How do you take your company to the next level?
Obviously you need a vision of where you want to take your business.
To get there, you need to use best practices that support success.
The following 10 best practices are adapted from an article featured in Big Ideas for Small Business® in August 2008.
1. Put business systems in place
Create a foundation for repeatable success by devising systems and practices that enable easy duplication. Think about the business models of franchises such as McDonalds and Dunkin' Donuts, which systemize every aspect of the franchise so it can be replicated flawlessly. Doing this frees you personally to focus on strategic activities rather than day-to-day operations.
2. Create steady cash flow
Look for ways that keep customers coming back regularly so you’ll have a reliable revenue stream. For instance, where appropriate, adopt an automatic renewal billed to customers’ credit cards (with the ability to opt out at any time). I’ll give you a personal example: My dentist’s office has a payment plan to cover routine services and discounts for special services for which I pay a fixed monthly amount.
3. Do what you do best
There are only so many hours in the day. Make the most of them by focusing on what you do best and let others handle the rest. You likely will need to work with various specialists who have the skills you lack, such as marketers and IT people, whether you put them on your payroll or use outside contractors.
4. Give managers authority to manage
Business growth is marked, of course by increased revenue, but also by levels of management. In a microbusiness, the owner does it all, including supervising employees if he or she has any. As the business grows to the next level, managers are brought in to oversee staff and other functions. These managers report to the owner; the owner no longer directly supervises the company’s activities. So hire the best and then let them do what they know how to do.
5. Listen to your customers
Don’t assume you know what your customers want or like; ask them. Use focus groups, secret shopper programs, and online questionnaires to find out what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Follow the conversation about your business on Twitter. Read what’s posted on your company’s Facebook page.
6. Value your employees
They’re not on your balance sheet but employees may be your company’s most valuable assets. Treat them as such, rather than as an additional cost of doing business. Carefully consider the benefits that they value — flexible hours, training, fringe benefits — and try to offer them if you can. Pay bonuses to employees so they know they are an important part of the company’s growth and success.
Create feedback channels where employees can offer suggestions that will be carefully considered by you. Hold events, such as company picnics and holiday parties, in which employees can freely converse with you on a casual level; this fosters employee feedback.
7. Take risks wisely
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said “the biggest risk is not taking any risk.” Growth may require you to open a second location, hire more employees, or expand your current facilities. Recognize the risk involved in expansion so you can move ahead wisely.
8. Keep learning
Stay abreast of what’s going on in your industry and take advantage of tools, resources, connections, and other opportunities through your associations. Attend conferences, conventions, and trade shows to see associates and competitors’ activities. Subscribe to newsletters (like Big Ideas for Small Business®) and other industry and government publications from which you can learn about new rules and regulations so you avoid problems and penalties.
9. Be prepared
A disaster of any type, whether it’s an accident on your premises, a fire, or power outage, can be a big setback to growth. Plan, train, and test your safety and security plans. For instance, you may want to offer CPR training for some members of your staff. The American Red Cross offers classes for this purpose.
In other companies, preparedness may relate to protecting proprietary data or avoiding injury by machinery. Determine your vulnerabilities so you can craft preparedness plans. Not only will this reflect well on employees and customers, but it will also lower your insurance costs.
10. Stay engaged
Perhaps the most important idea is to remain excited about growing your business. Remember that every large corporation started out as a small business. You can take your company to the next level if you want to, follow good business practices, and enjoy a little bit of luck!