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Being brilliant at the basics in your business
by Peter Fleming

3 key focus areas

Whilst supporting many SMEs business owners, helping them implement a clear strategy for business growth and particularly improving their sales, I tend to be asked, what’s the one thing that would make the difference? And the answer, there is no one thing! However, if you make continued incremental improvements in all areas of the business, you tend to find the business outputs and results increase dramatically over time. Therefore, continually look for ways to improve, even if just small steps and keep the momentum going.

I worked for a Managing Director once who was not just a great visionary but also a very driven leader focused on achieving his aspirations. Every employee communication or presentation ended with the same mantra, “Be Brilliant at the Basics”…

Three key areas to focus on to help deliver a successful business growth plan are:

Structure

Ensuring good communication: look at your current hierarchal structure within your business. Who reports to whom? Is this appropriate for today and your future business needs?
Step back and start from scratch. Don’t put existing staff names into boxes and design the structure to meet future needs. Establish clearly defined job roles and responsibilities and what key competences are required for these roles. Then going forward decide who can fill these roles based on Skills, Knowledge and future Company Fit. Select who you would Retain, Re-train, Re-accolcate, then Release and Recruit for where you have future competence gaps. Obtaining improved clear lines of communication and passing down responsibility internally ultimately means you will be more effective when it comes to customer communication.

Processes and Policy

Is there defined processes for important tasks? These don’t need to be at military level Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). However understand the key process flows within your business. A good tip is to walk through them and highlight any bottlenecks. Determine if these are due to batch mentality of certain tasks such as work planning, job sheets allocation or invoicing? Then, as a team, find a better way of working. Simply reducing the amount of duplication and people involved, including yourself in each process will make a significant difference. Utilise or bring in IT systems where possible to create consistency. Clarifying policies and procedures such as handling customer complaints, staff sickness, holiday requests, even use of personal mobile phones and social media within the workplace can make processes more efficient. Then over time employees will become more productive, resulting in a higher level of customer service and efficiency reducing costs such as non-productive time.

People

Ensure you have the right person on the right seat of the bus. Recruit or fill job roles with people whom have the competences or the potential required to establish and fulfil the future roles within the business structure. Ensure all employees have the opportunity to sit down with their line manager for appraisals at least twice per annum. As a manager hold monthly 1-2-1s with your direct reports linked to business objectives. Staff should be supported “to be the best they possibly can be” within their roles. This is not just sending them on training courses, but coaching, mentoring, buddying up with others “on the job”, and through following up on 1-2-1’s, giving them the necessary tools to be effective and efficient in their roles.

What if you do nothing? One quote which has always stuck with me is:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”, Henry Ford (1863-1947).

Therefore over the holidays take stock and why not start developing your skills; some suggested Christmas reading and e-books:

Leadership; Jim Collins, Good to Great, Random House Business Books

Dealing with change; Dr Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese, Vermilion

Being more successful yourself; Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Profile Books Ltd

Becoming a successful SMEs; Michael Gerber, The E Myth revisited, why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it, Harper Collins

Managing people; Ferdinand F. Fournies, Why employees don’t do what they’re supposed to do and what to do about it, McGraw Hill Books

Time Management; Gary Keller, The One Thing, John Murray General Publishing

Understanding and Improving your sales; Robert B. Cialdini, Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion, Harper Collins

If you are looking to grow your business, Business Doctors Cumbria offer a free business health check where we can help you to set a clear vision and understand the steps you need to take to fulfil your aspirations. Contact us for more information on 07966 686 112 or email peterfleming@businessdoctors.co.uk.

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