It is a remarkable time to be an entrepreneur. Anyone with a great idea, some inspiration and a few hundred dollars can start a business. There may never be a better time to reinvest back into a business you already own.
Consider our current environment:
- Capital is readily available both from banks and communities (crowdsourcing). Interest rates are still relatively low.
- The advent of applications like Square for payment transactions, and collaboration tools like Slack or Wrike, offer the ability of internal systems at a fraction of what they used to cost.
- The economy is heating up. Buoyed by a surging stock market, the U.S. economy is experiencing one of its most expansive periods of the nine-year recovery, including 3.3 percent GDP growth in Q3, with modest inflation and strong consumer confidence.
- The Wall Street Journal and Vistage (where I'm a member) report that investment confidence for small and medium sized businesses is up a sharp 15 points from this time last year.
- E-commerce is expected to grow 20 percent in 2018. It's the great equalizer for companies seeking to compete with larger competitors.
- Tax reform can provide substantial tax benefits. While much of the press has been focused on big business and the corporate tax rate, pass-through entities (85 percent of businesses) will be able to deduct 20 percent of pass-through income, up to $315,000. While the political winds could shift at any time, the next two to three years provide a window of favorable tax treatment that will promote investment.
There are, of course, ongoing challenges--including hyper-competition in every industry, the threat of inflation, student loan debt over $1 trillion, and a likely economic downturn by 2020. However, well-run, capitalized companies are thriving.
The best of those companies are reinvesting. Here are eight ways you can do the same in 2018:
1. Borrow, recap or sell.
The financing and equity markets are primed to invest in well-run businesses. If you need an infusion of investment, get your books in order, perfect your growth story, and show stable financial performance before going to market. Venture and private equity firms may be more willing to provide attractive recapitalization terms, in which you can take some chips off the table.
2. Invest back into your core product or service.
Companies often get caught in a trap where they are constantly looking to create something new, when instead, they could take something that exists and make it better.
One of my clients does this well. The company sells automobile touch-up paint to consumers online (kids scratching their parents' cars drives a lot of demand). The company has less than 20 employees, but plans to double in 2018.
It's operating in a space that was once brick-and-mortar, but makes for a sensible conversion to ecommerce. The company is increasing staff, driving SEO performance, and adding a second shipping location to cover 48-hour deliveries anywhere in the U.S. While making investments in things that are transformative is sexy, investment in the core is often the safe bet.
3. Invest in yourself.
When you focus on developing your team, you can often forget to invest in yourself. Look for ways to improve your own skills. Attending a conference is also a great way to take a much-needed vacation.
4. Continue to integrate systems.
The winning companies are the ones with the best data. They're able to make better decisions faster than the competition, and can deliver meaningful analytics and insights back to customers.
Many small businesses have cobbled-together systems, and the reach of Software as a Service (SaaS) provides an opportunity to better integrate them. Look for ways to integrate chat, document management and office applications, to make information more meaningful.
5. Be a hiring magnet.
Recruiting must be all hands on deck; a 24/7 effort. The companies winning in recruiting treat hiring like a marketing function through employment branding and rich web pages supported by video and social media.
For example, Microsoft has built a Life and Journeys page to provide advice and a behind-the-scenes view. You don't need Microsoft's budget to do something similar.
6. Invest in client-facing technologies.
Companies have invested in technology over the last five to seven years--primarily to improve internal work processes (such as vehicle GPS and tablets for sales and service people).
That's not enough. You should also question how your technology improves the customer experience. For example, many companies are utilizing chat bots and other forms of artificial intelligence to promote more self-serve capabilities.
7. Buy equipment.
The new tax bill promotes acceleration of "bonus depreciation," which will allow companies to deduct equipment more rapidly. We'll have opportunities to buy automation equipment and the like to offset our profits--improving our tax consequences.