By Dylan Kohlstadt
As entrepreneurs and business owners, we have to wear many hats: CEO, rain-maker, negotiator, tenant, employer, supplier, and the list goes on.
However, as we grow in business, the gaps in our knowledge start to show as our core business strengths begin to shine through, and our ‘wing it on a prayer’ approach to everything else stops being effective.
When that starts to happen, and balls start dropping. It’s time to take a long, hard look at yourself and your business and realise that there are some skills you just cannot fake.
1. Get Organised
We’re often so busy being busy that we feel we haven’t got the time to stop and get organised. This limits our growth and ability to scale dramatically.
There’s only so much information you can store in your head, and the thought that you’ve forgotten something will keep you up at night and rob your team of much-needed responsibility and accountability.
Here’s what works for us:
1. Systems and Processes:
As a growing creative marketing agency we reached a point where running our job tracking, internal comms and invoicing off of emails and ‘say-so’ just wasn’t working anymore. Streamlining your business’s systems and processes is something you should consider if you want to grow.
– Asana is great for task-tracking in our respective creative teams, and integrates well with Time Doctor, an effective time-tracking tool. Asana also gives you the option to allow a project to be shared with a client, so that the client is continually kept in the loop on the progress of their project. With Asana and Time Doctor integrated, you can see the total time spent on projects as well as the time put in by each employee, making invoicing a breeze when the time comes (you can even view which tasks are being worked on in real-time).
– We use Slack for internal communications. It is great for group discussions and better than email as far as team participation and community goes. All of your essential comms and documents will be stored on a cloud, so you’ll have no more missing or deleted documents to worry about.
2. Financial Management
While your business is an owner-operated entity, managing your own books might be sufficient. However, when you have a staff compliment, multiple clients with varying payment agreements, debts and overdrafts to manage, it’s time to consider looking for effective ways to manage your finances.
As I see it, you have three options:
1. Full time: If you can afford to hire a bookkeeper or accountant full time, then go for it. Having someone handle your tax, payroll, invoices and accounts is an essential skill your business needs.
2. Outsource: Alternatively, if you feel this is not a full-day workload, consider outsourcing your financial management work to companies who offer these services, such as OutsourcedCFO.
3. Systems: You could also consider upgrading your business software to a package that includes accounts and invoicing, stock and staff management and order tracking. We like using QuickEasy Software’s BOS for this.
2. Marketing Your Business
Marketing is often the last thing small businesses spend money on, even though it is the primary way to gain new business and grow your bottom line. Everything else seems more pressing, but when it comes to gaining competitive advantage, marketing is the one skill you cannot afford to overlook, or try and fake.
Here Is What You Need:
1. Marketing Strategy: You’ve invested so much time and money in refining your product, your service and your business strategy, that you might feel everything will simply fall into place when you open your doors for business. The customers will just flock to you because of your amazing product, right?
Wrong. They can’t buy from you if they’ve never heard of you.
A marketing strategy will make sure your business can launch off the starting blocks, with all systems firing. This will set the tone for everything you do to bring new business through your doors.
2. Digital Marketing: Marketing your business through digital (online) channels is the most effective way to spend your marketing budget. It is more measurable, targeted and controllable than print marketing, and if it is not already, should become a primary vehicle of your business’s engagement with your customer.
a. Website Development: In the beginning, having a one or two page ‘brochure-type’ website so that you have a website address on your business card is fine. However, when you want to gain competitive advantage online you will need to hand over the reins to pro’s in the know. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – a fancy way of saying your website can be found by Google – is where your primary focus should be for your website as you compete for rankings on page one. Companies on the rise invest in microsites, keyword-rich content, fresh content, effective graphic design and usability testing to ensure they are on page one. This one cannot be faked as SEO talks to so many elements on a website that requires a holistic approach to effective website design. You need an expert to help you with this.
b. Social Media: If you, the business owner, are trying to do your business’s social media, I can guarantee you that you’ve already alienated a fair portion of your customer base with your hard sell posts and ‘features-led’ content. Posting for business has nothing to do with your latest products or even your red hot sale, but everything to do with how your customer thinks and feels. Getting a handle on that requires a bit more insight than you have time to gather, seeing that you’re spending your days and nights running a business.
c. Email Marketing: Another highly effective tool in your digital marketing strategy is email marketing. Tapping into your customer database of clients who have asked to hear of your latest news and specials and want to engage with your brand is a wide open door to your customers’ hearts. If you’re not using it yet, you should be.
3. Brand Management
This might sound like something only big corporates need, but if you even have only one customer, they are having an encounter with your brand. You need a brand strategy.
a. Brand Strategy: Before you define your strategy, you need to find out who your customer is, what drives their behaviour and what emotions are triggered for them to engage with your business. It is also a great way to find out what your current customers think of you and how they experience your brand, in comparison with your competitors.
b. Brand Identity: Defining how your company looks (logo, colours, font, uniforms, signage, letterheads, business cards, etc.), how your company sounds (tone, style, what language you use) and your tactical approach (how your company acts and behaves, from the tea lady to the CEO) will be what sets you apart from your competition.
c. Team: Once you realise that your team is the biggest brand experience your company offers your clients, as well as the best product your business has to offer, you will become as lethal with hiring as we are. We made the call that we hire brand; we can train skills. If someone smelled of smoke, looked hung-over, was not friendly or eager to work hard, even if they had the desired skills, we would not hire. Hiring the brand is probably the most important thing to remember when hiring new people.
Where will you find the time to do all of this? We found that partnering with companies who specialise in these skills, like Shift ONE for marketing and brand services, who have a footprint in South Africa and all over the world, will free you up to work more effectively on your business.
awayout Dylan Kohlstadt
Dylan Kohlstädt is the founder and CEO of Shift ONE – a digital and marketing agency that specialises in growth hacking our clients from garage to global.
Dylan is an online and marketing expert who is passionate about growing her clients’ businesses without breaking the bank.
Dylan has 20 years marketing management experience in online, insurance, financial, gaming and property industries involving web, mobile, SEO, CRM and Social Marketing and is considered a subject matter expert on all things digital.
She has extensive local and international experience (South Africa, UK and Australia), has managed global and national brands and is experienced in managing multiple product ranges in multiple languages and countries. Dylan also has an MBA through UNISA SBL.