4 Items Every Independent Retail Business Should Update Regularly
As a business owner, it’s easy to get so focused on running your daily operations that you forget about maintaining your infrastructure. But allowing your infrastructure to get outdated can hurt your efficiency and cost you money in ways you may not realize. For instance, workers spend an average of 520 hours a year on repetitive tasks that could be automated, costing their employees $13,202.80 a year in wasted expenses, a Samanage survey reports. And 60 percent of consumers say they’re less likely to buy from a business website that seems old or neglected, Vistaprint says.
Keeping current is critical for staying profitable. Here are four items that every independent retail business should keep up-to-date.
Most small business owners only think about their business plan when they’re starting up, but keeping your plan up to date is essential for successfully adjusting to changing business conditions. Entrepreneur recommends you thoroughly review of your business plan at least once a year, making sure to:
- Analyze your financials
- Check for updates to your market
- Gather feedback from your customers
- Research technology changes
- Investigate other changes that could impact your business
Entrepreneur also recommends doing a monthly review to compare how your sales projections and business goals are matching up to your performance.
The National Federation of Independent Business further suggests updating your business plan when your business goes through major changes. Examples include changes in personnel, location, competitive disruptions in your industry and snags in achieving your financial or business goals.
Bookkeeping is one of the least favorite tasks for most small business owners, but it’s vital to keep your books current in order to keep your finances on track. Fortunately, today’s technology makes it easier to keep your books updated by leveraging automation. Cloud-based accounting software such as QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks and Xero can allow you to automate many common accounting tasks such as entering transaction data and expense reports. If you’re using cloud accounting software, you should take advantage of it to keep a close eye on your cash flow by reconciling your books weekly or even daily, BoxFreeIT says.
For retailers, one aspect of bookkeeping where regular updates are important is inventory. Automated inventory tools such as Fishbowl, Inventory Control, and Zoho Inventory can help save you time by keeping your inventory perpetually updated. If you use software tools such as this to keep your inventory perpetually current, you should supplement your automated inventory management with frequent spot checks of high-value items, recommends the Houston Chronicle. You can also do more systematic periodic inventory counts every three or six months to verify the accuracy of your automated system, or you can rely on complete annual inventory checks. You may also wish to conduct seasonal checks to check availability of in-demand items before peak sales seasons.
Keeping equipment updated is also essential for operational and cost efficiency as well as for safety in some cases. Engineering consultancy Life Cycle Engineering recommends that companies should develop an equipment maintenance plan laying out the tasks needed to keep equipment in proper working order. Equipment maintenance plans should use a table format to list essential maintenance information such as what tasks are to be performed, how often they should be done and who is responsible for doing them.
As a rule of thumb, computer equipment should be replaced every five to six years in order to maximize cost-efficiency, recommends Intel. Mechanical equipment should be inspected and upgraded based on manufacturer recommendations. For some equipment, safety considerations dictate more frequent inspections. For instance, heavy machinery that relies on o-rings to protect workers from hot or toxic substances should have seals inspected regularly in compliance with manufacturer recommendations and any applicable regulatory standards.
In addition to hardware equipment such as computers, other essential business technology should also be kept current. This is especially true of security updates, critical when hackers are increasingly targeting small businesses. Sixty-nine percent of companies are relying on outdated security solutions, a Ponemon Institute survey says. Make sure all operating systems, software updates and anti-virus updates are kept current.
Customer-facing technology such as websites, chatbots and IVR systems should also be upgraded periodically. For software upgrades, since these can be expensive and run a risk of downtime during transition periods, be sure to do a cost-benefit analysis of the pros and cons of upgrading.
Finally, as you aim to strengthen your retail business remember that a constant evaluation of the tools and resources you use to help your business thrive should always be on your agenda.
Photo Credit: Image provided by Social Monsters with permission to use.