8 Tips and Resources to Help Small Businesses Thrive


Starting and owning a small business can be demanding. At LightArrow, we have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that entrepreneurs, founders and startups face. Today, we’re sharing some of the top 8 problems that small businesses face and tips for overcoming these challenges.

1. Grow On a Shoestring Budget

No matter what type of business you’re in, marketing is essential to grow your business. Plus, having a website and a social media presence is crucial for small business success. A website is the core of your marketing efforts and social media builds credibility, generates leads and improves your website’s rankings.

Many startups and small businesses are on a shoestring budget, but this shouldn’t stop them from effectively marketing their products and services through a website. Building a website without a web developer on staff may seem daunting to non-technical entrepreneurs, but it can be easier than you think.

To get started with a website, research content management systems such as WordPress to find one that’s appropriate for your skill level. Take advantage of resources such as Lynda.com to learn how to properly set up a website. Research effective information architecture techniques to ensure you’re delivering material in a way that’s easy to consume.

Once your website is built, add new content to it regularly through a blog or forum that’s suitable for your audience. Drive traffic to your website through Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Quora and LinkedIn.

Investing time and energy into social media is crucial, but many new business owners believe that it isn’t necessary for success. However, social media is vital for building brand and awareness. And in fact, according to Hubspot, 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.

2. Improve Your Working Capital

In order for a business to thrive, it needs working capital and proper money management is among one of the top qualities of successful businesses. It’s important to calculate your working capital needs by finding the difference between current assets and liabilities.

In some cases, you might find your sales are not what you expected and working capital might be an issue in order to keep your business running. Or, your business is able to use cash on hand to fund operations, but it needs more cash to invest in advertising, product development, software, inventory or other resources in order to grow. If working capital is an issue, consider using an online provider of business loans, such as Kabbage to grow your business. They offer loans ranging from $2,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.

3. Build Good Customer Relationships

80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. -Gartner

Never underestimate the power of your satisfied customers. Happy customers are your best salespeople. And, just like in any type of relationship, communication is the key to success. Timely follow-ups after purchases to check customer satisfaction, to offer free content for customer empowerment and to provide rewards through programs can increase customer satisfaction.

However, managing these types of follow-ups can be difficult so many small businesses use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. If you’re a freelancer, real estate agent, single entrepreneur, or if you run a microbusiness, you can utilize LifeTopix to manage your follow-ups with customers. You can learn more at: Successful CRM Recipes for the Small Business Owner.

If you require an automated and cost-effective way to communicate with existing customers, you can utilize an email marketing platform suitable for small businesses, such as MailChimp, Aweber or Constant Contact.

With email marketing software, you can create personalized welcome programs for new customers and nurture programs for potential customers. If you use Ecommerce, you can automate customer retention programs by integrating your email marketing with your Ecommerce platform.

4. Use Time Management Techniques

When you become an entrepreneur or run a small business, you say goodbye to the 40-hour work week. You’re on call 24×7 and good time management is vital for success and it also prevents burnout. Goal setting, planning, prioritization, delegation and focus are time management tactics that are vital for a successful small business.

When setting goals, they should be S.M.A.R.T. For example, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Once you’ve decided on your goals, record them and put an action plan into place.

An action plan or follow-through strategy should include projects, tasks and the necessary resources. Define the work that’s required to reach your goals. Break the work down into tasks and assign those tasks to the resources who are available.

Effective entrepreneurs and small business owners have mastered delegation. They understand that some projects and tasks don’t require their supervision. They’ve learned that they can delegate these tasks to others in order to focus on strategic goals, relationship building and priorities.

Finally, focus is very important for entrepreneurs. Customer requests, advice from investors and advisors, employee demands and changing markets are just a few of the distractions that leaders balance every day. It’s important to stay on a clearly defined path and to avoid running off of course. Take advice from lean startups and get laser-focused your priorities and eliminate what’s not essential.

5. Hire the Right People

Hiring the right people for your small business or startup can be challenging. It takes a unique personality and set of skills to thrive in a lean, small business environment.

Consider that the people you hire will be working close together so they need to fit your company culture like a glove. They need to be willing to push up their sleeves and do the work themselves. It’s best to hire people who know how to do the job, not just how to manage the right people. Generally, they should have a wide variety of skills, rather than to be focused on a specific, niche area.

Startup and small business hires need to know what to do and when to do it without being asked. Hire senior employees and team them up with junior personnel.

Most recruiting firms are cost prohibitive for small businesses. Stay lean by taking advantage of your own informal and formal networks, LinkedIn and local job boards to find employees. Attract new employees by offering incentives that larger companies cannot, such as flexible work schedules, work from home days and stock options.

6. Improve Your Online Reputation

Online ratings can make or break a business. How often do you check Yelp before you visit a restaurant, salon, yoga studio or other business? Do you check the rating of an app or other product before you download or purchase it? Consumers regularly use online reviews to check the quality of a business or product before purchasing it.

The best way to avoid negative ratings and reviews is to have open communication with customers and solve their problems before they write negative comments. You should always provide a way for them to easily get in touch with you and subsequently deliver exemplary customer service.

No matter how wonderful your product or service might be, there will always be someone who won’t like it. It’s just the nature of doing business. When a negative review surfaces, it’s important to do everything possible to win that customer over.

Monitoring and responding to reviews is essential to keep ratings up. For example, I left a 4 star review on Yelp for an establishment that provides food and mentioned that the quality of the food had decreased. The manager contacted me directly and asked me specifically about the issue, provided coupons for free food and his note was friendly and kind. After this, I raised my review to 5 stars.

Check review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Reviews, and Yahoo Local reviews regularly. Respond to every review for sites that allow it, including both negative and positive reviews. In addition, you can set up Google Alerts to notify you of any online activity about your business.

7. Compete with Larger Companies

Many small businesses are competing against the big guys, who have enormous marketing budgets, connections with top public relations firms and can hire the best talent. Nonetheless, you can still succeed if you maintain focus. Focus on a specialty that the bigger companies are spread too thin to cover. Devote your time and resources to that niche and grow when the timing is right.

As a small company, focus on your pricing models. It’s possible that you can provide better products and services at a lower price than the larger companies if your company is running lean.

Above all, big companies tend to lose touch with their customers. Be a customer-centric company. Go above and beyond to ensure your customers are satisfied. Like I said before, your customers are your best salespeople; therefore, this strategy will pay off.

8. Optimize the Supply Chain

Recently, I discovered the small clothing company, American Giant who became an overnight success when Slate ran the article, “This Is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made.”

What’s exciting about American Giant is they have redefined the supply chain by selling their products directly from the warehouse to the consumer, thus, investing in the quality of their clothing and passing the savings to their customers. Essentially, they’re shadowing the same model that software manufacturers have followed for years, which is direct-to-customer. They’ve removed unnecessary steps in the supply chain, which eliminates overhead costs associated with most clothing manufacturers.

The lesson learned? Don’t be afraid of creatively solving problems related to your supply chain. For small businesses to thrive, it’s vital to deliver quality products or services to your customers in a timely way. By identifying, reducing or eliminating non-value added activities in the supply chain; you can optimize profits and gain a competitive advantage.

Your Turn

What are the biggest challenges facing your small company? How have you overcome these problems? Please share your story or ideas in the comments below.

Better Manage Customer Relationships with Custom Forms

LightArrow apps, which include LifeTopix, Pro.Calendar, Pro.Inbox and My.Agenda, have built-in and optional features, which allow you to better manage relationships with customers and contacts. These CRM features are primarily contained within the People + Services topic. The Pro Contacts pack adds CRM contact management features, including custom forms for contacts, a configurable contact grid view, and CSV import/export. It also allows data items such as tasks, appointments, reminders, notes, files, bookmarks, and expenses to be associated with contacts.

Introduction to Custom Forms

The ability to create custom forms is one example of the many features for managing your customer relationships. Custom Forms allow you to capture information about your customer that’s important to you. You can record any type of data you wish. For example, for business, you can create forms for orders, customer satisfaction, bookings, account data, employment data and more. In your personal life, you can keep details about your contacts, such as special dates to remember, gifts you received, or other personal information.

Custom forms can be applicable to groups and statuses. For example, you might only want to collect information about special dates to remember for friends and family, while order information is only applicable to clients. In addition, you can limit the forms to be applicable to contacts for which you’ve applied individual statuses. For example, you might apply a status such as Lost Client, and only Customer Survey and Lost Client forms apply.

You can easily define the forms and fields for collecting data. They’re very simple to set up as demonstrated in the following video.

Watch the Video

What’s Happened to Customer Support in the Age of Apps?

In the age of mobile apps, many of us are accustomed to the indisputable reality that customer service is more or less non-existent. For those who have “grown up” with desktop and web-based software, this new paradigm is unfamiliar and frustrating. When we purchase any product, we expect a certain level of support from the seller when there’s a problem or a question comes up.


In the world of mobile apps, customer service seems to have vanished. Many developers create apps as a hobby or they simply don’t see customer support as a necessity because the paradigm has shifted — users no longer expect good customer support. The problem doesn’t solely exist with the indie developers. I purchased a very popular app from the Apple App Store with several users and a 3 star rating. I experienced a problem that rendered the app unusable. I searched the app, the website, and the web for a customer support email or phone number and I was unable to find a way to contact the company. It appears the app only provides customer support via self service, which didn’t solve my problem. This left me with the only choice of providing a low rating at the Apple App store. In this case, I suspect, the app growth exploded and the small team just couldn’t keep up with the support demand so they chose to discontinue it. My experience is not unusual in the app world.

At LightArrow, we’re different. Our goal is simple. We build valuable apps for personal and business productivity and provide exceptional customer support. We understand that customer support takes time, and exemplary service is the heart of the software business.

How does LightArrow approach customer service?

The LightArrow team is based in Austin, Texas — the home of a booming tech industry. The company was founded in 2010 by a team of successful visionaries and repeat entrepreneurs who are solving problems that matter to people. Have you heard the expression, everything is bigger in Texas? When it comes to our apps and our commitment, this phrase certainly rings true. We strive for our apps to be intuitive and of the highest quality, but we understand that with big, comprehensive software solutions, you might have feedback, issues or questions. At LightArrow, we’re very receptive to your feedback and we quickly prioritize and incorporate your requests for new features and defect fixes. We update our apps often — ensuring that we continuously provide you with new value.

We utilize a combination of comprehensive online help; video tutorials; email, phone, and video support; and social media support. Our multi-channel support allows us to be there for our customers — no matter which channel is comfortable for them.

Our Help Center

LightArrow Help Center

For self-service support, we provide a Help Center, which is accessible through our apps or our website. LightArrow apps are built on the LightArrow App Engine 7, which provides a common set of functionality. All help is based on our flagship app, LifeTopix. We also provide context-sensitive help, through the lightbulb, which is relevant to whatever the user is doing at the time. The question mark in the upper-right corner provides instant access to our support email or Twitter handle. We also provide video tutorials and demos, which our users can find from our YouTube channel or website.

Our Help Center provides comprehensive help, all user comments and replies, common questions, a productivity portal, and searching capabilities. Our users can find answers through online help or see answers to all questions that other users have posted.

Our Engage View

Our Engage View communicates the latest developments at LightArrow and supplies several ways to contact us. Through this view, we furnish walk-throughs of new features for major releases, any known issues, and upcoming features and apps through our roadmap. Video tutorials and demos are available through this view — including a Getting Started video.

LightArrow Engage View

We embrace personal and business productivity and we aim to keep our customers educated on the latest tips and advice. The blog is updated regularly with useful tips and stories to keep our customers motivated and educated, and to turbocharge their productivity.

We encourage our customers to contact us publicly via Twitter and Facebook or privately through email. When a question or issue is complex, we ask customers to contact us via telephone. On occasion, we have user sessions with users to discuss ideas for enhancement of our apps through video or conference calls.

We’re proud of our approach, and once again we encourage you to reach out — however small your question or comment might seem to be. Keep in mind, we’re a different kind of app company. We listen, care, and respond. We truly care about you and your projects, we read every request, and we answer quickly as possible. If there’s something you don’t like about our apps, tell us about it instead of giving up on us. We’re likely to change it.

Your Turn

Have you worked with our customer service? Tell us about your experience. Thanks!

Wide Open Communication with Customers

 “Listening” versus “communicating”

How often have you heard that it is important for a company to “listen to its customers”? That would be hard to dispute, but listening is only part of it. In order for a company to be really successful, it must engage in regular, two-way communication with its customers.

A company must listen to customers so that it understands things like:

  • what pain they are experiencing
  • what they have tried in order to solve their pain
  • what they consider good value for a solution they purchase
  • what feedback they have on the company’s product after they have bought it

A company must speak to customers to tell them things like:

  • what the company heard from them
  • how the company’s products address their problems
  • why the company’s approach is the best
  • what they can expect from the company in the future

Some companies don’t believe in telling customers anything about their future product plans. That’s an opportunity lost because the more a company treats its customers like a true partner, the more loyal those customers will become.

The conventional argument against sharing too much about future plans is that doing so makes life too easy for the company’s competitors. Such thinking betrays an insecurity — if the company were really confident in its unmatched understanding of the customer, its superior ability to develop innovative ideas, and its unparalleled ability to execute, it wouldn’t be so reluctant to share openly with its customers.

How companies communicate today

The internet has been as transformational for a company’s ability to interact with its customers as it has been for so many other things. Now there is a wealth of options for realtime, two-way communication.

Of course, a web site is essential. A professional and attractive web presence is the minimum ante required of any organization that expects to be viewed as a “real company” by its customers. Web content tools and technologies have come so far that maintaining a web presence and keeping the content on it “fresh” has never been easier.

Typically, the web site serves as the primary vehicle for distributing the most up-to-date information about the company. But now the web site is as useful for inbound communication as it is for outbound communication. By incorporating an interactive blog, the company can enable a straightforward and easy-to-use mechanism for customers to provide direct feedback.

More and more companies are including Facebook in their marketing campaigns, with some running expensive promotions to accumulate “Likes” by users. The popularity of Facebook among younger users makes it essential as a way to reach a more youthful demographic.

Once the company achieves real sales traction, finding a scalable way to disseminate information to a large number of customers becomes very important. Twitter fits this role very nicely.

Despite the fact that, as a technology, email has been around for almost two decades, it still remains a very powerful arrow in the company’s quiver. Not only does it serve as a scalable mechanism for outbound communication to customers, but it also provides an efficient, documentable way for customers to submit support requests and information.

At LightArrow, we have found that doing all of these things helps to make us the best company we can be. But, we go even further. For instance, we allow our users to comment on any of the product pages of our web site. We feel this level of openness with our customers is essential if they are going to feel like we value their feedback and trust them to provide it. And not only do we share our future plans, we share our product roadmap, complete with target dates. This gives our customers confidence that we will continue to innovate, and that their faith in us and their investment in our product are well-placed.

Of course, if our customers ever come up with an idea for a way to communicate with us that we’re not already using, we’re all ears!   🙂