How are you running your business today? Or would it be more accurate to say that your business is running you? How are you dealing with the current business environment? Are you stressed, feeling the pressure, lacking clarity and focus, working long hours, dealing with tough issues, seeing different behaviors for the first time in customers, staff and employees? If you can answer YES to any of the above, you're certainly not alone.
Many business owners today are dealing with issues involving People, Time and Profits. How can a growing business, all of a sudden, become a business that is stalled? Let's look at the first of the three factors:
People If any business, yours included, is to grow strong and meet your personal needs, you constantly need to innovate, please your customers, achieve market differentiation, generate profits and keep the best possible talent.
With this backdrop, what can you do as a business owner to grow a great company, achieve great success, and meet the needs of those who count on you the most? The answer is simple but not easy: Step-up and lead your company.
Business leadership needs to develop, adopt and communicate a vision of a more successful future. The desire is to develop an organizational environment that is able to learn quickly, adapt to change, and is resilient so that it can bounce back from set-backs and business cycles.
Today, because of many outside factors, businesses are dealing with rampant employee pessimism and employees are asked to do more with less. Employees are uncertain about their families, have possible emotional turmoil at home and face family pressures or changes in their personal lives. These types of outside factors can have a tremendous impact on your business.
Employees need continuous communication and support amid all of the disorientation caused by their personal issues and outside factors that they are confronted with each day. The frequency of the communication, quality of the message and continuous presence of the owner (s) and manager (s) to speak to and reinforce the company's vision and follow-up, the better the results tend to be for the employees in dealing with irrational beliefs and fear. False expectations need to be replaced with adaptive beliefs. Employees should understand they have to flex and adapt to allow the company to survive and grow.
Employees need to clearly understand their roles. They need to recognize with great clarity what is in their control and how to take responsibility for those things they are to accomplish. In addition, they must know and accept what they cannot control. Critically important in achieving great success is the ability of the leadership to continually gauge and adjust the company's collective mindset.
It's good to remember to, "BLAME external forces for your successes only when you are willing to CREDIT brilliant leadership for your failures." In other words, take responsibility for the decisions you make as a leader that don't work out in your favor. Don't blame outside forces and factors for your failures. When success happens, stay humble and learn. Give credit where credit is due. Communicate what you learn to your employees so that your company continually learns and grows.
Most business owners today are dealing with issues involving Time. How can a growing business, all of a sudden, become a business that is stalled? The owner never taking a vacation or getting time off? And, how can your business continue to grow if you, the business owner, voluntarily or involuntarily was absent from the business for 1, 3, 6 months or longer?
During these challenging months, when we face such a tough economic landscape, it is even more important to understand and manage your organization's behaviors to gain the maximum results from the Time that you and your employees devote to your business.
How do you decide what to work on as a business owner or employee? And when you decide, how long does it take to get to the tasks you need to accomplish? Do you work on your marketing, sales, staff development, customer service, systems or on producing the products or delivering the services to your clients and customers? How do you deal with the issues and the limits placed on your TIME? How do highly effective, highly efficient business owners and employees leverage their Time to move the business ahead?
To help answer these questions, let's look at the second of the three factors:
Time As we discussed in Part 1, if any business, yours included, is to grow strong and meet your personal needs, you constantly need to innovate, please your customers, achieve market differentiation, generate profits and keep the best possible talent.
If the business owner has established and communicated a great vision of a more successful future, a plan should then be developed and actions taken to get us where we need to go to achieve this vision. With each action, a time requirement should be placed on each step in order to manage the events that will lead us to this future vision.
Since all of us have exactly the same 24 hour days, we need behaviors that propel us to serve our customers and out run / out pace our market competitors. Each team member should consider modifying and adopting appropriate best practices to get the maximum results from their Time implementing the action plan.
Below are 10 suggestions to consider to get the most out of the hours you put into your work devoted to achievement of your plan:
- Focus on your behaviors instead of managing time;
- Identify what is holding you back NOW;
- Learn how to change behaviors holding you back;
- Set time-bound goals that increase productivity and reduce stress;
- Use time management aids that work for you to include combinations of high tech, low tech and no tech, (e.g. Calendars, Software, PDA's, etc.);
- Use the 80/20 Rule. Identify what 20% of activities are most important, and DO THEM FIRST;
- Delegate or contract for services that help you use your time wisely to gain the best ROI for your time;
- Design and implement systems to manage the events in your day that result in the outcomes you want time and time again;
- Set time limits appropriate for each action step, measure, track and evaluate to streamline and improve results;
- Get outside help to continuously learn and improve. Books, tapes, seminars, tools and being coached are all ways to help you and your team improve.
Sometime behaviors exhibited by owners and our employees should be considered to improve our use of time. Certain behaviors (5 examples listed below) that reduce our time effectiveness can include (but are not limited to) the following:
Action Junkie behavior characterized by running from crisis to crisis while important business building activities go undone.
- Overly Involved behavior characterized by never turning down an opportunity to serve others but neglecting yourself and your business. The need to be involved, connected, and an expert.
- Avoider behavior characterized by avoiding work, hiding, avoiding conflicts or not taking needed action. These types might never volunteer or participate unless confronted directly.
- Socialite behavior characterized by socializing so much that work suffers. Typically, these workers are unable to get to tasks and disrupt others usually leading to not achieving desired results.
- Analytical behavior characterized by working to perfection, analysis paralysis and missing the forest for the trees. These types are so concerned with making a mistake, they would rather not even complete the action.
- While these are extreme examples, you many see any combination of these behaviors in yourself or your employees. These behaviors are typically seen when people experience pressure caused by changes in their current situation or environment.
Dorothy Lehmkuhl, discusses improvements in an article, "15 Principles In Organizing Your Business Life". Dorothy suggests the following ways to improve use of your time and be most productive:
- Get rid of stuff;
- Limit your reading material;
- Touch it once! Be decisive!
- Think before acquiring more;
- Organize before increasing space;
- Don't leave things out as reminders;
- Keep frequently used items handy;
- Don't crowd;
- Do the best task at the best time;
- Be prepared;
- Don't leave before you're finished;
- Do only what you set out to do;
- Break your work into units;
- Empower yourself through delegation;
- Take time for training.
To read the entire article got to: "15 Principles In Organizing Your Business Life."
Profit Profit is defined as a "positive gain from an investment or business operation after subtracting for all expenses. opposite of loss." (http://www.investorwords.com/3880/profit.html)
At the end of the day, how much is left in your company after all expenses are paid? And that includes paying yourself! A common mistake by business owners who end up subsidizing the company and neglecting their own needs. Crazy you say, happens every day.
So in what areas of your business should you look at in order to gain the most profit improvement? And, where are the areas that are most often neglected in your quest to produce the products and services for your customers?
Below are 11 areas and questions to consider: 1. Acquire New And Retain Existing Customers Have you updated your marketing plan? Recently, (last 12 months) evaluated your marketing strategies based upon your target markets and the results you have achieved? Have you measured your return on your dollars spent on marketing?
2. Providing Great Customer Service Does your company just look at answering complaints? Or, does your staff believe in cross-selling and up-selling your customers on appropriate products and services that will help your customers meet their goals? Do your employees have the authority to solve your customer problems and concerns immediately? Are you building customer loyalty?
3. Partner with Others (Fusion) Do you have relationships with other companies that either complement your services or share the same target markets that you're trying to reach? Have you investigated ways to share resources, expenses and initiatives with these companies to build a greater awareness and serve these target markets and customers?
4. Turn a Service into a Product Can you package or re-package your services in order to allow your company to better explain the benefits the customer receives? Can you provide the mechanism to package your services and price them more effectively? Are you able to clearly differentiate yourself from your competitors?
5. Tightly Managing Expenses Have you developed a budget? Do you monitor both revenue and expenses at least monthly to determine where you stand? Do you hold your employees accountable for the areas in the budget that they control? Do you look at the ROI and make sure that there are enough resources for your staff to produce the desired level of revenue and take calculated risks in areas where growth is most probable?
6. Leverage Your Time We dealt with Time in Part 2 of this series. However, it is worth repeating. Have you contracted for those things that are a less valuable use of your time? Have you hired the most talented service providers? Have you established metrics to measure their performance? Are your effectively delegating to your staff?
7. Maintain A Current Financial Reporting System Have you established a system to monitor your financial performance, monitor accounts receivable, conduct an inventory analysis, monitor your sales and gross margin mix, implemented labor incentives, implemented a modern financial information system, reduced variable and direct costs to their lowest level and instituted financial benchmarks to measure performance on an ongoing basis?
8. Maintain Control And Monitoring Systems Do you have the knowledge and ability to develop your operating systems? Can you keep them current? Do you use these systems to maintain control and monitor a consistent level of product production and/or service levels for your customers? Can your employees easily find and use these systems?
9. Get The Right Staff On Board Do you have Job Descriptions for every employee? Can you easily update them with the business changes? Do you have an effective hiring system? Do your employees love coming to work? Do your employees know what their success with your company looks like?
10. Price Your Products Correctly How often do you run a break-even analysis to assure you're setting pricing for a profit? When was the last time you analyzed your pricing to make sure you're able to hit your profit target?
11. Don't Wait To Seek Professional Help I talk to many business owners in my work. Some I can help and others have waited too long to be saved from business failure. If there is one lesson I have learned. When in doubt, get help sooner than later. And, get the right help. Second opinions are OK, too.
The next article, (Throwing A Wrench in the Gears Of Your Business) provides a real recent story about just that, a great guy with a dream of a great business that died. How tragic. It just didn't have to end that way.
Conclusion I hope you enjoyed this series of articles; Dealing With The Big Three: People, Time and Profits. If you have an idea on a topic you would like us to cover , just call or send us an email.
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