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51 Essentials for Small Businesses

Small Business Essentials

For any business, using resources wisely is key to lowering costs and increasing profits.

For small businesses or SMEs, however, it’s essential to use the tools available to ensure your business functions are streamlined. As many businesses have limited resources and relatively tight budgets, making use of human resources, emerging technologies and support services can help to ensure the business remains operational and profitable.

Here are our 51 essentials for small businesses:

1. Bookkeeping support

If you're a small business owner, you'll be familiar with juggling several tasks - such as managing your financials. Managing your accounts properly is imperative for business success. Ensuring compliance with tax legislation and enabling you to identify unnecessary losses, bookkeeping support can easily be outsourced to keep your costs low.

2. Social media marketing

While there are dedicated social media marketing programmes, you may want to outsource your requirements to an experienced marketer. Doing so will ensure that your social media presence is consistent and that your business is posting and sharing relevant content.

Download your free social media content calendar planner.

3. Data management

Using software to automate business data can help to improve business functions but it also ensures that you’re complying with relevant legislation. With updated data management guidelines being launched, using an automated data management programme ensures that you’re adhering to the law and avoids the possibility of fines and sanctions. Furthermore, automated customer relationship management software allows you to collate data according to specific criteria and analyse it accordingly.

4. Website

A great website is essential for any small business. As your digital shopfront, your business needs to speak to your target market and capture their interest instantly. Demonstrate what your business is about and what you have to offer, and you'll find digital success.

5. Remote PA services

Working with a remote assistant provides you with ad-hoc business support whenever you need it and helps to reduce the company’s outgoings. With qualified PAs able to provide a wide-range of services, you can access help with almost any aspect of your business.

Not sure how outsourcing to a remote PA works? Download our analysis of how businesses can save by outsourcing.

6. Accountancy software

Inputting the daily accounts into specific software can help to keep track of where resources are going. Furthermore, keeping a daily record of your accounts enables you to share the data with your bookkeeper or accountant easily.

7. IT support

Unfortunately, companies of all sizes will be hit by IT problems at some point. Whilst you may not require an in-house IT expert on your payroll, having access to IT support can ensure that issues are resolved quickly.

8. Travel management

Whether you travel within the UK or abroad, assistance with travel management can help to free up your time. Identifying the quickest routes, cheapest flights and best hotels, experienced travel managers can make your trips less stressful and far more efficient. As the cost of travel can be burdensome on small businesses, using a travel manager to source low-cost flights and reputable hotels on a budget can make a big difference to your costs.

9. Project management

Many believe that project management is only for big companies, but this couldn't be more wrong. In fact, project management has a significant impact when used properly, and can be used as a business tool regardless of the size of your business. To be an effective and efficient business, you need to be smart, and part of that is ensuring your approach to project management is as good as it can be.

10. Legal support

When launching and running a business, you’ll need legal advice from time to time. Whilst small businesses don’t have the requirements or budget for an in-house legal team, you can access ad-hoc support when you need it. Many law firms provide small business packages which can enable you to access certain legal assistance for a fixed fee.

11. Email management

As a small business owner, you’re likely to be receiving regular emails from investors, shareholders, customers, clients and prospective business partners. It can be difficult to manage this effectively yourself and you run the risk of missing important correspondence. Delegating email management to a professional, such as a remote PA, will ensure timely responses to queries and that your attention is drawn to emails requiring an urgent reply.

12. Mentoring support

Getting advice and support from peers and industry leaders can be extremely beneficial. In addition to expanding your career network and gaining new contacts, you can learn from those who have been successful in your sector. In the fullness of time, you may be able to act as a mentor to burgeoning entrepreneurs as well.

13. Virtual private network

Using a virtual private network, or VPN, helps to keep your business communications secure. Ensuring online privacy, incorporating the use of a VPN could prevent data from being stolen and business information being poached. With many VPNs available for a low monthly subscription fee, they are an ideal tool for small businesses.

14. Video conferencing

Although face-to-face meetings are sometimes necessary, they can be time-consuming. Where possible, small businesses should make use of video conferencing facilities. With many programmes offering free or low-cost video conference facilities, it’s easy to make use of this software. Ideal for liaising with remote staff or staying in touch whilst travelling, video conferencing will make communication much easier.

15. E-commerce integration

If you’re selling products or services online, you’ll need to offer secure, reliable e-commerce solutions. Programmes which facilitate recurring payments and embedded payment platforms require little maintenance and are ideally suited to smaller businesses or SMEs. Facilitating payments from all major card providers, you can ensure that clients and customers are able to purchase goods or services easily in a secure online environment.

16. PR support

Whether you want to boost your position in your industry,  deploy crisis management, or secure favourable coverage in the mainstream or specialist media, using a professional to provide Public Relations support can be advantageous. An experienced PR manager will have access to the relevant media contacts and, as this can be outsourced, you won’t need to finance full-time, in-house PR staff.

17. SEO

In order for your website to be seen by users, you’ll need to invest in Search Engine Optimisation. Whilst you may want to use a remote worker for this, you can also use specially designed software to make your website SEO friendly. Often, a combination of the two provides the best results. By committing to an SEO strategy, you can ensure that your website is ranked highly when relevant keywords are searched for.

18. HR systems and processes

It's important that your employees are constantly supported and that the ecosystem around them works efficiently. Ensuring you have the right Human Resource strategy in place is vital across areas such as recruitment, training, disciplinary, implementing performance reviews and managing existing policies and contracts.

19. Multi-channel support services

Enabling your clients or customers to contact your business in various ways is necessary, rather than optional these days. Helplines, email support and live chat bots are all beneficial, in addition to advertising your postal address. Whilst you may not be able to manage all of these yourself, support software and remote assistants can provide timely responses to online queries.

20. Corporate events management

If you’re entertaining clients, investors or shareholders, you may want to plan and execute a corporate event. Accessing professional assistance can help to create an original event and will also ensure that your engagements are executed without any last-minute problems or issues. As well as this, specialist help can ensure that you’re able to host memorable corporate events within your budget range.

21. Security software

Securing your business data is absolutely vital when it comes to maintaining operations. A loss of data, a cyber attack or hacking could ruin your business overnight so it is cost-effective to invest in robust, reliable security software. Whilst you may need an IT consultant to install the software originally, a well-selected programme can be easy to update and maintain and, therefore, can reduce the cost of ongoing IT assistance.

22. Content management

In order to increase your web presence and engage with your target audience, you’ll need to provide good quality content. Uploading articles and pieces which are original and easy to share will maximise the reach and create an enviable ROI. Outsourcing copywriting requirements ensures that you own high-quality copy, which can be fully SEO optimised.

23. Accountancy support

Using a bookkeeper helps to reduce the cost of accountancy but, from time-to-time, you may wish to seek tax advice from an accountant as well. Accessing ad-hoc support from an accountant ensures that you are operating as tax efficiently as possible and that the structure of your business remains viable. This, combined with the ongoing services of a bookkeeper, helps to reduce costs and tax burdens, thus saving the business money in the long-term.

24. Client and customer support

Dealing with inbound queries can be difficult if you don’t have a large number of in-house staff. Outsourcing customer support to a remote assistant or virtual customer service representative ensures that clients and customers are able to connect with someone at the business at all times and should increase customer satisfaction.

25. Productivity apps

Small business owners and entrepreneurs tend to work more hours than usual. In order to make the best use of your time, you should consider a productivity app. Functional across various platforms and devices, a productivity app will help to ensure that you reach your targets, minimise time lost and help you to create efficient schedules. You may also want to make this app available to other staff members and remote workers so that they, and the business, can benefit from increased productivity.

26. Online marketing

Automated tools to facilitate online marketing are extremely beneficial for small businesses and entrepreneurs. If you don’t have a dedicated marketing team and are too busy to run campaigns yourself, automated software will launch and execute regular online campaigns for you.

27. Contract management software

Whether you’re hiring new staff, working with a supplier or engaging with remote workers, you’ll have contracts to negotiate and formalise. Using software and supplied templates provides a basis for your contracts and allows you to amend them as necessary. By automatically including standard contract terms and enabling you to tweak them, you can be sure that all necessary issues are covered and your business is protected from potentially damaging clauses.

28. Document production

Although it may sound straightforward, document production can be extremely time-consuming. Outsourcing this element of your administration can help to ensure that documents are produced according to your spec and will free up your time so you can focus on other, more important, issues.

29. Password management tools

With almost every website or software programme requiring a unique password, it can be difficult to keep track of your login details. Writing passwords down simply isn’t secure and you could run the risk of losing important data. Using a dedicated password manager tool ensures your details are kept securely and you can share them with relevant employees, should you choose to.

30. Research assistance

Effective research is vital for business success but it’s not as simple as it may seem. Experienced researchers are able to identify useful information quickly and collate it in an appropriate and useful manner. Rather than spending days wading through reams of information, you can outsource your research requirements to an experienced professional and gather relevant data in a cost-effective way.

31. Document management tools

Spending too much time working on documents? Although remote services provide excellent document management tools, there are a range of other options available as well. Whichever programme you opt for, make sure that documents can be shared, edited and uploaded easily.

32. Automated employee management

Your employees and remote workers will require regular appraisals and work-related targets. Using software to facilitate this will ensure that you provide employees with feedback on a regular basis and their work record can be stored safely. Discussing employee performance can increase productivity and staff satisfaction, so this isn’t an area that should be overlooked.

33. Diary management

Managing your own calendar can be unnecessarily complex and you may struggle to make the most efficient use of your time. Using a virtual PA or remote assistant to manage your diary will ensure that your engagements are organised in the most productive way. Specific diary management software can easily be integrated with your devices so you can add or confirm appointments whenever you need to.

34. Cloud computing

Whether you work from home or rent a separate office, cloud computing software is a must-have tool for small businesses. Enabling you to work from any location, you can operate from anywhere and remain connected to your business at all times.

35. Campaign monitoring software

During the course of your work, you may launch numerous campaigns and each one should be better than the last. Employing monitoring software ensures that you can keep tabs on the effectiveness of campaigns. With analytics automatically supplied, you can use this data to help formulate future campaigns and improve upon results.

36. Data recovery plan

Without a data recovery plan, your business may be unable to operate if there is a hardware or IT crash. In many cases, companies which fail to implement a data recovery strategy lose all their business data, client information and contacts when something goes wrong. Backing up important information and having a viable data recovery plan ensures that business can still function if disaster strikes.

37. Payroll support

Ensuring employees and remote workers are paid on time is crucial to keeping staff. Consistent late payments can leave workers facing personal debts and may make them reconsider their employment options. Using a dedicated payroll service ensures that business outgoings are paid on time and that salaries are paid to the right accounts.

38. Tailored apps

In an increasingly mobile world, having a web presence simply isn’t enough. Launching a bespoke app can help you to engage with clients or customers and ensures that your business is accessible to your target market. Whether you facilitate sales, encourage a two-way dialogue or provide purchase incentives, an app can increase sales and profits considerably.

39. Job application tracking

Dealing with job applications is time-consuming for any business but it’s particularly onerous for small businesses. Without a large HR team to handle recruitment, you may be dealing with incoming CVs and applications yourself. Using job applicant tracking software, however, ensures all details are stored in one place and allows you to differentiate between applicants quickly.

40. Email marketing

Still an effective form of marketing, delivering content via email can encourage sales and increase brand awareness. Of course, your email marketing will need to include engaging content and click-through features. Using templates and accessing remote support can significantly reduce the time it takes to create and deliver email marketing content.

41. E-Learning platforms

Many businesses like to train staff on an ongoing basis and there will certainly be industry changes which your staff must be aware of. Using a tailored e-Learning platform to deliver in-house training ensures that content is relevant and that all the necessary issues are included. In addition to this, you can monitor employee performance and avoid the costs of sending employees to external training facilities.

42. Client feedback platforms

Enabling clients and customers to provide confidential feedback can be extremely beneficial for small businesses. Using this feedback to design and develop future services can help to improve your operations and, ultimately, should increase your profits.

43. PPC advertising

As a form of online marketing, “pay-per-click” (PPC) marketing can be extremely cost-effective for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Whilst your advert will reach numerous targets, you’ll only pay for the number of clicks it receives and, therefore, the cost is significantly reduced. Furthermore, those who do click on your advert are likely to be genuinely interested in your product or service and you should find it easier to convert interest into sales.

44. Automated supply chain management

Rather than managing stock manually, automated software can reduce the amount of time you have to spend on supply chain management. Furthermore, using this type of software can reduce the unnecessary costs which arise as a result of unavoidable human error.

45. Online business alerts

You’ll want to know when your company is mentioned online, whether it’s in the mainstream media, on public feedback sites or on social media. Rather than spending hours searching for your business name, you can simply use dedicated tools to alert you when your company name is mentioned online.

46. Information collection software

During the course of your day, you may come across numerous articles which are relevant to your work. However, you may not have the time to read them immediately and it can be difficult to remember them all. Using information collection software ensures that you can save anything you want to refer to later and you can even filter information into specific groups or classifications.­

47. Insurance brokers

Whether you need employee liability insurance, buildings insurance, product insurance or public liability insurance, you’ll want to access the most comprehensive policy at a reasonable price. Using a reputable broker can help you to identify the type of insurance you need and they should be able to help you access cost-effective business insurance solutions.

48. Data visualisation

Accessing industry data can be costly if you don’t know where to look. Data visualisation companies, however, provide information in accessible formats. You can choose the amount of data you wish to access and have it presented in graphs, charts or infographics.

49. Employee feedback

Employees and remote workers are a mine of information and it’s important to listen to their feedback and concerns. Often, it is staff who are able to identify effective streamlining solutions and they may be able to offer suggestions which will lower your outgoings. Providing them with employee feedback software can lead to profitable businesses changes and ensures employees are aware of how much you value their input.

50. SMS marketing

With a read rate of over 90%, SMS marketing can be extremely profitable for businesses. As a relatively low-cost form of marketing, SMS enables potential clients and customers to click straight through to your website if they are using a smartphone. Automated software tools ensure that you can refine text message campaigns and target specific demographics with different content.

51. Administration support

Often, small business owners and entrepreneurs are inundated with administrative tasks. Although many of them are important to business operations, you may struggle to cope with all the necessary administration alone. Fortunately, your administrative tasks can easily be outsourced to a reputable remote PA and you can benefit from virtual assistance.

As our list shows, small business tools come in many forms. Whilst new forms of technology are extremely beneficial to SMEs and entrepreneurs, you shouldn’t overlook the human resources available to you as well.

Using professional remote workers, such as personal assistants, and facilitating their work with business software and apps, for example, will provide you with an efficient and productive workforce, at a relatively low cost.

By combining the range of tools available to small businesses, finding programmes which work for your industry and hiring remote workers who have experience in your business sector, you’ll benefit from streamlined processes, efficient business functions and increased profitability.

How SmartPA can support

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