Businesses are like bodies: if not properly looked after they will grow weak. So how do we keep the heart of the business ticking strong?
When Barry Barber took over as general manager of Top Juice stores during a phase of rapid expansion two years ago, it was a clear case of “minding the gap”.
We plaster customer feedback on all our packaging and social media to encourage direct feedback.
“Our business is very immediate so sales are our key indicator. Minding the gap means tracking which stores are up or down on sales day to day. If there’s a variation we’ll go in and have a closer look,” says Barber.
Customer feedback is Barber’s other canary in the coalmine.
“We plaster customer feedback on all our packaging and social media to encourage direct feedback. I make sure I read everything that comes through. As much as we’re growing through franchising we see ourselves as retailers first which brings it back to customers as the number one focus,” he says.
Serving the community’s health as owner of Newcastle’s Hunter Organics produce and cafe, Phillip Maher recognises the need to keep the health of the business in mind too.
“Apart from the obvious bottom line, I know the business is doing well if the staff are happy. We have very little staff turnover and everyone enjoys being here,” says Maher, who bought the business seven years ago.
Becoming dispensable is another sure sign of a business with a resilient immune system, says Maher.
“A business is weak if it relies on one person’s knowledge. I’ve deliberately build a culture where I can walk away and have confidence it will run itself,” he says.
CEO of the Australian Businesswomen’s network Suzi Dafnis learnt via the school of hard knocks what it takes to build healthy business bones, when at 26 she found herself out of a job and decided to start her own events company.
Despite fast growth, signs of ill-health soon became apparent in high staff turnover and general dissatisfaction. Identifying a lack of training and documentation, today training programs and turnkey systems on everything from meeting conduct to writing a social media post are firmly in place.
Now a mentor for other entrepreneurs, Dafnis shares her top five tips for keeping your business fit and healthy:
1. Up-to-date business plan
An up-to-date business plan is essential, allowing you to map the course you’re going to take. When you first start out you’re designing from your imagination, but as you get a little more experience this process becomes a powerful way to drive your growth and to create a magnificent business that feeds your lifestyle and makes you happy.
2. Healthy bottom line
A healthy bottom line is key to business health. Too often small business owners don’t have a budget or a strong handle on financials. Understanding the fundamentals – income, expenses, cash flow, financial projections and how to collect money from your debtors – means you will know if your business is performing and if the hard work is paying off.
3. Effective marketing
Assuming you’ve done your homework and there is actually a market for your product or service, the next step is to let people know you exist. Effective marketing comes down to developing the skills to be able to speak the right message, to the right target audience, in a way that compels them to take action. You need to be the solution for the answers that your ideal customer is seeking.
4. Quality products and services
As technology has advanced, the power has shifted to the consumer and every enterprise competes with businesses globally. Attention spans are shorter and people will switch very quickly if your product or service does not meet their standards. Two good questions to ask yourself are how would you rate the breadth of your products and services in terms of meeting market needs? How do your products and services compare with the competition?
5. Build a Team
Business is a team sport. To grow your business, learn to leverage what you cannot do well and what someone could do faster and more efficiently than you. Outsourcing tasks and even roles as you can afford means you can focus on business building and income generating activity instead of getting caught up in the day-to-day administration and busyness of business.