We are getting close to the end of the year and it’s time for business owners to be thinking about goals & objectives for next year. The following list includes universal business trends that I have consulted about repeatedly during the last 18 months with just about every one of my clients. I encourage small business owners to score themselves with respect to these important business practices that, from my experience, are currently being embraced by the top businesses in their industry.
1. Lose all of the spreadsheets you are using to manage your business and get an operational software package that integrates with your current financial software.
Today this software is very good … it’s affordable … and it quickly pays for itself. To give you an idea as to what current operational software solutions can do: (i) you can now link GPS positioning to your field employees’ timesheets to eliminate inaccurate timekeeping; (ii) this software gives your field employees remote access to the company’s databases, so a technician can see if they have the inventory on their truck, in the warehouse, or in another service truck that is close to his or her location; (iii) it allows you to scan inventory pulled from a service truck with a smart device to improve your service technician’s productivity; (iv) it creates accurate invoices you can present for payment immediately after the job has been completed; and (v) it allows your managers to have access real-time job costing report.
Purchasing an operational software solution that integrates with your financial software makes this upgrade an easier transition than getting an entirely new software package, and having all your data is in one place is necessary to maximize your financial / management reporting and decision-making capabilities in today’s fast-paced market environment.
2. Purchase CRM Software.
CRM software can be used to improve the customer’s experience in many ways: (i) by capturing past customer conversations, (ii) by allowing you to set follow up alarms to provide more professional service, (iii) by facilitating periodic broadcast e-mails, and a lot more ! … and there are many affordable solutions to choose from, such as ACT!, Goldmine, and Zoho.
3. Focus More on Social Media.
Two months ago, we did a segment about creating a social media plan, during which I argued that small businesses need to be better utilizing social media to tell their story and bond with prospects & customers, and I’d refer listeners to my article on this web site about creating a social media strategy that includes instructions for creating a social media plan, along with literally dozens of great social media marketing ideas.
4. Hire an HR Manager to Focus Full Time on Recruiting.
Most companies will tell you that they have open positions they can’t fill, and that their people are their greatest asset, yet they do not have a dedicated person looking for the talent they need. In my opinion, if you have a lot of turnover, you should hire a full-time HR Manager. In addition, businesses need to be both proactive and creative in their approach to finding new people. Every year, I work with businesses that are needlessly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in fees to recruiters.
5. Invest in Employee Training.
Companies need to be focused on continuous improvement, and so do employees. Supervisor training, product training (offered at no cost by many supplies,) computer training, and other in-house process training are areas business owners tell me their employees can benefit from. I encourage small businesses to hold periodic “lunch & learn” training with managers & office employees, and quarterly training with your laborers. Moreover, businesses should be utilizing personal development plans (PDPs) with their key employees each year to ensure there is a plan for them to grow both with and in your company.
6. Implement an Employee Incentive Plan Tied to Improved Employee Productivity.
If you aren’t paying your employees more than your competitors, you risk losing employees. The best way to reward outstanding employee performance – and attract other ambitious employees – is to offer a “performance-based” incentive plan. On a project I am currently working in Nashville, TN, we are in the process of implementing productivity saving of over $300,000, and are creating a “performance-based” incentive plan to share some of that savings with employees.
7. Improve Your Cashflow Systems, Procedures & Controls.
Many experts agree that managing your cash flows is among the biggest challenges a small business faces during its first five – (5) years of its existence. The most common cash flow problems I see with small businesses include: (i) not aligning your cash outflows with your cash inflows, (ii) the need to strengthening the businesses A/R collections efforts, (iii) an absence of a cash flow forecast to manage the company’s day-to-day cash flow, (iv) the opportunity to e-mail invoices to customers to facilitate payment, and (v) not using automatic draft opportunities for reoccurring sales.
8. Seek Out PR Opportunities.
Many of the companies I work with are among the fastest growing privately owned businesses in the US. The owners of these businesses all subscribe to INC Magazine, but most never think of applying for INC Magazine’s annual list of fastest growing privately owned businesses. Being on a list of fastest growing companies, or best companies to work for — of which there are many — equals free publicity that can help expand their businesses. Charitable activities, celebrity endorsements, new products, new customers, or winning an industry award are other opportunities that businesses should be pursuing to get free publicity.
9. Operate From A Budget.
Creating a budget every year is a great way to identify ways to save money and set benchmarks for improvement. In addition, a budget is an excellent tool for being proactive in solving problems in the business, and perhaps the best way for ensuring that you hit your projected profit objective every year.
10. Last, Offer A Cell Phone Allowance to Reduce Your Company’s Cell Phone Bill.
If your employees have cell phones you feel you should pay for, and your employees are not using these phones to communicate with customers, you should offer these employees a cell phone allowance instead of a cell phone, and pocket the difference. Here in Nashville, we believe we will saved over $6,000 next year.
So, how did your business rank ?
For assistance helping your business maximize its performance in 2018, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on my cell phone at 972-816-1666.