A dollar is a dollar is a dollar.
But when it comes to spending money on your business, not all expenses are created equal. Some, while necessary, offer little in the way of return on investment. Others, however, can pay off in spades and have you seeing more black than you ever thought possible.
Since it’s not always easy to determine which investments will give you the best bang for your buck, here is a list of five investments every independent retailer should be making.
Automation. Nothing says profitability like an efficient and streamlined workflow. As featured in this month’s issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer magazine, ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems are now capable of managing everything from sales and inventory to marketing and payment processing. Also be on the lookout for apps or other software that will either increase your efficiency or lower your costs. While technology can be a costly investment, it will save you time and headaches and pay for itself several times over.
Association memberships. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. In the case of professional associations like Paint and Decorating Retailers Association, membership provides not only education and support, but access to a network of similar businesses and experts within your industry. The networking opportunities alone make the nominal membership fees worth it; take into the account the added benefits of product and service discounts, magazine subscriptions and access to webinars and other valuable information, and joining organizations like PDRA is a no-brainer.
Bookkeeping. It may not be the most exciting expenditure, but keeping your books in order is crucial to the short-term organization and the long-term survival of your small business. Whether you decide to hire a freelance bookkeeper or invest in your own accounting software, staying on top of payments and being prepared come tax time will go a long way in saving you interest charges and penalties. It will also boost your credit rating, which you can use to your advantage when applying for loans and/or lines of credit down the road.
Social media. If you are not currently taking advantage of social media to build your business, do it. Now. With traditional marketing going the way of the dodo bird and technology emerging as the great equalizer for small businesses, there has never been a better – or more affordable – time to get online and connect with your customers/potential customers. By engaging with people in real time via Facebook and Twitter, and promoting yourself on platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, you have access to an enormous audience with limited investment. But beware: it is better to not use social media at all than to use it poorly. If don’t have the time or expertise to maintain it yourself, consider hiring it out.
Training. “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Wise words from a fellow named Albert Einstein, which happen to apply not only to life, but to business as well. While it is easy to view staffing as an expense, it can also be one of your best investments. From the day you hire an employee, be sure to nurture her growth, build up her confidence and sharpen her skills. Whether it is through regular staff meetings, occasional workshops or annual conferences, encouraging lifelong professional development is key to any small business’s success. After all, it is easier to train an expert than it is to hire one.