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!
There really isn’t too many Ontarians that aren’t aware of the new legislation about to be passed in July regarding the legalization of marijuana. There are copious articles on how big business is planning on dealing with this. However, what has many of my clients, owners of smaller businesses, asking me is will this impact their business and if so, what do they really need to know to be prepared?
I’ve outlined below a few of the key areas of concern for smaller business owners, as well as a few tips on how you can prepare your workplace for the effects of legalized marijuana.
A 2017 study of over 650 Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) members reveals that almost half of employers do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address the potential new issues that may arise with the legalization and expected increased use of marijuana. Many owners want to know and need some direction about:
- How to accurately test drug levels (with no reliable test of THC)
- What constitutes use, and how to adjust internal policies to reflect medical vs. recreational usage
- Possible increase in poor performance, decreased productivity, reduced attendance, and safety issues
Many owners feel this new legislation will not impact their employees or workplace, but I am recommending you take a look at the following tips, because every business owner who hires staff must be aware of how this could impact their bottom line:
- Create/Update Your Policies
Review your drug and alcohol policies, if you have them, and add in a line or two about marijuana usage. If you have legal counsel, have them take a look at the language. This way, you are covered from a legal and optics perspective. If you don’t have policies, take time to think about drafting one (there are some templates available online).
- Be Sensitive
Detecting possible impairment of your employees in your office must be approached and handled very carefully, particularly when signs of marijuana use are apparent. You’ll need proof to make a case for a clear connection between substance use and a drop in productivity.
- Watch Behaviours
Start noting (not tracking) your employee behaviour. This may be easier with a smaller team, but if you can have someone in your office (e.g. main reception, EA) dedicated to simply noting current employee behaviours, then once the new legislation is in place, if there are any outliers (e.g. employees are late, taking more sick days, or their performance has been slipping), you’ll need to meet with them to go over this and put steps in place, with timelines for improvement.
We are entering fairly new territory with regards to policies on marijuana, so right now there are no hard and fast rules on this, but making a few small changes will help you navigate.
Is your business ready for marijuana legalization? Contact me to help you navigate these waters.
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!
If there is one thing I can guarantee any business owner, it is that your business will experience change. Sometimes workplace change can occur very quickly and in today’s marketplace, it can occur quite often. Although change can be difficult and presents new and interesting challenges, it isn’t necessarily negative. Change may take place in order to respond to a new opportunity. As I tell my clients, the key is having the right strategy in place to manage change, which can often be the difference between success and failure. When managing change, there are two main business strategies – reactive and proactive.
Reactive business strategies respond to an unanticipated event after the fact. A reactive approach to business is all too common. Unfortunately, this approach may lead to lost new and emerging opportunities, or losing out to a more aggressive competitor who bursts onto the scene. Being reactive is inefficient and extremely stressful. It doesn’t allow you to plan because you’re too busy reacting. A typical example of a reactive strategy is to wait for business to decline before investing in marketing and promotion. Reactive companies tend to fail in the long run. Look at what happened to companies like Nokia and Blockbuster.
Proactive business strategies anticipate the events, plan for them and take action. They are ready to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities or respond to new competitors. Research is very important to a proactive business strategy. You have to analyze the market thoroughly, pay attention to the trends and adapt to them before your competitors do. The reality is that no business can be proactive all the time, however if you focus on a proactive strategy, you will be more effective at dealing with challenges and as a result, more successful. A typical example of a proactive strategy is to invest in marketing and promotion to gain a greater market share in anticipation of increased competition, instead of waiting for business to decline first as in a reactive business strategy. Apple and Amazon are perfect examples of proactive companies.
Creating a proactive business culture is hard work but it pays off. It starts with a change in mindset. You need to be ahead of the curve. Instead of racing around putting out fires, anticipate and plan for success! Here are some tips to help create a proactive business culture:
- Schedule time to plan
- Clearly define expectations and goals
- Refine and improve business processes
- Research your industry
- Pay attention to trends
- Stay on top of the business climate
- Know your competitors
- Identify risks
- Search for and find problems before they happen
There is no doubt that adopting a proactive business strategy is the ideal approach to help you shape the results of change. However, sometimes changes come so quickly that we do need to react and therefore a reactive strategy needs to be applied. If you’d like more advice on how to create the right proactive or reactive business strategy, or are looking for other business advice, check out how TAB can help!
I work with many business owners who are very often so focused on customer acquisition that they forget about how important and cost-effective customer retention is. According to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
One strategic business approach that I often recommend is to go deeper with the clients you have rather than invest the time to attain new ones. I’ve outlined below several tips to help you improve your customer retention rate:
Are your customers leaving you? If you want to improve your customer retention rate, you need to be aware of how many customers are leaving (the churn rate) and determine what is causing them to leave. Ask yourself what as a company you are doing that is causing your customers to leave.
Customers don’t buy from companies; they buy from people. 60% of all customers stop dealing with a company because of what they perceive as indifference on the part of salespeople (Peppers and Rogers Group). Have your salespeople become complacent? Are you making an effort to make your customers feel valued or do you take them for granted? Are you rewarding your loyal customers for their business?
Listen to your customers. Talk to your customers – after all, they chose you. Invest the time to ask them how they feel about your products/services. Understand what they are looking for and what their plans are for the future. Personal relationships are powerful and inspire loyalty. The customer experience is key to your success.
It’s not all about price. Companies are often totally focused on being the lowest cost provider. While being competitively priced is very important, there will always be someone who can come in at a lower price. Price alone won’t keep your customers; delivering the best value will. Value is a combination of price, trust, customer service, delivery, relationships and support.
Has your company lived up to expectations? It’s one thing to win the business; it’s another thing to keep it. Make sure your brand has delivered on its promise and your product/service meet or exceed expectations. Take a look at creating a great customer experience. Managing customer expectations is an important part of customer retention. Set realistic expectations. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.
Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Communicating with your customers will keep you top of mind. Remember, there is always going to be someone lurking in the wings to swoop in and steal your business. Find out how often and by what channels your customers want to receive information. Always address your customers’ concerns immediately. If you make a mistake, own it and fix it. Your customers will appreciate your honesty and your efforts.
Do you prize deliverables over results? Every deliverable must be able to show a measurable result that will positively impact your customers’ business and help them achieve their goals and objectives.
Bonus Tip: Conduct an exit interview. There is no company in the world that retains 100% of their customers, no matter how good they are. If one of your customers is leaving, take it as an opportunity to improve. Conduct an exit interview to learn why they’re leaving. This information is extremely valuable and can help you to make changes in order to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Are your customers leaving you? Want more advice on customer retention, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!