There’s a lot to love about running your own business – being your own boss, making a living from something you’re passionate about, working the hours that suit your lifestyle. These are most likely among the reasons why you decided to go out on your own in the first place.
But it isn’t all milk and honey. Running a small business is often stressful and many owners are concerned about their ability to achieve financial success.
A new national research report commissioned by American Express shows that it’s a precarious way of life for many small business owners. In ‘The Economy of Shopping Small: Back Your Backyard’, half of those in business for less than two years said they were at moderate or significant risk of becoming insolvent within the next three to five years.
And it’s not just relatively new owners that worry about the continued viability of their business. More than one-quarter (27 per cent) of those in business between 10 and 20 years have the same fears.
When asked what they’re most concerned about, small business owners most frequently cited increasing energy prices (49 per cent), increasing costs (47 per cent) and the Australian economic climate (45 per cent).
These top concerns were unchanged from 2017. On a brighter note, all three issues were worrying fewer small business owners than 12 months ago. The only concern that increased from last year was finding new staff with the right skills, which was up from 26 per cent to 36 per cent.
Fighting for the future
But the research shows that small business owners are a passionate bunch who’ll fight for their future. One in three (34 per cent) has dipped into personal savings to fund their business and 21 per cent have missed, rescheduled or postponed a family holiday because of a business commitment.
So it’s no surprise to see many exploring ways of attracting more customers through technology. They’re looking to improve how they use social media (32 per cent), increasing online sales (28 per cent) and using more technology (27 per cent).
But many are still failing to make use of the digital business options available to them – only 38 per cent are using social media for marketing and only a quarter accept sales and bookings through a website.
It’s folly for any small business to underestimate the value of investing in an online presence. If you haven’t already, prioritise the development of a strong online brand that clearly explains what sets your business apart. Utilising this website to create a channel of interest and sales whilst building on a unique in store experience is the way of the ‘omnichannel retailer’.
And, once you have a digital strategy in place, look for tools that can help you learn more about your customers. That’s the most effective way to provide great customer service, build loyalty and stay competitive.
The research shows that small businesses using social media marketing, have a website with online sales functionality or accept orders through a third-party site are more likely to experience revenue growth. Running a small business is difficult enough so make use of digital business opportunities and spend more of your valuable time with customers.
Brian Walker, CEO, Retail Doctor Group.