As a business owner, what do you feel is most important when it comes to building solid small business operations?
I'm conducting a survey of my fellow-business owners to learn what their views are on essential business operations. In building your business sustainably, what elements do you think will most ensure your success?
Great question Sarah! There are obviously a ton of elements that go into building a sustainable business but have found a few specific items that really have stuck out to me.
One is to make sure you build solid SOPs (standard operating procedures) for all the actions your business takes so you can efficiently accomplish your tasks as well as make it easy to train current and future employees on these same tasks. You will then need to continuously tweak and improve these as you move forward.
Second will be to make sure you price your services/goods at the appropriate level so you can scale. If you are priced too low or get nervous and start to bring in low margin clients, you will be busy, but not profitable and will be stuck. You also wont' be able to invest back into your company and risk become stagnant. Not to mention, this is won't be any fun and that's why we are doing all of this right?
Third and possibly most important, will be to make sure you build your company with the mindset of culture first. If you have an awesome culture, it will be much easier to get everyone aligned and working towards the same mission. And again, it'll make everything much more enjoyable seeing that we spend more time around our co-workers than we do around our family and friends.
From my viewpoint, having coached several hundred business owners and executives on ways to improve the running of their businesses, here are a few of the most essential elements of operating a successful business:
1. Think like a business owner. Remember, the business is under your guidance. It will perform as you direct it. Being able to stay ahead of what's happening now by planning out your medium range strategy for acquiring clients, overseeing the financial flow and insuring the customer experience is to your standard are areas that are most important for the business owner.
2. If you have a staff or are working on developing a team of employees, vet them well and make sure they thoroughly understand their purpose and responsibility to the overall operation. Make sure your performance standards and code of conduct (your culture) is always top of mind with them.
3. Be clear about who you are and what you offer. Generating a steady stream of quality clients depends on how well you convey the reason you do what you do.
4. Make sure your processes are well defined. Every business has operating procedures that must be repeated continuously. Make sure yours are thoroughly vetted and written down. If you have to make changes in personnel, your operating processes should not suffer during the transition.
5. Be an expert on your competition. Competitors only seem hostile when you don't understand how they operate and how you are different. Knowing what they offer and how they communicate their uniqueness in the market will allow you to establish yourself apart from them.
A successful business is like a well designed machine that produces the same quality output over and over again. It's this level of consistency that drives employee loyalty, keeps customers coming back and delivers the greatest profitability to the bottom line.
It also helps to have a high level of vision, commitment and determination.
Everything cannot be done at once. So doing things at the right time (so they are done right and in place when they need to be) is the key.
As others have pointed out, when starting, make sure you have determined your dominating marketing position (unique sales proposition -- how are you different than the competition) and determine realistically when your cash break even is - to ensure you do not run out of cash before you get things going.
Only then do you put in place sales and marketing plans, making sure you project a budget for your profit drivers as benchmarks to ensure you are on track for where you want to go.
Although it sounds cliche, I strongly recommend that a strategic plan (internal document) be put together to match up your personal financial and lifestyle goals and the timing of such (since your the business owner) with your business goals -- determining what needs to be done when in order to reach them.
1.Establishing yourself as an expert in your field. 2. Building your referral network by attending networking group meetings & following up with one-to-one's. 3. Follow up your networking with a solid, regular online presence (which you can use to help with step 1.)
As a full time smb consultant, I can offer this: We approach each client with a straight forward approach. If we feel the client business can be saved (some are too far gone), we institute a three pronged approach.
Operation, marketing and financial protocols. Without these three, the business will continue to limp along. This ts the Cliff Notes answer, of course it is much more complicated than that.
By operation protocols, we mean several things. First, the business has GOT to be customer-centric in every single aspect of the business, all the way to the night cleaners. They must live for service, just the same way house servants took care of the Lord of the Manor. Service must of the highest caliber, sincere and consistent.
Enhancing the operations with new EXPERIENCES that create enthusiasm, pride, uniqueness and customer-facing. The experience economy demands it. It is not the packaging, pitch or price that people remember, it's the great memories from the experience. Remember the best meal out with your friends? Was it the steak or the camaraderie that stuck in your mind?
Marketing protocols are by far the most complex of the recommendations. Because each small business has its own audiences, locations, customer demographics and so forth, custom marketing across all channels is mandatory. However, it the operational protocols are deeply entrenched and executed with perfection, referrals will come on their own, but you could nudge them with "unexpected extras." Remember, EXPERIENCES AND MARKETING create a more positive brand. Customer loyalty builds with each great experience, but it is really easy to lose that loyalty, so be careful.
Financial protocols in our business can work for any business, but it takes determination and hard work. We always require the business to go on a 7 day P & L. What? Yes, a 7 day profit and loss statement. Several of the numbers can be qualified estimates, but at the end of every for weeks, everything washes to its final format. Cash flow estimates occur every day, GAAP must be included, strong accounting, whether it is cash or accrual.
Obviously, none of these protocols will stick unless you're specific and they have to be written. However, the real key to ensuring sustainability and growth is the cap to the program: OVERSIGHT.
We believe OVERSIGHT is going to be the knot in the rope for Air BnB, Uber and a whole lot of other "disruptive" enterprises. They don't have local oversight. In reality, they operate an e-commerce site and leave the risk to everyone else.
That's my answer and I am sticking to it!
Best of LIfe!
This is a very good question and specifically for small businesses there is nothing more important than a customer.
The reason is the evolution of small industry started with the requirement of large companies to have a focused and dedicated supplier for their products.
Initially , customers themselves encouraged and diverted sales to small companies who can be their dedicated suppliers and simultaneously grow themselves also.
Even today big multinationals have given birth to many small organizations as a drive to their social and cultural responsibility in many countries. It takes their goodwill to the roots of the country also.
Then definitely the second most important thing is the idea, concept or the product itself which is not common to create these days. Majority of the creativity is either in the service sector or the technology sector which also in a broader perspective comes under service sector.
This is a long discussion and can take a lot of time . But the strength of the customer to give birth to a small business and take it to sustainability is not match able.
Hope you find it helpful.
Best Of Luck,
Many components here.
Hands down (one of the first or most important early on) is it the first person, second person, third person you hire. It's YOUR people serving the potential and actually users or "People," in the 9P's of Marketing.
Be sure with each person you hire as a small business trying to get larger and more profitable, that the company is taking good care of its customers (People), and having the right Planning and targeting (People), the right Product, right Place or distribution, right Price, right Promotion, right Partners, right Presentation, with the right amount of Passion in the Nine P’s.
Here to help.
1. Strong capital backing
2 A reliable bank, who will support you if things get tough
3 A. proper business plan. i.e. your target market, how you are going to fund the
business, what equipment you will need, and how you will finance it.
4. Good communications, and that includes meida exposure and belonging to
clubs and similar operations to get you namearound (this and Linked in are quite
5. Never borrow what you can't pay back, and most certainly CHECK THE INTEREST
RATE ! A lot of people are being conned by these loan sharks, and regrettably that
includes banks, who charge ludicrous amounts of money to do something very
simple. Interest kills companies, and come to that individuals.
6. Hire staff only when you need to, but make sure they are up to the job and not just
button pushers who don't know when things are right or wrong. Too many employers
cut back on staff who are actually a bonus to the company, and probably recover their
annual salary ina few weeks. Most expensive is not always the best, but the least
expensive can be costly.
6a Make sure that you hire staff which you can trust. Do a full security clearence on
7. Make sure that you can pay your important bills to time, that includes telehpone, rent
Just to be a little flippant on my part, but still rings true, is advice given to me by my late maternal Grandfather:
"Let your eyes be your guide, and money the last thing you part with."
Great question. You have good answers so far.
But in my experience, you MUST have a clear and compelling message to attract leads, turn those into qualified leads and convert them to paying clients/customers. That boils down to an effective marketing strategy that focuses on the problem you solve and the results the client gets from using your solution to solve that problem.
Follow that with the use of best practices to set up the business itself.
Do not try to do it all from reading these posts or talking with friends and peers. You should talk to, professionals such as your attorney, accountant, business coach, etc. to help you set up the things that are right for your business, not what worked for someone else. Professional advice is not something to forget. It may cost money up front, but in the long term, it will pay huge dividends.
In my opinion successful business operations start with awareness born from knowledge. Over my years of serving as outside general counsel to hundreds of businesses, I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly. All the good came from founders who spent upfront time learning all they could about the legal, commercial, and financial constructs in which their businesses needed to function. This knowledge came from first hand investigation and a willingness to lean on trusted advisers. Armed with the essential knowledge of their chosen industry and markets, they started and remained alert to their business environment from as many angles as possible. Of course, no one person can consistently do everything all at once and, therefore, building a core team of valued business advisers forms the base of the pyramid upon which all future growth can solidly rest.
All the Best for your Success!
I think it is a part formula. I also clearly don't know your business and who you sell to or what your sell. But, it is about 3 elements : Relationship Management, Road map to Revenue, and Customer Success. You have to have a strategy around all 3 of these elements. If you do, most businesses would say they were successful. Much to consider here but that is,my opening shot!
(I felt that I could answer to your post despite being part of a business consultancy, since we are also a small enterprise who supports the operations of small and medium sized businesses. I hope you do not mind)
Small businesses have limited resources. As such the more time one devotes to sales and marketing activities the more the chances to sell. And the more the business sells the higher the chances to be successful.
How does one make more time for sales and marketing? In my opinion it is particularly important to do two things:
a) Standardise internal operations in such a way that as many activities as possible are automated (like company profiles / presentations and offers), and
b) Recognize that having limited resources (people, time and expertise) means that for certain important activities (e.g. financial management, budgeting, legal advice) a small business may not have what it takes internally. Therefore to receive professional support without impairing your chances in the marketplace outsource might be a good answer. Of course these activities may also be done internally either with reduced quality or at the expense of activities that lead to increased sales.
For me these are the guidelines to follow. Of course personalisation is needed to the particular case.
If you need more details or would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
FairWorks Business Consultants
Personnel, Consistency, & Quality products. If the personnel understands why they are there and is committed to growing the company they will strive for consistency. Quality products can never be UNDERESTIMATED. Word of mouth is the best advertisement. The good and bad news is that they will talk about the experience good or bad; MAKE IT A GREAT EXPERIENCE.
When starting your small business you have to build it on a strong foundation, I believe that foundation starts with good structure and accounting. The structure is making sure your are setup correctly when incorporating or as a sole proprietor, make sure you have the proper licenses in place and documents files to make sure you are properly incorporated which will protect your business. Next whether you do your own accounting or hire a bookkeeper or accountant you MUST make sure all records are accurate. These are the first two most important areas that need to be covered as your grow and gain more customers.
For any start-up the most important thing to do is to develop a thorough break-even analysis for the first year of operations. This then should be the impetus to develop a business plan that has to be updated annually to insure continuing success.
Developing systematic methods of operating your business and creating a comprehensive written Policies & Procedures Manual containing your unique methods of operation. This P&P Manual is used for training and reference to ensure that all employees are operating on the same page with you as the business owner.
What ever the business, you will primarily require a large human support to either refer you, or talk good about you and your organisation. This will help establish credibility and reduce a lot of efforts in establishing the same.
Automation and leveraging of cloud-based services - reduces time required, keeps costs low, and is scalable.
I look at a business being built into a MARKETING DRIVEN company balanced by a Tripod of Customers, Employees, and Profits.... If either starts to get out of balance you'll know that your business sustainability needs attention.....usually caused by TRUST being broken at some point during the sustainability process
Excellent question, Sarah.
Marketing and its four elements is critical:
acquire, sell to, keep and multiply customers.
Without marketing we have a hobby, not a business.
Everything else builds as a result of this primary functional area of success.