How to make 2021 yours for the taking

Mine for the taking

Little changes can make a big difference for small businesses in 2021. Three New Zealand small businesses share how they're preparing for a post-COVID reality.

At a glance

Here's a snapshot of the small business ideas shared by our interviewees:

  • Outsource or use technology to automate as many low-value and repetitive tasks as possible.
  • Offer customers greater choice around how and when they deal with your business. For example, you could set up a video call with a client in the early evening to suit their childcare schedule.
  • Take a bite-sized approach to implementing change. You never know what could be around the corner.

2020 was the year of small business pivots. This wasn’t a planned strategy for most but a necessary step for survival. However, it means many small business owners discovered new and creative ways to set their businesses up for success in 2021.

So, as customer expectations and behaviours continue to shift, what are the essential ingredients in the recipe for success in a post-pandemic world? We asked three small business owners to share their secret weapon for 2021.

Do more of what you love

“I [want] to be outsourcing the boring essentials, like accounting,” says Suzie Eggleton, founder of ethically-produced vegan handbag business Velvet Heartbeat, based in Auckland.

“I realised in 2020 that I’ll do better if I hand the stuff I don’t enjoy over to someone else.

“I’m not a huge fan of fabric-cutting for my work, for example. So I hired someone who does that for me. It streamlines things and frees me up to do the high-value work I enjoy and that I’m really good at.”

For Jan Viljoen, founder of JV Financial Services in Welcome Bay, 2021 is going to be all about using technology.

“We want to remove those processes that cause work to be repeated,” he says. “We want platforms that talk to each other and streamline our work. That will be an excellent investment in our business’s future.”

Give customers and clients greater choice

Last year, one of the realisations Viljoen had was that many benefits came with a move away from face-to-face meetings.

One was time saved by a lack of travel. Another was the ability to record video meetings (with consent) to ensure financial facts were kept correctly, rather than taking copious notes. A third was the opening up of entirely new parts of people’s diaries.

“I’ll be looking after my mental health and not being hard on myself. If I feel unmotivated for a few weeks, so be it.” – Vicky Ha, founder of House of Dumplings
People are much more used to slotting work into the other aspects of their lives and Viljoen plans to use this to strengthen relationships with his clients; it shows he is flexible and thinking of their unique needs.

“Now clients are happy to have an 8pm meeting, after they’ve sent their kids to bed and when they have time to think,” Viljoen says.

“It could be a phone or video call. The events of 2020 have made everybody realise that not all business needs to happen in an office between 9am and 5pm.”

Take baby steps

Vicky Ha, founder of Auckland-based House of Dumplings, says that during a time of massive change, it’s important to understand that you don’t have to make changes all at once.

“Make very small changes at a time,” Ha says. “We can’t control the market. The market is controlling us. No one really knows what is going on.

“Purchasing behaviour, eating out, staying home – all routines have completely changed. It‘s very chaotic, so control what you can and do it in baby steps.”

Get your name out there

Eggleton recently discovered that most customers do not make a purchase from Velvet Heartbeat the first time they hear of the business, nor the first time they visit the website.

Customers need to rub up against her brand a few times before making the purchase commitment.

With that in mind, Eggleton is brushing up on her SEO knowledge to ensure her site ranks well on Google. She’s listening to plenty of podcasts on marketing and is accepting PR requests and other content inclusions that will help spread brand awareness, as well as link back to her website.

“It’s fascinating and frustrating that people need to see the brand name several times before making a purchase,” she says. “But it’s a good fact to know, and I need to work with it to grow my business this year.”

Finally, look after your mental health

Most important, these small business owners say, is to look after yourself in 2021.

“I’ll be looking after my mental health and not being hard on myself,” Ha says. “If I feel unmotivated for a few weeks, so be it.”

New year, new beginnings. If you’re after a lump sum to invest in your business (or cover a one-off expense) a Prospa Small Business Loan could be just the thing to help you achieve your plans for world domination in 2021. You’ve got this!

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