Taking the leap from a part-time to a full-time business
With 2019 right around the corner, just about everyone running a part-time business will soon make at least one resolution for getting their pet venture to the next level in the New Year.
And why not? After all, once most of us get a taste of working for ourselves we tend to prefer that lifestyle. Indeed, a new global study from the Universities of Sheffield and Exeter
in the United Kingdom finds the self-employed enjoy their work and consider it more rewarding than those who work for others - despite the long hours and uncertain job security.
Of course, growing a part-time business to the point that it can become a full-time gig isn’t easy. It means attracting enough new business to justify such a move, having the right employees and delivering a product or service that people really want and need.
Here are 5 New Year’s resolutions you can make to help achieve all of that:
1. Knowing where you stand
Part-time business owners often spend too much time trying to keep the lights on - doing the grunt work they hope will sustain cash flow - instead of assessing or planning.
While you should always pay attention to how much money is coming into a company’s accounts, you won’t grow unless you commit to figuring out what’s next. This means carving out time to scrutinize and analyze the numbers to really understand them. Among other things, it’s important to know who your sales are coming from, when they’re occurring, where they’re happening and what market forces might be affecting them. This knowledge will help you chart a course of action for growth.
Asses your sales patterns at least once per quarter. Don’t just print out a spreadsheet, review a few numbers for an hour and call it good. You need to really get a feel for where you’re achieving goals or missing opportunities. You should be looking at whether you’re investing sufficiently against certain market opportunities and not enough for others. And you should also consider how your one product (hopefully you started out small) is doing well enough to build around, or if the numbers suggest canning it.
Take all of that information and make projections for the future. You can do this on your own or involve a financial advisor to help. The small investment for outside counsel could pay off in the long run.
2. Promoting yourself across channels
We’ve all heard business owners claim they get all their business through word-of-mouth. There’s only one thing to say to this, “famous last words.”
Your business will not grow enough in the Digital Age if you rely on just one channel for all your business. Today’s young people - your customers - have grown up in an online world. They are accustomed to surfing multiple channels to research and ultimately purchase goods. And they do it with ease, flipping between Web and social media sites to learn about various products and brands.
If you hope to reach them, you must do the same and be ready to engage where they are most active. This means having a mix of outreach involving social media marketing and advertising, email campaigns, direct mails and in-store advertising and promotions. It also suggests you’ll need to think about reaching existing and potential customers on a variety of mobile and connected devices, including laptops, tablets and most importantly smartphones.
3. Turning to remote teams
It’s often difficult to convince traditionalists there is value in hiring remote teams. But studies show such scenarios can boost productivity while also reducing operating costs associated with office space.
Indeed, those are just a few of the reasons why 55 percent of hiring managers say remote work is more commonplace than it was three years ago, according to an Upwork survey
With unemployment still below 4 percent and good talent tough to land, flexible work arrangements can help attract talent - especially millennials - who don’t care for being tethered to desks or cubicles. Similarly, utilizing freelancers or outsourced staff can help offset talent shortages, giving companies access to much needed skills that might be in short supply or only needed on a part-time basis.
To make such scenarios fly, you’ll need a thoughtful remote work policy that clearly lays out how the company will enable its tele-commuters and freelancers and what is expected of the workforce. There are plenty of useful online templates to help you get started, including this one from Workable
4. Picking a technology differentiator - and running with it
Here’s a radical idea: don’t just update your technology so you seem more modern. Actually pick something new and exciting, then run with it.
It doesn’t matter if it’s automating customer outreach with artificial intelligence (AI) or livening-up your Web site with video and virtual reality (VR) or advertising through a new digital channel, like Amazon Alexa. It doesn’t even matter if you’re successful. The point is to try something.
Occasionally, taking a calculated risk pays off and delivers more customers, smoother operations and business growth. It also presents an opportunity to market your company as a technology thought leader that today’s young, digitally savvy customers can appreciate.
To succeed with this tip, pick technology most of your competitors aren’t using. You want to stand out. Then go “all in” with it, at least for a while to really observe its benefits.
5. Pressing the flesh
It might seem like blasphemy for a technology leader to suggest such a thing, but once in a while you really do need to step away from your computers and smartphones and go see people face-to-face.
Back in the day, sales people talked about getting out in the field and “pressing the flesh,” which meant meeting and shaking hands. In the Digital Age, this practice has all but given way to impersonal emails, texts, instant messaging and Skype sessions. But any successful sales person will tell you there is still no substitution in business for the value provided by in-person interaction.
To grow your business, commit to getting out of the office and seeing people at least twice a month. Try to schedule appointments with as many as you can during this time. You don’t even have to talk business. The point is to show your stakeholders - whether it’s customers, partners or prospective employees - that they’re important. You might be surprised by how such simple overtures can grow your relationships and expand your business.
Heading into 2019, consider these 5 tips and come up with a resolution or two that you’d like to achieve in the New Year. Then pursue it wholeheartedly. With steady commitment and persistence, it is possible to turn your part-time business into a full-time adventure sooner than you might expect.