Offering almost instant answers to what seems like an unlimited number of queries, ChatGPT currently has an estimated 180.5 million users. According to a recent study, as many as one-third of business decision-makers in the UK admit to using ChatGPT for work; however, over half (55%) of people don’t actually trust businesses that use the platform.
While AI might be a good starting point, it’s incredibly important for business owners to do their own research and seek advice from credible (and accurate) sources. With this in mind, Capital on Tap asked ChatGPT what the most common small business questions it’s asked are, and Alex Miles, COO at Capital on Tap has answered these questions with their expert advice.
Here are ChatGPT’s most-asked small business questions, answered by experts:
What funding options are available for small businesses?
There’s no “best” way to finance a small business. The first option is to finance the business yourself or to take a loan from friends or family. If this doesn’t work for you, there are several other options available.
There are currently over 100 Government schemes available to help businesses in the UK, and checking out the Business Finance Support Finder could be a good starting point. These kinds of loans or grants come in all different forms, from reduced costs to free equipment and advice. There are also plenty of dedicated start-up lenders available, and lots of high-street banks offer small business loans too.
Another option is to crowdfund, which is a slightly newer way of financing a business, using a dedicated online public platform to find investors. Crowdfunding platforms offer anyone with a business idea a chance to pitch for investment, and these backers don’t necessarily have to be accredited, they can be members of the public.
What are the most common challenges faced by small business owners?
Late payments can have a significant impact on a small business’s bottom line. According to our recent study, only 1% of small businesses in the UK have ever had to deal with an unpaid invoice. Not only can delayed payments have a big impact on cash flow, but chasing overdue invoices can also be incredibly time-consuming.
Customer returns are also a big challenge for small businesses. We found that one in five (18%) orders placed end up being returned, and that not only is this hurting profits, but it’s impacting productivity too.
Other common challenges that small business owners face include issues around customer acquisition and retention, finding the right employees, and knowing when (and how) to scale-up a business.”
How can I market my small business on a limited budget?
Good marketing is essential to helping your business grow and develop, and while it might be challenging to do so with a limited budget, it is definitely possible.
Social media is a really useful tool for building a customer base, but consistency is key here, so make sure you’re regularly posting and engaging. Email marketing is another free way to get in front of customers, and customer reviews are also a cost-effective way of promoting your company.
Also, utilise your website. Make sure it’s SEO-optimised and mobile-friendly, and think about whether creating a business blog could feed into your content strategy. PR tactics are also really helpful to get your name out there, so try contacting local newspapers, radio, and TV stations to let them know about your business.
We might spend a lot of our working lives online, but in-person marketing is still alive and well. Try to attend networking events as much as possible, as these can be a great way to meet both potential customers and other business owners.
How can I handle customer feedback and reviews effectively?
As we’ve mentioned, customer reviews can be a really useful tool to promote your business and encourage new customers.
It’s important to have a platform set up to collect these reviews, whether that be on your website, on social media, on review sites, or through surveys and email campaigns. You also need to monitor these reviews and respond accordingly. Make sure to thank customers who have left a positive review, and if you do receive a negative comment, try to resolve the issue for the customer.
Use any feedback to your advantage too. Reviews might help you to continuously improve your product or service, and positive testimonials could also be useful in your marketing efforts.”
How do I manage cash flow effectively in a small business?
In order to effectively manage cash flow, you need to be able to track and measure your finances. You should know how much working capital you need to operate, what your break-even point is, and how much money is coming in or going out.
Taking out a small business credit card can give you greater visibility over your finances, and can also help bridge any cash flow problems if you’re waiting on payments.
With that being said, try to keep on top of customer invoices, and minimise late payments where you can. Improving customer relations and offering things like early payment incentives can help with this. Delayed payments are an issue for everyone, so, as a business owner yourself, make sure you’re paying your invoices on time too. Building an emergency fund can also help with cash flow management if you hit a rough patch.
How do I hire and manage employees as a small business owner?
First, think about what your business needs. What roles do you need to fill, and how much budget do you have to allocate to salaries. When it comes to advertising, you can do so on job sites or within your own network, or you could use a recruitment agency.
Depending on the number of applicants you have, you might want to do a few rounds of interviews. If you already have several employees at your company, they might like to meet some of the potential candidates too.
Once you’ve chosen your new hire, you’ll need to sort the admin and logistics. Send them their contract, make sure the payroll is set up, and have their laptop or any other necessary equipment ready on the first day. Onboarding is a really important part of hiring someone, so make sure they are given a good welcome to the team and the business in their first few weeks.
Going forward, make sure they have all the support they need to succeed, think about future training requirements, and conduct frequent check-ins and performance reviews to find out how they’re doing.
How can I balance work and life as a small business owner?
Running a small business can be incredibly time-consuming, and finding a good work-life balance is definitely a challenge. In a recent survey, we found that over a third (35%) of business owners agree that they work long and unsociable hours, and a further 34% say their work-life balance has suffered due to the time they spend on their business.
However, there’s some simple steps you can take to make sure you’re making time for the things you love. It’s important to recognise you only have a certain amount of hours in a day, so set achievable expectations and try to delegate where possible. Also make sure to protect your free time, so switch off the devices, make time for self-care and hobbies, and keep your evenings and weekends free from work as much as possible.
As a final point on using AI for answers, Alex Miles, COO explains, “ChatGPT and other AI platforms can be a good starting point for small business owners, but it’s really important to do your own research and speak to experts for specific help and advice.
AI isn’t always accurate, and doesn’t have the human experience of running a business. So, while it might seem to save you time, make sure you’re cross-checking and gaining further insight from more credible sources.