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3 ways small businesses can stop wasting time and money

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Small business has never felt so big. The roughly 30 million small businesses in the United States employ nearly 60 million people and account for a fast-rising share of all sales, fueling the economy from Main Street to Wall Street.

E-commerce — a primary driver of this small business boom — is providing even more opportunities for entrepreneurs to sell their products and services in new markets, letting them play in sandboxes once reserved for large companies with deep pockets and plentiful resources.

Yet small businesses still face age-old problems. The small business owners we talk to every day at UPS point to a lack of time and staffing and the cost of shipping as major impediments to growth. Simply put: They need to do more with less.

To do so, we’d recommend the following three strategies to help small businesses win in today’s marketplace.

My Choice Call Out Box

1. Fine tune the supply chain

Time is money, and small businesses strive not to waste either. But managing daily operations like customer complaints, inventory management, shipping and accounting leaves precious little time for business development (or anything else).

With a world of new customers at their fingertips, small businesses often struggle with how to get products from around the corner to around the world. According to the State of Small Business Global Report, small businesses spent more than 90 hours a month on managing orders, inventory and product sourcing. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents said inventory management shortcomings resulted in lost time and productivity.

That’s where UPS My Choice® for business comes into play, saving entrepreneurs time and bringing transparency to the movement of goods that fuel their business. Entrepreneurs juggle many tasks trying to run their business — logistics shouldn’t be one of them.

The newly launched visibility and summary-level tracking platform — provided at no cost to entrepreneurs — helps smalls business owners quickly locate their shipments and run their operations more efficiently.

UPS My Choice for business saves entrepreneurs time by letting them see when a shipment is arriving. Small businesses will receive day-before and day-of delivery alerts, as well as an estimated time-of-delivery window. They also now have the flexibility to make delivery changes and reroute packages to a new location that better aligns with their fast-moving schedules.

The new platform helps small businesses plan ahead for how many people they need on hand to receive deliveries and lets all employees view shipments while providing the type of customer service needed to grow a business.

"Small businesses, enabled by e-commerce, can attract a broader, more diverse customer base."

2. Connect (and stay connected) to consumers

Small businesses, enabled by e-commerce, can attract a broader, more diverse customer base and compete for a larger share of the market.

But today's consumers are far more empowered than ever before and demand more from the brands selling to them. Social media marketing is one of many ways that small businesses can court and communicate with new customers.

In today's hyper-connected world, consumers expect regular interaction from the brands vying for their dollar and loyalty. They often equate good customer service with customer engagement and interaction.

Consider using email, apps and texting tools to send alerts about product updates, promotions and special offers and feedback tools to monitor what customers are saying online. Also, loyalty programs remain an effective way to encourage repeat business.

Find out how you can take control of your company’s inbound and outbound deliveries with UPS My Choice® for business.


3. Staff for success

Staffing is a critical component of running a small business, and finding competent, capable talent can be challenging, especially with low unemployment rates. Knowing how many people to assign to which tasks can be equally daunting for a new business owner.

Small business owners tend to hire fewer people to control costs, but the long-term consequences of trying to do too much with too few people can stifle business growth.

Start by identifying current strengths and weaknesses within the company. Rely less on manual processes and opt for automated attendants and voicemail, virtual assistants and customer service tools when appropriate. 

Shiftboard, a workforce management solution company, advises small businesses to identify trends and review data from past scheduling periods to plan for current needs. Plan ahead for your peak or high-volume seasons and reallocate headcount during off seasons. And use software applications to track time and attendance.

Also, consider outsourcing some of the daily functions such as accounting, IT and logistics. More than one-third of small businesses (37 percent) now outsource a business process, and more than half (52 percent) plan to this year, according to a recent survey by Clutch, a B2B research, ratings and reviews firm.

The survey found that small businesses primarily outsource to increase efficiency (24 percent) and available expertise (18 percent). Trusted partners like UPS can remove some of the burden of managing beyond core competencies.

"Never let logistics get in the way of your aspirations"

Punch above your weight class

By fine tuning their supply chain, better connecting to consumers and staffing for success, small business owners can punch above their weight class and compete in the most exciting markets around the globe.

And UPS My Choice for business can help them every step of the way. With a better picture of their inventory, small businesses can focus on what they do best: delivering best-in-class customer experiences.

If you’re an entrepreneur set on bigger things, never let logistics get in the way of your aspirations — we’re here to help.

Remember, small business has never felt so big.

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Longitudes explores and navigates the trends reshaping the global economy and the way we’ll live in the world of tomorrow: logistics, technology, e-commerce, trade and sustainability. Which path will you take?

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