Don’t Delay, Pivot, Implement
January 24, 2023
January brings all kinds of new thoughts, resolutions, and ideas. It is a fresh start. The slate has been wiped clean and the canvas is ready to be repainted. For individuals, there are new dreams and aspirations to be achieved. For business, it’s the same. While individuals might travel down the same paths without much change, it is different for businesses. They must change. Customers don’t want to see the same products or services. They want innovation, something more practical or efficient, something new and exciting. Don’t Delay Yes, customers not only desire the “latest” of whatever that might be. They demand it. If one business cannot satisfy what customers seek, a rival business is sure to take its place. Business is not about what happened yesterday, but it is about what happens today and what will happen tomorrow. This is where the future of a business is...looking ahead rather than in the past where it has been. When there is a demand for change, a business must meet that demand now, it cannot delay because procrastination for a business can be deadly. Pivot If the pandemic taught businesses anything, it clarified that change is inevitable if a business is to survive the onslaught of daily threats...lack of customers, weak economy, staffing problems, supply chain disruptions, or inflation. So, with January and the fresh start that comes with it, businesses must plan what changes must take place and are most needed that will enable the business to attract additional customers, operate more efficiently, and increase net profits. Although the planning process and potential changes should theoretically be started long before January 1st, the following are areas that need to be discussed and diagnosed for change regardless of the date. Marketing - Marketing cannot remain the same. Customers and prospects have to know what the most current products or services are that a business has to offer. Obviously not every product or service will change that a business sells, but customers can lose interest quickly when the marketing message remains the same. Just as products or services need to be refreshed, so does marketing. Plan now for new marketing campaigns that will spark interest in the target market. Efficiency - There is almost something in every business that can be made more efficient. Whether it is time saved, expenses reduced, errors decreased, or more satisfied customers, these items and many others all equate to dollars in the bank. Every aspect in a business should be reviewed...processes, procedures, sales, ordering, distribution, hiring, customer service, communications, shipping, etc. If it’s in the business, it needs to be reviewed and analyzed. Even a small inefficiency that is found and improved upon will still yield significant results when combined with other improvements. It is the accumulation of all improvements that helps drive a business forward. Innovation – Whatever a business has to sell, it must always be thinking about how to remain one step ahead of the competition. What is the latest in the industry? What is it that customers and prospects seek most when making a purchase from a particular business? A business must understand the makeup of its primary target market and how to satisfy the current and future needs of that market. With this knowledge, then a business can be innovative in its offerings. Tech companies, auto manufacturers, and medical suppliers continuously innovate on what they offer. Small businesses and SMEs can do the same for their target markets. Implement After a business makes plans taking into consideration what can and needs to be changed in a business, the next and final stage is implementation. The very best plans of any business must be implemented; otherwise, there is no difference than having no plans at all. Plans and implementation go hand-in-hand. One cannot work without the other. January gives businesses an opportunity for a fresh start, but that fresh start is not automatic. Consequently, businesses cannot delay in decision making. A business must pivot and change operations as needed, so it is ready to satisfy the needs of the marketplace. It can then move forward into the future by implementing what has been planned.
Empower Your Employees
December 26, 2022
Can employees of a small business or SME be empowered? Frequently, we hear about techniques that are employed by larger companies to empower employees, so why can’t employees at smaller businesses or SMEs be empowered, as well? Actually, they can and should be empowered. Empowerment What is empowerment? It might be described as a management philosophy that places importance on giving employees independence and assistance to accomplish certain results but also holding employees accountable for decisions they make and resulting outcomes. Rather than having a boss micromanage every element of an employee’s work, an opposite philosophy is taken. With more employees currently working remotely than in past years, businesses (depending on the type of business and job function) should consider this approach in dealing with employees and better understanding what employees seek other than strictly salary and benefits. Benefits of Empowerment Perhaps, one of the most valuable benefits of empowerment is employee motivation, which then leads to increased creativity and long-term employee retention. When employees are motivated, it gives them a chance to use and demonstrate their full potential. And with a team of motivated employees comes an increase in net profit. Steps to Empowerment · Encourage and deliver honest feedback · Recognize exceptional performance · Improve job skills regardless of employee level · Build a culture of trust and open communication · Make delegation a part of every process · Have a vision for growth opportunities · Establish understandable and precise goals Size Does Not Matter Every employee (regardless of employer or job position) seeks the same type of job satisfaction and motivation that empowerment can bring. Think about the level of job satisfaction that can be the result of management asking questions such as: · How can we as a company enable you to do your job better with less stress and greater efficiency? · What do you see outside of your own job responsibility or department that is a hindrance to our business? · What are your ideas on how we can become more competitive in the marketplace? · Are we missing out on some form of diversification, uniqueness, or underserved market that we should investigate? · What is your vision that you see for our business a year from today or two years from today? · What would be the one thing in our business that you would change today if you could? · How would you honestly describe our business culture and what would you suggest to make it better for you and your fellow employees? Worth the Effort Regardless of the size, type of business, or job position, there is little downside but so much upside potential in empowering employees. Although some managers might be resistant regarding the level of empowerment for employees, different degrees of empowerment can be implemented a little at a time. Management, however, cannot make a decision one day regarding levels of empowerment for various employees, and then retract those decisions or give negative feedback if something is done in a different way than how management would have done the same task. Empowerment works. Obviously, empowerment can work better for an employee who is in a job position where creativity can naturally flourish versus an employee who is in a more routine job function. Employees, however, in routine job functions might just find ways to improve efficiency if only given a chance to use their creativity. Strive to improve job performance, satisfaction, motivation, and loyalty with employee empowerment. Not only will efficiency improve, so will the bottom line.
Don't be Content with Current Sales
November 28, 2022
Regardless of the current sales trend (declining, stagnant, or increasing), all businesses strive for additional sales. The proper analysis of sales challenges and then development of solutions to those challenges can result in improved sales. Sales analysis, however, to be effective does not strictly come from a small business or SME owner or top management but should involve everyone in the sales process. When allowed to participate in developing solutions, the outcome is greater ownership and motivation by the sales team. Depending on the size of the business and number of salespeople, teams can be tasked with analyzing several key areas, diagnosing challenges in each area, and developing solutions to help improve individual sales performance. Team results can be compared for similarities and differences. The sales team or teams can be tasked to review the following: Buyer behavior · What are the primary motivators that buyers want when purchasing the company's products or services? · What benefits or problem solutions are buyers seeking? · How do most customers prefer to buy, what steps do they take in the sales process, who is involved, etc.? Company strategy · What markets does the company target? Why? What is working and not working? · How does the business attract, engage, and acquire new customers? What is working and not working? · Why does the business close some sales opportunities and not others? Sales team performance · What factors contribute to the salespeople reaching their goals? · What factors contribute to the salespeople not reaching their goals? Possible solutions from analysis · What are the best types of customers to target? · What are the most effective ways to get in the door? · What produces the greatest impact to close a sale? · What are the best ways to access the decision maker? · What are the key indicators to know if the sales process is working for a particular customer? · How can it best be determined if a salesperson is likely to achieve his or her sales quota? · How should salespeople manage themselves and their time to maximize results? · How can management assist the sales team to achieve results? · What type of training is most beneficial? · What can best enhance the sales process? · What key activities are most beneficial to win customers and make sales? · What are key indicators that the sales process is not moving forward with a particular customer? Brainstorming among salespeople is a worthwhile endeavor that seeks input from those individuals directly involved in the sales process. It is through this type of analysis that other observations, in addition to the direct sales process, can be made regarding critical issues in a business that might have a positive or negative effect on sales. Some of these observations and issues might relate to: · Employee turnover and morale among salespeople · Sales training and product/service training · Company position relative to the competition · Access to management · Brand recognition · Training time for new salespeople · Regular scheduled sales meetings (or no meetings) · Profile of best customers Next Sales Plateau There are sales challenges in any business that must be overcome before sales can reach the next plateau. When the sales team works as a cohesive unit, both evident and underlying problems and issues can be resolved. Rather than simply hoping sales will improve, imposing higher quotas on salespeople, terminating those who don’t meet objectives, and/or hiring new salespeople without adequate training will not consistently over a period of time achieve desired sales goals. Businesses that spend adequate time with a structured approach to solving sales challenges see their efforts pay off with increased revenues, higher closing rates, motivated salespeople, and higher net income. So, don’t be content with current sales. Look for ways to reach the next sales plateau.
Beat, Don't Meet, The Competition
September 26, 2022
How does a business get ahead of the competition, or is it an easier path simply to meet the competition? Does meeting the competition with similar operations, marketing campaigns, and pricing produce a higher net profit than trying to disrupt the market with dissimilar operations, marketing, and pricing? Competitive Marketplace With the current economy, every business seems to be in a competitive market as more businesses enter the marketplace and competition gets even stronger. The survival of small businesses and SMEs will go to those who beat the competition by being better and different...better with products and services offered and different through innovation and uniqueness. Proactive vs. Reactive A business can change its operations and offerings in two different ways. It can be proactive through its own innovation or reactive by allowing the competition to force a change in order for the business to remain somewhat competitive. Proactive is being the leader of the pack keeping the competition in the rearview mirror while always looking ahead. A business that is reactive is always trying to play catchup being a follower rather than a leader. Stay Informed There is a multitude of information available on the Internet on almost every industry. Although you can drown in the information available, analysis and foresight can be a key to ignite innovation in a business. There is even information available on a business’s competition...studying their website and online reviews is like reading a playbook of the competition. Information can be gleamed on pricing, marketing, and even why customers are satisfied or not so satisfied. Since a business goal is to produce and sell products and services that are different and better, staying informed is an opportunity to beat the competition. Competition: Foe or Friend If you asked most business owners or managers how they view their competition, they would probably say they are more of a foe than a friend since the competition is considered to be a rival or opponent in trying to obtain customers. Rather than taking this attitude, business owners or managers might consider the competition as a friend...a friend who energizes them to improve and innovate. In other words, the competition is always pushing a rival to create a better business model and provide more value to a customer’s purchase. So, businesses cannot only learn from the competition but also use the competition to figure out how to create a more favorable purchasing experience for each customer. Pivot into the Future Change is inevitable in every business and change is good for every business. Without change, businesses become stagnant. While completely “reinventing the wheel” would be extremely difficult for any business, pivoting with diversification opens the door for additional business. The global pandemic is a perfect example of how so many businesses had to pivot their operations in order to survive. Pivoting is a way to stay ahead of the competition and continue to be a leader rather than a follower. This creates long-term sustainable growth. Ignore Complacency Staying ahead of the competition, a business must ignore complacency. Even if a business is considered the best in its field, it must continue to strive to be even better and more unique. The competition will always be at the leader’s heels just waiting for that one opportunity to get ahead and become the new leader. There is no rest for a small business or SME. They must never lose sight of that one important goal...beat, don’t meet, the competition.
Gauge Customer Loyalty
August 26, 2022
A one-off sale is good for business, but repeat sales are even better. And, where do repeat sales come from? They come from loyal customers regardless of the type of business. Repeat sales build a strong foundation for a business allowing it to increase in size each year. Since there will always be a certain percentage of customers who do not repeat their buying experience for a variety of reasons, businesses must continue to market to new customers. Long-term business growth is a combination of loyal, returning customers making repeat purchases in addition to new, one-off sales. Building a Foundation A business does not automatically attract loyal customers. They must be nurtured to gain confidence and trust in a business. A business must study its customer base in order to fully understand its level of satisfaction, thus, allowing the business to predict the likelihood of customers repeating a purchase. Once this is understood, then a business can use the information gained to build upon its foundation month after month and year after year. When customers are satisfied with their purchases and the business, they are likely to reward the business with continued loyalty rather than contemplating making a future purchase with a competing business. Customer satisfaction can be gauged or measured by determining: Do Customers Trust Your Business? Whether B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer), the purchaser wants to do business with an entity it trusts. When a business builds trust with customers in its products, services, and the company as an entity, customers have no reason to switch to a rival business. As long as a business is trustworthy, keeps promises, stands behind what it sells, then sales increase. Do Customers Think Highly of Your Business? In other words, do customers think you have their best interests in mind, or do they think your business only wants to make a sale? Gaining a positive and favorable reputation with customers takes time but can be destroyed in an instant if customers feel as though you (the business) are more important than they are (the customer). With online reviews that can spread lightning fast on the Internet, businesses must always strive to gain the confidence and respect of customers while at the same time showing appreciation for purchases and loyalty. Customers never get tired of knowing how much they are appreciated and, in turn, reward businesses with repeat purchases. Do Customers Perceive Your Products or Services to be Top Quality? Normally, any marketplace has a multitude of businesses competing for the same dollar. Therefore, purchasers will seek the best value for money spent on products or services that fulfill their specific needs and want the highest quality when a purchase is made. Since perception is reality in the marketplace, businesses must ensure that purchasers see and understand both the value and quality of a purchase. Lowering the quality or perceived value can have detrimental effects on sales; consequently, businesses must strive to achieve top quality in every sale to every customer. Perception matters. Do Customers Understand Your Value Proposition? You should be able to adequately explain to your customers the benefits they receive from purchasing your products or services rather than purchasing from your competition. It is critical for customers to understand what they are purchasing, promises from the company, delivery dates, etc. Communication must be clear and concise. Now, Are Your Customers Satisfied? If you think your customers would answer all of the above questions with a “yes,” then you probably have satisfied customers that equate to loyal customers. Obviously, ranking high on the customer satisfaction scale is not just one employee’s responsibility, it is a team effort with the goal to treat customers with respect and ensure their utmost satisfaction as much as possible. When this goal is achieved, one-off sales become repeat sales...repeat sales grow a business!
Study Your Competition
July 25, 2022
Do you know what your competition does, how it markets, its strengths and weaknesses? If you don’t know, you should know. Obviously, you should know everything there is to know about your own business, but it is vitally important to also know as much as possible about your competition. Be Prepared Without knowing the details about your competition, you are at a loss when battling for customers and their dollars. You are basically unprepared. On the other hand, when you keenly observe your competition and monitor their actions, then you close the knowledge gap by being prepared. Understanding your competition and why customers go to a rival business rather than to your business is extremely beneficial when making future decisions. Simpler Than You Think Although you might think that it is an overwhelming task to learn about your competition, it is simpler than you think. With the Internet, competitors’ websites, social media, online reviews, and marketing campaigns, it is simpler now than ever to investigate your competition and understand exactly what they offer and services provided. You can compare the different competitors and get a feeling for what is working and not working to incorporate into your own business while deciding on even different approaches that you might want to take. Wasted Resources If you are not taking advantage of the multitude of information available on your competition, then you are wasting valuable resources...at no cost to you. There is no need to hire a marketing research firm when all the information about a competitor is in reach of your computer, tablet, or smart phone. When you can improve the results of your own business by learning about the competition, why not? Avoid the pitfalls that your competition has made while making your own business more successful. Imitate What Works Imitating what works for the competition doesn’t mean duplicating every exact detail. You certainly want your business to be unique and branded, but you can review both the industry and individual competitors to follow what works, trends, best target market, etc. If something is working for your competition, it should work for your business also. Implement what works for the competition and then make it even better. Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Every business makes mistakes. That is just part of being in business. When a mistake is made in your business, don’t worry about placing blame. Learn from the mistake and move on. Study and observe your competition and do the same thing. When it is apparent that a rival has made some type of mistake with pricing, marketing, products, services, website, location, etc., learn from their mistakes that can serve to improve your own operation and profitability. Observe the Market as Well Studying and observing the competition means observing the market as well. Is the competition hitting or missing the target market? While studying the competition, also study the effects of what you perceive to be the target market. Is the market responding to the competition and how does that relate to your business? Assuming your business and your competitor’s business are both targeting the exact same market, which business is getting a larger share of the market? Which business is growing at a faster pace? If the competition is getting ahead of you, determine why the market is favoring the competition. Then make immediate changes. An Abundance of Information Whether from a website, an email announcement, a free offer, or a social media post, there is an abundance of information available on almost any business...your business and that of your competition. Use this information wisely to your advantage. Your competitor might be doing the same thing. Gain whatever advantage you can by studying your competition.
One Quick Question to Improve Your Business
June 27, 2022
Small businesses and SMEs are in constant need of improvement. Rarely is there a business that cannot be improved in some way. Sales are stagnant or even declining. Expenses are increasing. Loyal customers are going to the competition. Something is not exactly right but you just can’t quite put your finger on it. On the other hand, business is good. Sales are increasing. Costs are remaining constant. New customers are combining with loyal customers to build a better foundation, but is the status quo what you want? Could business still be improved? One Quick Question Every business operates with numerous processes, procedures, marketing campaigns, sales presentations, etc. all with the goal to achieve certain objectives. Regardless of the number of employees, each employee will have certain responsibilities. When you combine all of the various processes and employees, a picture of the business emerges. Sometimes, there is a really good picture and other times a rather blurred picture. A goal of any business might be to fine tune the picture to make it even more clear and vibrant. How is that done? For every process, procedure, marketing campaign, sales presentation, etc., one quick question can be asked over and over again that can be the basis to improve any business. “How can we do this better?” Just imagine if this quick question was asked regarding every facet of a business. Whether it’s an office procedure, warehouse process, supply chain management issue, inventory control, website, prospecting, marketing, sales, budgeting, asset security, or any other item a business deals with, just imagine if this question “How can we do this better?” was asked. A Successful Strategy By asking this quick question, having an open mind, and adopting new techniques, businesses can have fascinating and highly beneficial results. A successful strategy, however, cannot be to accept an answer that whatever is being reviewed cannot be made better. A deeper analysis might be to ask, “Why can this or that not be made better?” Obviously, there will be many things in a business that cannot be improved but the practice of analysis and questioning the status quo will prove to be a successful strategy in itself. Perhaps, no changes will need to be made today, but the door can be opened for possible improvements in the future. By asking the question (How can we do this better?), not accepting an initial answer of “nothing can be improved,” and probing further can lead to profitable improvements that might never have been thought about if it was not for this one quick, probing question. Probe and Value Opinions The success of asking “How can we do this better?” is to receive constructive criticism and beneficial feedback. “Everything is great” is not a response that leads to building a stronger business. Detailed probing and valuing everyone’s opinion is what strengthens a business. When everyone works together and has an open mind regarding operational improvement (and egos are left at the door), positive progress can be made. How Can We Do This Better? Ask employees, ask customers, ask vendors, ask business acquittances, “How Can We Do This Better?” The truth is that almost every small business and SME can be improved in some way that will increase operational efficiency and profitability. One quick question must be asked, however, and positive responses implemented. This is what allows a business to focus on strengths and improve upon weaknesses leading to long-term sustainable and continuous growth, but the question must be asked, “How Can We Do This Better?”
Now is The Time to Hire a Consultant
June 5, 2022
If there was ever a time when small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) needed to hire a consultant, it is now! Imagine This You’re a small business/SME owner. You have expertise in the product or service you’re selling. Before the pandemic hit, your business was either growing, declining, or remaining stable. Chances are good that your business right now is just surviving or worse yet declining. If your business is increasing, congratulations and well wishes are in order. You are fortunate to be in the minority of prospering businesses during these challenging times. There’s only so much you can do on your own and with the employees that you still have and did not have to layoff. You want to not only remain in business, but you want to grow and prosper. You want to reverse the current trend that your business is now in. You can search the Internet or buy a stack of books on how to improve your business and answer the many lingering questions you have. But, wait a minute. You barely have enough time to manage your business and juggle cash flow much less have the time to spend researching and reading. Time For A Consultant Now is the perfect time for small business/SME owners to engage the services of a consultant specialized in this area of business. A consultant can provide expert professional advice on improving operations and, ultimately, stabilizing and/or increasing profitability. Consultants have the knowledge and expertise to solve problems, discuss important issues, answer questions, and make solid recommendations. Knowledge A wide diversification of knowledge is a necessary ingredient contributing to the success of any business. A problem faced by a majority of small business owners is a lack of knowledge combined with a lack of time. Although an owner might have a passion for his or her business and know the technical aspects, it is the lack of knowledge in the various core functions – finance, marketing, strategic planning, management, internal controls, etc. – that contribute to deficiencies that hinder a business from growing. Opinions Owners are usually biased towards their own opinions. Employees generally fear not agreeing with the boss. Consultants, on the other hand, offer unbiased opinions. So, the time to call in a consultant becomes apparent when: The owner and employees lack expertise in all of the core areas of operating a business. The owner and employees lack expertise to solve a particular problem or address crucial business issues. Time is a factor for the owner and employees. The business is under staffed. Unbiased and objective opinions are needed. It is necessary to obtain a variety of skills. It is this fresh perspective that can move a fledging business forward with short-term engagements or brainstorming sessions. With a consultant's assistance, a small business/SME can improve its operations, internal controls, marketing, customer service, and better understand financial statements and profit margins just for a beginning list of benefits. An Investment Hiring a consultant is an investment. Like any investment, there is a return on investment (ROI) to be considered. A business owner must understand both the cost of the investment and benefits to be received. A qualified consultant will never be a cost to a business, but rather an investment that will be returned with improved operations, lower costs, and higher profits. Timing Is Crucial Timing is a crucial factor when engaging a consultant. Intervention at the right time is critical whether making necessary changes to either reverse a negative trend or preparing for the next phase of growth. With the challenging and competitive nature of business today, it is almost impossible for small business owners to be experts in all aspects of their businesses. Working with a small business/SME consultant can increase a business' value and profitability through achievable improvements in everyday systems. With the affects of the pandemic, it’s time to call in a consultant!
Oh Yes, Quality Matters
May 29, 2022
Satisfied customers return to purchase again, and it is returning customers combined with new customers that create business growth and long-term success. In a competitive business environment, there are generally numerous products and services of essentially the same quality available on the market at any given time; therefore, it’s all the little things that make up a product or service (its quality) that counts in making the difference between a sale or non-sale and whether the purchaser will be a returning customer or only a one-time customer. Quality Eliminated Although a business can offer a superior product or service, all it takes is one small “something” to force a change to the competition. In the eyes of the customer, one element of quality was somehow diminished or eliminated. When owners, managers, and employees do not pay strict attention to every detail of their business, products, and services, an inherent message is sent to customers and prospects that there are more important things in their business than what should be the most important...customers and prospects. Never second guess whether quality and details are important to purchasers because they most definitely are. A retail store might have messy displays, inattentive clerks, and dirty restrooms. A service business might have an unfriendly receptionist answering the phone, sloppy technicians, or being late to calls. A physician’s office might keep patients waiting for unreasonable amounts of time or showing little respect for patients as individuals. A manufacturing business might not necessarily care about packaging, on-time deliveries, or personal service. The list of quality items (the little things) that many businesses overlook is endless. Emphasis at the Top The importance of quality must start at the top in any business and will then permeate down to every employee. One manager or one employee alone emphasizing quality is not enough. Every employee regardless of position must have the same mindset regarding quality especially as it pertains to customers. What might be important to one customer might be less important to another and vice versa. This means that attention to quality in all facets of a business is important. As a business owner or manager, you never know what is important to one customer…the one thing that might keep a customer, secure a prospect, or push an existing customer to the competition. Quality Equates to Success Successful businesses pay attention to every detail...excellence for the sake of excellence. They constantly strive for perfection in every area and every aspect of the business. They realize that quality is not limited to one or two areas of the business but is unlimited whether encompassing employees, customers, sales events, communications, websites, facilities, peak seasons, or slow times. The endless quest is to always be better than the competition. The quest for quality does not happen by accident. Employees must be trained and retrained. New employees must be indoctrinated into the business philosophy knowing that quality is not one employee’s job, rather it is every employee’s job not just today but every day. Experience What Customers Experience Owners, CEOs, managers...step into the shoes of your customers and experience what they experience. Get employees involved. Talk to customers and seek feedback. Take the blinders off so you can get a wider view. Business is more than simply selling a product or service. Long-term success is looking at the broad spectrum of a business and emphasizing quality regarding every detail every day. Little things or big things, they all matter when it comes to quality and customer experiences.
Talk Your Customer’s Language
April 24, 2022
It’s great to have a huge vocabulary of industry specific terms, acronyms, and buzzwords, but the greater value is making sure that your listener (your customer) understands exactly what you are saying. It is not always the business that has the best product or service that makes the sale, it is the sales person or representative who can best convince the buyer of benefits and problem solutions with simple, easy-to-comprehend language. Buyers Need to Understand Buyers need and want to understand answers to questions and how a product or service can benefit them. They don’t want to feel inferior or uneducated when talking to someone about a potential purchase. Of course, sales representatives need to be well-informed about the product or service they sell, but there are correct and incorrect ways on how to communicate important information. Although customers of a particular product or service might be very well educated, this does not mean that they will necessary understand what the sales person is trying to communicate. Unless the customer has the same knowledge about a product or service, which most likely will not be the case the majority of the time, the best advice when trying to make a sale is to omit industry jargon and highly technical language. It’s great to be an expert, but trying to impress buyers with language they don’t understand completely undermines the sales process. Tips to Improve Business Communication • Use fewer words rather than more words. • Ask for clarification if asked a question that you don't understand. • Use complete words and phrases rather than using acronyms. • Make your point using simple language rather than using business terminology. • Forget about trying to speak like an expert, just speak on the same level as your customer. • Translate buzzwords into language your customer will understand. • Engage the customer by asking questions and listening. • Don’t overpower the conversation. • Be prepared and knowledgeable about your customer (as much as possible) and their needs. • Remember key points your customer brings up. • Be honest and sincere with your comments and concerns for your customer. Be the Best Conversationalist People generally like to talk...especially when they are talking about themselves. This technique of communication can work wonders in your business. Ask questions so you can relate not only personally with a prospect or customer but can understand how you can best relate your company's products and services to their needs and wants. Being the best conversationalist in business is not about monopolizing a conversation with specifications and reviews, but how back and forth dialogue can enhance the communication process and, ultimately, close a sale. An Entire Company Culture It's great for the boss to understand good communication principles but when they are not passed down and communicated to all employees, those principles are lost. Good communications skills are not necessarily inherent in everyone's personality, so they must be learned through practice and understanding. Company-wide communication training regardless of the size of the business is just as important as other types of employee training. Although an employee might not be dealing directly with prospects or customers, communication within the business among employees is equally important and essential to maintain efficient operations. Make The Most of Every Opportunity There are endless opportunities to practice the art and skills of effective communication whether with prospects, customers, vendors, co-workers, or business acquaintances. These encounters might be at your place of business, a networking event, or an industry conference. Regardless of the individual or setting, make communication work for your business by practicing the finer points of simple, yet effective, communication.
Know Your Business Life Cycle
March 27, 2022
Businesses, somewhat similar to humans, go through different life cycles. Regardless of location, industry, organizational formation, or number of owners, businesses move from one phase to the next phase in a rather predictable and sequential manner. It is important to understand the various stages in the business life cycle and be adaptable to changes that are necessitated as the business is faced with new issues and challenges. Understanding that change in business is inevitable helps to secure long-term viability. A business life cycle model that is simple and easy to understand might categorize the various phases as: Formation/Development - During this phase, a business develops an idea and then determines how that idea can actually be turned into a possible viable business. The business obtains capital from owners and/or investors and starts operating. Early Growth/Infancy – In the early growth/infancy stage, much uncertainty and apprehension exist about the future of the business. It is now established, operating, and growing with short-term goals concentrating on cash flow, performance, and organizational structure. Late Growth/Established – During this third phase, revenue normally starts to level off from the initial, accelerated stages of the business. Competition intensifies as more businesses try to compete for the same customers. The business must also develop adequate controls and procedures to safeguard profits and assets if not already in place. At this stage, the owners of the business must decide if the business is to remain stable while maintaining or enhancing profitability or trying to expand beyond where the business is currently and how that will be accomplished. Many times, not expanding beyond the capabilities of the business is a prudent decision. Stable/Mature – This is the final stage in the business life cycle. The business is well-established and inefficiencies in the operation should be (or must be) reduced or eliminated to ensure continued existence and profitability. By this time, the business should be able to take advantage of its market position, reputation, branding, etc. Does the Specific Stage Matter? You might be thinking that it is nice to know about the four organizational life cycles of a business, but is it really important to know which stage my business is in? It actually does matter because a business operates differently based on its business life cycle. Now, there is no absolute date or line of demarcation that denotes when a business evolves from one stage into another; however, the actual stage will dictate how and why certain business decisions are made. A fairly new business just getting started (formation/development and early growth/infancy) will certainly have to make different decisions regarding marketing than an established business (stable/mature) that already has a base of loyal customers. A business in the early stages will make different decisions regarding the number of employees and skills needed than a stable business that should have a loyal, motivated team of employees each possessing the same or different skills and talents depending on job positions and responsibilities. Even operations will differ as well as processes and procedures as a business learns what is most efficient and what is not. Target markets and products or services offered might change as a business grows and matures. So, knowing which life stage a business is in certainly does matter. Continuous Process The various life cycles of a business are a continuous process of decision-making based on operations, efficiency, profitability, sales, growth, customer needs, etc. Changes will be necessary as the business progresses from one stage to the next. Without change when change is needed will result in business stagnation, or worse, business decline. Understand the various life cycles of a business and be ready for change.
Is Your Business Small Or Entrepreneurial?
February 27, 2022
Many small business owners say they have an entrepreneurial business and many entrepreneurial owners say they have a small business. If this sounds a bit confusing, it can be since the phrase small business owner and entrepreneurial business owner are frequently used interchangeably. There is a difference, however, that should be noted. A small business is... A well-accepted definition of a small business is a business that is independently owned and operated, organized for profit, and not dominant in its field. The number of employees can vary from none to 500 (generally in the U.S. 500 or fewer employees is considered to be a small business). In many international countries, revenue figures are also used to categorize a business as micro, very small, small, or medium-sized enterprise. While some might think that all small businesses have very few employees, low sales, and little profit, small businesses can certainly have a high number of employees, a high volume of sales, and be highly profitable. An entrepreneurial business is... In contrast to a small business, an entrepreneurial business can be described as not just doing something better but doing something different. So, can a well-established business be entrepreneurial, or does this description only apply to a new, startup business? If being entrepreneurial means doing something different than the competition, certainly a well-established small business or SME can be entrepreneurial. Being entrepreneurial is not reserved strictly for new businesses; however, a new business can definitely be entrepreneurial. A few examples... (1) A new restaurant owned by two partners opens in a suburb. Small? Most likely based on the number of employees. Entrepreneurial? Probably not even though menu items might be somewhat different than other restaurants. The actual operation of ordering, food delivered to tables, etc. remains essentially the same. (2) On the other hand, was McDonald’s entrepreneurial when it first got started? Well, McDonald’s was certainly small at the start (not now) and very entrepreneurial. Rather than being simply another “hamburger stand,” McDonald’s put an entrepreneurial twist on the entire operation by doing something quite different. It standardized the hamburger and designed a new work flow process...fast food. (3) Heard of Apple? Who hasn’t? Apple I, iMac, MacBook, iPod, iPad, and, oh yes, the iPhone just to name a few of the multitude of unique products Apple has brought to the worldwide marketplace. Rather than just improving on current products to make them better, Apple continues to be innovative and entrepreneurial. It’s famous founder, Steve Jobs, once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Apple is definitely not small but continues to be entrepreneurial. Small business and an entrepreneurial twist Small businesses and SMEs need to be innovative and differentiate their businesses from the competition. Owners and managers should consider how to put an entrepreneurial twist on their current business not only to become better than the competition but different from the competition. Will every business trying to become different become another McDonald’s or Apple? Of course not, but forward movement produces success. Rather than trying to outperform the competition with equivalent products or services, being entrepreneurial is what might be needed to beat the competition...being the leader and not the follower. We might all agree that Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, was an entrepreneur. One of his more famous quotes is, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Small and/or entrepreneurial So: · A business may start small and remain small without being or becoming entrepreneurial, or · A business may start small and then evolve into an entrepreneurial venture by thinking differently about its products or services, or · A business might be both small and entrepreneurial at the start of its business. Regardless of the size or type of business, an entrepreneurial twist can give a boost to sales and profits.
It Can Change in an Instant
January 30, 2022
What can change in an instant? Answer: any business. It can take literally years for a business to build a solid reputation, however, that reputation can be changed in an instant. Business reputations are built on integrity and credibility. Integrity is the quality of being honest, fair, and having strong moral principles. A similar trait, credibility is the quality of being trusted, believed in, and accepted as true, real, or honest. Businesses can be viewed as being unique and having distinct qualities that customers and employees see and experience. Reputations for integrity and credibility, likewise, exist. For a business to maintain a long-term, solid reputation, integrity and credibility must be unquestioned and never compromised. These are two important elements in the success matrix of any business. A challenge is how to maintain these two critical elements of success. A Cultural Change Reputations must change first from the inside. “I and me” must be replaced with “we and the company.” A philosophy within the business must be fostered with the goal that everything that is done, every sale that is made, and every customer that is touched is done so with the objective to achieve ultimate customer satisfaction and long-term, sustainable growth. An imperative component of both customer satisfaction and sustainable growth is to achieve integrity and credibility from the viewpoint of all stakeholders of a business. Perception Is Reality To the outside world and employees, perception is reality when it comes to the moral principles and trustworthiness of a business. It is not enough for owners or management to perceive the business and themselves as being credible, the rest of world must have the same view. In other words, I am as the world sees me. “I” is the business and the “world” is the many relationships that every business has. What Is Projected With instant news flashed across the Internet with lightening speed via social media, blogs, and online reviews, reputations can be made, enhanced, or destroyed almost in the blink of an eye. Although a business might put a special spin or twist on a story or particular product or service, the truth has a way of coming out. In the current business world, secrets are a rare commodity. It is the free flow of information that is now readily accessible that allows almost anyone to know something about a business, owners, managers, and products or services offered. Core Values It is the true core values of a business and how it treats customers and employees that determine its integrity and credibility. A business might say or market one thing, but it is how it operates everyday, and how it treats those associated with the business that is the final judgment of its character. Perhaps, a business “talks the talk” but does not “walk the walk.” This means that it acts in a manner that it inconsistent with what it says. Conversely, a business must follow the principle that actions speak louder than words. Behavior and Reputation Internal behavior drives a company's reputation. Actions or inactions determine how a business is perceived. It is a series of positive actions that reinforce internally and externally the integrity and credibility of a business. It is not accomplished quickly. Owners and managers must set an example for all employees who, in turn, represent the business to customers, vendors, and other interested parties. Honesty and trust are valued qualities in a business that must be continuously protected. Businesses that maintain high ideals of morality reap beneficial rewards. Warren Buffett, the respected CEO of the conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, sums this concept up in two short sentences, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” With every decision you make in business, think about its consequences!