A new year brings new resolutions and in business it should be no different. When you’re the one running the company, making resolutions to break the bottlenecks that are constraining your company will help drive your business’s growth and success.
Here are five business bottlenecks that you could resolve to leave behind.
1. Financial spreadsheet hell
When your accounting and financial activity is almost entirely carried out on spreadsheets, then you end up in “spreadsheet hell”. Your data has to be manually inputted into several different systems or spreadsheets, none of which will automatically talk to each other, and you can never seem to get accurate reports or a sensible answer to a business-critical question.
You can easily unblock this bottleneck with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. It doesn’t have to cost tens of thousands of pounds, nor take six months to implement. For smaller companies, there are low-cost and even free, open source systems. And even NetSuite, the acclaimed, cloud-based system, has low-cost options priced per user that are aimed at small businesses.
2. Unclear sales pipeline
If it’s just you that is responsible for the sales in your company, then you probably know everything about the prospects in your pipeline – even down to their inside leg measurements. But it’s likely that you share the responsibility with at least one business development employee, and so you need to have a clear view of your prospects.
Again, it’s software that can help out here. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can give you a 360 degree view of your prospects and help you to nurture them through the pipeline until they become fully-fledged customers.
Most ERP systems include a CRM element, but if you’re not in spreadsheet hell because you already have a reliable accounting software system, then a separate CRM package might be the way to go. Again, there are lots of free CRM options, including suitable small business software, such as HubSpot, ZohoCRM and Insightly. These packages can help you see the wood for the trees and can handle your customer acquisition, marketing and sales strategies.
3. Not enough time for HR management
Small businesses sometimes have a person that can help out with HR, but it’s once again one of those areas that as it grows having HR management tools can be beneficial.
Juggling requests for leave, logging sickness and absence, managing expense claims, tracking appraisal and managing performance all take up a lot of time.
Once again, it’s software that can save the day here. You don’t need to hire a full-time HR professional. Instead, there are some brilliant software packages that will manage it all for you. One, breatheHR, runs in the cloud and even gives employees self-service access, meaning they log their own absences and put in their holiday requests themselves. It has a low monthly fee and transparent pricing that is geared according to the number of staff you have.
4. Low customer demand
You know your product or service is great. After all, it’s provided you with a living for the past twenty or so years. But if you don’t have the available time or expertise to promote it, then how can you expect new potential customers to find out about your business?
You almost certainly won’t have the marketing expertise yourself, nor the budget to put a new marketing manager on the payroll. So how can you keep on top of things like social media, writing great sales emails and producing engaging content and blog posts for your website?
Outsourcing can ease this pressure point for you. You could hire a freelance marketing consultant for just a few days a month at a fraction of the cost of a permanent employee. You can source qualified marketing freelancers on sites like People Per Hour. And websites like Bark and Bidvine will also take your free adverts, but will just charge the freelancer a one-off fee to reply to your enquiry, rather than take a cut of any ongoing fees.
5. Poor communication
This is a top bottleneck for all businesses. In the UK, we seem to have a habit of talking around a subject and never quite saying what we mean. In sales situations, we leave a meeting thinking it’s all gone quite well, only to discover the following week that we’ve lost a deal, yet we don’t understand why. Or in a management situation, we think we’ve got the point across to our staff, only to find that something was lost in the communication.
Business training company, Interactifs, has solved this issue with its innovative approach. You say what you mean – without being impolite – and ask for what you want. The discipline is a bit more involved than that, and the training takes several days, spread out over a period of some months. But Alan Palmer, who runs the UK arm of the company, has written a book called Talk Lean that gives an enlightening introduction to this very effective approach. It promises “a way of communicating at work that cuts the time-wasting, gets straight to the point and ensures you get the results you want, quickly – and all without alienating anyone”. Give it a try if communication is a pain point in your organisation.
So, whether it’s finance, marketing, HR, sales or just general communication issues, there’s a business bottleneck to be overcome in 2017. Unblock these bottlenecks and your company will be more productive and more efficient. Where will you start?