As you reflect upon the months gone by do you know what's working for your business, and what's not? My guess is that you do, but I wonder what you've done about it? It's time to revisit your plan and course-correct as needed. Here are seven areas of your company that would benefit from a thorough review.
1. Customer satisfaction.
There's only one way to know if you are meeting your customers' expectations--ask them. Even if sales are good, repeat sales are not a reliable indicator of happy customers. There are many reasons that individuals and other businesses continue to buy from a company that doesn't meet their expectations. If you don't pick up the phone or meet your customers face-to-face, you won't know where your shortcomings lie, until it's too late. And, if there are none, collecting a bit of praise is also useful (and fun).
One of my clients went through this process recently. He was planning to call on the customers who are served by only his average and lowest-performing sales reps. I suggested he start with the customer list belonging to his strongest performer. Why? Because those are the larger accounts that would most threaten the bottom line should they decide to leave. Sure enough, what he learned was alarming. The rep was doing well because he's a master at the upsell, but not at the delivery and follow up. Some of my client's top clients were unhappy; imagine what that could have meant had he not connected with them and taken action.
What's the best way to reach prospective clients or customers? Hopefully, you don't rely on one method or avenue to grow your business. This is a good time to evaluate the methods you're using.
Are you using Google Ads? Do you engage the services of an SEO or social media firm? How are these things working for you? How are you tracking the results; do you know your ROI? If you don't see measurable results you may wish to redirect those funds into a new approach or a different service.
And, what about those strategies you've not yet implemented? You thought you'd have done something about them by now, right? To avoid going into another year with these untapped marketing strategies hanging out on your to-do list, choose one thing and take a small step each day.
3. Employee performance.
If it's broken, don't fix it. That's a management method I see busy entrepreneurs subscribe to way too often. The thought of addressing an issue or, worse yet, firing and hiring, is daunting. However, the long-term effect of an under-performing employee is devastating. When an employee isn't living up to your expectations do something about it right away. And, when you have rock star performer(s) reward them. Your employees are your most important asset, don't ignore them.
Documentation, automation, and efficient processes serve to make a company more solid. As small businesses grow, things that were once done by the entrepreneur get passed along, but often in a haphazard way. As you teach, document everything.
Are there software applications that would make your life easier and your business more efficient. Entrepreneurs often don't take the time to research them and, in the long run, it only costs them more money. For instance, I've had e-commerce clients who have ordered inventory to the tune of five or six figures when they have an unopened pallet of the product stuffed behind other pallets. When a company gets stuck with too much inventory it can lead to a financial crisis. The proper software will prevent such losses. Investments like these are time-consuming and costly but can circumvent a disaster.
Enough of checking on everything and everyone else, what about you? What would your employees say about you as a leader? Do you upgrade your skills and knowledge with each passing day? Have you learned and improved upon your leadership skills since the beginning of the year? If you cannot cite a number of juicy tidbits you've learned, you may want to read more books and articles, listen to more leadership podcasts, and perhaps hire someone to help you evolve.
6. Financial reports.
Too often, clients have come to me in a heightened state of emotional stress because there's too little cash coming in. Accounts receivable is the first place I have them look, and the crisis is often resolved. I once had a client (a doctor) who had one-hundred-and thirty-thousand dollars sitting in her 30 to 60-day AR. She directed an employee to call each and every patient and/or insurance company and money began to come in.
Keep an eye on your cashflow and profit and loss statements as well. Evaluate where you're spending too much, or not enough, and take corrective action.
7. Product/service review.
Might there be a different, more profitable way to package your services? Are your products getting stale? Small business owners tend to stick with what's predictable when things are going well enough. What extraordinarily successful CEO do you know who is predictable?
How have you evolved your offerings? Is there a new idea brewing in your head? Get it onto paper and begin your evaluation of it. Predictable is boring.
Now the most challenging piece of all: finding the time to do your review. You can't grow your day beyond 24-hours, but you can prioritize and delegate. Make your mid-year review a top priority. Leave the noise behind and take yourself away for a long working weekend, even if it's just a local(ish) hotel. You'll get more done in two or three days away than you usually do in a full week at your desk.
P.S. This isn't about focusing on failure; don't forget to celebrate your wins!