As a small-business owner, the idea of flexibility can be both enticing, in that it looks great from the outside, and terrifying at the same time. I mean, if you try something new and it doesn’t work, often there’s no walking away without taking a serious hit to your financials (and/or confidence).
So you don’t. You stick mostly to the standard, tick the boxes and keep going. It’s not a terrible plan. The idea is that it helps you keep pace with your customers. The reality is, it might be keeping you a step behind your competitors. Being flexible isn’t about making decisions on a whim, it’s about being nimble and adapting fast to be the best option for your clients.
Flexibility starts with avoiding doling out cash on “traditional” things of corporate-land you don’t actually need. Sure, there’s a list of essentials to get your business off the ground. But it’s becoming shorter and shorter.
Depending on your business, you might find you can go without a work vehicle, a receptionist/admin staff, an expensive office or even a physical location. With each new ‘non-essential’ you take out of your budget, you’ll find yourself more able to spend on things that will help your business’ bottom line.
Work from a space that makes the best sense – home, a flexible office, or a co-working space. If you only need meeting rooms when you have big projects, don’t burn your finances on a big office you won’t need again for months – the same goes for staff – use temps or better still virtual staff only when you need them.
Flexibility is on the rise and there are plenty of tech and tools available for the adaptable entrepreneur if you do your homework and seek them out.
So, minding your expenses is a great defensive play, but with flexibility you also get to be aggressive.
As you might have heard hundreds of times over the last few years, big data is a big deal. Research algorithms work quickly and on a massive scale, producing new insights into the business landscape rapidly. As an SME, you need to move just as quickly. They say opportunity doesn’t knock twice and often, in business, it just rings the doorbell and runs away.
Read some interesting product or marketing research lately? Spend a little time checking your facts and then test it out within the week. Start to notice a particular location is giving your site a lot of hits? Pick up the phone and call your contacts in that area, see if you can suss out a way to capitalise.
For a large business, these decisions could take weeks or even months to pass through all the stages of sign-offs and meetings. For small business, it can happen much, much quicker. Sure, you might not have the cash to conduct focus groups like big business, but you also don’t have to wait for them. Trends in business are exploding and vanishing faster than ever, by the time big business is done with its own processes the next big thing might be yesterday’s news.
Ultimately, the upshot is that your flexibility must be just that, flexible. Keep what works from conventional business, but don’t limit your own potential by playing to someone else’s strengths. That which doesn’t bend will break, so it’s time to limber up – and get ahead.
Roland Farrugia, Virtual Services Advisor, Serviced Offices International