How to use your employees to keep your small business on track

Follow this five step checklist to ensure your business stays focused and productive

Building a business from scratch is no easy task. As a small business it is very easy (and in some cases required) to get involved in every detail to ensure your vision is implemented exactly how you want it. It’s understandable, but the consequences can lead to a restricted view whereby the only focus is working on each day as it comes.

The result of only focusing on short term objectives could mean losing sight of the bigger picture. Medium and long term objectives are equally important (although flexible) as milestones within your business plan. They provide the guidelines to ensure you are on course to achieve the strategic direction you desire for your business.

Give your small business the best chance for success by trusting your staff and advisors and decide how to fill any skills gaps that are present.

Use our simple five step plan as a checklist to help you stay on track:

Step 1: Know your business environment

As an entrepreneur running a small business, you oversee all business functions giving you a helicopter view of what is happening. This allows you to see where improvements are needed and helps you make those critical decisions to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the business.

  • Do you know your customers’ needs and wants?
  • Are you meeting your customers’ expectations?
  • Do you know the business environment?
  • What are the micro and macro influences on your business now and in the future?

If you’re unsure on the above carry out a SWOT and PEST analysis.

Step 2: Know the people you work with

Everyone that works with you are vital cogs powering the engine of the business. As a business owner, director or manager, you are responsible for hitting targets but it is the collective performance of your team that will determine whether or not you meet them.


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Taking the time to build a professional working relationship with your employees will not only help you understand their capabilities, but also motivates employees to consistently perform at an optimum level. Building a successful business stems from developing your staff individually and collectively as a team, identifying any skill gaps and addressing them. Training individuals to do their job and giving them new skills to help them advance and build their career is important for the morale of the individual but also for moving the business forward.

A motivated employee who is trained to meet the needs of your business whilst developing their own career will see your business benefit from their enhanced contribution.

Step 3: Providing appropriate training

An example;

You’ve found a skills gap, you have a bookkeeper to keep your accounts in shape but they are unable to provide the in-depth financial analysis of your accounts to explain and advise what’s good, bad, where to focus investment etc etc.

Hiring a chartered accountant is expensive and you know your bookkeeper knows your business better than anyone but they just need the next level of training.  As a small business you’ll need your bookkeeper to take a small business focused accounting qualification to suit the needs of your small business.

The Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) are solely focused on the micro and small business sector and have a range of qualifications help those with a basic understanding of accounting to become a fully qualified professional accountant tailored to your small business needs.

Step 4: Incorporate blended learning; on and off the job

Blended learning combines a number of different approaches in order to create high impact learning. Working on the job alongside studying to achieve academic qualifications is a highly effective approach to developing an employee’s level of understanding of the job role and the business itself.

The nature of the IFA part-time courses presents the perfect opportunity for blended learning via distance learning. Accounting students are able to study, whilst also applying what they are learning to their work in business. You can tailor their workload to enhance the hands on experience, which will enable them to apply what they are learning to suit the needs of your individual business.

Step 5: Become the trusted business adviser

Multi-tasking is a word that has become ever more prevalent since the recession with employees being expected to do more and more. IFA members and students become more than just a bean counter but a valued business adviser, using the accounting knowledge they have gained to provide informed small business advice. Something that is invaluable to a start-up when they are still finding their feet and looking for new and inventive ways to drive the business forward.

Russell Clemence is the marketing & communications director at the Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA), an internationally recognised professional accountancy membership body whose members work within micro and small to medium-sized enterprises or in small to medium-sized accounting practices. www.ifa.org.uk 

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