Growing Your Business – Five Key Things to Make You Successful
Has growing your business ever been one of your New Year’s “resolutions”? Have you then — like the rest of us – realized, at some point later, that the year is quickly disappearing in a haze of last minute crisis and customer problems and that you haven’t started working on your resolutions yet? So make this year different, take 2 minutes to look at these 5 keys to growing your business successfully and take the first step toward turning your intentions into actions.
First, be clear about what you want to achieve. You want to grow – but what? Sales – for sure, but don’t go after increased sales at any cost. Focus on the profitability of each deal and aggressively pursue only those which will grow your bottom line. How do you do that? Ask yourself what has made you successful up to now – why do your customers buy from you not your competitors? Focus on how you make money – the things that make you unique. Also take a look at the characteristics of your profitable customers, what do they look like, what things do they have in common? Avoid the temptation to cut prices or offer special discounts to get the “first” order. It becomes very difficult to the raise prices to normal levels.
Second, find a way to handle the routine – but essential – work that takes place daily, so that you can focus on growing your business. “Routine” work — for example receiving, invoicing, “set up” of machines — can be written up as a process so that each step is clear and can be followed exactly. You can also measure the length of time to complete these jobs and the number of mistakes made and come up with averages or standards for measuring performance levels. Use the same idea to delegate. Tell your supervisors and managers what decisions they can make on their own – for example what they can do to solve customer complaints – without coming back to you and put it in writing. To make sure you don’t lose control, make a note of the areas of your business which you know will get you into trouble quickly if they’re not watched closely – for example cash in the Bank, order backlog, machine utilization or order fill rates. Then have someone bring you (as opposed to you going to get it) a summary of the actual numbers regularly – daily or weekly as appropriate. Make everyone aware of what you consider to be acceptable performance in these areas and share the results with them. If they have to be improved, tell them why – then ask them how to make the improvements and, if it sounds logical, let them get on with it.
And what if your people aren’t capable of doing that? Third, hire or train people who can. Look for the people already in your company who you know not only have the skills and experience to do their job but who also share your values and standards – they’ll do things to the performance levels you want. And let them deal with stuff that requires a quick reaction but which doesn’t directly impact what you’re doing to increase sales and profits. Remember, it doesn’t matter how a job is done, all that matters is how well it’s done. When you next have to hire start by making a list of the people you’ve met who could do the job and approach them. If you have to recruit, don’t take the best of the bunch you see, use temporary help until you find what you want.
Fourth, keep “score” regularly. Imagine what would happen if an NBA, NHL or NFL team only saw the results of each game when it was over. The coaches and managers would have no opportunity to adjust their game plan for what had actually taken place in each period. Growing your business is no different. Take a half day just after the results for each quarter become available to compare what has happened against the increase in sales and profits you wanted to achieve and the goals you set for yourself and your staff. Then make the necessary adjustments. Have each of your sales reps. forecast their sales for the next month – and then go back and discuss what actually happened and, if necessary ask them what has to be done to improve. Have your warehouse and manufacturing teams forecast performance levels in their areas and do the same follow up. If they don’t know how to do this, bring in someone to train them.
Fifth and final point, I was talking to someone recently who has grown his business from zero to almost $16 million in sales in just 5 years. Guess what he told me? It’s his view that anyone could have seen the opportunity he saw (he actually thought about it for 2 years before forming the company) and anyone could have developed the products. The major reason for his success he believes lay in the fact that he executed and executed well. One of the keys to successful execution is to develop an Action Plan which has SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Recorded – or written – and Time related). Another is to find people who have experience growing companies and either use them as advisors or form an Advisory Board. Pay them if you have to, it’s an investment, not a cost.
Anyone can make a resolution or intend to get something done, but not everyone can transform it into reality. To grow your business successfully don’t sacrifice profits for increased sales; turn routine tasks into processes, set performance levels for them and delegate without losing control; hire people who have the skills and values you need; check the score and adjust your game plan and execute by turning intentions into actions.