Posted: Tue 11th Feb 2020
When running a business, things often don't go as you plan, expect, anticipate or hope.
In this blog, Gordon Lindsay, Enterprise Nation member and founder of Aston Business Services, shares tips on how to identify the problem and fix it so you can get on with running your business and doing the fun stuff you enjoy.
Maybe you are a young business, in your first three years of trading, but things just aren't going as you expected. The actual figures are not what you anticipated and bear no resemblance to your original business plan.
Perhaps you have been in business for a while, things are ticking along ok but not great and certainly not as well as they were in the earlier years. Basically, things have become a bit stale.
It could be that, as part of your retirement planning, you decided to let your son take over the family business that you have spent the past 25 years building. You have watched with horror as, in only one short year, long-time customers have left, your best workers have too and the business has been haemorrhaging cash at a frightening rate.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, the important thing is to identify the problem and fix it before things get really serious, then you can get on with running your business.
It's time to get back on track.
Five steps to get back on track
Review what's been happening
Identify what the problem is
Decide what you need to do to get back on track
Put the changes in place
Measure and monitor the results
Plan of action and strategy
Customers: Ask them what they really think. Think of ways to get quick feedback with every sale or order.
Employees: They are the eyes and ears of your business so find out what customers are saying to them, get ideas flowing and list suggestions to improve.
Financials: Prepare a quick financial review of the previous few years with the headline information; sales, profits, cash, debtors, stock etc.
Find out what needs to improve. Make a list of the items mentioned from the review, then discuss with your employees.
Use the five Ps of marketing to help you. The problem(s) and their solution(s) usually lie somewhere in this table.
Decide what changes need to be made. Agree the changes with all parties involved. Prioritise the most important changes.
Implement the changes. Make sure everyone is involved, engaged and committed. A successful outcome depends on everyone being on board and pulling in the same direction.
Measure the results. Are the changes achieving the improvement you are looking for or do they need adjusting?
To get back on track and stay on track you must do the following and keep doing it.
Customer feedback: If customer service was easy, everyone would be doing it. Get it right and you have a significant advantage over your competition. If customers can see you are working your socks off to make a success of your business, they will want to help you any way they can. You have to provide them with the means or platform to do so.
Employee engagement: Get everyone motivated and working to the same goals and you can achieve great things. Get it wrong and your best staff will vote with their feet. It will also increase staff recruitment costs and constantly training new staff will affect your customer service. It can also adversely affect your profits.
Financial control: Cash is the lifeblood of all businesses; big and small. It is vital that you are organised and stay organised. Get good control of your finances, and keep control of them. Often businesses face real problems when things are busy and they are growing. If you grow too fast you can burn through the cash in no time at all and face serious cashflow problems.
Keep calm and get back on track
Get back on track and stay on track so you can get on with running your business and doing the fun things you enjoy.
And keep checking. Remember, if you don't measure and monitor, you can't manage, so you won't improve. Good luck with your business.