We’re on the tail end of winter, and most of us are anxiously looking forward to the beautiful weather and warm sunshine that goes along with spring. However, there's one task that comes with the new season that most of us aren’t always that excited about. I’m talking about spring cleaning.
Regardless of your feelings on cleaning in general, your business can benefit from spring cleaning as well as your home. If you are a small to mid sized business, spring is the perfect time to implement some long awaited changes and improvements.
1. Update Your Company Website
If your business website is overdue for an overhaul, spring is a great time to bite the bullet and get it done. It doesn’t need to be an extensive teardown, and often just some cleanup and organization is all that’s required. This could be tweaking the information on your front page or streamlining the overall design for a cleaner look.
Most consumers are at least checking shopping and comparison websites before they make a purchase, so it’s crucial that your site be both friendly and straightforward to navigate. For starters, avoid posting every single detail about your company on the frontpage. Instead, link topics to a variety of internal pages. Save the front page for what a new visitor needs to see within 3 seconds to determine what your business is all about and for new products and services for returning clients. In addition, be on the lookout for outdated information, broken links and incorrect contact information. A website that hasn't been updated is a clear signal to potential clients and customers to go elsewhere.
2. Harness the Cloud
Today, some people might still be asking themselves, “What the heck is the Cloud?” Or maybe they haven’t had the time to research the various ways that it could transform their business. Either way you are already using the technology whenever you use your mobile phone to post a picture, access email and text with friends. For your business, cloud technology provides flexibility to how you and your customers interact with your business data.
One of the biggest promises of cloud technology is having the ability to access remote files and information from any device from anywhere at any time. We exist in a mobile world and we can't always be tethered to desktop machines. Gone are the dark ages when files only existed on one server and had to accessed onsite. Today, your business need to be able to handle remote worker needs and support offsite or informal work environments. Having the ability to access company files and materials is crucial for modern workers. Cloud computing makes it easy for staff to work efficiently outside of the workplace and for business owners to run their operation at any time of day, from anyplace.
3. Go Mobile
A static web site is no longer viable for a business website. Responsive sites are specifically designed for visitors to quickly access content from mobile devices. Older static or non-responsive sites are difficult or impossible to navigate on mobile devices and end with consumer frustration. Studies show that site visitors are more likely to go to a competitor site that is mobile optimized, rather than wait to get access to your site via a desktop device. Not sure if your site is responsive and mobile ready? Google offers a free Mobile-Friendly Test.
If your site isn't mobile-friendly, you're losing sales. In 2014 not being able to handle mobile traffic cost business owners an estimated $1.1 trillion in annual revenues. In 2015, mobile sales grew an astounding 630 percent, yet more than 75 percent of existing sites are not mobile-optimized.
4. Improve Technology
If your finances can handle it, spring can be a great time to invest in upgraded equipment that speeds up work processes and reduces labor. Capital purchases are often delayed during tighter budgets and the resulting outdated equipment will create bottlenecks in your business work flow.
To spring clean your business, replace slow and outdated computers, displays and other older technology. Dodgy equipment can easily slow or halt production by malfunctioning at the worst times (think POS system crashes) and causing your business to lose sales and customers. In addition to hardware, make sure your software is upgraded to the latest version. Otherwise, your business may be vulnerable to viruses and scams, incompability with other vendors and slower work processes.
5. Take Inventory
During spring, homeowners take on the dreaded garage cleanout or closet organization project. Business owners also need to stop and take inventory. Spend some time seeing what equipment and supplies you need and what items need to be eliminated.
Spring is one of the best times to go through your existing product inventory and get rid of broken, outdated, or expired stock. Use this time to make your company a more efficient business, as your products and services are your bread and butter. Often by clearing out old inventory, you can increase the number of product options for your customers. This can have a substantial positive effect on sales. Take this opportunity to investigate new vendor sources and products as well. Now is one the best times to expand your inventory lineup due to the consumer expectation of new products lines being launched in the spring.
6. Clear Your Email Inbox
When emails messages get ignored and begin to pile up, it can become a sticking point that saps your energy and encourages procastination. A lot of it may be just spam email that just needs to be trashed anyway, but you’re probably missing out on critical messages buried deep in that unread inbox.
If you feel that you are being buried by ever increasing mountains of spam, consider that an estimated 248 million emails are sent out each and every day and at least 60% can be considered junk email. It's a problem that's not going away anytime soon, so it's time to enlist technology to help you maintain your sanity. If you're having trouble deciding what’s junk and what’s mission critical, perhaps it’s time for an inbox intervention. This doesn’t mean sacrificing an entire day just to trash all your junk email; take 10 to 15 minutes at the start of your workday to scan your emails and move them to folders based on clients and priority. Most email hosting services offer automatic spam blocking at the host level and and tools like email searches, labels and filters to help you stay in control of your inbox.
7. Strengthen your Security
Criminals and other black hats are always on lookout for their next online victims, so it's a good idea to periodically audit your security procedures, hardware and software. Often smaller businesses are targeted by hackers due to the fact smaller companies lack the resources and staff to properly implement strong security protocols.
What does your small business have that the bad guys want so bad? Consider all the confidential information you take in, like customer contact information and credit card numbers or other critical data. True the payout is probably going to be bigger when larger businesses are targeted, but the sad truth is it is often simpler to break into your smaller business, since it's likely your online security is weaker. How can you protect your business? You can start by making sure your antivirus and firewall software is in place and working. Also, audit your various software systems to verify all security patches and program updates are installed; often an unpatched system allows attackers into your network beyond the initial point of entry.
8. Employee Evaluations
Traditionally spring has been a time for renewal in both body and spirit. Not only does the apply to you the business owner, but to your valued employees and staff. Spring is a good time for business owners to take stock of their employee base and their business performance, and to reward hard workers after what was probably a stressful year.
Conduct employee evaluations and recognize those who deserve attention for their efforts, and think of alternatives for those who aren't a good organization fit. Spring is the perfect time to review your budget for the purpose of allocating funds for employee bonuses if it is appropriate. An efficient way to handle employee reviews is to meet with your department heads and define what performance goals you expect from employees of each department. Next meet with each staff member and layout your plan for that employee to help the organization achieve those specific measurable results.
9. Enhance Social Media
We've already talked about having a modern website that is responsive and mobile ready, but you also need to make sure your social media presence is up to date and being maintained on a frequent basis. Social media is a cost effective way to engage with your existing clients and raise awareness of your brand.
Used correctly, social media can be a great way to attract new customers. Depending on your industry, you’ll want to identify the correct social media channel to connect with your customers. Social media can bolster your company’s search engine visibility while at the same time keeping your customers informed.
10. Get Cleaning
Did you think you would make it through the list without some actual cleaning? Yes, you need to take the time (or hire a professional service) to clean and organize the work areas. Stacks of stored equipment, files and other junk are something you and your staff need to navigate each day. Dirty equipment and work areas contribute to employee dissatisfaction and decreased production. A clean and organized office will restore and boost energy you may not notice that you lost.
Newsflash: your computer hardware and devices are likely much dirtier and gross than you imagine. Spend a few minutes to clean your keyboards, LCD screens and replace the batteries in your wireless and Bluetooth devices. Use compressed air for computer cases and specialty swipes make for safe LCD screen cleaning. Inspect your printers and verify they are printing cleanly and the mechanisms are free of stray paper and other debris. Also check your stock of printer cartridges and save money by ordering replacement online instead of the local mall office supply store.