If you are in business long enough you will learn a few things about running a business. Over the years I have run a few businesses and have found the top ways to improve your business. Some of it may sound like common sense, but unless it happens to you, you may not be thinking about it much.
Cash is the lifeblood of any business. A start to improve your business is to understand your cash flows. What products generate most of your profits and therefore your cash? Develop daily, monthly and yearly accounting forecasts. Ensure your data is timely and available in real time so you can respond to changes quickly. Charting your data is one of the seven quality tools. Consider charting your data to look for trends and then take action on those trends.
Pricing is not easy. Whole books are produced on pricing products. But there are some simple rules of thumb. Raise prices on your high quality items and lower prices on your low quality items. The idea is to focus on customer value not your cost of production. If your items are high quality then say it with your price. Don’t be afraid to raise your prices on those items that your customers really like and lower prices on the items they don’t like. If you are not sure what your customers value, then ask them and they will tell you.
Focus your employee hiring process on hiring great attitudes not personalities. Great people are performers that demonstrate results. Look past skills on a resume and look for great accomplishments. Remember, good is the enemy of great so hire great people not people that are good enough.
If you have made a mistake then don’t be afraid to fire someone that is not working out. If it’s not working out you will know it in the first 90 days, so end it now. Don’t wait for improvement in your finances or their attitude. Firing should be done sooner rather than later. Nobody likes to fire others, but trying to improve your business is more important.
Products have requirements and so does your business. Define what “great” is for every job or process that is critical to your business. Start with a process map and then create policies and procedures for each job or process and use them. Benchmark your competition and set a higher standard for yourself.
Controls start with clearly defined objectives for every job or process that link back to your accounting system and the forecast. Take time to understand what can go wrong and work to prevent it from happening. Develop warning flags to indicate when things are going wrong.
A working management strategy requires focus. Focus on the one thing that will make you great. Budget your resources to grow your star opportunities and starve your problem poor performers. Basically, get everything out of the way of your star opportunities.
Sales is a contact sport so make sure you are getting out in front of your customers often. Build relationships with customers so they buy again, and again. If your revenues are not growing then you are not selling.
The marketplace is not static so expect it to change. Understand what’s changing in your marketplace and either change with it or be changed by it. Pay attention to what your marketplace needs and give it to them before your competition does.
Your brand leads the business. A filing brand leads to a failing business Marketing, vision and strategy are key elements of building a strong brand. Once your brand is built, maintain your brand and what it means by following the other nine points above. Don’t let your brand suffer or else your business will suffer too.
Employee engagement brings everyone closer together through communication. In order to engage others we must tap into the heart and be willing to communicate the feelings that drive our behaviors. Do you think of the heart and emotions as non-value added work versus the brain which focuses on the value added work?
We build “inventory” just in case? because we are afraid of what can happen. We inspect and oversee employees because we don’t trust their work. We accept “delays” and interruptions in a process because we have always done it that way. These are not symptoms of using our brain to solve a problem. Instead these are emotional reactions.
Great organizations acknowledge the power of emotions and therefore build channels for interaction, communication, and handling of our emotional states. When we are improving a process situation we must understand the value added or brain piece and change our thinking that the heart is non-value added if we are to achieve global improvement. Separating one from the other is just sub-optimization.
Employee engagement creates workers that are not afraid to communicate the waste they see around them. Engaged employees engage customers. Engaged employees communicate using their brain and their heart to bring everyone closer together.