Keeping your business engine running is just one of the many challenges a small business owner has today. Along with gaining knowledge on a variety of issues and staying on top of their leadership skills when navigating the good and the bad times. In this blog post, Shelley Rostlund, a Digital Marketing Consultant at Harbour 32, shares the five under-rated suppliers she feels sometimes go unnoticed in a business.
After reading this I’m sure you will agree that there are some under-rated suppliers in our business lifeboats. It is during the more challenging times in our businesses that we come to realise how much we really respect the types of suppliers that normally we don’t even have to “think” about.
These suppliers are sometimes the unseen heroes that keep our businesses going, or fix things for us without us even knowing there was a problem.
I guess because of the field I work in, I get to really know how badly things can go wrong when even the simplest of services are ‘down’ or disappear on you, as a business owner. Here are few suppliers I would say that keep the framework of your business going and are the unsung heroes of keeping you running and available to your customers/clients:
1. Website hosting and maintenance
Now, you will probably be in the position where you just pay your annual bill and that’s that. You may even review the costs sometimes and think: “I could do this, less just cancel this and go for the cheapest option.”
I would implore you to think again – especially if you have maintenance done on your site and you have someone who is physically updating the site and keeping the site security up to date. Wait until your site gets hacked and then points to porn sites for a full week and see whether moving to a cheaper option was the right thing to do. (True story – I’m not making this up).
Hosting = the servers that your website is actually sitting on (includes your HTTPS)
Maintenance = the site being physically checked each month for updates (e.g. like with WordPress websites).
These can be done by the same supplier or split between two different suppliers.
2. Telecoms provider (and internet)
The old adage of always be available for your customers/clients when they need you still holds true today. But – what happens when your mobile network goes down, or your landline dies a death and you depend on being available to your customers?
Today, you can have some really modern alternatives to BT landlines, like VoIP phones and obviously you can use telephony options through your CRM system and/or computers/devices. But then – you are also highly dependent on your internet service provider to be good, reliable and able to quickly fix your issues.
I worry about businesses who, again, go for the cheapest options which are not always the best options. You want a provider who will be quick to respond, and get you back up and running in no time at all. (And…not the one that has the cheapest cost and coolest advert on TV).
3. IT provider (hardware and software)
Oh my goodness. If there is one supplier I would highly suggest to all small businesses today – it’s get yourself a good, reliable IT-savvy supplier who can help keep your machines up and running. The amount of clients I have worked with who are slowed down by their dark ages IT set-up is astounding.
You cannot do everything yourself – and if you have never built a computer in your life – don’t think that you can sort your own computer out. The best thing I ever did was find a local Apple specialist who I could literally hand over my Mac and go: “help”. No amount of Googling to find the answer was worth the ease of getting Patrick to seek the solution, and then just fix it for me. It is not an expense …it’s huge time saver.
Computers and your networking solutions are so important in being able to work quickly and efficiently as small businesses – you have to make this type of supplier a priority.
You may only see your accountant once a year, but boy, are you happy to see him or her. Having your legal accounting requirements fulfilled properly year in and year out – will just solve you a world of hassle in the long run.
I’m pretty savvy with accounts which is super helpful for my bookkeeper who then works with our accountant to produce our financial statements and accounts for Companies House. Yes it’s a cost – but again, I view it as an investment in saving me time longer down the line if something had to happen and my business would be audited.
5. Virtual Assistant (VA)
This one tickles me pink. Some of the retained work that we do in our business on content marketing is on a VA basis (so the client can literally throw anything our way to get done and we just charge them on a set hourly rate).
We have also worked with our own VA (based in Melbourne Australia) for the last 10 years. So I see this one from both angles.
I know some small business owners look at their VA bill…and completely forget the daily value they get from working with their VA. VA’s have the proficiency to turn things around faster than you or your team can (in most instances). They also have the skills (and experience) to do the task physically faster and with the right tools (which you don’t have to subscribe to) – ensuring that they are professionally completed.
My VA is a Rockstar. She knows me so well, I don’t have to even complete my sentences and she is on it – or thought of it before me. Plus, she’s finished it before I’ve even had a chance to think “maybe I’ll just do it.” For small business owners – that is gold dust.
I’m sure I will add to this in future, and I will do. Which suppliers can you simply not do without? I’m sure I have forgotten one or two!
Our guest posts are really valuable to our readers – expanding on many of the subjects that they need to get their heads around in the course of running and building their businesses. A big thank to you to Shelley for taking the time to put together this post to give you some practical insights into her experience as a small business owner and also share some key learning on what not to skimp on in terms of suppliers.
Shelley works with us here at Clifford Towers and has helped us to enhance our digital skills and be more consistent in our communications with our clients. Harbour 32 is a digital agency based in Northamptonshire which focuses on web, social media and communications. You can check out their website; join them on Facebook or follow Shelley on Twitter.