Recovering from the economic recession continues to challenge many European countries, but Britain is gaining economic strength with each new quarter and prospects are better than they have been in a decade.
However, new business owners will agree that managing costs and innovating products or services is vital to growth. Increased competition, a globalised marketplace, and a consumer-dominated economic environment signal that growth can still be challenging to achieve.
The good news is that there is a number of free tools that you can use to achieve growth whilst keeping operational costs as low as possible.
- Revamp Your Business Plan
Enloop is a great online app that you can use to quantify the viability of your business, as well as create professional business plans quickly and effectively.
• It uses 16 different financial KPIs (e.g. expense-to-sales, debt-to-work, and % profit before taxes) and gives your business an overall Enloop Performance Score (EPS™) for your strategy.
• You can compare your score against the average performance of other businesses in your industry.
• AutoWrite™ - Their patented system generates basic text, but businesses can edit, delete, or add in their own text, and keep it in sync with Enloop's TextSync™ feature.
• Automated financial forecasts include Sales, Profit & Loss, Cash Flow and Balance Sheet forecasts.
• Invite & Share feature for colleagues to view/edit.
• Free with options to upgrade to paid subscription packages.
Reduce your communication costs by using Voice Over Internet Protocol(VOIP) technology. Skype is a great starting point for businesses to explore the benefits of internet communication:
• Free to download, and calls to other Skype users are also free
• Instant Messaging services
• Screen sharing and conference call features
• Improves customer services
• Video call feature can be used for more than 2 people per call
• Call forwarding sends any messages or missed calls to mobile
• Auto answer feature
• Collaboration tools improve communication
• Cheap call rates to both local and international non-Skype numbers
- Cloud-based Resources
Web-based office resources such as Google Drive are perfect for businesses that employ freelance or mobile workers. It will make paperless collaboration the norm, and lower the cost of buying reams of paper, which will also make your business more green.
• 15 GB free to store, share, and backup documents
• Works with Gmail so all attachments can be saved to Drive and shared securely
• Create spreadsheets or presentations easily to collaborate with colleagues/clients more effectively
• Snap a photo of all paper documents (e.g. receipts and statements) and Drive will instantly store them as a PDF
- Get Listed
Whether you have a traditional bricks-and-mortar business, or an ecommerce site, getting listed is important, and inexpensive when done right.
• Google My Business is a free and quick way to get listed on Google, which improves SEO, and ensures that customers have the right business information.
• Scoot Direct UK is also free and gives businesses exposure to over 3.5 million potential customers.
• DMoz is the largest free link directory and an amazing resource for listing your business and getting exposure.
- Join a Forum
There are many forums to help business owners learn more about their niche, network, benefit from valuable advice, and stay on top of seminars, workshops or industry related events. Startups is a leading UK service for growing businesses, and host to an active forum of over 50,000 members.
- Finance Finder Tools
Business growth requires investment – either through investing profits back into the business, taking out a loan, selling shares, or looking at other sources of finance. GOV.UK has a great tool that businesses can use to find government backed support and finance.
- Find a Mentor
Mentors are a great way to accelerate business growth: They help business owners to see the big picture by providing structure and outlining outcomes, as well as adding value by highlighting opportunities that lie ahead. Mentorsme is Britain's first online gateway for enterprises looking for mentoring services.
• Free access to a list of quality assured mentoring organisations across the UK
• Built in search engine lets businesses locate a match that best fits their profile
• Provides useful online resources for both mentors and mentees to get started and manage expectations
• Over 1000 bank staff who volunteer to mentor businesses for free
- Product Optimisation
Focusing on existing customers is a good starting point, and their feedback regarding what they value in their purchases. But finding out what can make it more useful, and what would encourage them to buy more, will help refine innovation going forward. Zoho is a premium Customer Relationship Management software tool, free for up to 3 users:
• Automates day-to-day business activities
• Tracks sales and aligns them with business strategies
• Mobile apps to access customer data even when in offline mode
• Enables businesses to engage, inform, and create loyal relationships with customers
• Integrates with other applications e.g. Google Apps, Social Media, Ms Outlook, QuickBooks
All the benefits of a workshop or seminar, without the hassle – and expense – of physically attending. HMRC have produced a set of online webinars, both live and pre-recorded, to help businesses understand a variety of tax systems and the obligations they need to meet. They're free for participants to attend, and cover everything from digital and businesses services for the self employed, to VAT and completing online Tax Returns