Running a Business in the Time of Inflation? Strategies to Help Beat the Beast

Small businesses have not had it easy over the last few years. First, we had a pandemic that disrupted the way we all lived, worked, and did business – and now? Well, now we have the beast that is inflation. You’ve probably been feeling the effects of inflation for a while now, and are probably not taking a whole lot of comfort in the fact that it’s starting to level off ever so slightly. But don’t despair, there are some strategies that small businesses can employ to cope with the effects of inflation.

How Is Inflation Affecting Small Businesses?

While inflation and supply-chain issues have been a problem since the pandemic hit in 2020, inflation really began to ramp up in the spring of 2021. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation accelerated at a higher rate between March 2021 and September 2021 than it did at any point in 2020. And, for at least five or six months straight, 2021’s inflation rates more than doubled 2020’s highest increases.

But then came 2022, telling 2021 to hold its beer. While 2021 had the largest inflation rate in the last two decades at 4.7%, 2022 has nearly doubled that with an 8.32% inflation average (as of the summer), the highest month-over-month inflation rates since 1982.

person holding bills and calculating

So if you’re feeling the pinch, you’re certainly not imagining things. And you’re probably caught between a bit of a rock and hard place: your customers are looking to cut back and your costs are probably skyrocketing. You’re not alone: 92% of small-business owners reported that the cost of supplies or services needed to run their business has increased since the pandemic started.

In fact, in 2022, 71% of small-business owners reported at least a 20% increase in costs for supplies and services, with 16% saying that their costs have increased by 50%! The effect of these huge increases has been pretty brutal for small businesses. Consider these stats:

  • 60% of small businesses are concerned about the financial health of their business because of inflation
  • 47% report their profit margins are decreasing due to inflation 
  • 37% of small-business owners are afraid inflation will hurt the health of their business
  • 37% report customers have complained about inflated prices at their business
  • 30% think raising their prices will deter customers from patronizing their business

Does all of this sound familiar to you? Are you one of the 1 in 3 small business owners(according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) who lists inflation as their top business concern? If so, what can you do about it? Let’s take a look at what small businesses are doing to combat the effects of inflation, and what specific strategies you can try to stay afloat and keep growing during these tough times.

What Are Small Businesses Doing to Deal with Inflation?

illustration of a person next to a calculator
In order to help ease the inflation rates, business owners are hiring accountants.

If so many small businesses like yours are feeling the burn from inflation, what steps are they taking to try and mitigate the effects? Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of focus on reducing costs, as well as tracking expenses:

  • 46% of small businesses are reducing the size of their inventory
  • 44% are purchasing software to help track their businesses expenses
  • 24% have hired an accountant to help find ways to save money
  • 40% have reduced marketing costs
  • 29% have moved to a cheaper workspace
  • 42% have reduced the number of employees on their team
  • Only 17% of small-business owners report not changing anything to reduce costs

So have you taken some of these steps, or are you considering doing so? If you’re unsure where to begin, and what strategies are right for you, check out some tips below.

Strategies to Consider

According to James Cassel, chairman and co-founder of the investment bank Cassel Salpeter, “Most business owners have experienced minimal inflation or even pricing deflation. Today’s small businesses need to be creative in their approach to dealing with inflation, as it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.” So let’s think creatively! To deal with inflation, you can:

Streamline and automate processes

Sometimes you need to invest to grow, right? So maybe you need to spend a little money on software to automate time-intensive work. Look at all the little things that take time and manpower: could scheduling, billing or collecting payments, or taking orders be automated at your business? Or think even more creatively: if you’ve got a warehouse, for example, could investing in a new shelving system streamline how you work?

Invest in your business in other ways

You can take some of your capital and put it into streamlining and automation, but you can also use it to do things like ramp up your marketing or revisit your pricing strategy in order to attract customers. And if you don’t have the money to do so, but aren’t adverse to taking on some debt via a business loan, now is the time to do so. The Fed raised interest rates in March for the first time in 2 years (so it’s not an ideal time to borrow), but we’re scheduled to see a few more hikes this year alone.

Watch your cash flow like a hawk

Now’s the time to knuckle down and really pay attention to your cash flow, since you’re between that rock and hard place we mentioned before, where you’re facing increasing expenses while at the same time losing customers or finding them slow to pay. That means you’ve got to stay on top of the money coming in, so try things like:

  • Invoicing customers as quickly as possible
  • Requiring immediate payment
  • Reviewing your expenses more often, ideally weekly
  • Running credit checks on customers
  • Being vigilant about your accounts, and maintaining a policy of not selling to customers with outstanding bills

Reduce costs scissors cutting paper

Prices might be rising, but there are still things you can do to try to reduce expenses in this brave new world of crazy inflation. You can:

  • Talk to your merchant credit card provider about lowering your rate
  • Switch from landlines to VoIP
  • Talk to your landlord about a rent reduction deal
  • Negotiate with your service providers
  • Downsize your office by offering more remote work options
  • Stop printing so much!
  • Check to make sure you aren’t paying for any unnecessary monthly subscription services or other recurring expenses
  • Use a cash-back credit card

Stock up on supplies while you can 

It might seem counterintuitive to tell you to go stock up after we just suggested reducing expenses wherever you can, but it could be a smart move to stock up on supplies to beat any issues with the supply chain. A lot of businesses are reorganizing their spaces (it comes back to streamlining!) and buying extra of what they need, to avoid running out, and to lock in today’s “cheaper” prices before they rise again.

Increase your prices – carefully

While this isn’t the ideal solution, it might be a necessary evil. Just make sure you’re doing it judiciously, and aren’t making giant increases across the board. Consider making smaller, incremental, less noticeable changes. You can even try offering premium, paid subscriptions or memberships, or bundled offers if that’s something you can do, to bring in a little extra cash.

Target the right customers – and be ready for new ones

If you’re looking to bring in as much money as possible in these tough times, know who you should be targeting. That means analyzing your business and determining where your most profitable sales come from. Check out what the most profitable sales have in common, and then zero in on those areas or people. 

But while trying to sell more to your existing customers is probably your best bet, don’t forget that inflation could actually drive some unexpected new customers in your direction. People could very well be looking for new businesses that meet their needs in terms of prices and rates, so be ready to welcome these curious customers with open arms.

Inflation stinks – for everyone. But if you’re running a small business, there’s no need to panic. You have options to beat back the inflation beast, you just have to find the right one for you. And let us know: how are you weathering things as inflation hits us all hard? 

Co-written by Joanna Bowling

Are Gender-Equality Practices the Real Path to Growth?

It won’t come as news to anyone that focusing on gender equality in the workplace is good for women. But what might not be as obvious is how beneficial gender-equity practices can be for businesses as a whole – and not just for company culture. In fact, numbers coming out of 2021 (and prior years) have proven that gender-equality practices are just as good for a business’ bottom line as they are for creating a positive work environment. In other words, having an inclusive, supportive workplace where everyone feels valued and heard might just be the way to drive growth.

The Numbers

According to Courtney Geduldig, executive vice president, public affairs at S&P Global, “I think one of the biggest misconceptions about gender equality is that it only benefits women, but the data shows that this is not true. Our data makes it clear that gender equality is the engine for the global workforce. Greater women participation in the workforce can make a greater impact on the economy.”

The numbers don’t lie: being gender inclusive is not just a good idea in theory. Just check out the following statistics, the most recent being from 2021, which goes to show that this is something we’re still working on, and something that is very relevant to this moment, especially as women in the workforce are suffering the consequences of the pandemic more than men.gender equality infographic

  • In 2021, 73% of businesses that employ gender-equality practices reported increased profitability and productivity.
  • According to McKinsey & Company, businesses with low rates of both gender and racial diversity are 29% more likely to make less money.
  •  If U.S. companies hired and promoted women at the same rate as countries like Norway, the economy could grow by 8%, according to S&P Global.
  • In the last 20 years, the revenue of women-owned U.S. companies has increased by 103%, according to American Express.
  • A 2011 Catalyst study found that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales (ROS) by 16% and return on invested capital (ROIC) by 26%.
  • Research shows that inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time, and that teams with less diversity are more likely to make poor choices for their companies.

All of these numbers, and numbers from many other studies, prove that being equitable in the workplace is good for everyone. Why? Well, beyond the simple reason that getting everyone involved in the economy is beneficial to the economy, individual workplaces that are equitable might be so profitable for reasons like the following:

  • Varied viewpoints and communication skills
  • A more holistic analysis of the issues a company faces
  • A more positive work environment, which can stimulate productivity
  • A better reputation as a business, which helps you attract higher-quality employees

What Does Gender Equality Look Like in the Workplace?

So if gender equity is the goal, before we even talk about how to get there, we need to think about what it actually looks like in the workplace. We should be working toward the following: silhouette of a woman on one side of a scale and man on the other side balanced.

  • Equal payPay should never be based on someone’s gender (or any other characteristic, like race, religion, age, sexual orientation, etc).
  • Equal treatment – Businesses need to be careful about excluding members of teams from more informal decision-making settings (like social events that only men are attending, for example), or about having different expectations of roles (like expecting a female employee to make coffee, for example).
  • Equal representation on leadership teams, boards, etc – Too many businesses suffer from having “broken rungs” on their ladder, meaning women get stuck in lower-level positions and are prevented from advancing.
  • Equal access to training and career-advancing opportunities – There should never be an assumption that women will eventually leave their positions, and so should not be groomed for advancement.
  • Benefits focused on the needs of employees – People with families need flexibility in the workplace to keep them productive, so businesses should consider offering work-from-home options, flexible schedules, and/or PTO in place of traditional “vacation time.” Remember, too, that the availability of paid child care plays a big part in allowing parents to remain in the labor force. Every year from 2016 to 2018, more than 2 million parents of children aged 5 and younger had to quit a job, not take a job, or change their job because of child care challenges, with most of the people affected being women – and things have only gotten worse since 2020. Consider this: American businesses lose an estimated $12.7 billion annually because of their employees’ child care challenges, and the cost of lost earnings, productivity, and revenue nationally due to child care issues is estimated at $57 billion annually.

How Can We Work Towards Greater Gender Equality?

The above is what we should be working towards, but what steps can you take to get there? 

Look at your recruitment practices

The first step to creating an equitable workplace is recruiting like you’re committed to an equitable workplace! That means trying things like:

  • Reviewing your job advertisements to make sure they encourage everyone to apply
  • Setting recruitment goals
  • Widening your pool of applicants, and running campaigns in places that might attract both men and women, especially if you are looking for applicants in more stereotypically “male” careers like tech
  • Making sure applicants are assessed purely on their skills, including “soft skills”

Look at your workplace environment 

Hiring more women is a great start, but simply adding women and stirring is not enough. You need to look at how your workplace deals with gender issues, both in abstract and more concrete ways. Think about doing the following:silhouette of a man standing in the middle of a meeting

  • Address the issue – If gender dynamics and issues surrounding equality feel like the elephant in the room, look that elephant right in the eye and let your employees know that you are more than open to addressing the issue and creating a plan. Make your employees feel heard and validated, and you’ll build trust.
  • Redesign your workspace – Try to eliminate gender divisions at your workplace.
  • Commit to equality – Offer the same rewards – whether it’s pay or otherwise – for the same work, regardless of gender.
  • Consider your workers’ needs – Listening and raising awareness are important, but even more important is giving all workers what they need, including paid family leave, paid time off for childcare, flexible work arrangements, etc.

Look at your professional development strategies

Again, you need to deal with some concrete problems if you’re going to promote gender equality in your workplace; that includes making sure everyone has ways to advance or find the opportunities that are right for them. To do this, you can:

  • Offer training to all employees who join your team
  • Invest in individual development
  • Create a mentoring program aimed at promoting women’s advancement
  • Change to a less linear career structure

The problem of gender inequality is not going to just go away on its own, and it doesn’t come down to just one individual workplace – it’s a systemic issue. But fortunately we are beginning to see businesses come on board with making changes, and those changes are making a big difference in not only the lives of women workers, but also in the health of the businesses that are making these changes. We still have a long way to go, though, and you can be a part of the solution – you’ll be doing the right thing and you’ll be supporting the growth of your business!

Small Business Not Growing? Here’s Why

If the business you’ve started is small, the only way to go from there is up, right? If you put in the work, you’re bound to grow from a tiny seed of an organization to a flourishing one! Unfortunately, it’s just not always that simple. And you might be thinking, “I don’t need (or want) to be the head of a huge corporation, so do I really need to worry that I’m not growing as much as I’d like right now?” Well, here’s the thing: if you’re not growing, you could end up stuck in an uncomfortable spot between being the owner of a very small business and a very large one. Being wedged in there means that you’re probably going to be doing all the work to keep things running, while still not seeing much of a return. So it might be time to examine why you’re stuck where you are, and look for solutions to your problem of stagnant growth.

Going in Without a Plan

empty agenda page in a book
If you do not have a plan, then your business is bound to fail.

When experts tell you you need a solid business strategy, listen. Your business strategy should include a clear set of plans, actions and goals that outlines how your business is going to compete in your market – and it needs to be written down! If you haven’t done this, you’re basically jumping in with a “fire, aim, ready” approach, hoping that you’re somehow going to achieve your goals. 

And speaking of goals, it seems like a lot of small business owners are treating them as simply a buzzword, which can be a huge mistake. According to the Staples National Small Business Survey, 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of their goals! And, you know what, it turns out that, according to some studies, 77% of small business owners fail to achieve their visions. Think those stats might be related? 

The solution, according to a Dominican University study, seems to be writing down your goals and making yourself accountable. In the study, 5 groups of business owners set goals and followed increasingly detailed steps; for example, group 1 only thought about their goals, while group 5 wrote their goals down, rated them, formulated actions, and sent their plans to a supportive friend along with weekly progress reports. The result? 76% of participants in group 5 achieved their goals, or were at least halfway there. 

“Growing” It Alone

We’ve already covered how you should never ignore advice about creating your business strategy and setting goals, but the same goes for any advice that you’ve sought from trusted sources. We get that you’re protective about the way you run your business, but sometimes you need to hear straight talk from someone who’s been there.

And ignoring sound advice isn’t the only problematic way for you to go it alone. There’s a whole community of entrepreneurs out there, all at different stages of their business journeys that you could be speaking to. We’re not saying you have to seek out and fraternize with the competition; what we are saying is that interacting with like-minded business owners in any field can foster creativity, help you identify blind spots, and build self-confidence.

Not Having the Right Team

illustration of two people with graphs in front of them
Having the right team is important in order to grow your business. You can’t do it alone.

Not seeking advice from pros or talking to your peers can hold you back, and so can trying to do all of the day-to-day work of your business alone. You might be a one-man band when you first start your business, but if you want to grow, you’re going to need to hire a team, or at least outsource some of your tasks. No one can do everything – and even if you think you have 25 hours in the day to get everything done, remember that no one can do everything well! You’ll need to set up a process for hiring and training high-quality employees, and you’ll need to be comfortable with making changes in your team as needed along the way.

Lack of Investment

Growing businesses are like cash vacuums. As you grow, you might need to invest in new technology, a bigger space, more employees, or more equipment, and that means constantly finding ways to pump cash into your business. That could mean seeking out more investors, applying for business loans, or using up any cash you have on hand. If that sounds exhausting, well, it can be – and if you choose to jump off that hamster wheel for a while, you could find that the growth of your business slows down.

Cutting Corners

Yes, it’s tough getting the constant flow of cash that your business needs. But that doesn’t mean you should be pinching pennies at every opportunity. For example, hiring inexperienced vendors, not investing in necessary technology, not putting in the resources necessary to hire the right staff, or skimping on health and safety can all come back to bite you, and could end up costing you more in the long run. Instead, try cost-cutting (not corner-cutting!) strategies like negotiating with your landlord or vendors or outsourcing or making some employees remote.

Having the Wrong Attitude Towards Customerswoman with a blue button up with a rude look on her face

Since we’re talking about cutting corners, another thing that should never fall by the wayside is customer support. No customers, no business, right? But it can be easy for them to get lost in the shuffle with all of these other considerations. Make sure that everyone associated with your business always treats customers with respect and never dismisses them as impossible to please. Because you know what? Even “difficult” customers have lots of friends and family, and word can travel fast. Remember, dissatisfied customers will tell between 9 and 15 people about their negative experience!

Ignoring Branding, or Failing to “Look the Part”

One more thing you shouldn’t skimp on? Branding. And that’s not to be confused with a marketing strategy; you need to think about branding your business, or establishing a powerful message surrounding your business, before you can begin spreading that message. Remember, your messaging will determine if your message actually gets seen. You need to have a compelling message that proves to your prospective clients or customers that your product or service is the solution to their problem.

Looking the part goes hand-in-hand with creating the right brand and message. And what do we mean by “looking the part?” Well, think of it this way, if you want prospective clients or customers to take you seriously, you have to project the right image. That means not making your business look amateurish with a poorly designed logo, a low-quality, DIY website, or inactive social media accounts. 

Once you’ve gotten a handle on your brand, then you can begin to implement an effective marketing strategy, which should include social media marketing, SEO, content marketing, and email marketing. 

Undervaluing Your Product or Serviceprice tag on a lap top screen

If you’re afraid of overpricing your products or services, you could end up underpricing them. Sure, when you first start out you might want to competitively price your products or services to attract customers, but as you get more established, you should reflect your know-how, experience, or the quality of your products in your prices. Overcome fear-based pricing; remember, when you declare the value of your products or services, that is the value people believe it has. 

When it comes to small businesses, growth is never a guarantee. It takes hard work, reaching out, and taking risks. It also takes constantly evaluating what you’re doing, recognizing the mistakes you’re making and having the ability to change course. Use the above tips to help you get that critical eye, and move forward towards your goals!

Your Growth Goal Matters! How to Pick the Right One

Is growth the goal for your small business? If your answer is: “Of course!” that’s great, but you should also take a step back and think about the answers to some other questions. Questions like, “What does growth look like or mean for your business?” Or “What does success look like?” or “What is your plan for achieving your goals?” In short, having a vague goal for growth is not enough; you need to have more specific growth goals so that you can plan out things like your marketing strategy. There’s not much in life you would jump into without a plan – you wouldn’t even step up to a diving board without thinking through your next step! – so let’s look at what it means to plan ahead and have the right growth goal for your business.  

Picking a Growth Goal

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make when they’re trying to grow? Not knowing what that growth means or what it should look like for their unique business. Without a clear growth strategy, you won’t know how to focus your efforts or measure your successes (or failures). Before you sit down and map out your business growth strategy, you need to actually pick your growth goal

While revenue might be one of the most common growth goals, it’s not necessarily going to be the right goal for every business in every situation. Your growth goal should always align with what you’re generally trying to achieve as a business. Yes, that might mean profit margin, but it could also mean increasing your subscriber base or followers, impressing investors with exponential growth in your customer base, or getting a bump in brand recognition so you can spend less on marketing and use those funds for product innovation and service expansion.

Set your growth goals around one of the following:

  • Revenue – Think: sales, net profit, total recurring revenue, average contract value, etc
  • Subscriptions – Think: monthly recurring revenue, annual recurring revenue, etc
  • Units – Think: total units sold/processed, customer base, new contracts, follower count, etc

Once you consider what you’re trying to grow, you’ll need think about:

  • How much you want to increase it by – This can really vary based on your business and your goals. It’s easy to say, “We want to increase revenue by 20%,” but things can get a little more murky when you’re thinking beyond immediate profit. For example, how would you measure growing your customer base? If your goal is simply to build your customer base, ending with one more customer than you started with is technically a success, but is that the right goal for you? If you’re a freelance photographer, gaining one major client might be all you need. But, if you sell thousands of units of a product each day, acquiring one new customer will be almost meaningless.
  • How you approach growing it – This can be tough, as well, because your approach might change over time, and you might switch back and forth between goals. After all, the unfortunate truth is that being laser-focused on one area of your business can mean other areas don’t perform as well – and you’ll need to be prepared to roll with those punches. For example, if you run a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, you might want to increase your user base, so you might offer free trials or even free plans to reach that goal. But, with this strategy, you’ll get more users but not necessarily any more money. On the other hand, if you’re looking to specifically increase revenue, you can choose to switch to a premium service model to get free customers to start paying. You could make more money this way, but you could actually see your customer base decrease. 

Getting Specific: Writing a Business Growth Strategy

Now that you’ve really thought about what it means for your specific business to grow, and what your unique successes would look like, you need to get specific in order to achieve your goals. That means creating a growth strategy, preferably in writing, so you can effectively (and with accountability) share it with others in your organization. Start with the following steps:

the word goal with a red bullseye as the O and a dart in the middle

  • Define Your Long- and Short-Term Goals – Now that you’ve thought about all of the above, the first step is to make a record of the goals you hope to achieve – say, in the next 5 years. Write them down to keep yourself on track! When considering increasing revenue, subscriptions, or units think about making goals like:
      • Increase sales by 15%
      • Grow organic site traffic by 35%
      • Increase subscription trial conversion rate by 2%
      • Add new product lines, expand into a new market, or open a second store
  • Prioritize Your Goals – Once you’ve made a list of your goals, put them in order of importance, thinking about which ones:
    • Are most vital to your business’ growth
    • Offer the highest ROI
    • Are achievable with your current resources

Remember, too, that some goals with need to be met in a certain order, while others

could be worked on at the same time.

  • Figure Out Your Strategies for Meeting Your Goals – Now you need to take your goal and break down the steps you’ll need to go through to meet it. Let’s take a very concrete goal as an example: opening a new store in the next 6 months. You’ll need to take the following steps:
      • Research a location
      • Make sure your current revenue can support the initial costs
      • Hire the necessary personnel and have a training strategy in place
      • Start marketing a grand opening
  • Check Out the Competition and Make Sure There’s Market Demand – Did you know that 42% of failed startups said that they failed because they overestimated market demand? Making assumptions could be devastating for your business, as could not adequately researching your competition. If you’re offering something new and innovative, it’s crucial to conduct market research to make sure there’s enough demand. If you’ve got a lot of competitors for your market, check them out thoroughly, asking questions like the following:

    illustration of a man in a suit holding a clock going up piles of coins
    Focus on setting an attainable growth goal timeline.
      • Who are your competitors and what exactly do they offer?
      • What are their pricing models?
      • What is their marketing strategy?
      • What are their customers saying about them?
  • Set Timelines – You need to make sure you have a set time period for achieving your highest priority goals, but you also need to know the sequence of achieving those top goals. For example, if your goal is to increase your user base by a certain amount in the next month, you might first need to work on the goal of launching a new service or create a new free trial offer to entice them.

While most small businesses are looking to grow, the specific goals and strategies for reaching those goals are going to be different for every business. It all boils down to really knowing your business and having a clear understanding of where you are and where you want to be in a specific amount of time. Doing your research, backing up your assumptions, and documenting your goals will take time and effort, but it’ll all pay off when you start reaching your growth goals!

Is Social Responsibility the Path to Growth?

The economy may not be at its strongest, but there are still customers out there willing to spend money. The key to connecting with them is knowing what they’re looking for, and that doesn’t mean simply targeting your product or services to the right demographic. What many customers are looking for now is something more than quality and value, although those things are important. They are looking for a business whose ideals align with their own, and that they see as socially responsible. You can grow your small business by identifying what your company stands for beyond its bottom line and thinking about what you’re offering your customers besides products and services. If you can find a way to connect with them through shared values, then you’re likely to find yourself with a loyal following. 

Should You Make Social Responsibility Part of Your Brand’s Identity?

illustration of hands in the color black positioned around the earth
Companies that do business with other companies can help make a difference in the world and grow their business.

Being socially responsible might already be important to you in your daily life, but what about your business? Consider the following: in a recent study, more than half of consumers said that if price and quality were equal, a brand’s social purpose would be the most important factor when they’re purchasing something. In another survey, 63% of those surveyed agreed with this statement: “By choosing to do business with companies that are more socially responsible, I can make a difference in this world.”

Customers are sending a clear message to businesses, and employees might be just as eager to see that your business is socially responsible. Socially conscious companies often create positive work environments and have dynamic ideologies that attract top talent. If you’re looking to recruit the best, know that many top hires are looking for companies that they think are giving back to their communities

Can small businesses grow through being more socially conscious? Yes! Consider brands like Tom’s of Maine or Burt’s Bees. Both started off small, with clear social missions, and both have ended up becoming so successful that they were acquired for millions of dollars by multinational corporations. So by following your conscience, you’ll be sticking to your own values, as well as pleasing customers and employees, and growing your business. What’s not to like? 

Steps to Take

You may be wondering how, as a small business owner, you can go about incorporating social responsibility into the workings of your company. It’s all well and good for behemoths like Starbucks with nearly $17 billion behind them to do things like pay for health insurance and give back to developing countries, but what about your small business? 

You don’t have to be running a giant corporation to make social consciousness part of your brand’s identity. In fact, according to Susan Salgado, a co-founder and co-chair of the New York City chapter of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism, it might actually be easier for small businesses to be socially responsible. “Small companies are more nimble, so it’s easy to stay more closely attached to your purpose and values,” Salgado said.

It’s something you want to do, it’s something you can do, even as a small business owner…the question is how to incorporate your sense of social consciousness into your business. We’ve identified the steps you should take to help you make social responsibility part of your brand’s identity. 

1. Establish Your Social Mission different words surrounding the headline "helping volunteer"

Step number one? Know what your social mission is! You probably already have a mission statement for your business; a social mission statement will emphasize how your company will actively seek to help your community. Avoid being too vague here – you should be able to articulate what your mission is, and be able identify how you can accomplish it. If you can’t identify a specific mission, you won’t be able to translate your ideas to your employees, or give customers a reason to choose you over competitors. 

2. Set Goals, But Be Realistic

Having a specific mission statement is one thing, but you also need to think about what exactly you are going to do and how you can realistically set about doing it. First, consider what resources you have that you can allocate to doing good in your community. Then create a list of goals to try and reach in the next 6 months or so that won’t disrupt your day-to-day operations too much. 

When it comes to your goals, follow the SMART method and make sure that they are realistic, measurable, and attainable. Think about the following:

  • What needs are there in your community that you could help address?
  • How much money – and time – can you realistically set aside to do good in your community?
  • Is there a way to help educate or create awareness of an issue in your community?

3. Get Employees In On It

As we have already said, you should be able to clearly articulate your social mission; this includes being able to educate your employees on exactly what you’re trying to do. Get them on board and keep them informed every step of the way so they can get involved, and they can pass your vision on to customers. 

You should also be clear what their role in your business’ social mission is. While it’s ok for some employees to remain on the sidelines and simply be advocates for your brand’s social consciousness, you might want to create a team of other employees who can help you figure out ways to positively impact your community. 

4. Find Other Ways to Give Back

a man and woman with white shirts that say volunteer on them with a wodden box on a table that has a white sign with donation on it
You can donate, volunteer, and encourage your employees to help.

Having your brand attached to certain ideals via your social mission statement and putting resources towards your socially responsible goals are great first steps. So what are some other concrete ways to become a more visibly socially responsible business? Consider donating money or resources to local charities. If your small business has limited money to put aside for philanthropy, it would be just as beneficial to charities – and your business – for you to organize small fundraisers or drives, or set up donation boxes.

If money is an issue, you can also consider volunteering your time, and encouraging employees to do the same. You can organize team volunteer days, during which you and your employees spend a day working for a charitable organization. Consider also finding ways to reward employees who volunteer their time, perhaps by offering paid days off to spend their time engaged in philanthropic work.

5. Look at Your Own Labor Practices

There are so many ways to become known for your socially responsible activities, but remember that social consciousness starts within your business. Being an ethical employer is so important not only for your employees’ quality of life and job satisfaction, but also for your brand identity and growth potential. Treat your employees with respect, value their work, compensate them fairly, create a safe and healthy work environment, and allow them opportunities for growth in your company. Word will spread that your business lives up to your ideals.

6. Think About Sustainability the recycle symbol with green and blue arrows

Finally, being a valuable member of your community includes being environmentally conscious. You can create a more sustainable workplace by:

  • Going paperless whenever possible
  • Participating in recycling programs
  • Using eco-friendly lighting, supplies, and packing material
  • Encouraging carpooling
  • Switching to renewable energy sources

Remember, being a socially responsible business does not mean making a one-time donation or pulling marketing stunts. It’s a way of life, and it takes commitment. But if you’re willing to go the extra mile and stick to your ideals, you can make a profit and make a difference. Pay attention to both sides of the equation and you’re sure to grow. 

You’re Growing Fast! Now What?

You probably had a lot of dreams for your small business when you started it. Was one of those dreams rapid growth? We can’t blame you: who doesn’t want to see their revenues soar as their vision comes to life? Hopefully that dream is coming true for you! If it is, though, you need to be careful not to fall into certain traps, and see your growth begin to plateau. Rapid growth can be just as much a curse as a blessing for small businesses, so use the following tips to keep yourself on the right track.

person in  a suit pressing a button with the words "grow, learn, explore" next to it
In order to keep up with your rapid success of your business, you will have to examine exactly why it is growing.

1. Examine Why You’re Growing

Ok, you’re excited. Business is booming! But you can’t assume that this influx of customers – and revenue – is going to last forever. You need to take a step back and really examine the reason for your growth. If you don’t, you risk collapsing after the rush.

Why is the risk of failure higher after a period of rapid growth? Because that growth not only means more revenue, but it also means more expenditure. The growth slows down, and you’re stuck with more expenses than you can support. Understanding why you’re suddenly getting so much more business is critical. Knowing this will help you to plan for how much of your product you should have on hand at any one period in time, what your staffing needs will be, as well as the most important thing: when the growth is likely to slow down. 

2. Make Sure Your Customers Are Still Number One

Don’t be blinded by the dollar signs in front of your eyes! What’s the one, most indispensable thing that has gotten you to this point of rapid growth? Your customers! And that means the one thing you absolutely shouldn’t skimp on is customer service. After all, nobody likes being put on hold, shuffled around, or generally being put on the back burner, especially if your customers are used to a high level of service. hand with the pointer finger pressing on the 5th star of a review.

To keep on top of what your customers are thinking, ask for their feedback with surveys, as well as on social media. Believe us, they won’t hold back in cyberspace! It’s best to be proactive when it comes to what you’re customers are saying on social media: remember, according to studies, 47% of people have used social media to complain about a business, 50% of customers will boycott a brand if they get a poor response to a complaint, and a whopping 92% of customers will call you out on your poor customer service. If you start to slack in the customer service department because of your rapid growth, you will most certainly pay the price. 

You might also need to put more resources into your customer support team, which brings us to the following tip.

3. Figure Out What Your Staffing Needs Really Are

Has your rapid growth left you feeling short staffed and scrambling to stay on top of everything? It’s time to reassess your staffing needs and figure out what you really need. That can be tricky, since you don’t want to make the mistake of hiring too many people, because you could end up in trouble if your growth does level off. But not having enough staff could stall your growth or lead you into the trap of not being able to provide enough customer service. 

What to do? First, critically assess your current staff and make sure that their responsibilities are being assigned in a way to meet the increasing workload. Next, consider hiring temps. Not only will this help to keep the cost of hiring down, but it will also give you a good feel for how big of a staff you’ll actually need as you settle into a more leveled off period of growth. Another option is to go with freelancers: they can do tedious work that can be done remotely, like data entry, while you and your permanent staff focus on the bigger picture. 

4. Adaptability Is Key!blocks that says old way with the word new on top of the word old

They say, you can’t grow if you don’t change. We would add to that, you can’t handle that growth if you don’t change. Even if you feel like your way of doing business has brought you to this stage of rapid growth, it would still be a mistake to keep doing things the same way you were before this rush hit. After all, that growth is changing your business, so you need to change with it! 

It’s your job to make the big decisions, so step up and test out different strategies, accept new expenditures if need be, and inspire your team to innovate.

5. Look Outside of Your Business

Nobody does anything completely on their own. It’s ok to ask for help; after all, this is the first time you’re going through this! While we fully advocate for learning from your mistakes, you might not want to take the chance this time and at this critical juncture. Find a mentor who is an experienced entrepreneur, or look for a community of your peers to join. Getting advice from a wiser head or bouncing ideas off of people who have been there and done that can make all the difference.

It’s great that you’re growing so fast, and you should take pride in having brought your small business to this exciting stage. But this period of rapid growth can be full of pitfalls, so watch your step, and don’t lose your head. Be ready to make the big decisions, and we know you’ll come through this volatile period with a stronger business and a bright future.