Where do you want to be in 12 months’ time. The start of a new year is a great time to assess your long-term business goals, and here are the key areas to focus on when looking to scale your start-up or SME.

Constantly refresh business processes and operations

Streamlined processes and efficient operations can have a huge impact on your business’s productivity, and your employee’s workloads. But new systems and software should only be rolled out after a period of careful consideration – these solutions are only going to be effective if they comprehensively address a problem or obstacle that you have identified.

Before you set about automating administrative tasks or introducing a systemised approach to recruitment, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Break up organisational silos

Any process you put in place should address organisational silos wherever they occur within your company. Whether that’s within teams or across departments, it’s essential you find a way to encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing. That might mean looking at internal communication tools – like Slack – or online project management platforms – like Trello.

  • Identify process gaps

Aside from knowledge getting ‘stuck’, projects and workflows can also be held up by process gaps. However small your start-up or SME, map out traditional departments – such as human resources, IT, legal, finance, sales and marketing – and attribute responsibility to existing people or teams. This might reveal that one important aspect of your business is not getting the attention it needs. You might have the resource for a new hire to cover the gap, or it might be something you can outsource to a third-party.

  • Stay flexible and reactive

Even when you have put a new process or system in place, chances are it will need refreshing in a few months or years, depending on the pace of growth. Therefore, you need to be prepared to continually evolve your operations and take an agile approach to growth.

Invest in company culture

Wellness in the workplace has become a hot topic among business owners in the past few years, prompting a number of companies to introduce health-focused initiatives. But remember, for any shift in company culture to be effective – whether that’s adopting a nutritious diet, flexible working or more physical activity during office hours – the changes have to be understood and embraced by everyone.

Many employers have found that by creating a working environment that prioritises a healthy lifestyle, their staff are happier, less stressed and more productive. Talk to your employees individually and as a group about how they are currently feeling and what could be done to improve their physical and mental health.

Aside from wellness hacks, workplace technology can streamline internal processes and make it quicker and easier for people to do their jobs. Not only that, the flexibility afforded by mobile devices is key to ensuring employee engagement: research carried out by Accenture revealed 57% of European workers think new digital technologies will improve their working experience.

Choose your advisors wisely

An advisor or mentor is usually someone outside of your business who has extensive experience of the industry in which you operate or has followed a similar business journey to the one you are mapping out. But it can also be an employee in a management position – an in-house advisor that you can trust and value. Here are the questions to ask when looking for an advisor:

  • Do they have an SME background?

Have they worked with SME owners before, or have they run a small business themselves? Or, if they only have experience of large organisations, can they apply this knowledge to your business as it grows?

  • Do they understand your long-term goals?

Your advisor needs to be clear on where you want to be in a few years’ time, and able to identify and implement the short-term steps your business needs to take in order to get there.

  • Do they hold similar values to you?

What qualities do you expect from your advisor – is it important that they prioritise the same things you do? You might find a shared vision beneficial, or that someone with a different perspective can challenge you and lead the business in a direction you might not have thought of.

Keep on top of working capital

Regardless of how successful your business is, without healthy cashflow it will be difficult to scale effectively. When seeking external funding – such as invoice finance – remember that you don’t have to enter a full-ledger facility, you could use a flexible facility offered by providers such as GapCap.

We offer selective invoice finance, which means that you can pick and choose the invoices you’d like to fund. So, depending on your business needs at any given time, you have the flexibility to adjust your cashflow position by selling single invoices or selecting a few at a time.

Check out our blog on Amazon’s new payment terms, and how it will impact small business owners here.