With 2020 fast approaching, many small business owners have started writing resolutions for the New Year. Often, however, these goals are poorly defined, such as:
- “Get more customers”
- “Save more money”
Without a game plan, the likelihood of succeeding with either goal is small. In fact, most professional and personal New Year’s resolutions ultimately fail due to lack of specificity. But not this year.
Below are 20 actionable small business tips that will help you boost sales, cut costs, and accomplish so much more. Let’s get started.
1. Join the Paperless Movement
Going paperless isn’t simply an environmental decision. It’s also a business one that can save you time and money. That’s because buying, managing, and storing paper carries a host of hidden costs that eat into your profits (and your employees’ productivity). For tips on going paperless, be sure to read this resource.
2. Stop Accepting Physical Checks
No transition to a paperless business is complete if you’re still accepting physical checks. It’s not ecologically sustainable. Worse still, there are many hidden costs associated with this type of payment. Every check received must be opened, recorded, organized, and ultimately sent to the bank for processing.
3. Update Your POS System
If you’re still using a legacy magstripe credit card reader, 2020 is the time to change that. Since the EMV liability shift was introduced in U.S. in 2015, merchants that haven’t switched to the more secure chip card standard continue to put their customers and their business at risk for fraudulent card-present transactions.
Making the switch carries some costs — such as equipment and employee training. That’s why some businesses delay moving to EMV readers. As this article explains, not making the switch is even more expensive.
4. Offer Flextime and Telecommuting
Many managers prefer having their teams on-site during normal business hours. For some businesses (like retail stores), this type of schedule might be necessary.
If your operations will allow it, consider offering your employees flextime or telecommuting work arrangements. Doing so will obviously make them happier. However, recent studies have shown that flexible work schedules can lead to increased productivity and higher profits.
5. Eliminate Fraud From Your Payment Environment
Want to position your business for nonstop growth in 2020? Increasing sales will certainly help. Nonetheless, eliminating payment fraud is arguably just as important — given the out-of-pocket losses, legal fees, and punitive damages you can avoid with a more secure payment environment.
Payment security and fraud prevention is one of the topics we touch on often in our blog. If you’re looking for a crash course on fraud management, we recommend the three handpicked articles below:
6. Start Competing for Business Awards
Competing for local, state, or national business awards is a great way to boost visibility and increase social proof (aka “street cred”). Yet, most companies don’t even take that first simple step — i.e., putting their name in the hat.
You can’t win if you don’t play. If that’s not reason enough, this article outlines four additional ways in which winning awards can help your small business grow.
7. Join the Sharing Economy
What if you could have the best tools, equipment, and talent for a fraction of what you’re currently paying? This is the promise of the sharing economy — a world in which you pay for access and not for ownership.
As an entrepreneur, this means hiring freelancers, using cloud-based software, or renting business-critical equipment on a short-term basis. With this approach, you always have access to the latest and greatest, without having to take on the heavy cost of buying these resources outright.
We’ve written a primer on the sharing economy if you’d like to learn more.
8. Launch a Loyalty Program
Most business owners intuitively understand the value of loyalty programs. With the right setup, you can generate a steady stream of repeat business from satisfied customers.
The main hurdle is getting started. Who has the time and money to build a loyalty program from scratch?
The answer is — you do. As this article explains, launching your loyalty program is a lot easier than you probably realize.
9. Netflix and Grow
From “The Big Short” to “Breaking Bad” to “Freakonomics,” there are countless TV series and movies that can help propel you on your entrepreneurial journey. Studying the mistakes and successes of others will allow you to cover more ground in less time within your business. For some choice recommendations, check out this list of TV shows and movies.
10. Conduct a Security Audit
We’ve already discussed the importance of eliminating payment fraud, but today’s criminals steal a lot more than credit cards and bank accounts. They also want names, addresses, passwords, preferences, and everything else you store about your customers.
That’s why every business owner should conduct periodic security audits. If you’re not sure what that entails, we’ve written some articles to help bring you up to speed as quickly as possible:
11. Get Ahead of Privacy
In fact, now that the GDPR and CCPA have been introduced, you don’t really have a choice. Even if your business isn’t located in the EU or California (which is where these two privacy acts originate), you still need to follow the rules.
12. Stop Hemorrhaging Money
You already know that reducing fraud and going paperless can help your business save money, but these two strategies are just scratching the surface. There are countless ways in which small business owners lose money every single day — often without even realizing it.
To avoid making the same mistake, be sure to read our article on six of the most likely ways that your small business might be losing cash.
13. Explore New Markets and Business Models
Once you have your business model set up, it’s hard to pivot. A mom-and-pop store, for example, can’t easily move its inventory online to compete with the likes of Amazon. Still, you’d be surprised how many opportunities can open with some minor tweaks:
- Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), for example, is one way to establish a stronger “e-commerce” presence.
- If you’re already an e-commerce merchant, it may be worth exploring physical pop-up stores as you test new markets.
Spend some time in 2020 thinking about ways in which you can expand your reach, modify your business, or target new customers — even if you’re on a shoestring budget.
14. Invest Your Tax Refund Wisely
All business owners are constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce their taxes. We’ve written a longer article that explains how to do that. Less talked about is what to do with your annual tax refund.
Most entrepreneurs simply use this money to cover immediate expenses, but it’s possible to invest your tax refund so that it grows your business over time.
15. Put More of Your Business on Autopilot
As an entrepreneur, it often feels like you are constantly putting out fires. That said, it’s possible to put much of your business on autopilot so that you have more time to focus on truly profitable activities that matter.
Payment integration is just one example of how this works. Instead of manually recording every transaction in your accounting, inventory, or sales software, you can have these details automatically imported into your records.
16. Put Your Small Business on a Diet
This tip is similar to the “sharing economy” suggestion earlier. In 2020, you should try to remove as much bloat as possible from your business. For example, why invest in expensive software programs like Microsoft Office when free and lightweight alternatives like Google Drive offer the same functionality.
The same goes for telecom services, accounting software, project management suites, and even to-do lists. There are lots of premium options out there. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, you’re better off using the free (or freemium) suggestions in this article.
17. Redesign Your Site (for Mobile)
In 2016, mobile browsing officially overtook desktop browsing for the first time. If yours is like most websites, it was probably designed for PC users — 2020 is the year to change that.
If your goal is to convert as many online users as possible, redesign your current site for smartphones and tablets.
18. Make SEO a Top Priority
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of ranking well in Google and Bing. When someone types in a keyword related to your business, you want your website to appear at the top of the search results.
There’s a lot that goes into successful SEO. You could spend a lifetime trying to master all of the best practices. We’ve cobbled together three of the most important strategies for standing out in today’s increasingly cluttered digital landscape. If you’re new to SEO, we recommend starting with this resource first.
19. Embrace the Video Revolution
Did you know that YouTube is the second-largest search engine (after Google)? People love watching videos. As a business owner, you should cater to this growing demand as much as possible.
Having a huge budget will certainly make the process easier, but you don’t need a lot to get started. If you have a camera phone and compelling offer — that’s often enough.
However, if you really want to make a dent, we recommend reading 7 Tips for Growing Your Business With YouTube.
20. Share, Share, and Share
When running a small business, it’s easy to become inwardly focused as you try to solve the myriad problems you face as an entrepreneur.
One proven way to grow your business is to look outward. More specifically, you should start helping others achieve their goals, whether it’s through:
These are just examples. There are thousands of ways that you as a person, employee, or business owner can help others — and 2020 is the perfect time to start.
Realistically, you probably won’t be able to implement all 20 of the suggestions above. Tackling even four or five of these tips is likely guaranteed to have a measurable and lasting impact on your business. The only requirement is that you start as soon as possible.
Best wishes in 2020 from all of us at BluePay!