Tuesday, May 05, 2015

7 Steps To Make Your Business Strong

"A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time."  – Henry Ford

Running a business can be so rewarding... but it can be tough too. Problems are faced in small business and if we are not careful they can be handled emotionally not with a rational approach that the business needs to maintain.

Some of these issues - many of them - are around money. Pays, expenses, things that take money out of the business, but at the end of the day are just elements of The Cost Of Doing Business. 

When managed well, the issues below can be a productive and rewarding aspect of the business, not just a problem to be avoiding.  When managed well, or not managed at all, they threaten the viability and future of the business.

1.    Pay employees correctly. 

Every week there are more cases being resolved with small businesses being found to have underpaid employees resulting in this money having to be repaid PLUS the fines and damage to reputation that follows.

About fifty claims against business are made by the Fair Work commission each year.

Aside from being fined and having to eventually pay the money anyway, this approach to avoid paying employees fairly has side effects that work against the business and cost the business money and status.

When you underpay or try to cheat your employees, the business is

  • Not making the most of staff productivity 
  • Generating ill will 
  • Encouraging theft. 
  • Making a goose of yourself in the public eye. 

If wages are an issue then the real issue is the business model. Time to revisit that and work out the viability of the business and a strategy that will allow the business to trade effectively AND pay the expenses that the business is responsible to pay.

Current financial position of the business - knowledge is power

For some businesses the root of the problem will be a lack of understanding and control of the current financial position. This is why a good bookkeeper and accountant that can help you monitor your costs, income streams, help to set a proper pricing model in place. Tidying up the financial management, together with a marketing plan to generate more sales and repeat business is vital.

2.   Respond smartly to reviews or complaints online or offline. 

There was a time not all that long ago when a business would pay for an advertisement in the Yellow Pages and the phone would ring, and any complaints that customers had would be shared with a dozen of the people they know. 

Not today. Today nobody uses the Yellow Pages, and the first place people seek information and resources to access, happens on Facebook or their other social networks.  Maybe they use Google too and cross reference what they find with their friends' recommendations. 

Complaining To The Many

When they complain, customers don't now complain to a dozen people. They complain online and that goes out to hundreds of people, possibly thousands and very likely ends up on a website that Google indexes and stays there for ever and brings up when someone searches for your business. 

Sometimes the business owner responds by attacking the customer. 

Sadly, it is becoming all too common to see businesses in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. They are in the media because of their bad attitude to customers. Here is the most recent example to hit the headlines, but it is a regular story on social media.

It can be tempting to defend a complaint against a business, if there is something bad posted online or a bad review posted on Facebook, or Tripadvisor or any of the other review sites. Responding defensively is the worst possible way to respond!  The business needs the response to be measured and according to a well rehearsed protocol that defuses the situation and doesn't turn it into a major embarrassment, due to a poorly considered and emotional response taken in the heat of the moment.

3.    A Plan For Recruiting And Bringing On New People. 

It's been estimated that recruiting a new employee can cost in real terms, more than a year's salary.   So making a good choice and bedding them into the company well so they can flourish is a responsibility the business owner needs to take seriously and in doing so reap the benefits of a productive employee. 

Common problems that new hires face - and that bite the business as a consequence are things like:

  • No standard policies 
  • No documented roles and responsibilities 
  • No clear job description
  • No process to hire with well chosen criteria and according to the needs of the role
  • No induction
  • No clarity on who reports to whom
  • No company standard procedures 
  • No buddy for the new hire to find out things they need to know without bothering the manager. 
  • No effective system for managing performance 
  • No training system or budget
Just as having none of these things is detrimental to a business, putting these in place will make hiring new people much more simple, more effective and allow the new person to fit right in without having to guess what is expected of them to please you and fulfill that role to the best of their ability.

4.   Market Consistently Week In - Week Out

Waiting till the new work dries up and then thinking about marketing is a disaster! When you develop a marketing plan you don't have to guess any more what needs to be done. Once the initial details of the plan, the responsibilities, assigning of staff to carry out the activities and budget allocated, you will have a schedule of activities to follow much like a blueprint of a house to be built, that can be put into place at the times decided on, and the results reported so that you can follow your progress and make adjustments as required.

You'll want to document activities: 

  • In traditional advertising channels
  • Clarity of your message 
  • Segmentation of customer personas
  • campaigns for marketing programs throughout the year
  • customer nurturing 
  • new client acquisition
  • developing an online presence and 
  • developing content marketing 
  • updating content marketing to build your network in the social environment
  • inbound marketing 
  • marketing calendar
  • social media scheduling 
  • training needed 
  • reporting and monitoring 
  • budget and sales attributed to marketing campaigns 
With this in place it is like your business' marketing machine that chugs along 24 hours a day. 7 days a week leading people to your business. 

5.   Expect Good Things To Happen In Marketing Because You Allocated A Budget To Make It So

Not allocating a budget for the marketing activities and other essential activities the business needs starves it of the very thing it needs to produce consistent new business and repeat sales.

What the business needs, requires making available the resources to be dedicated and made available for such purposes.

6.   A sales strategy and sales training program

Sales don’t just happen. Too many businesses have no formal sales strategy or training system in place and no ongoing education to ensure sales staff are developing and improving their sales expertise.  When that happens the owner of the business is not doing the business, nor the customers and not even the employees, any justice at all.

7. Your fully functioning marketing database drives profit

Not building up a customer and prospect database to use for marketing is like paying rent on the premises then keeping the front door locked.

These are the people who  can bring you more sales and without collecting their data you have wasted that opportunity for more sales and more profit and more satisfaction of customers.

Summing Up

Each of these 7 steps are achievable and are the hallmark of a business with plans for a long and prosperous future.  Equipping the business with the insulation it needs to weather the stormy economy is number one responsibility for any business owner. If these are not areas that you are confident to improve alone do get some help.

The strength of any business will be a reflection of the strength of the owner to be willing to make the steps necessary to get the help they need.

Related posts:

Inbound marketing - the new old fashioned service 
Many hands make lighter work of social media for local businesses
Here's how to save time and get good content for your business online
Inbound marketing the new old fashioned way to do business
Financial planners: Social Marketing the key to keeping business on the books
Business writing not just on the social media wall
What every business should know about social media

Like to discuss your business?
 Contact Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855
 or use the contact form on this page.
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