Like any business, small companies today have to be real good at a wider range of operational functions, especially when leaders and staff members have multiple responsibilities. In many of these businesses daily tasks are done from muscle memory rather than in documented steps generally found in multi-level organizations.
Now, image a week at your small company where no drama or emergencies play out. Today’s successful businesses are process-driven on all fronts. The higher the level of “process” built into the primary functions of any business, the more likely that business will run more efficiently.
Taking insights from over 200 client assignments, here are the 5 “most-importants” to aligning your operations with the practices that can end many of the daily little emergencies that plaque lots of small operators like you and me.
1. Nothing happens until you sell something – Lining up customers is the most important undertaking and keeping the pipeline full is part of that responsibility. Building a sustainable customer finding process begins by matching the customer profile to your offering. The better the match the more sustainable the process. Understand your customer, check back often (more than you used to), price competitively, promote actively, find new channels and, above all, maintain relationships.
2. Create robust systems – Operational efficiency takes time to cultivate and not all operators are willing to take the time to build the systems and protocols that will bring greater efficiency to your operations. This includes internal and external communications, people management, job site protocols, efficient processes and much more. As marketing becomes more significant your people and your systems will be under more pressure to fulfill the promises that were made to your customers.
3. Feed the culture – Your people are the brand, every person that touches the customer, from the individual that closed the deal to the folks that delivered the offering, to the person that makes collection calls; all contribute to the brand, and the impression that we leave with our customers. Communication is the key. Make sure your people know the objectives, goals and mission of the company and that each player knows what his or her particular role is in achieving these ambitions. “Always recruiting” is another key to proactive, no drama leadership.
4. You – The leader usually has to change the most. The boss is usually the one most set in their ways and expecting of others to change in order to meet you on your own terms. Well, that way pretty much doesn’t work in our present society. Demonstrating behaviors, being upbeat, open, leading and sharing of vision and progress is the fastest way to make meaningful changes.
5. Measure what you treasure – Sound reporting, from financial results available in real time, to a dashboard able to illustrate sales, conversion results, productivity by individual, open orders and more, assures you have the facts. Maintaining KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for all aspects of your operations assures you are aware of coming issues before they become big problems.
6. Bonus! Create or update an Operating Manual – the primary operating functions found in most businesses are highlighted above. Every step in operating under control must be examined, documented, optimized, reviewed and memorialized to assure sustainability. The value of a highly descriptive and continuously revised systems manual provides empirical value to employees, future managers and new owners as a turn-key resource for all operational matters.