4 Necessary Evils Every SMB Needs

Vicki Martinez's picture
Contributor
Vicki Martinez
Contributor
Vicki Martinez wrote:

You’ve done your market research and have no doubt there’s a need for your cutting-edge product or service. Your business plan reads like a Nobel Prize-winning novel. You’ve narrowed down your financing options. You’ve even come up with a logo guaranteed to make you stand out from the crowd.

Congratulations! You’re now prepared to dive headfirst into the world of entrepreneurs and begin living the start-up dream.

Well, not quite yet. The process it took to get here was filled with the exciting, energizing, creative-brain stuff. Now it’s time for some details that are much less glamorous. But if you want your small business venture to thrive and grow, there are some -- yes, boring, but absolutely necessary -- elements you still need to put in place.

Customer Connections

This may seem like a “duh”-type concept -- having a way for potential customers or clients to contact the business -- but it’s where many new businesses make their first mistake. They don’t look at these foundational elements with a big picture mindset.

A phone system must be agile -- one that easily and cost-effectively adapts to increasing customer demand. Taking the time to research an agile communications system will save you time and money in the long run.

Scalability should also include mobile options. With more and more businesses moving to a remote workforce, the ability to access email, voicemail, and the company network is a must-have. Companies not investing in mobile telephony are falling behind the competition. For the newer generation of employee, mobility equals productivity.

Some questions to ask a phone system provider:

  • What are the contract terms? (It shouldn’t be more than one year.)
  • Will I be charged set up fees, activation fees and porting fees? (Some companies waive these.)
  • Does your company run the service or are you a reseller?
  • Are there additional charges for adding new users or new locations?
  • Does the system support mobile use?
  • How long does installation usually take?
  • What type of training is included?

The right phone system is an essential element for any business. Remember, you’re investing for the long-term, so it’s important to choose wisely.

Show Me the Money

Whether your business is brick and mortar or built on an e-commerce platform providing seamless payment options for consumers is a necessary evil. Many owners shudder at the thought of accepting credit cards as payment.

To avoid overpaying for credit card transactions here are a few things to be on the lookout for:

  • Tiered pricing models seem like a “good deal,” but often end up being the most expensive, especially for small businesses
  • Avoid signing a long-term service contract; there are companies that offer month-to-month service
  • Resist the urge to lease equipment, and be wary of companies offering the equipment for free (these processors typically recoup the cost of their “free” equipment through higher rates or hidden fees)

The choices for credit card processors is overwhelming. Begin your vendor research by reading reviews and side-by-side comparisons to narrow down your choices. There are sites available that have already done most of the legwork. This is a huge time and stress saver.

Show Them the Money

Once those credit card payments start rolling in you’ll need to hire employees and, of course, pay them.

Evaluating which services to outsource is one aspect of a business that constantly changes as you grow. It’s reasonable, in your first year, to complete your taxes on your own. But as businesses grow, the first things successful entrepreneurs outsource are their accounting and legal needs.

  • When is it time to look for a payroll service provider?
  • You begin to experience employee turnover
  • Employees do not work the same number of hours in each pay period
  • You hire remote staff who work in different states (payroll taxes can vary by state)
  • It takes you more than four hours to manually process payroll
  • You’re ready to switch to direct deposit

It’s way too easy to make mistakes when it comes to payroll. One minor miscalculation may lead to some major fees and penalties. Payroll services are surprisingly affordable for small businesses. To ensure accuracy -- tax regulations change all the time -- and free up your time for more profit-building activities, leave this one to the professionals.

Get Your Head in the Cloud (Safely)

Cloud computing has come a long way since it’s ethereal beginnings. In this Demand Metric blog post, the author does an excellent job explaining why implementing cloud technology is important in our cyber-driven economy. Let’s go a step further and talk about the next level. Security.

With the ease of use and efficiency comes the potential for data breaches. The good news is that the trends in cybersecurity are keeping pace with advances in cloud tech.

Data is vulnerable whether the information exists in the cloud or in an Excel spreadsheet on a laptop. To protect yourself, your employees, and your customers educate yourself about the potential risks.

  • Look for a cybersecurity company that:
  • Offers a free risk and threat assessment
  • Creates customized solutions based on your unique needs
  • Has experience in your industry and is familiar with any compliance issues
  • Openly explains each stage of the process
  • Provides reporting to measure success, like the number of test cases passed and the percentage of decrease in vulnerabilities
  • Offers employee training on cybersecurity best practices

It’ tempting for SME owners to ignore the issue. However, hackers are just as interested in small business as they are huge corporations. According to recent statistics, over 40-percent of all cyber attacks in 2016 targeted businesses with less than 250 employees. Cybersecurity is a must-have.

 

Choosing the right vendors that meet your unique business needs is crucial to building a strong foundation on which to grow. Demand Metric has a suite of vendor evaluation tools designed to make vendor comparison easier.

Every start-up is unique. Each entrepreneur faces their own individual challenges. The ones who anticipate and prepare for the changes every business will eventually face are often the ones that survive.

+
Vote up!
-
Vote down!
+2 votes