Regardless of why it was initially founded, the goal of any small company is to generate more money. But once our businesses are off and running, most of us become too preoccupied with running them to make the constant improvements necessary for increased efficiency, increased sales, and ultimately more money in our pockets. But there are some operational ways we can make an immediate impact on our companies’ bottom lines—if we take a few minutes to actually implement them.
Improvement #1: Research the Rest of the Industry
I understand most of you already have a pretty good handle on what your company is doing . . . but do you know what your competitors are up to? What are they doing to be successful under current business conditions? Why are they doing it? And most importantly, is it working? Also, be sure to take a good hard look at businesses in your industry that have recently failed. Do you understand why failure occurred? Were there any red flags or strategic moves that lead to failure? Does what the company did prior to failure match in any way what your company is doing now? A little strategic introspection can go a very long way.
Improvement #2: Re-evaluate Your Original Intentions
Back when you first started your small company, there were very likely a few things you wanted to accomplish. Looking back now, are those goals still in place, or has your motivation or reason for running this business changed? Taking the time to revisit your original business plan can be extremely helpful in trying to figure out which circumstances have changed, what you can do to improve, what is working, and what parts of your original plan need to be discontinued. Being willing to make adjustments and improve your business on the fly is the sign of a real entrepreneur—as long as the changes you make have a legitimate reason behind them The fact is, after a period as short as six months, small businesses can look markedly different than what you intended . . . and this can be a good thing.
Improvement #3: Delegate the Things You’re Not Good At
One of the biggest mistakes small company owners make is believing they are good at EVERYTHING the company does—even though this is never the case. As much as it is practical within your business, always work to make sure the person assigned to each important task is also the best resource for the job. Managing in this way requires a strong knowledge of the individual talents of your employees, as well as the vision to (on occasion) give an employee a task or role he or she might not know they’re good at. The point is this: the more you can maximize everyone’s efforts by matching strengths with roles, the better your operation will be for it.
Improvement #4: Establish a Plan—in Writing
Once you perform the first three tasks, the key to actually making any any sort of real and measurable improvement is to lay out a plan—the kind of plan that a) is in writing, and b) clearly spells out the improvements you wish to make. A plan can be as short as one page or as long as an entire magazine, but the point is you need to have SOMETHING to look at for guidance.
Improvement #5: Measure Everything You Do
For any plan to truly be deemed “successful,” there must be a way to measure success. With this in mind, step #4 above cannot really be complete without also including information on EXACTLY how you plan to measure success. Which metrics are most important for tracking progress? How will these metrics be collected? Who will be collecting them? What will be done if certain metrics are hit or missed? Any plan that does not include a method of measurement is not a plan—it’s an idea.
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