Most businesses experience ebb and flow and mine is no exception. I’m happy to say that while we’ve had drastic set-backs, at times, our business continues to grow. After being in business for a few years, I’ve recently been asked by a few colleagues to help refine their business operations.
I’ve embraced this opportunity knowing that I’ve made a lot of rookie mistakes over the past three years and can help fellow entrepreneurs by sharing these experiences. With that in mind, here are my top six tips for running a well-oiled business machine.
Create procedures. We always think we’ll remember how to do something, but as more tasks are added to the list, it’s essential to have a procedure guide. I’ve created procedures for everything– from setting up social accounts to billing credit cards through our merchant system. These procedures have proved to be invaluable in streamlining business operations. It’s also important to regularly review these procedures and update the information as little things change. Most importantly, these procedure guides made it a lot easier to train new employees as your business grows.
Build your support structure. We can’t do it all, and if we want to grow, we’ll need some help. This includes utilizing our peers and hired help in order to actualize business growth. I recommend joining a mastermind group, finding a mentor, or hiring a business coach. These are the folks who have our best interests in mind and can hold us accountable to making necessary business changes and continue to think outside the box. Of equal importance is continually searching for “good help,” which as the saying goes, is hard to find. I’ve done this by recruiting independent contractors and interns for minor tasks with an eye for making these recruits a permanent member of my team if they succeed. You must know ahead of time that you’ll strike out more than you hit a home run. But consistently recruiting help will aid in finding great employees.
Be realistic when budgeting time. Every business owner wishes there were more hours in the day, so here are a few time management tips that have helped me. First, when I schedule a meeting, I budget time not only for that meeting, but also for any preparation or follow-up tasks related to the meeting. And, just because a meeting is 12 to 1, doesn’t mean we should schedule another meeting at 1. You should allow time for breaks, checking email, or listening to voicemails. Along the same lines, know when to say ‘no.’ If given the chance, I could have coffee meetings or attend networking events all day, but where would that ultimately get me? Be clear about your priorities with each item you add to your schedule and make sure all appointments are in line with your goals.
Set both long-term and short-term goals. It’s difficult to budget time effectively without setting business goals. Try to identify two to three business goals you would like to accomplish within the next 90 days, the next year, and beyond. For most of us, this means revisiting the reasons we established our business in the first place. For me, during the next 90 days I would like to focus on actualizing financial gains for my clients using social media. This will help me to meet my year-end goal, which is to increase my business profits by 25 percent. If my clients meet their goals, they are more likely to stay with us or refer us. Eventually, I would like to hire more people and work fewer hours. These goals guide me in the deciding the best way to proceed when I’m asked to take on a new a project, join a group, or schedule meetings.
Market, market, market. For those of us in service-based businesses, keeping the sales pipeline full is a continued priority. Some of us are lucky to have a strong referral base and rely on these opportunities to transition leads to customers. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to market ourselves and our business. To continue even word-of-mouth referrals, we want to remain at the top of the mind for our current customers or referral sources. This is one of the many ways a strong social media presence comes in handy.
Experiment with diversification. As we continue to find ways to streamline our workload, it’s tempting to want to put up our feet. And for many us, we should! But, we should also continue to strive for new ways to meet customer needs. Perhaps we can offer a new product or service or find a way to re-package our current offerings? Diversification is also our back-up plan in case currently successful aspects of the business begin to decline.
What ways do you keep your business running efficiently?