How to Grow and Sustainable Online Business in 2018 and Beyond

Start up in business

Setting up an online business is a relatively simple process – but every week there’s news of more start-ups going bust, and unfortunately the vast majority fail within the first few years.

To make sure your new venture doesn’t become a statistic, it’s important to focus on building a strong, sustainable online business with the capacity to respond to ever-changing consumer preferences. Here’s how.

Talk to your customers
As an online business, you have access to powerful tools to help you gauge how well you are meeting your customers’ needs – and what they want from you next. Use them!

That doesn’t mean setting up camp on every single social media platform – you have a business to run, after all – but it’s vital that you establish a clear channel of communication with the people you serve, and keep a dialogue flowing.

Find out which platform your target customers use – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter – and invite people to interact with you. The key is responsiveness – answer their questions or complaints, ask for their opinions, explore their pain points and provide them with useful content that proves how much you can help them.

Our social and commercial environment is changing so rapidly, and these days it’s incredibly easy for customers to find alternatives and switch their loyalties – so it’s vital you keep pace with important developments and stay relevant to your client base.
Hard as it may be, you need to be prepared to pivot and take your business strategy in a new direction if that’s where developing technology and your customers’ needs takes you. To be sustainable, you’ll also need to be agile.

Monitor your financial performance
While it’s vital to know where you’re going, it’s equally important to know where you are. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of growing your business – but you simply can’t make sensible strategic decisions unless you have a thorough, up-to- date picture of how your business is performing.

The only way to achieve that is to conduct a detailed monthly review of your financial performance, including full financial statements, analysis of key ratios like your Return on Capital Employed, and projections of profits and cash flow.

Be sure to drill down to see which areas of your business (customers, products, sales channels, marketing initiatives) are performing well, and whether any are merely draining your profits. Together with the information you gather from your customers, this will enable you to make important decisions about where to focus your precious resources and whether you have the resources to invest further in your business.

Keep your cash flowing
There’s one main reason businesses go bust: cash. No matter how great your sales growth is, or how profitable you are on paper, if you don’t have the cash on hand to pay your bills, you’ll end up out of business.

Most businesses go through quiet periods, when sales are slow and income fluctuates. Unfortunately, the overheads keep mounting up, and there’s always the risk of unexpected expenses. It’s absolutely crucial that you have enough working capital to meet all your regular obligations, and a healthy reserve
to see you through the tough times.

Maintaining a realistic rolling cash forecast will enable you to foresee potential issues and take action before you hit a crisis. If your cash pool is lower than you’d like, you could consider a small business finance option available for you, such as an overdraft or business credit card, to draw on should you
need it.

Toby Smith - Toby Smith is an Australian freelance writer from Sydney. He is passionate about all things business, educating his readers on how to effectively grow and lead successful businesses.
Visit Toby's Website

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Shut up and start that business!

Sometimes there is too much yabbering on about “Yeah I’m going to start that business” well get on with it! I don’t mean BLINDLY jump in and start but there are things you can do to assist your start up to well… get started. Plan, you have probably thought about your business a LOT! Now put those thoughts on paper.

Get the right people behind you, a mentor, an accountant and listen to their advice and information. Then explore ways to make your business successful, That might start with effective accounting software, so you can have time to practice getting up to speed with how it will work for your business.

Now take a look at these ideas and explore your planning from there.

Start up tips.
  • Get smart – Set solid achievable goals, Aim to work less physically and earn more, therefore get others to do the hard stuff that is too taxing on you and you get to supervise them
  • Do your research – Who are your competitors, what is the need for what you have to offer, how much will your costs of business be…
  • Get a mentor – Find someone ‘successful’ in the line of business you want to go into and chat to them, make them your best buddy, learn from them fast.
  • Do the sums – How much money do you need to earn PER DAY to make a decent wage for yourself, work it out over a 220 day period, as that’s about all you get in a working year. Know that profit is different from wages and overheads… Use any profit wisely
  • Develop easy systems, policies and procedures as you go – Make it so that if you had to sell the business tomorrow, you could set someone up in that business really easily
  • It’s an asset – That means it earns money and if you sell it later on you can realise a profit. If it’s a good business it will sell easily and that will be due to good $$ figures as well as having great systems a kid could follow to make it run
  • Be the leader people LOVE –  Your staff, your customers, your suppliers. They should all love you for all the right reasons, you are honest, trustworthy, respectful
  • Learn more – You don’t know it all, you either learn fast or get someone to do do it for you. Actually do both so you can keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening
  • Squeak – Be squeaky clean in all your dealings in business, naughty deals go bad, not every time, but when they do you may well have good reason to fear for your life
  • Professionalism – Be the best you can at communication, presentation, living positive values, making/creating fantastic goods and or services

Overwhelming? Welcome to business, and this is just the tip of the iceberg…

  • Have business insurance – Peace of mind can cost money, but it’s worth it if you need to payout hard earned $$ for whatever reason
  • Real estate – You want to rent an office, a workshop, a shopfront… Good find out the details of how long the lease needs to be, what things you can and can’t do there. If you want to rely on passing trade, for a shop front for instance, then sit out the front and count, if 50 people go past in a day, how many of those will buy from  you?
  • Marketing – It was never easy, and now although there is social media, it’s even harder to get peoples attention, time to create a plan, a detailed one. Oh and you have budgeted for the costs yeah?
  • Budget – In the first phase of business you will spend a heap of money, make sure you know where it’s going. Careful planning is vital here, too many people have thrown away countless thousands on a fabulous idea, only to go nowhere. These people can end up sour and bitter about business. Track your income, profits etc, learn  how to do that effortlessly
  • Learn more – Read articles, jot down ideas, do a small business course, jot down more ideas, check out your competition and other businesses like yours, chat to them, find out their pain and figure out what you can do to avoid that pain. Go to business seminars, industry events and the like. Get into groups on social media for your industry type. Read books on key business things you need to know about, marketing, operations, management, communications skills, leadership and negotiation, just to name a few

So you figure you will be busy with all this and have no time to do your real business… Yep, that’s right. If you think your business is just going to be 9 – 5 with days off, then you have another thing coming. You will plan to get in early, leave late and LOVE IT! If you don’t hang in for the long haul deeply passionate love fest, then you can kiss the whole thing goodbye…

  • Get passionate – Then stay that way
  • Get support from your family and friends – They might not see much of you for a while! Also make sure you support them…
  • Develop  your skills – don’t just think you are good at what you do, become brilliant!
  • Be humble – No one likes a smart Alec, nuf said!
  • Surround yourself – With people who care and want you to succeed
  • Repeat – All the previous points and get on with being fantastic at what you do and how you run your business

I guess you need to then figure out early how you will replace yourself in your business with others who can do the work and free you up to get on with enjoying the business. Don’t like some aspect of your business? Put someone in there that can do the task and love it.


Steve Gray

Enterprise Provocatuer


Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve You can get his Leadership E Book from The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
Visit Steve's Website

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Five tips to Grow a Sustainable Small Business in 2017 and Beyond


Far too many small businesses fail within the first five years – so how do you make sure yours is
one of the success stories?
Here are 5 important tips to help you grow a sustainable small business.

  1. – Cash is king
    The number one reason SMEs go to the wall is that they run out of cash. So if you want to go to
    the distance, it’s crucial that you monitor your cashflow.
    Turnover does not equal profit – and profit on paper is meaningless if you can’t pay your bills
    when they fall due.
    There are lots of strategies you can use to boost your working capital, including:
    · Organising short-term finance like an overdraft or business credit card to cover
    · Controlling your stock levels to avoid tying up cash in excess inventor
    Shaun McGowan from business loans website Lend says “Business owners should consider
    using long-term finance instead of cash for asset purchases and always to negotiate with
    finance providers and creditors to match payments to your cashflow”.
  2. – Know your numbers
    To run a successful business, you must keep a close eye on your financial performance,
    including these key ratios:
    · Profitability – what percentage of each sale is profit, once you’ve covered variable costs
    like materials, transport and customer acquisition?
    · Breakeven point – how many sales do you need to make to cover your fixed costs?
    · Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) – this ratio (net profits/total assets) tells you how
    much return you are making on the money invested in your business. Compare this to
    how much you could make by investing that money elsewhere, to evaluate whether
    your business is profitable enough to compensate for your time and effort.
    Analyse your performance monthly, so you can spot problems early and take action to get back
    on track.
  3. – Value your people
    Your business is only as good as the people in your team.
    Fill any gaps in your skills with people who have those strengths – and who share your passion
    and vision. Treat them with respect, reward their efforts well, and harness their skills to make
    your business stronger.
  4. – Safeguard your reputation
    In today’s viral age, a bad review can spread like wildfire and permanently damage your
    The customer may not always be right – to be sustainable you need to pick your business
    relationships with care and work with profitable clients who pay on time – but the customer
    experience is vital.
    Build and maintain a loyal customer base by having strong core values, and acting with
    consistency and integrity at all times.
  5. – Grow with caution
    Not every opportunity will be worthwhile, so evaluate each new customer, sales channel or
    acquisition before you leap in.
    · Do you have the capacity to service a new customer without hiring more staff or
    investing in new infrastructure? If not, will the profits cover your additional fixed costs?
    · Will you still be able to provide the level of service upon which your reputation
    · Does the opportunity fit with your long-term plans and strategic direction?

Cautious, steady growth is the key to long-term success and sustainability.

Toby Smith - Toby Smith is an Australian freelance writer from Sydney. He is passionate about all things business, educating his readers on how to effectively grow and lead successful businesses.
Visit Toby's Website

Happy staff, yes they make a difference

Well after all who likes to be unhappy? You start the day with good intentions, you want to go home happy, you want to have a good time while doing what you do, you hope the stress levels will be low. Overall you want to be happy.

Then you find out there are things that cause you to not be happy, it can be lots of little things, things you figure you can’t control, the things you can control well you tend to shrug those off fairly quickly.

If it’s your business then you want to get a few things to happen right, you want, profitable outcomes, customer satisfaction, and things to run smoothly, ok so it’s a short list, but hopefully you get the idea.

So imagine if something happens to throw things out of alignment, what if you were the cause of that… What if you thought you were doing a good thing but, oh no, you slipped up. oops. That can be a bit embarrassing.

Most organisations agree that talent is their most important asset, but the results of a new survey show that most businesses are not in tune with employee perceptions around key talent imperatives, including engagement, training and career development.

Let’s get something straight, you may not know everything about how to keep people happy while creating profitable outcomes and no one expects you to be expert at analysing every detail of how the human side of your business operates. However it would be wise to at least learn some of the aspects of what keeps your staff effective in what they do.

Here’s a few points to consider;

  • Happy staff are more productive – They generally do more in the time allotted and or are more willing to come in early, stay late or do extra out of hours
  • Happy staff cause your customers to be happy – That’s a good thing right… Yes it is, sales happen more readily, more items can be picked up as add ons, and referrals can be more readily obtained
  • Happy people can – Do so much, like problem solve better, interact more effectively, lighten a stressful workload…

The thing is figuring out how to create and maintain happy staff so they can do these things. Of course there will be things out of your control but the things in your control need to be looked at and developed.


  • PIP Communication – People love feedback, especially positive feedback, if there is negative feedback, make it a minor issue by giving positive feedback first, then finish off with more positives, leave the negative chunk to sit in the middle, P.I.P. Praise, Improve, Praise. It makes giving the improvement chunk so much easier to deliver
  • Take a long term view – Your team may be on a go slow today, but will probably be on a go fast phase on another day. Some will even sense the go slow and the reduced outcomes and readily do more at a later stage to compensate. Seeing a bunch of workers not putting in for a while might look unproductive, but the camaraderie they are sharing might be worth it for the positive vibe it can create for the rest of the day. Avoid looking like a grump, aim to see past the extra time chatting today and see the increased outcomes achieved later on.
  • Lead… – Most people like to be led, most will respect a good leader, setting objectives and goals and discussing way to achieve them can be a big part of that. Learn how to lead, discover better ways to get your message across, get consensus, get engagement, get people on your side, then and only then will you get people doing more, being more and exploring better ways to do what they do in their job
  • Love people – In business you sell to people, not robots, well not yet… Therefore if it’s a customer, people buy from people they like, if it’s staff, people still buy from people they like, so be a fantastic person to “sell” more of the right ways to do things, so they become positively engaged in making your business do more, be more, have more… Figure out ways to love, and share the love so your team says yes more often, then figure out if they love you back…

Put in some effort to knowing more about your people and how they tick… Then work with them to create more happiness and watch the team glow, it’s a good feeling!

Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve You can get his Leadership E Book from The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
Visit Steve's Website

Congratulations, you win

As you relax into  your well earned early retirement you recall some of the challenging moments, as well as the good ones, but in the end you made it.

It took a while, long hours occasionally, staffing issues, just a few, and of course customers from hell! But you made it, well done… If you could go back and tell yourself starting out in business what to avoid and what to focus more on you would probably be better off, but you are happy with things so far.

You were able to get out early, thanks to good planning, you still have a fair amount of good health to enjoy your retirement time and the good sense to really check out the details when something sounds too good to be true!

You can feel the warm sun on your face as you relax doing what you love best. The people that helped you get to where you’re at have come and gone, a few still about. You are revelling in your good fortune and know that amongst all that goes on in this mysterious world, things turned out ok because you put in a top effort. You listened to all the advice that was given and made clear decisions based on solid facts, ok so you occasionally messed up, but you learnt.

Then there was the other things that can get in the way, your personal life, family and friends and finding time to fit all the things you wanted to do and indeed some of those things that you needed to do into a tight time frame. Sure you may have been exasperated at the time but in the end you got there.


Relax it’s all under control, you did what you did and still came out on top.

You know it wasn’t plain sailing, and that the road ahead had very changeable scenery, but you managed somehow and when the tough times faded by you learnt but didn’t hold on to the emotional baggage for too long, you knew that life was too short.

You wanted things to go smoothly, you wanted the plans to all be good, profitable, effective and easy to implement. But in the end you knew better, and that to reap the long term rewards rewards that there would be risks.

The late afternoon sun shining through the trees cast beautiful dappled light on all before you, it all feels right.

So what made all this possible? Was it good Marketing, good service from you and your staff or rock solid management and operational strategies? You know it was a mix of these, of course it was, all off these things made the difference to the end outcome. As well as this the people you chose and trained, followed by environment you created all fed the culture of excellence that so elegantly seemed to happen with ease, just like you wanted it to be.

The sun sinks that bit lower as you now head inside, ready to enjoy life’s next fascinating chapter as you continue to plan and enjoy the fruits of your labour, congratulations, it’s all been well worth it!

Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve You can get his Leadership E Book from The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
Visit Steve's Website

Reluctant… yes you are, now what?

It’s all about resistance to change, you might have to, but you don’t want to.

I’m not sure I know why that is, it just is. My suggestion is to run whatever the idea is through a basic ‘filter’ and decide yes it’s a good thing for my business or not. If not move on, if yes, how can yo implement it?

Perhaps your reluctance to take on board the idea is based around the cost, or the time taken to implement it. Ask, can these be broken down into manageable chunks? Now move on the idea, if it’s of benefit to your customers and or the way you transact business in the background then get on with it.

Here are three areas of resistance you may have to overcome

  1. Cultural Change – This new idea won’t work here, we don’t do things that way
  2. Personal Change – What’s in it for me, maybe I will have less work hours, or some other negative outcome for me… Or if there’s a perceived positive outcome for me do I want that outcome
  3. Intellectual – I heard the idea, but I don’t understand it on some level
Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve You can get his Leadership E Book from The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
Visit Steve's Website

They left, so what…

A current saying that is so true, “People leave because of the Manager, not because of the company”.

Basically you can have a good company, but a bad department in that company can account for most of your staff turnover. Chat to the Manager and you might find a range of excuses, justifications and reasons why. Ask some of the staff and you might find some other issues.

Managers can cause tensions, often through not knowing about ‘things’, which can build up to become a sore point for a team member. Sometimes it can build up to become a “Homer Simpson Moment” You may remember the scene where Homer says to his Daughter, “Lisa, everyone knows that you don’t protest at work, if you don’t like the job, you just go in and do it half assed”.

Managers can;

  • Annoy people with a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach, possibly not following systems and procedures and creating excuses as to why that happened and “oh it’s a one off…”
  • Talk about and possibly undermine a team member behind their back, causing others to think differently, or wrongly about that person
  • Be disorganised and blame others for the poor performance of the team or one person, planning seems to be ad hoc at best
  • Create more drama than required, by pushing deadlines, fumbling through chaos, over reacting to situations, and a host of other things only drama creators will probably understand fully…
  • Flaunt Health and Safety guidelines, procedures etc… Causing people to play one against the other when they don’t want to use personal protective equipment for their own safety.
  • They don’t look for problems, they wait for the problems to come to them… When they do they have multiplied in strength and become a major issue, rather than a thing that may have had a quick fix if caught early
  • Busyness becomes them… Yep they are tangled up in ordering, allegedly organising and dealing with things that keep them away from the real work. Good planning and organisation will mean they can have time to do lots of little things to make things run effectively, and time for the bigger things like supporting, discussing and exploring, in short coaching…
  • Train, empower and motivate, that’s probably the main task of most Managers, yet in failing divisions or departments, these three key things are done poorly, one thing done badly is bad enough, but all three can spell disaster

Do  your business a favour and find out how you can support your team leaders, managers and supervisors to be better at eliminating these issues. When you become the coach, you can then expect more staff to stay for the long term, supported and happy in the role they play.

Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve You can get his Leadership E Book from The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
Visit Steve's Website
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