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Statistics seem to be against the likelihood of even half of new businesses staying open to celebrate their 5th anniversary. According to Small Business Trends: “A bit more than 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years.”
This could be troublesome news to anyone with a dream of owning their own business; however, you merely need to read further into the statistics to realize that half of the businesses survived and continued to thrive. It is possible, and it absolutely can be profitable to own your own business.
There are four keys to maintaining a successful business. Some require more immediate attention, and others must remain top-of-mind all of the time.
These are words that are thrown around often when referring to the function or operation of a business. You often hear “The business isn’t successful because there are no systems in place;” or “Not everyone is following the proper protocols.” Many times when speaking to employees, they state that they didn’t know that there was a protocol in place, or they weren’t trained on the rules.
Your systems determine how you want your business to run. The process is the step to get it done.
Creating a system of accountability means that each team member understands what the job is and who is responsible for making it happen.
It is recommended that each and every process be written down; it may seem overwhelming, yet it will be so helpful when training a new team member. The final thought on this step is to review your processes often. The world is ever-changing, and so is your business.
What does it cost to open your doors? Is your payroll within normal limits for your industry? This may seem like a no-brainer; however, many of the businesses that failed did so because someone else had a better handle on their numbers than the owner did.
What numbers are important? The obvious answer is your income and expenses. Looking a bit deeper, make sure you understand what is coming in and what is going out at all times. If there is something suspicious, ask and make sure that you are comfortable with the answer.
The purpose of marketing is to let people know that your doors are open. You have something that they need, that could make life easier, faster, better. It’s not enough to just open your doors and expect that the masses will come flooding inside.
Internal Marketing is customer service and office décor. It’s often said that a client or customer loves the storeowner but can’t stand dealing with staff, or vice versa. The look of the facility from the moment a customer gets out of their car is marketing. Is there trash they have to step over, or might there be a strange odor in the store? An interesting exercise is to walk through, with a customer’s eyes, from the front door until the step when their business is typically concluded.
Here is an interesting exercise: take a look at your facility from the viewpoint of your customer.
External Marketing is how you tell the community about your business. Ads, website, billboards, Facebook, community events, etc. are all forms of external marketing. Customer attraction and retention must be a constant focus for the health of a business. You need to be aware of how you are getting your new customers based upon what you are doing and determine the return on investment for everything you do. At the same time, have a method for customers to let you know if their experience in your office did not meet their expectations. This would require a post-visit survey, suggestion box or even a follow up phone call.
What does your front door look like? Is there something that is unsightly enough to turn someone away? Marketing your business is much more than magazine ads, website design, or asking for referrals. It begins with the appearance of your facility. You want to put your best foot forward from the very beginning and for some, that may be just driving by the building. Seeing the peeling sign or overgrown shrubbery could be negative enough to make someone decide to drive on; or worse, your competition down the street is attracting customers with their newly painted sign.
Effective communication is much more than merely transferring information. It is not always easy due to the circumstances. There are two ways to communicate – verbally and in writing. Each is important and has their place in any business.
Written includes not only formal contracts or return policies, but also, offer letters for hiring, performance reviews and counseling memos. Additionally, the written processes mentioned above have a strong value in their ability to thwart any barriers from providing excellent customer service. Anything that is discussed outside of the normal business processes should be documented to protect the business owner and the employee or customer.
Verbal communication with employees can be directives that take place at team meetings. It is through these meetings that the team understands the vision of the business and what the owner expects of their participation as an employee. These team meetings are a fabulous way to review processes, to ensure that everyone is completing tasks the same way. Updates determined as a team are then put into the processes book. This keeps everyone on the same page.
Communications with customers are just as important to document, to avoid a “he said-she said” type of event. If a promise is made, it should be documented.
The number one frustration in most businesses is the lack of communication. This frustration can lead to good employees leaving or poor performance due to not understanding the role.
Owning a business is the dream of so many people, and it can continue to be a dream that is achieved on an on-going basis. It is important to understand where your business stands and that the team in place has the owner’s vision ingrained in their actions.
Creating a system of accountability means that each team member under- stands what the job is and who is responsible for making it happen.
Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE, is the co-founder of Global Team Solutions (GTS),
business consultant, and highly-regarded professional
speaker. Her acumen in the area of office management solutions makes her a real asset to her clients across the country. Janice is the current treasurer of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC), and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
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