Monday, September 25, 2006

Week 6 - Educating your employees and introducing systems

In the best businesses, everyone understands their role and they act in a way which is consistent with that role and finally, in union with the other employees. Most employees have an inner desire to develop or grow, to have a life that they can be proud to tell people about. So this is the critical point, employees must understand how doing their job will have an effect on their personal growth.

The first step in getting this process underway is to create an organizational chart with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Stay with me, it is not as boring as it sounds! The important thing is that the role is documented and that the person in the role understands what they must deliver.

Having clearly defined roles is always the starting point for both owners and employees of any business. But what about the way in which they carry out the tasks to achieve the results?

Systems are all about figuring out why something (good or bad) happened in your business and making sure it then becomes part of your business operation (good) or is never repeated again (bad). This unique system that develops over time is the most important aspect of any business. Of course when something goes wrong you need to stop the bleeding as soon as you can.

They are a set of rules to stop employees using discretion at the operating level of a business.

What choice do they have? They do each job as they see fit and according to their mood in that moment.

Regardless of how you plan to acknowledge your employees there is one thing you simply must ensure is happening – you must compensate your people for results, not for just showing up to work each day

Does each of your employees treat their job as if your business belonged to them?

This point is frequently cited by the worlds most successful entrepreneurs. They manage to develop their culture so not only does each employee know exactly what their role is and what they are expected to deliver, but they also understand the roles of their fellow employees and how collectively they influence the business overall.

Two critical points regarding employees:

1) They must understand how their role directly affects the business and the bottom line.

2) They must be able to feel a connection between their work and their personal development - or plan to lose them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Week 5 - The Total Experience, Unique and Clear

If you train your customers to buy from you because you have the lowest price and best service, your business will see (at best) mediocre results. Why? Because everyone else is saying exactly the same thing. Every time the customer needs your product or service, they will once again look for the lowest price and best service, which may or may not be yours at that point. WalMart can pull this off because they have massive scale – small businesses cannot, at least not long term.

Competing on price and service is a very hard way to run your business therefore you need to convey to the public how your business provides the best overall solution. A unique selling proposition (USP) is an old concept for describing this. When I say an old concept I mean that today, it is not just about a different price or product or service, it is about the total experience delivered to your customers. That doesn’t mean that having a somewhat unique offering is no longer important, just that it alone cannot guarantee your long term success.

When developing this statement, always think about that customer’s experience. What are people looking for? What are the trends telling you?

Encapsulating your total offer in a simple sentence, or group of words is critical – not just for the sake of it, but because you will use it in all of the marketing you do to build your business. As you develop this, test the concept with hard questions – include your employees:

What would you do to put us out of business? If you were to launch a competing offering, what would you do differently, how would it look and what would the extra benefits be?

Does it stack up? Is your USP really that different and does it address gaps in my market? This is a recurring process as in most cases your competitors will follow with “me too” services.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Week 4 - Strategy vs Tactics

Business owners that proactively guide their business forward have embraced the concept of strategy versus tactics. The opposite of this is the businesses that react to everything that is going on around them. If you are not strategic, it means you do not have a big overriding game plan, you do not have a vision of where you want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years. Strategy is just careful and thoughtful planning – a on-goign question of yourself: where am I taking this business?

Let’s use a nightclub to illustrate the key distinction:

Typically nightclubs go through many peaks and troughs as the in-crowd moves from district to district, club to club. If you are the owner of a nightclub in any of these areas, there are two ways you can run your business. The first is tactically, which means you react to the moving crowd, you panic when sales drop, you run promotions because of the crowd behavior and try to keep your sales a reasonable level regardless of where the crowd is.

The second way to run the business is strategically. You sit down for as long as it takes and think about your business from the ground up. Who does your nightclub currently cater to? Who are your patrons and what are they looking for today? What about in 12 months, in 24 months? Does your d├ęcor, music and location appeal the people you are trying to attract and how much money do these people typically spend when they come into your club?

Once you have thought about the answers to these types of questions, you are in a position to plan how you will operate in the future, what type of clientele you will be seeking, how you will reach them effectively and most importantly, what you offer that is unique, special or different that will help you to attract these people.

Call your strategy a game plan, a business or marketing plan, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you run your business this way going forward. Tactical maneuvers are a drain on your time and efforts so stop working this way.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Week 3- Total Solutions and Trends

Total Solutions

All good businesses recognize that they are providing a solution to a clients problem - not just a product or service. Having a desire to solve peoples problems by providing a genuine solution is powerful and your success is linked to your belief in this concept, period. The days of doing “just enough” are behind us and you can’t hope to climb out of the pile of competitors unless you address this. There is a clear way to test – ask yourself, “Do I constantly strive to be the best at what I do or are am I happy to simply avoid failure day to day?

What is the cost of ignorance? It could be your entire business.

Trends are the external forces at work day in and day out, regardless of how well you are running your business

“What are the short and long term trends in my industry and what are they telling me? “

As the business owner, you must be aware of these trends. Not only aware, but ready and able act on your instinct to ensure your long term survival. Think about the effect the ageing population will have on providers of health care facilities, or the effect that round the clock grocery chains continue to have on small, corner retailers. Or how about the effect that computers have on traditional auto mechanics?

In everything we do, everyday, we are exposed to thousands of little “happenings” around us. I am talking about the way the person opposite you on the bus is reading the paper, the advertisements we see and the way everybody looks at their cell phone when one is ringing in public. Make an effort to “see” more of what is happening around you. You will start to experience the golden “ah hah” moments which occur when you spot a window of opportunity surrounding a product or service.

The author Brian Tracy believes that many business owners “…fill their mind with candy rather than with protein….reading the sports pages and watching television rather than reading the financial pages and reading business magazines.”

As a business owner on a quest for choice, you have the responsibility to go for protein over candy.