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Small steps lie at the heart of growth for Britain’s small businesses

Mark Moore, founder of Ingenious Britain believes that a step-by-step, systematic approach to everyday business problems is the best way for Britain’s SMEs to grow and be successful in today’s tough economy.

It’s no secret that SMEs in today’s economy are in a tough situation, acting as the lifeblood and future of the UK’s economic growth but continuing to battle with access to finance, red tape and resource. Despite extra support for SMEs from the government and other bodies, these barriers to growth continue to exist – and SMEs need to seek ways of addressing these challenges in order to continue to be successful.

There is a lot to think about and consider for a small business operating in the UK, from day-to-day operations to broad strategic thinking and long-term planning for the future success of the business. However, I believe many business owners and managers would benefit from taking a step back, and pragmatically considering whether there is one thing about their business that they could do better which would demonstrably impact the profitability of the business. By breaking business challenges up into smaller chunks they can then address them one after the other – it’s the small steps that make a big difference in a challenging economy.

Independent research, recently commissioned by Ingenious Britain found that on average small business leaders across the UK are spending almost a third of their day on tasks that aren’t core to business operations. One in four SME business owners and managers spends 50% of the day on non-core activities and one in 10 is guilty of spending up to 90% of their time on activities that aren’t directly related to driving business growth. How surprised should we be by these findings? Business owners and managers know that they need to focus on activities which deliver maximum benefit to their organisation, but with access to funds and resource a huge barrier, the onus often falls on managers to take operational control and revert back to the day-to-day functions which help run the business.

One answer is to outsource more business operations, sharing the responsibility with others who are experts in the field. There are many SMEs who are actively outsourcing and successfully reaping the rewards from it. One example that springs to mind is Muddy Boots Real Foods limited, a small specialist food manufacturer. The business once struggled with balancing time and trying to maintain the operations of the business but also to keep expanding at the ambitious rate that they wanted to.

There are a number of SMEs – as our “Think Big Grow Fast” commissioned research identified – that are remaining reluctant to relinquish control of business operations. Given the choice, 30% of small business leaders would choose to outsource IT services but many are still resistant to the idea of outsourcing other parts of their business. Many prefer to keep what they perceive to be the ‘crown jewels’ in-house – HR (14%), training (13%) and financial management (14%) – and as a result, are lower on the outsourcing agenda.

Striking a balance between running a business and growing a business is an age-old challenge for SME business owners and managers. But in a tough economy and double-dip recession, it’s more important than ever that business owners take a step back and reappraise where their value in the business lies and how do they apportion more time to delivering ROI.  Some might see this as daunting or requiring a complete overhaul to existing business processes.

Our attitude is the opposite; take a step-by-step approach towards specific business areas breaking them into more manageable chunks. Business owners should focus on specific issues and business areas, identifying their strengths, rather than spreading themselves too thinly over areas they have less expertise in.

For similar articles, visit “Think Big, Grow Fast”

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