Smaller companies can sometimes feel powerless amid political turmoil, marketplace volatility and disruptive innovation.
But sometimes, being small is powerful and makes it possible to take destiny in your own hands — and carve out a calmer future.
The fortunes of big global companies regularly grab the headlines — with news of mergers and acquisitions, multi-million pound contracts, or jobs coming and going. But it's actually small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that represent the backbone of the economy. They account for 99 out of every 100 businesses across the UK and the rest of Europe.
What’s really interesting is the emerging ‘side hustle economy’ where as many as one in four people in the UK are already running a business ‘on the side’ of a day job. Seen as a less risky way to start a new business, incredibly, side hustlers are already estimated to be generating £72 billion to the economy .
Small often means micro too, as 90% have fewer than ten employees. So, it's no wonder if some SMEs feel overwhelmed by massive challenges in a fast-changing business world.
However, while many factors may be beyond your control, you can take action in key areas and tilt the balance back in your favour. Here are five challenges faced by SMEs in the UK — and some ideas on how to address them.
Challenge #1: How to win back time
Are you short of time? Running a small business often means taking on multiple roles, from financial management to marketing, stock ordering to sales. But it's important to free up as many hours as you can, to spend more time with customers. It's these relationships that will make your business distinct, strengthen loyalty and give you the edge.
So, any chance to avoid spending hours trapped in a back office, slaving over accounting spreadsheets is well worth pursuing. With online dashboards such as Elavon Connect, you can really take control of all your payment activities and see exactly how your business is performing, using your phone or tablet.
Challenge #2: How to get fast access to cash
It's reckoned that 50,000 businesses fail each year in the UK because of late payments — and the average value of each late payment is £6,142 . Emerging as an epidemic it has become more important than ever to use clear communications and robust accountancy methods.
You can also speed up the money going into your business account by using a payments partner that offers same-day settlement on transactions and makes it simple for you to accept all payment types including contactless, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
Challenge #3: How to become more mobile
There are two strands to this. Firstly, mobile users need to be able to access your products and services easily. The share of transactions completed on smartphones in Europe is rocketing at 21% year-on-year and looks set to soar past the number of desktop transactions . Easy ordering and interactions are a must, so check your website is mobile friendly.
Secondly, customers will also be expecting you to take their card payments securely on the move — whether you're engaging with them at a trade show, an artisan street market, or on a home visit. Elavon can make all of this possible.
Challenge #4: How to market wisely using social media
Most SMEs understand the power of social media marketing. But it's easy to waste a small fortune boosting posts or paying for pay-per-click if you're missing the target.
Working out what search words and terms your customers are actually searching for, using tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner can help make sure you incorporate them into your campaigns.
Getting help from a local marketing specialist may help too. But don't overlook the fact that someone within your team may be a social media ninja at home — and have untapped talent in crafting just the kinds of posts your company needs.
Challenge #5: How to scale without growing pains
Are you thinking of growing your business — or starting another one? Many small entrepreneurs own multiple businesses. It's estimated that one in four people in the UK are already ‘side hustling’, running a side business as well as a day job, contributing an estimated £72 billion to the economy . This makes life more interesting, of course. But more business can equal more hassle and complexity.
The best way to grow without all the pain is to let technology do much of the heavy lifting for you — by automating and streamlining much of the admin. Choose a payments partner that will work with you to design a payments solution that will grow in line with your business. You’ll be amazed by how many general business management tools there are built in with your payments solution, such as staff rotas, stock management and performance reports.
Play to your strengths
One great advantage of being a smaller business is that you can make decisions and adopt new technology quickly. This can make you nimble and agile, so you can roll with every challenge and take every opportunity. Go, SMEs of Europe!
 Elavon and Two Igloos research December 2018
 'The impact of late payments on SMEs' - Accountancy Age (March 20, 2019)
 'Side business is big business' - Henley Business School (July 5, 2018)