Given the current economic downturn, local SMEs are apprehensive about 2017’s prospects. Surveying over 3,600 SMEs in the last quarter of 2016, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF)-DP SME Index saw a 0.4% dip from previous reports. Created to measure the sentiment of business owners in Singapore, the latest results were a mere 49.8%, where 50% and above indicate positive outlooksi.
In such a climate, it is more important than ever for small businesses to tighten up and strategise. Here’s how your business can grow and flourish in the new year.
Expand your network
Networking can open plenty of doors for a growing company. Between finding potential partners, raising your company’s profile and sharing industry information, businesses have plenty of opportunity to grow with an expanded network.
For effective networking, plan in advance. For each event you attend, try to find out who your fellow attendees will be, and select the ones you find most beneficial to your business. Be genuine to garner their trust, and brush up on your market knowledge before every event. Aspire SG’s Amy Kirby recommends reading industry publications on the day itself to stay updated, so you can offer valuable insight or ideas when possible. “You will be remembered for this and people will often approach you again down the line, or recommend you to people.”ii
For news on the latest networking events, try Event Brite.
Drop what doesn’t work
The New Year is the perfect time for some corporate spring cleaning. Whether it’s a product that doesn’t budge from shelves, or a supplier with non-competitive pricing, reassess what your business can do without. Review your hardware and software. Are there updated, more efficient versions available? Chances are, your productivity will increase if you’re up to date on the latest solutions and equipment.
Microsoft’s OneNote for example, just rolled out an update that enables you to record audio while taking down meeting notes. This new feature even includes timestamps, allowing you to skip to a certain part in the recording when you click on its corresponding paragraph in your notes. This makes reviewing minutes or conference notes simpler and much faster.
You can also save time with software that automatically detects updates, like the cloud-based StarHub.
Refresh your strategy
SME centres provide small businesses with assistance, including consultations on improving operations and strategy, tailor-made for your business. You can also stay up to date with the latest disruptive trends like the sharing economy, the Internet of Things or Snapchat marketing and try to integrate that into your own business.
If you’re planning on giving your strategy and operations an update, SPRING’s Business Strategy Innovation scheme could help fund your endeavours. The scheme taps on the Capability Development Grant to give companies funding for improvements like market gap analysis, and business model innovation
Clean up your online presence
Whether it’s your website or social media, ensure that the information displayed is up to date. Outdated information “confuses search engines, causing your business to show up lower on results pages”.iii
Make it as easy as possible for customers to find your brand and its products online. Research shows that the top factor that makes a difference in local searches is a structured citation.iv A structured citation contains your company information (name, address, contact number) in a format easily recognised by Google, like the one below:
Despite the general pessimism among SMEs, economic forecasts predict that things will pick up. On the back of a strong rebound in Q4, with economic growth at 1.8%v, SMEs can spur further growth with networking, a fine-tuned business plan and a stronger online presence.