Planning. You don't need a 50 page business plan. But you do need some clear, measurable goals with specific 'actions' you need to take to achieve them. Written goals and a simple action plan provide you with focus and clarity. So take the time to write down what you WANT (results or outcomes) and what you need to DO (actions) to make it happen.
Products/Services. When was the last time you actually thought about the products or services you offer? It's more than just 'what price should I charge'. Which ones are most profitable, which produce the most sales? Do your products and services still meet the needs of your target customers or do they need a facelift? Technology, competition and your customer needs change over time - make sure your products and services keep up!
Promotion. Sales don't just happen. So what are you doing to attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back and referring others? Most owners associate promotion with marketing for new customers - and invest few (if any) resources on current customers. Big mistake. Make sure your plans also include tactics to turn your current customers into raving fans - who spend more, buy more often and refer other quality people to your business.
Processes. Streamlining and standardizing procedures make daily operations easier, efficient and more effective, whether you are there or not. They are also a key to increased profitability. As you plan for the coming year, make systematizing your business more of a priority. Start with just a few. Focus on those that save you time, increase sales, or fix problems that consistently erode profit.
People. No business operates successfully in a vacuum - we all need help from others. While we often associate people with employees, building a strong network of contractors, vendors and alliance partners for your business is equally important. Your needs will vary based on your business - but most small businesses have an opportunity to improve in this area. Have a method for hiring or developing new relationships with people who are committed to your customers and the success of your business.
Personal Development. As you grow and improve, so will your business. We are all familiar with the phrase, knowledge is power, but it also translates to earnings or income. And it doesn't require a lot of time or money - just a commitment to learning and building skills and knowledge. Here's a few things to consider:
- Invest 15 minutes a day reading and you will read about 12 books a year.
- Turn drive time into learning with audio books.
- Attend interactive workshops or webinars to improve knowledge gaps or simply get new ideas.
- Meet with and build relationships with other successful business owners so you can share information and learn.
- Work with a mentor or business coach who can help you find hidden opportunities, provide shortcuts to results and accountability to get more done.
Profit. You don't need to be an accountant or financial guru, but you do need to track and understand the numbers that drive your business - beyond just sales. Here's a few others to consider: average sale per customer or transaction, number of leads, revenue per employee, average accounts receivable, gross profit margins, customer retention rates and net profit. Monitor them and focus on activities that help to improve them - especially gross profit margins and net profit. If you keep them at the center of what you do, your small business will continue to serve your needs and the needs of your people and customers.
Remember, little improvements in ALL these areas will put more profit on the bottom line and in your wallet. So take the hybrid approach: bring together all the key elements that drive success - and you too will have a business that is simple, fun and profitable.