SME checklist – 7 things you need to do in September 2015

September means time to start planning Q4 and allocate budgets and resource for 2016. Our SME to-do list should help get your business in shape this September.

1. Measure like a money saving expert

If your energy bills are high, use September to measure what your business is actually using and discover if you can re-coup costs. Firstly, check if you’re signed up to an deemed contract. More than 30% of SMEs are paying more than they should for this reason alone. You should also complete a full audit of your working environment; are equipment or lights left on, what kind of windows and doors do you have, and what’s your air con usage? Here are some energy waste hotspots to get you started. Believe it or not, some companies can save thousands of pounds on their energy bills alone.

 2. Calculate the total number of sick days

Measuring employee happiness and the effectiveness of your HR department is imperative to success. The average number of sick days for a UK employee is 23, with 11.3 million working days lost UK wide. In a small team the impact of low morale and unhappiness can be substantial, so employ a well-being strategy in September to keep your employees feeling engaged, healthy and active for fewer sickies in Q4 and throughout 2016.

 3. Get an inside scoop on the competition

If you’d like to compare your customer service standards, invest in some secret shopping. Companies such as Market Force provide a one-stop service, but you can put your employees to work too (and perhaps even prevent sick days with intriguing undercover work!) Create a secret shopping checklist and rate your business against your competitors. This is a particularly good practice in the lead up to the Christmas season.

 4. Analyse your website data to discover how to attract more visitors

If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you’ll already have headline visitor and engagement data. But, the powerful tool allows for deeper insights if you have the right know-how. Google offers training – completely free of charge – to teach you about the more sophisticated reporting features. You can learn more about your website visitors and discover how to effectively engage them and turn them into customers.

5. Track staff time for intelligent resource management

Recording time may sound like a bureaucracy and micromanaging nightmare, but implementing a time management software, such as actiTIME, will reveal insights about your processes and servicing. The premise is simple; segment the work into jobs, start the timer, and review at the end of the quarter. You’ll discover the jobs that are over serviced, and those that return a healthy profit, plus the staff who are being most effective and where extra resource (or higher charges) may be required in future.

 6. Extend your reach

Larger competitors will be locked into their Q4 and Christmas plans months in advance so take advantage of your position as an agile SME to implement ideas fast. Giving your customers and prospects a solution to a problem will yield great results. For example, B&Bs could take the stress out of Christmas party planning by offering an all-inclusive transport and overnight package. The office PAs will be thanking you, and if the service is faultless, this will also create return business for you in years to come.

7. Anticipate footfall

In the pre-Christmas lull, now is the time to decide whether your location is going to work hard enough to make the season profitable. Get online or delve into local papers to make a calendar of nearby events throughout Q4. If concerts, winter wonderlands and sporting events are scheduled nearby, you’re likely to see an increase in visitors and shoppers. If the calendar is sporadic, you may want to employ some new tactics. For example, retailers may want to invest in a pop-shop in busier locations, or launch Facebook competitions and social advertising, provide offers and deals, or even collaborations with other SMEs to offer unique experiences for customers.

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