Sage Advice

Business confidence is rising, now what?

Businesses in the U.S. and abroad are optimistic about their prospects in 2015. The 2014 Sage Business Index revealed that business confidence among small and medium-sized companies has reached a four-year high.

American businesses have weathered the storm of years past and confidence in their own business prospects and the national economy has gone up, while doubts over the global economy linger.

But what does this improved confidence mean for U.S. businesses in 2015? To keep the global economy moving in a positive direction, small and medium-sized companies must keep growing and thriving. The majority of businesses anticipate revenue growth in the year ahead, and they are not hitting the brakes on hiring either—nearly half expect to employ more people next year.

American businesses plan to grow by reducing operating costs, increasing customer loyalty, using new marketing tactics and expanding their product or service portfolio. To make the most of their renewed confidence heading into 2015 and to continue to grow, small and medium-sized companies should consider a few different approaches.

Keep or start taking risks.

American business decision-makers have a risk-taking spirit; more than half describe themselves as risk seekers. Risk-taking can propel a business forward and give you a competitive advantage by unearthing new markets, new capabilities and new processes. Good risks require careful planning and a calculated understanding of what you can afford to lose. Start by taking small risks that will build your confidence to take larger risks in the future.

Always listen to your customers.

Many companies go off assumptions from years ago. But, technology and culture are rapidly changing, and in order to continue growing and stay ahead of their customers’ needs, companies need to increase customer loyalty, and they can do that by listening on an ongoing basis. Companies need to build a customer-centric culture. Look at your customers and their needs. How can you give them solutions to make their life easier, while building lasting relationships along the way? It may be a new website or just a simple, handwritten thank-you card. Whatever it is, put in the right amount of planning, get all teams on board, and execute it wholeheartedly.

Sage Business Index
Look for creative ways to retain employees.

While you’re likely looking to add staff in the next year, don’t overlook your current employees. For smaller companies, in particular, every key player is critical to success and you can’t afford to lose your stars. However, the reality is, as your business confidence and the national economy improve, so do the job prospects for your best employees. Ask yourself, have you been taking care of your top talent? Does everyone have a growth path? When top talent can’t grow, they leave; so have a plan to give them opportunities to learn, do new things and move their careers forward. Your aim should be zero voluntary attrition.

Get a mentor to grow abroad.

Two-thirds of small and medium-sized businesses do no business abroad, but half of those that do expect to grow their export business in the coming year. Dipping your toes in these waters can feel like a large risk. Using a mentor who has experience with exporting can make the difference between success and failure. Mentoring can help your businesses to make the right changes at the right times.

Consider getting involved in local politics.

The biggest challenge businesses face when growing has shifted from winning new customers to government bureaucracy. Globally and in the U.S., too much legislation, government handling of economic challenges and tax rates/tax relief pose the greatest obstacles to your growth. Your voice on these issues—the voice of small and medium-sized businesses—needs to be heard.

At Sage Summit 2014 in July, Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, and Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and longtime advisor to President Barack Obama discussed how government policy affects business.

When asked what small and medium-sized businesses can do to work with government to be successful, Gibbs said, “For us to continue seeing the economy improve and consumer demand improve, we’ve got to do what we can to help small businesses hire more people, put people to work, [and] put cash in their pockets.”

Rove said, “Run for office [….] whether it’s your school board, or your town council, or your county commission, or your legislature, or Congress. [….] It’s valuable to have a small business experience help color the views and votes of our members of Congress.”

When it comes to small and medium-sized business, it’s not just business, it’s personal. Each business is unique and each has different priorities for 2015. At Sage we understand this and we do our best to support millions of customers and meet your individual needs so you can achieve your goals. Understanding your attitudes and the issues you face means we can better serve you, and that’s why we carry out the Sage Business Index each year.

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About the author

Born and raised in Alaska, Gabie Boko (EVP of marketing at Sage) has innovation in her blood, and has built her career in marketing, sales, and channel development with leading technology innovators. Some highlights of her 18-year career include constructing the custom catalogue function for Insight Enterprises early in her career, then developing the field marketing function for Cognos Corporation, rebranding Outlooksoft prior to its sale to SAP, and building the customer value management organization at SAP. She has developed and managed high-performance teams across enterprise solutions including business intelligence, content management, business performance, and business process management.

Nexus: G-WEBCD2