactions fast and simple and requires little work on the part of the cashier as all the hardware you’d need is a cell phone and the small Square card reader. Square allows you to store customer information like emails and phone numbers, helps you manage staff, is able to draw up sales reports, and for a cost, you can implement customer loyalty programs, use Square’s payroll system and there’s even a gift card function. Upgrading your POS system is something you’ll want to highly consider as it makes marketing to customers much easier as you have all of their contact information right in front of you. You can follow up with email newsletters with your latest products or promotions, in turn, increasing the potential to grow your business as you have a new way to reach out to customers. While most modern POS system can be costly, they are an investment that may bring value to your business. If you haven’t allocated resources to invest in new equipment, perhaps you should consider obtaining an SBA Loan or a Merchant Cash Advance. In How Can The Small Business Owner Survive?, we discussed how quick financing options may be a viable option to fund most of your business projects.
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Utilize Social Media
Not that having an updated and stylish website isn’t important, but now, how you use social media is even more important. According to a Statista survey, as of January 2018, 214 million people are on Facebook in the United States. In the same year on Instagram, there were 104.7 million U.S. users. Twitter lagged just a bit behind, but remained one of the biggest social media networks, at 66 million U.S. users as of the end of 2018. These three social media networks are a great way to market your business and reach a large group of people in a short amount of time, and there are tons of easy and creative ways to do this. Try using the “stories” function that is on all three platforms, in which you can take a quick video or picture that will appear for a limited time. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, people can view these stories on the main page of the sites and are extremely easy to view on mobile devices. Many younger users enjoy viewing these stories as it is a quick snapshot of what’s their friends and business they follow are up to and since you can only view these stories for 24 hours, users are checking constantly to see if any new content was posted.
Implement a New Payroll System
Meeting payroll deadlines weekly or biweekly can be a difficult undertaking, but an extremely necessary one, as your employees rely on you for their livelihood. Having a good system of payroll will help you most efficiently keep track of and pay your workers in a timely manner. There are excellent online payroll systems to help you do just that. Gusto is an online payroll system that allows you to manage payroll, benefits and other human resources tasks all in the same place. It automatically calculates a company’s local, state and federal taxes and then pays and submits these taxes and forms for you. Gusto is great because you don’t have to use several systems to keep track of and manage payroll but instead it's just one system that calculates everything for you. The base price is $39 per month plus another $6 per person.
OnPay is a user-friendly and thorough system that allows you to customize things like staff size in order to make the payroll process simpler. It also sends out immediate payments online and does your tax filing for you. It is very easy to enter data like hours, bonuses, tips, etc., to make sure you’re accurately paying your employees. Like Gusto, OnPay helps you manage benefits like 401(k) retirement and health insurance. A great feature of OnPay is that your employees can log on to the website to update information on their end and allows them to view their tax forms and pay stubs on their own time, freeing you up to worry about other pressing matters. You can also easily enter payroll data such as hours, bonuses, reimbursements, and tips. The lowest price per month to use OnPay is $36/month and employees can be added for $4/month per user.
If you’re having trouble locating the funds to provide your employees with the wages they’ve earned, seeking out assistance from a merchant financing company can help ease the strain on your business’ budget.
Now is also a great time to evaluate how you manage your inventory. Miscalculations or discrepancies in inventory can have a devastating effect on your business’s finances so you need to make sure you are using the best inventory system that suits your individual company’s needs. Many of the cloud-based POS systems have exceptional user-friendly inventory management systems allowing you to easily input your full inventory into the system. With the Square app, for example, you can access your inventory from your iPhone or iPad as long as you have access to the internet. So if you’re at the store for example and are wondering if you need more plastic cups you can just pull the Square app up on your phone and see how high or low your plastic cup stock is. Square also sends you daily reminders with your stock level so again, you’ll know if a certain item is low in stock. Have you considered changing your menu or offering a new item in your store exclusively during the spring? Offering “one-time” exclusives can be a great strategy to boost your business sales. Not only can having an up-to-date Inventory System help you project future sales, but it can also help you clear out items from your inventory more efficiently. For instance, if you order too many tomatoes, you may temporarily introduce a new tomato soup to your menu instead of letting them go to waste.
Up Your Customer Service Game
Finding ways to retain existing customers and attract new ones while continually providing the best service you can, is a challenge that faces many small businesses. And even if you think your business is on top of the customer service game, there are always ways to improve customer experience. The start of a new season is a great time to work on your business’s customer service efforts. A new CRM system, or “customer-relationship management” system might be the way to go if you want an improved way to interact with customers. Salesforce Essentials is one of these systems and gives you the ability to respond to specific questions from customers, lets you input responses to FAQs and even uses Gmail allowing you to easily communicate with your customers. Salesforces access your email and calendar to find information on existing customers so you’re able to view information on every customer, making it simpler for you to cater to individual needs. Consider rewarding customers with a customized gift included in their purchase, such as a tote bag with your company’s logo. That way wherever they carry that bag they’ll always see your business’s name and remember what a great experience they had. To ensure that this experience is top notch, take the time to reach out individually to customers on top of your normal automated emails. Give a quick phone call to see how the customer’s experience was and see if there was anything you could have done to make it better. When patrons are in your business, approach them and make friendly and genuine conversation. As great as email and social media communication can be, adding a more personalized approach can make the customers feel even more valued, knowing you’re taking the time out of your day to reach out over the phone or talk to them in person. This way, you’ll keep them coming back to your business again and again.
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You probably always hear people talking about “going green”. Today, people are more concerned than ever with being environmentally friendly and treat it with the utmost importance. Maybe you’ve wondered if going green will actually help your business and have pushed off efforts to move in that direction. Well, as trees are getting greener and more birds are chirping again, there’s no better time to go green than right before springtime. It might sound like a vague concept or one that could involve many difficult steps, but actually, it’s quite simple and can have many benefits for your business. For example, start by going paperless. Give customers the option on the payment screen to get their receipt texted or emailed to them rather than wasting paper on a printed receipt. By doing this, you’ll be saving paper while adding to the database of information you have on your customers, allowing you to keep an updated list of their cell phone numbers and email addresses so you can reach as many customers as you can by text or email with promotions or updates on your business. By having a wider database of contact information, this increases the likelihood of your business to reach a larger group of people. This will hopefully draw in more customers, improve your marketing efforts and in the end, hopefully, your business's profits. By simply going paperless you’re already headed in the direction of going green with one easy step, which can have tremendous positive effects on your business’s success.
Of course, any time of the year is a good time to think about shaking things up in your business and choosing one or more of these suggestions to follow. Even if you don’t see increases in profits right away, or the number of people that walk through your business’s doors every day doesn’t automatically increase, there is one group of people that will notice: your existing customers. The people you’ve already won over and who are loyal to your business will take notice when they see you making moves to change because they know that you are making an effort to advance the business. They know when something is different before. If your business has had the same POS system for 5 years and all of a sudden you upgrade to a modern one, these customers will no doubt see the change. Then hopefully they’ll spread the news to their friends, and those friends will tell their friends, and so on. Word of mouth is perhaps the most powerful tool of all and something you can always capitalize on, even if you take baby steps right away and build towards something bigger.