It takes a lot to run a business. One of the most effective ways to maintain a good business is to develop good practices you can utilize on a regular basis. Here a few basic things you can do to stay current and on top of things:
1.Update your business plan.
Sounds like business 101 right? But many small business owners never put all the pieces of the puzzle together to see how or why their businesses succeed or fail. Nor do they even make a business plan or revisit their plans. A good business plan includes a summary of the what your business is, a detailed description of the goods and services you plan to sell and includes market research to identify who the competition is, what they are selling and how they are doing in the market. It also spells out how you will market your business, and what your internal management structure will look like. If you are looking to get a loan, a written business plan is often a must and can include market strategies and a financial forecast of your business.
2. Shop your competition.
When was the last time you drove around to see what retailers are in your area? Or shopped online to check out who else is doing what you do? Too many small business focus only on what they offer. They have no idea what is going on around them in their market niche. This is true from groceries to tires, appliances to real estate. To really compete in the market, you have to know what’s out there and what you are competing against. Only then can you be secure in your business model, price point and services.
“Customer perception is defined as: ‘A marketing concept that encompasses a customer’s impression, awareness and/or consciousness about a company or its offerings. Customer perception is typically affected by advertising, reviews, public relations, social media, personal experiences and other channels.’ ”
3. Train the staff.
Small business often don’t put the necessary time and energy into the people they hire to make sure they have the skills they need. Sure the employee may come with a great resume and attitude, and perhaps good experience, but they will need your support to get the job done in your business. What’s your vision? How do you share it with your staff? What do you want them to focus on? How do you communicate that?
Research is well documented in showing that training that is on the spot, unplanned or lacking all together, takes away from productivity, performance and sales. It ranks up there in the loss category with lengthy meetings as a productivity killer. Give your staff the advantage of knowledge and a skill set that will give your business a leg up in the industry. Take an interest in what they want and in what they need to learn to do their jobs effectively and outperform the competition!
4. Improve procedures and systems.
Too many people get stuck doing things a certain way (“because that’s just the way it’s done” or “because there’s just no way around it”) which frequently causes a backlog. Do you know who ends up suffering? The customer. Simply put, you can’t afford that in your business. If customer service is your priority, and if customers truly drive your business, what can you do to improve policies and procedures to reflect that? Find an efficient way to offer the same quality product or service in a reasonable amount of time. And if you can’t, create a policy that includes incentives to help the customer adjust to a lengthy wait time and their dissatisfaction – before they get online to talk about it!
5. Connect with the community where you business lives.
Don’t be a stranger, visit the Chamber of Commerce, volunteer at local agencies, attend conferences and local meetings, sponsor a school or sports team. Engage with the community around you. It will be bring name recognition, put your face to your business name and give you a chance to develop real relationships, one of the pillars of successful businesses. Expand your personal referral base.
Additional questions to ask yourself:
Do you take every opportunity to get a sale or do you just wait for business to come to you?
Do you know the demographics of your customer base?
Do you take steps to increase sales, improve relations with clients or take an active interest in what people think of your business?
Are you actively involved in your community?
Is your business on Yelp? When was the last time you looked at the reviews?
From Entrepreneur.com – Why you must have a business plan.
From Commercialtribe.com- Why an Inadequate Sales Training Program is Hurting Your Goals
From SBS.org an article on how to build a small business – 10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand.
From Entrepreneur.com – Closing Time: 6 Lessons in Good Business Practices From a Maryland Crab Shack.
From the Design Craft Council of Ireland, CCOIEnterprise.ie , 10 Essential good business practices.
From Forbes.com –Entrepreneurs Should Be Community Leaders.
From The Community Tool Box at the University of Kansas, CTB.KU.edu, Chapter 14, Section 1: Learning How to Be a Community Leader.
From SBA.gov- Write your business plan.