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CORTEZ: How to position your small business for success

Last month, private sector employment in the United States added approximately 237,000 jobs — the highest gains since December 2014 — according to a national employment report produced by Automatic Data Processing Inc.

Of those jobs, companies with more than 1,000 employees added 5,000 employees. Those with 500 to 999 employees added 27,000, and mid-sized businesses (with 50 to 499 employees) added 86,000 jobs. Small businesses employing 50 or fewer people brought in the lion’s share of new jobs with 120,000.

Since 1995, small businesses (defined by the SBA as an enterprise having fewer than 500 employees) have generated more than 65 percent of the nation’s new jobs. There are almost 28 million small businesses in this country, and more than 50 percent of the working population works in a small business. Clearly, small businesses are the backbone of this country’s economy, but with only a quarter of new employer firms surviving 15 years or more, how can their success rate be improved upon?

As diversity manager at the Rives E. Worrell Co., a JE Dunn Construction Co., I work with minority- and woman-owned firms to enhance business acumen by focusing on the five pillars that make small construction businesses successful. These pillars, however, are the same ones that make any small business successful, whether it’s a restaurant, a technology startup or a service company.

The five elements that every small business needs to function and operate successfully include the following:

Information technology (IT)

The right IT systems allow business owners to get more accomplished in less time. It is imperative to understand how IT can impact your business and ensure there are systems in place so you can hit the ground running.

Conduct a technology inventory for your business and then perform a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. You can then align your principal business goals with the right technology tools.

Operations

Running and growing a small business will always be challenging, but having a solid foundation of operating principles can make it easier. Do you have a clear process that is documented? Do you make decisions based on data and own the operation from start to finish? If you focus on the three Ps — process, people and product — you will have a successful business.

Accounting

The importance of hiring a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) cannot be overstated. You’re busy running your business, so you need someone who can create a realistic plan with a budget, record your transactions correctly and keep accurate records. You need to focus on the profitability of your business and your access to capital in order to have an accurate financial and growth plan.

Human Resources

A business is only as successful as its employees. Recruiting and retaining talented people is one way to ensure your business’ success. Oftentimes small business owners drop the ball when it comes to human resources issues by hiring too hastily, failing to update their employee handbook or refusing to invest in employee training.

Make an investment in your employees — especially their wages and benefits — and your business will reap the rewards.

Sales/marketing

Branding is more than just a buzzword. It helps your customers and potential customers identify your company and its value. Having great products and services is a critical part of your brand, but what differentiates you from the crowd? How can you leverage that “stand out” factor and grow the appeal of your brand without breaking the bank?

A company website, business cards and social media are all part of a branding strategy that will help you find the right opportunities to compete.

Owning and managing a small business means having to take on multiple roles, from accounting to marketing, to human resources. Saying you need to be an effective multi-tasker is an understatement. The fast pace of business — and the fear of change — can often keep small business owners from implementing changes in any of the above categories.

Don’t be afraid to succeed.

 

Cherelle Cortez is the diversity manager at the Rives E. Worrell Co., a JE Dunn Construction Co. She can be reached at Cherelle.Cortez@jedunn.com or 912-354-1386.

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