There are multitudes of ways we can improve our businesses. The list is almost endless. Common areas are improving marketing, enhancing our sales techniques or lifting our customer service. There are other ways which can often very effectively improve business and I wanted to share those with you now:
Reviews, Audits and Awards
When we perform analysis on our business, the numbers talk to us. Half the skill is being able to understand that language (something I sometimes teach clients), but it’s also even starting. Many people in business rarely look at their reports, let alone perform any analysis on their financial reports. One very simple analysis may be around monitoring your percent of profit to sales.
Audits are another great opportunity for improvement. Now, this doesn’t have to be an ATO tax audit (not something I’d recommend you aim for) but may be engaging someone to audit aspects of your business. You may have an audit of your WH&S or perhaps your QA System. Audits highlight what is not happening or is missing or not being done well and that then allows you the opportunity to rectify and rally your operations.
There are two very exceptional (and different) opportunities when it comes to submitting for business awards. The first is the process. The majority of awards ask you for information about your business. Questions can range from “How do you add value to your clients’ experience?” to “How are you maintaining business sustainability?” I’ve won dozens of business awards and helped a number of clients become Finalists and Winners. I know in every instance the business has changed a little of what it is doing in order to put its best step forward. That change also has improved the business, not just its submission.
The second part of Award submissions is, of course, being a Finalist or Winner. I often refer to myself as a “multi award winning business coach” – which is absolutely true, and it sounds good too. Once you become a Finalist, be sure to share the awesome news and add this to your marketing material.
There are Benchmark companies you can subscribe to, but few business owners know that the ATO provide benchmarks for almost every industry. These are the financial ratios and typical levels within businesses in Australia. In this case, the benchmark is the average, so I would be suggesting that you aim to be above average – reach out for ‘best practice’ which will exceed averages.
I’m somewhat of a fan of checklists and the reason is that they ensure high quality consistency. If you have team, it ensures uniformity. Not “Mary doesn’t bother doing that when she performs this task” or “Jack always does better closing the deal; he just does that bit extra”. Whether you’re busy, forgetful, having a bad day or feeling under the weather, if you follow checklists, systems and processes, then the outcomes are more likely to maintain standards.
Key Performance Indicators are in my opinion under-utilised. What are the indicators of your business doing well? Is it the number of times the phone rings with an enquiry, or perhaps the conversion rate on your quotes? Is it staff absenteeism or staff turnover? Is it as simple as sales values or bottom line profit? KPIs can be so many things, not just financial. In my workshops, I anonymously survey attendees and have 100% of them saying they would recommend my workshop to others. That could well be one of my KPIs.
Whilst reviewing things yourself definitely has value, remember two important things. You are used to looking at your business. You may well stop seeing the scratches, dings and aspects that fade or are lackluster. By engaging a third party external person you get a fresh perspective. They see your business with fresh eyes that see things for the first time. Remember the story of the frog and hot water. Put the frog into cold water and slowly raise the heat and it won’t jump out. Put the frog into hot water and it will attempt to jump very quickly. (Now that was a story, please don’t go doing cruel things to animals).
The other aspect of having a review done by an independent person (with fresh perspective) who is also an expert at what they do brings along with that the experience, knowledge and expertise that person has. Like myself, it may be a dozen years of coaching experience or perhaps 35+ years helping Australian businesses – the point is that two heads are better than one, especially if that second person does this sort of thing regularly and frequently and has excellent experience.
For those of you in retail, hospitality or who deal frequently with the public, the value of a secret shopper is very effective. When you ring in to your office – even from a blocked number, your staff will recognise your voice. If you are operating say a beauty therapy business and had one of your staff do a sample treatment on you – are they going to give you their best? Of course, they are. They will tell you what they know you want to hear, perform the task well and be pleasant. So they do that 100% of the time? Do all your customers or clients get the VIP treatment? Unhappy customers rarely disclose their unhappiness (unless it’s a rant on social media). People sometimes don’t like ‘dobbing’ in others, but a Secret Shopper has a job. It’s their job to report the facts. What you know, you can improve.
A SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis is an incredibly effective tool for business improvement. Every single aspect affords the opportunity for growth, advancement and enhancement. If we identify where the threats lay, we can mitigate these with various strategies. Once opportunities are identified, we can pursue them with strategy, thought and plan. I work with many business owners on their SWOT. Sometimes drawing out the answers takes a little work – but the value which occurs when we work on business improvement strategies is just gold.
Testing aspects of your business can also identify where things may need improvement. Last year I thought my website speed was a little sluggish at times. I mentioned this to my website person who ran a speed test on it. Sure enough, the test results were appalling. My website person did some work on the site and re-tested. OMG, my website was like it was on steroids and had improved massively. Google loves fast websites, need I say more?
In all these instances, whether we are reviewing, testing, auditing, appraising, revising – it is frequently having a cold hard look at what we do. But as importantly, is where the opportunity for improvement lay. What can we do better in our business? What will improve our business or make it perform better or more efficiently? I cannot stress enough the importance of taking action after a review, audit or test. Many of us have strong competition, so we have to be on our A game all the time. We must put our best foot forward. Poor or inconsistent service won’t be tolerated for long. If you want to improve your business, the best way to start is having a long hard look at it to see what it is now … and then work towards where you want to go. If you need any assistance, please call me on 0411 622 666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. My passion is YOUR potential!