The economy seems to be creeping back to health and confidence is rebounding but our businesses will still struggle if we don’t properly leverage the opportunities that are present before us. Here are 10 ideas that could help your business thrive during the current year:
1. Clarify your vision, mission & ensure you & your team are in complete alignment:
Your values, vision & mission (VV&M) are the foundation of your business enterprise. Most businesses will flounder when they drift from their core values, vision & mission. As you evaluate company policies & practices look at them through the lens of your VV&M and make any necessary changes to bring it all into alignment. Also, make sure everyone on your team understands your VV&M and will support it.
2. Evaluate your constraints (bottlenecks) & minimize them:
Productivity is a matter of output measured against input. If you have a resource with capacity that is equal or less than the demand placed upon it, you have a bottleneck. The objective is not to do more, but to produce more for equal or less effort. Look for the constraints (bottlenecks) and either eliminate them or minimize them. Look for any way to streamline a process without sacrificing quality.
3. Improve your processes & procedures:
Are your processes & procedures (P&P) efficient & effective? The key benefit of a P&P is to allow the “system” to handle a redundant operation in order to provide consistency and allow adequate focus to other more mission-critical functions. If a P&P is inefficient, ineffective or redundant, change it or get rid of it.
4. Invest in your team & ensure you have the right people doing the right things:
The key to the success of any business is to have the right people, doing the right things in the right way. This requires brutal honesty, and toughness to make the best decision for both your company and your team members. Ask yourself, do I have the best person available doing this job? If not, can you move them to a different position or train/motivate them to do a better job?
Your team is your biggest asset! Invest in them (training, motivation, team building) and you will likely receive a great return on your investment. Also, as the leader of your organization, do your best to foster a sense of collaboration and connection buy soliciting feedback from team members often. Be willing to accept and encourage critical feedback as well.
5. Improve client connection & satisfaction:
The vast majority of your business will come from your repeat customers or from referrals from delighted customers. Find ways to “touch” your clients on a regular basis whether it is a card to thank them for their business, inform them of a new opportunity or to congratulate them on an accomplishment. Ask your customers for feedback (on a 1-10 scale) and ask how you can make it a 10.
Focus on your “client connection points” and make sure the points of customer interaction are positive. For example, evaluate your location “feel”, order & cleanliness, receptionist attitude and energy. Remember, you only have one chance to make a positive first impression and one bad impression requires several positive experiences to overcome a bad one. Similarly, one bad experience can wipe out many positive ones.
6. Keep a keen eye on cash flow & profitability:
Poor cash-flow will kill any highly profitable business. Make sure your collection procedures are good and you are taking full advantage of the best terms available on your accounts payable. If your business is cyclical, make sure you budget for the lean periods. Another good idea is to foster a strong relationship with your banker to ensure a reliable source of cash to ride out a low cash period.
Keep an eye on your financials and know your overall profitability. It is not uncommon for a business to have extremely high sales volume and be unprofitable. It may be a good strategy to raise your pricing and shift to a “higher-quality” market (will pay more, better credit, etc.), which could lead to much higher profits with less effort.
Obviously, watch your costs and expenses. Strategic cuts (without sacrificing) quality, support & service) will go directly to the bottom line!
7. Narrow your focus on your key strategic advantages & opportunities:
What do you do best? What are your strategic advantages? What makes you the most money? By focusing on your “strength zone” you will be applying your resources efficiently to drive greater momentum & growth. By spreading yourself too thin, you use up valuable time & money resources.
8. Manage time & money to ensure you have plenty of “margin”:
As a business owner, we often find ourselves doing it all, marketing, sales, accounting, customer service and more. This is especially true for the “bootstrapping” phase of a business. Burn-out is usually caused by the stress caused by running close to empty on energy and having a bank account that is closed to zero. For greater stability & less stress it is critical to operate your business and your life with plenty of financial & emotional margin. Margin is the “buffer” before you run out.
Plan flexibility in your schedule, even an occasional “personal holiday” for renewal. I plan 1-2 personal holidays each month, usually on a Friday. Financially, keep enough cash on hand or keep an open line of credit to help buffer those times when unexpected expenses or flat sales occur.
9. Build your “board” of advisers, coaches & strategic partners:
We can’t do it all, nor are we good at everything. If we endeavor to do something outside of our “strength-zone” we run the risk of sacrificing the quality we have promised to deliver. Remember, good is the enemy of great and if we can partner with greatness, we will ultimately serve our clients better.
A good strategy is to seek out those who have skills & expertise in areas you lack and invite them to be on your “Board of Advisors”. Your board would then be available as a resource when you need advice or support. Similarly, your Strategic Partners would offer skills & expertise that you could team up with on a project or simply refer an opportunity that is outside of your comfort-zone.
Finally, consider hiring a business coach. A coach will help you discover possible blind spots, uncover additional resources, help refine your strategies and rekindle your passion. It is a fact that business owners and executives that work with a coach perform better and achieve more.
10. Relax, have fun!
If you don’t enjoy your business, consider making shift into your “passion zone” or find something else to do. If you aren’t your companies “cheerleader” find someone who is naturally suited to the fun side of life. Depending on your company’s culture, allow them a small budget and put them in charge of creating and leading some fun activities.