5 Areas You Should Be Investing In Now Jessica Lunk Cultivate Now, Reap the Benefits Later. Springtime is a good time to be thinking about growth and renewal, taking stock of your business and deciding in what areas you should be investing for long-term benefits. You can’t grow your business without putting some money into it, but if those investments are smart ones the result will be a thriving business. One of the most important things in which to invest if you haven’t already, is technology and automation. In fact, a survey last April by Capital One found that nearly 60 percent of small business owners planned to invest in technology and improving businesses processes. That could be as simple as updating your website and making sure it’s mobile-ready. Wherever you can and wherever it’s cost-effective, automate. Even if investing in software for things like accounting, invoicing or maintaining customer loyalty programs seems awfully expensive, calculate how much money it will save you in the long run, by making those processes more efficient and less time intensive. Here are a few areas where investment and cultivation today will yield big benefits to your business for years to come: Training: The more things you and your employees can take care of in-house, the more money you’ll save and the more engaged your staff will be. Expanding their responsibilities, however, requires training. Make sure to provide that training either on-the-job or outside of it. Training will also enable your employees to grow in their role and in your business, perhaps working their way up from front-line customer service personnel to managing other team members behind-the-scenes. And the cost to train current employees for new roles and responsibilities is far far less than recruiting and training those outside the company. Technology: As I mentioned before, it’s important to invest in technology that makes business processes more efficient and less costly. For example, if you have a retail store and still use a cash register, it’s time to invest in a point-of-sale system that uses an iPad or one that uses the Square device attached to a smartphone or tablet. Instead of keeping paper files for business expenses, invoices and payments use a cloud-based accounting system like QuickBooks, Xero or FreshBooks. You might also want to contract with a company that provides payroll, benefits and worker’s comp insurance to small businesses, like Zenefits. Whenever technology can save you time and money it’s generally a worthwhile investment. Marketing Automation: It’s enormously time consuming and complicated to manually handle all aspects of your online marketing, including keeping track of (and following up with) leads, managing correspondence and handling email marketing campaigns. A customer relationship management system – which is a software or set of tools that helps you track and communicate with prospective and current customers—is essential for staying organized, managing leads and, ultimately, driving sales. It’s also a way to collect and harness data, like information about your website visitors and where they come from, how long they stay and what pages they visit. That information gives you insight into customers’ needs and the products and services that resonate with them. You can use that to develop lasting relationships with customers and to increase sales. One-on-one coaching: Your business is growing, you’re investing in your employees and in new technology and software. But you also need to invest in yourself. Your value to the company can’t be overstated but as the (or an) owner, you don’t have many colleagues from which to get leadership feedback. That’s where a coach comes in. Every business owner should have a coach or a mentor to give them regular advice and guidance, answer questions, and make connections that will be valuable professionally and personally. Spring time is all about planting seeds today that you can harvest down the road. It’s the same in your business. Invest in a few key areas now, and you’ll reap the rewards of a business that can scale efficiently to bring more revenue in the door this year than last year.