(BPT) - Today's business landscape is a tricky environment to navigate for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Supply chain mishaps, macroeconomic factors and the rising cost of goods all present challenges for entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses. As SMB decision-makers must adapt to overcome barriers, they need new tools and solutions that minimize the impact from problems like supply chain issues, and that can help them explore untapped markets.
How SMBs can stay competitive and grow despite challenges
New data commissioned by Alibaba.com and conducted by The Harris Poll among 301 small business leaders in August 2023 reveals the roadblocks SMBs encounter on their way to success. To help your business thrive and grow in a demanding environment, consider a multi-pronged approach that tackles issues directly and allows your business to grow efficiently. Here are three top approaches and tools to consider.
1. Diversify supply channels: Nearly half (46%) of small business decision-makers have challenges with supply chain and/or product sourcing systems, and 38% feel the global supply chain outlook does not look good and will have a somewhat or largely negative impact on their business. To tackle supply chain woes, ensure your full supply system is not disrupted when an issue arises by diversifying your company's supply channels. Supply chain managers should seek different locations and suppliers to help reduce risk. Look for suppliers offering lower minimum order quantities (MOQs) to reduce costs and prevent excess inventory.
2. Build deeper relationships with suppliers: Just as small business owners are trying to build their businesses, so are the suppliers and manufacturers they're hoping to contract with. Furthermore, business decision-makers recognize the need for quick and open communication with suppliers. In the survey, 35% of small business owners said tools to help them quickly relay product needs/specifications to suppliers would be the most helpful enhancement when creating a new product line. To that end, cross-language communication is crucial today, so your business could benefit from tools such as Alibaba.com's real-time translation solution, offered in 17 languages, for buyer-supplier video chats. By building better relationships with suppliers, it will be easier to work with them to find solutions and improvements for products, as well as to potentially negotiate on prices in the future. Because they know the industry where they're based, suppliers may even be able to help find solutions with other suppliers for materials they cannot provide.
3. Explore untapped markets: SMBs should consider expanding into untapped markets to create new pathways for growth. The Alibaba.com survey data shows entrepreneurs are confident they can expand, but face challenges in doing so. In fact, 83% of small business owners and leaders are confident in their companies' ability to create and introduce new products, with a large majority (80%) agreeing that introducing a new product would increase their success and profits. Top hurdles include finding the right supplier (31%); research, development and design of the new product (28%); and financing orders of the product (27%). Entrepreneurs value digital tools that help them visualize new product ideas, with 34% of survey respondents indicating that as a priority. This can include multi-search features, such as Alibaba.com's Image Search that allows business owners to search by text and image to determine product needs and design. Other tools mentioned by business owners to help them create a new product/product line include money back policy/easy return (17%) and after-sale protection (11%). Solutions like Alibaba.com's Trade Assurance program can provide safe, easy, money-back options for buyers to protect against unforeseen circumstances like product or shipping issues.
It can be a struggle for entrepreneurs to know where to find help as they grow and scale their businesses. To help develop a community and offer learning opportunities to help entrepreneurs thrive, events such as Alibaba.com's recent Co-Create conference provide a welcoming environment for entrepreneurs to grow, learn and create new strategies for business expansion.
While today's market presents challenges for entrepreneurs, many opportunities exist to help them find success and thrive, despite these hurdles. Learn more about the possibilities for your business at Alibaba.com.
 Eligible small business owners and leaders were defined as U.S. adults ages 21+ who are employed FT, PT, or self-employed, have a title of owner/president/C-suite executive at their company, the company employs less than 250 employees, and has annual revenue less than $10 million