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Ignore the headlines. Here’s how to Make 2023 Your SMB’s Best Year Ever.

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Today’s headlines can make a statue’s head spin. One day, it’s mass layoffs. The next, we read about colossal job growth. One day we’re heading toward a recession. The next, a soft landing.

None of that has to distract you from your goals. Are there revenue and profit numbers you want to hit? Is there a new product you want to launch? Go for it. You can make 2023 a banner year and, at the same time, set your business up for an incredible 2024.

Here are some ideas:

Get creative with your employee and staffing needs.

The Federal Reserve Bank says there’s a lot of slack in the labor market. And the skills you need may be in short supply. In fact, CNBC reports that 96% of workers plan to look for new positions in 2023. Statistically speaking, nine out of ten people on your staff could be looking for a better opportunity. 

You’ll have to be creative in attracting and keeping good people. Here are some suggestions.

  • Earn your employees’ loyalty: One boss once told an employee, “I’ll buy you more time on that project; take your wife to the doctor.” Another told his employee, “Put her in an Uber; I need you here.” I don’t have to tell you which boss had less turnover. A positive, supportive, and encouraging environment can sometimes do more for loyalty and morale than salaries and perks.
  • Invest in employee development: You know what skills you need. You know what skills your employees have. Train employees in the skills you need and your business need to have them. And while you’re at it, consider cross-training. When employees know each other’s jobs, they can help each other and give you a more resilient workflow
  • Consider job sharing: Do you really need a full-timer in that position? Maybe two part-timers can share the job. Or maybe you can break it into mini-tasks that temps or part-timers can take care of one or two days a week. Part-time work can attract talented, capable people—like parents and retirees—who would otherwise stay out of the labor market.
  •  Look to outsourcing and contractors: These days, it’s common for companies to hire marketing writers, benefits managers, and other positions that have no bearing on the company’s core competencies. Working with contractors and vendors who specialize in many functions can cost less than staffing these positions. And you’re likely to see better results, too.
  • Allow employees to work from anywhere: If the pandemic taught us anything, it was that a lot of office jobs don’t have to be done in the office. Opening your company up to remote work gives you a larger pool of talent to draw on while it cuts your costs for everything from office space to paper towels.
  • Automate as much as possible: If you can’t get the staff you need, make the staff you have more productive. Tools exist today to automate everything from email sorting and sorting appointment scheduling to proposal writing and document signing. These tools help your people get more work done without overloading or stressing them out.

Bonus Tip: Don’t ask your employees to lay out money. Every front-line worker knows about someone who had to wait too long for reimbursement—and they needed the cash to live on. Delays happen, and employees pay the price. Sometimes they pay with unneeded additional stress. Sometimes they pay with 22.9% credit card interest. And that can all breed resentment. Using PEX prepaid cards can help you gain trust, keep employees happy, and foster better employee relationships.

Organize your finances to get the capital you need.

Getting capital to run or grow a business is about as hard as it’s ever been.

Banks are tightening their underwriting terms for loans for medium and large businesses. (Small businesses have always had to deal with scrutiny and expensive capital.) And venture capitalists and private equity investors are sitting on almost $1.9 trillion globally. That money’s not going anywhere until valuations drop considerably.

For some companies, crowdfunding or business incubators might make sense as an alternative source of financing. Some small and mid-sized companies may be able to get government grants and SBA loans. 

But for most SMBs, you must show the financial institution or investor that your financial house is in order. You’ll need:

  • Accurate, current financial statements: No banker or investor will consider your company without seeing balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements.
  • Tax returns: They will verify the financial statements that show the company’s compliance with laws and regulations.
  • Business plan: At the very least, this should outline the company’s market opportunity, strategies, and financial projections.
  • A strong, experienced management team: One with a track record of success, preferably in the industry you hope to grow.
  • History of on-time debt repayment: Demonstrates your ability to manage cash flow and debt.
  • Collateral: Equipment or property to secure a loan.

Bonus Tip: Take demonstratable control of employee spending. PEX allows for real-time tracking, reporting, and reconciliation of employee spending, so although expense reports become unnecessary, PEX still gives you the oversight and paper trail you need.

Embrace the office-less office.

Do you remember when the paperless office was the rage? Printed memos gave way to email. Brochures became pdfs. Back-and-forth revisions became documents shared and collaborated on in the cloud. 

Then the economy locked down- and more companies embraced digital technologies in the ensuing months than had in the previous ten years. Now, even as many of us return to the office, the technology companies invested in continues to pay off. The companies that succeed in 2023 will continue to invest in these technologies:

  •  Remote collaboration tools: Zoom. Slack. Microsoft Teams. These are the new era’s meeting rooms, telephones, and even water coolers. Make sure your staff has them and knows how to use them.
  •  Cloud computing: Perhaps no business group has benefited more from the move to the cloud than SMBs. Cloud services give you enterprise-class technology and infrastructure without significant capital outlays. You can even build custom applications and host them in remote data centers, paying only for the computing power you need.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning: A chatbot on your website can handle mundane requests, freeing your human service agents to solve the more challenging customer issues. And that’s just the beginning. New tools optimizing the supply chain, sales lead management, finance processes, and more rely on AI. And those who use them will have the edge over those who don’t.
  •  Cybersecurity: If you think your business is too low profile to attract hackers, you may be an easy and vulnerable target. Criminals look for low-hanging fruit and can cause millions of dollars in damage before the company even knows they’ve been hit. Talk to a specialist about your business, and make sure you have your bases covered.
  • E-commerce: The e-commerce boom may have waned a little since the pandemic, but it’s not going away. The need to serve customers online is only growing. The companies that succeed will be the ones that invest in it.
  •  Mobile technology: A business-critical investment today. Mobile apps let customers do business with you anytime, anywhere. And they give employees access to the tools and resources they need to be productive.

Bonus Tip: Don’t leave your expense reporting in the stone age. Despite all the progress in business processes, many companies still rely on cumbersome systems to authorize, record, approve, and reconcile employee spending. PEX automates the process—capturing receipts, details, and accounting codes at the point of purchase. This allows for instant allocations and one-click reconciliations, making expense reports unnecessarily redundant.

Remember, this year, too, shall pass.

It’s been a long time since the business cycle gave us a normal year. We had lockdowns in 2020, supply chain bottlenecks in 2021, and inflation and elections in 2022. And now, almost two months into 2023, we still don’t know what to expect.

But one thing is sure: The steps you take now to strengthen your staffing, financial, and technology positions will leave you stronger and better able to compete in 2023. And 2024. And 2025…

Bonus Tip: Look into PEX. Our cards and technology can give you greater flexibility and oversight in staff spending while automating the processes you need to manage and track it. Click here to schedule a demo.

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