Small business growth in Australia continues to be the major positive trend in Australia.
The transformation of the digital economy has inspired teenagers right through to people in their 50s to start their own business with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures revealing that out of the 2,1000,000 businesses active as of June 2014, 61% have no employees and 27% have under four employees.
Australians are not only looking to start a business but grow it quickly with the business entry rate increasing 2.5% to 13.7% - the highest increase in more than two decades – between 2013-2014.
Furthermore, PWC's Geospatial Economic Model (GEM), reveals that small businesses can unlock $49.2 billion of private sector output over the next decade by making better use of Internet and mobile technologies.
But starting a business is one thing, growing is an entirely different matter, and there are many obstacles along the way that will either embrace or hinder your future success.
“My favourite business tool is social media marketing,” Gary Griffiths, founder of Threesides Local, says. “It is the fastest path to revenue and also one of the cheapest. You turn it on and revenue flows, you turn it off and it stops.”
Threesides Local helps real estate agents optimise advertising through targeted Facebook ads. They are located in Australia, USA, Canada and the Philippines.
“I found that having a virtual office works well for me, as it cheaper than renting commercial property, and I have staff all around the world that I am communicating with in different time zones,” Griffiths says.
A virtual office can offer many benefits including mail forwarding, answering service, virtual receptionist and companies like Servcorp even offer a Onefone app to trial for free.
Griffiths says it easier to hire full-time staff than outsource due to control factors, as well utilising university students, who are full of enthusiasm.
“We train university students to be productive team members and the enthusiasm that they bring is second to none,” he says.
Studio Culture is a website design and digital marketing company based in Brisbane that managed to grow 30% in the past financial year.
Co-owner and partner David Bobis says that co-working has proved to be a boon for their business.
“If you can find a great co-working space it can help you build business partnerships, which is what we have found,” Bobis says. “We network with other people who share our space.”
Bobis says that social media marketing, forming strategic partnerships and using free apps has been the key to their business growth.
“Using apps such as Google Docs, Skype, Asana and Harvest are great for helping you manage your team and business,” he says. “Using SEO techniques to hep businesses find you online is another great and cheap marketing tool.”
Tas Gray, founder and managing director of Axiomit, who provide IT support, solutions and cloud consulting, says there is a very simple option for SMEs to save money.
“If businesses move operations to the cloud, they will save money on servers and storage,” Gray says. “Cloud computing enables them to be more agile, adaptable and productive, especially for businesses that work from various locations and/or have staff regularly on the road.
“We've migrated lots of businesses to cloud computing, which offers real cost and time savings.”
Belinda Jennings started Adelaide Bay Bargains on Facebook six years ago. Since then she has expanded nationwide, built a team and the operation now spans to more than 600,000 mums nationwide across three sites: Mum Central (parenting and lifestyle), Mum's Pantry (food and recipes) and Australian Baby Bargains (our pre-loved children's marketplace).
“I started off working from home, then when I got my seed funding moved into a co-share office situation and a year later moved back to work from home,” she says. “My team all work remotely and it really is the perfect way to go, especially for an online business like mine, so I have a virtual office.
“My advice is don't be afraid to run lean - it's not all about the biggest office wins. These days it's common practice and office space can sometimes be the biggest unnecessary expense for small business trying to get off the ground.”
A virtual office can save a small but developing company not only real costs, like rent and utility bills, but also the opportunity cost of not having to travel everyday or hire a secretary full-time.
Saving money on rent, full-time staff that you don't necessarily need and wasting time travelling, when you could already be working fruitfully, could result in tens of thousands of dollars available to you to re-invest in your business.
“I have found outsourcing a lot of tasks such contracting professionals when I need them, using experts in their range of specialty with a set task and budget, as well as tapping into free webinars, has helped me a lot,” Jennings says.
10 ways to grow your business with minimal costs
1. Use targeted and researched social media channels that are right for your business, as a source for clever online marketing campaigns.
2. Consider the use of a virtual office to save you money on rent, utilities, staffing costs, so you look professional from day one with a bona fide address, landline phone number and receptionist.
3. Educate yourself – take every opportunity to learn about running a business, your industry, marketing, hiring, growing your company etc.
4. Understand your customer – present the right amount of information to them that is clearly communicated and easily understood.
5. Make it easy for the customer to buy your service and/or product.
6. Make sure your pricing model is competitive.
7. Form strategic partnerships with other businesses that can refer work to you.
8. Use free Apps, webinars and seminars to help save costs, run your business more efficiently and to be a better leader.
9. Consider switching to Cloud computing for all your software and hardware needs. Smart use of technology should increase your efficiency.
10. Let people try before they buy if possible. If they love the experience, they will probably pay for it.