A business is so much more than a “job”. It’s a lifestyle, a world-view, a reflection of the type of person you want to be. It’s how you want to contribute to the community, where you see yourself in your future, and in some cases, it’s what you want to leave behind.
So many business owners tell me that they want to take their business to the next level, but they never define why. Everyone has goals, but they rarely take the time to write everything down and decide the “how’s” and “why’s” of what they want their business to be. In my experience, it’s not only helpful to carefully consider and record your vision – it’s essential.
These personal goals and business goals can be defined and followed by crafting a personal vision and a business vision. Here is a brief outline of both and not just how they are different, but also how they can work together.
Create your personal vision first. As the owner of the business, your vision is key to where you want to take the business.
Do you dream about being able to take your family on vacation to an exotic location once a year? How about a four-day workweek, or buying your dream home? These things could be part of your personal vision.
When crafting a personal vision statement, you’ll need to write down where you want to be in a year from now or 2 years from now. This could include considering your desired material lifestyle, your passion giving back, your ideal workweek, time with your family, and time enjoying the things you love (not your business). If you want to make sure that you are making enough money so that your children can have their college tuition paid for, this should be recorded in your personal vision statement too.
In addition to this, it’s important to include an exit strategy in your personal vision. This will detail how you would like your business to proceed when you retire, including whether or not you intend on naming a successor (e.g. a spouse or child), or if you would prefer to sell the business. Be mindful that your exit strategy is carefully considered, and entails what you plan to do in place of work. Some business owners find it hard to leave their business behind, and it can never hurt to plan ahead for how you will fill your free time in the future.
Once you’ve completed your personal vision, it’s time to concentrate on your company vision. The two go hand in hand. If for example, you want to spend only 6 months of the year working at your business, then part of your business plan needs to include finding a current or future employee who can take on some of your current roles and responsibilities. If your plan is financial freedom, then your company vision will be to increase your sales and marketing efforts, etc.
As the business owner, it’s up to you to set the company vision; it is not a team approach. Although you need to share it with your staff, the company vision statement needs to be synergetic with your personal vision so that the two can work together to create a business that benefits both you and your employees.
The company vision will also help you create a big picture idea of what your company will look like as a whole, for both you and your employees. This is why creating a company vision can enhance your existing leadership skills, which in turn helps your employees attain their own career visions.
Writing out a personal vision and business vision and following them is crucial, and often, overlooked in creating the kind of business you’ll be proud of. Writing out what you really want out of your business in a personal vision and then writing out how it can be achieved through your company vision can be both humbling and gratifying.
To get a better understanding of how to help your business grow, contact me today to find out more about joining The Alternative Board.
As your business becomes increasingly successful, certain aspects of your business will need to change and/or grow to keep up with your demand. Through TAB meeting discussions, I’ve seen this growth take the form of increasing your inventory to meet local demand, expanding to another location to meet national demand, providing more offerings to meet client interests, or outsourcing or hiring more staff to meet all of the above. If you keep hiring more employees, there will come a time when you need to reorganize your reporting structure or even your departments.
In anticipation for future growth, I encourage all business owners to create an organizational restructuring process to ensure your business expansion goes as smoothly as possible. Here are just a few topics you may want this process to cover:
Promoting vs. Hiring
When your business requires a new department, you will need to decide if it’s best to promote an existing employee or hire someone new to manage it. It may sound ideal to promote someone who already knows your business, but it could be best to hire someone from outside your business with a more precise set of skills. For example, your highly skilled and dedicated salesperson may not have the right qualifications to lead a new marketing department.
If you do hope to promote from within, how will you prepare your employee for the tasks and responsibilities that come with a higher-level position? If you anticipate expansion in the coming months, I have seen many business owners see success with managers mentoring talented employees to prepare them to take on the same or similar position. An outside hire can learn the ins and outs of your business this same way.
To ensure everyone in your business is on the same page at every step of growth, you may also want to detail how to communicate to staff that the growth may affect their roles within the company. If big changes are coming and your employees aren’t aware of what they are, they may jump to the conclusion that their jobs or the business may be in trouble when in fact the opposite is true. Your success is their success, and clear communication of any changes in roles or responsibilities can greatly help the progress continue.
Once your organizational restructuring process has been developed and implemented, I encourage you to regularly monitor and reassess its effectiveness. Perhaps there’s an area that can be improved or wasn’t ideal for the type of growth your business experienced. Did you actually need to hire more in-house staff, or should you consider hiring contract workers in the future? It’s important to be flexible and allow your processes to grow and improve with your business.
If you would like to discover how other business owners have restructured as a result of growth, contact me today to discuss becoming a member of a TAB peer advisory board!
You may have a firm grasp on how to run your business, but if you left the company today, would someone else know exactly how to fill your shoes? I have seen many business owners make the mistake of storing an abundance of knowledge in their head and overlook documenting company processes and procedures for others to reference in their absence.
As a business owner, it is understandable that the needs of your business can consume a substantial amount of your time, which sometimes means documenting your processes takes a backseat on your priority list. If you would like to improve your business’s organization but are unsure where to start, here are a few procedures to consider documenting first:
- Customer relations
- Product development
- Organizational restructuring
Once presented with a list, I’ve noticed that many TAB members don’t seem to have problems identifying which processes they use, but they do often question exactly which details they should write down. Again, this may differ from business to business, but I encourage every business owner to describe as much about their processes as they can.
Once you have prioritized your business’s processes and decided which to detail first, here are the next steps you can take:
- Choose a name. What will you and your employees call this process so that it can be easily referenced? Consider a name that is clear and concise yet informative enough so as not to accidently be confused with other processes.
- List the steps. What event triggers the start of this process, and what has to happen to reach the desired end result? For example, the need for a new employee would trigger your recruitment process, and writing a detailed job description would be one of many steps that must be taken to reach the end result of a qualified hire.
- List the roles. Who is in charge of which step? Continuing with the recruitment example, your HR manager may pass along the job applications to the applicable department head, who then conducts the interviews and hiring negotiations.
- Organize the document. How will you and your employees ensure the process is being followed? You can create a summarized version of the process in the form of a checklist or flowchart that can easily track completion of steps.
This may seem like a daunting undertaking, especially if you have a lot of processes that need documenting. However, you may find some employees are equipped to document the processes of certain tasks that only require your final approval.
If you would like to discuss how to organize your business processes, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board.
For small businesses, every dollar counts to achieve a positive bottom line. When a hard-working employee asks for a raise but your budget doesn’t have the wiggle room right now, but you also can’t afford to lose a quality employee, how can you ensure they don’t start looking elsewhere?
Here are what I suggest as alternatives to pay increases to keep the employees you want without paying more than you can afford:
One survey revealed that 58% of millennials would choose a better work-life balance over improved compensation. Do your employees need to be physically in the office every weekday? If they have everything they need to perform their duties from home and the independence to work on weekends, consider allowing them the flexibility to do so when it may be more convenient for their social or family life. Showing your employees that you care about their life outside of work will likely motivate them to care more about their life at work.
If the employee requesting a pay increase are members of your sales team, consider offering them commission incentives. Commission payouts may sound like they will cost you money, but they encourage your team to hit difficult goals that they otherwise may not have the motivation to accomplish. With increased sales you should be able to afford the commissions that come with them. There are many different commission structures that I recommend you look into before deciding which is ideal for your team.
If an employee is putting in extra time on a project and the results are successful for your business, think about sharing some of that success with an employee with a bonus. This could be a cheque or a Visa gift certificate. Let them know why they are receiving the bonus.
Does your employee frequently use their own car for business-related travel? Reimbursing their per-kilometre allowance may be costing you more than if you provided them a company vehicle. As a Canadian business owner, many expenses related to company cars are tax deductible. Consider the difference in cost, and if the math doesn’t add up in your favour, then it may be better to consider one of the other alternatives on this list.
No matter which industry you’re in, it’s changing. Businesses that don’t grow or adapt to new technology or best practices become stagnant, and your employees want to stay relevant in the industry just as much as you do. In fact, 70% of employees wish they had more growth opportunities within their company. Offering them free learning opportunities to better themselves and develop their skills will allow them to better benefit your company. There would be costs involved, but group workshops, seminars, and conferences benefit multiple employees as well as your business, whereas individual salary increases only benefit the individual employees.
If you would like to hear about other ideas on how to keep your employees engaged and productive for the long-term, contact me today to discuss becoming a member of a TAB peer advisory board!
Based on discussions at TAB meetings, I have found that regular client feedback is essential for business improvement. Because of this, business owners often ask me how they can create surveys that get opened and collect relevant information.
To increase the probability that clients will complete your survey, here are the practices I follow:
- Use action verbs. Much of English conversation consists of the verb “to be”, resulting in dull, passive language. Try to use the active voice as much as possible.
- Create an easy user experience. Because the human attention span is generally quite short, I suggest creating a simple survey using multiple choice and dropdown questions rather than paragraph-style questions where possible.
- Offer an incentive. Who doesn’t like free or discounted products and services? Consider holding a draw for clients that submit the survey or providing a discount code upon completion.
As for which questions to ask, here are my suggestions based on the type of data you want to collect:
Do you want your client email list to answer which demographics your clients are from and in which neighbourhoods or countries they live? If this kind of client information might benefit your business, surveys are great opportunities to ask for targeted information, which in turn allows you to customize marketing campaigns.
Consider including these questions to gather useful information about your clients:
- What is your postal code?
- In which age range do you belong?
- What is your ethic background?
- What is your job title?
In order to assure clients that their information is safe with you, it is likely in your best interest to include a disclaimer at the bottom of your survey that states how the information will be used.
When a business’s sale decrease or become stagnant, I have found that surveys are effective tools to find out why that is. Your loyal clients want to see your business succeed and are likely more than happy to suggest a couple small areas of improvement. But whom you really want to hear from are the one-time buyers that didn’t return. How can you get them back or at least prevent future clients from walking away for the same reasons they did?
Consider including these questions to gather useful feedback about your products and your business practices:
- Which of our products or services do you use?
- Are you satisfied with the product or service quality you received?
- How can we improve your customer service experience in the future?
- Will you continue to do business with us in the future?
- What types of discounts would encourage you to purchase our products or services in the future?
If you would like to discuss different forms of client engagement with a peer advisory board, contact me today to find out more about TAB!
As a business advisor, staffing has to be one of top issues that business owners need help with, particularly whether to hire more employees and what type of employee. You may have read in recent media coverage that a growing trend for 2018 is the increased hiring of contract workers by small businesses. We know that a contractor is someone who works for your business on a defined basis, and they can sometimes be referred to as freelance workers or consultants. But it’s very important to remember that contractors are independent businesses, working for you. They can help your business through periods of growth or difficulty, but they are not full-time employees.
Initially, some business owners may focus on the bottom line and think of the hiring of contract workers as a way to save costs. I’ve outlined below some of the key factors you might want to consider when determining if hiring contract workers makes good business sense for you:
- Your business has turned down major projects due to lack of resources
- You’re preparing for a seasonal change in business and demand is uncertain
- You’re trying to remain lean but your budgets are a concern
- Your business needs someone to hit the ground running
- You are considering testing out an internal need without a serious commitment
- The project requires a specialized skill that your company lacks, or as a business owner, you don’t plan to specialize in
- If you are in an industry that is a fast-growing, such as technology, you can hire a contractor faster than a full-time employee to keep up
- If you have a virtual office or small space, a contract worker can work offsite
Create a Network
You can hire independent contractors for one-off projects or even long-term business functions such as I.T. or payroll, to help you manage workloads during peak periods. This is why it is so important to create a network of contractors that you trust, so that your business can say “Yes!” to more projects. Being able to hire reliable and available contractors on an ad hoc basis can be a good strategy for growing your business.
Determining your hiring needs and making informed decisions is an area that can be challenging for business owners, and one I see often as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!