Focus on growth

It’s Time to Focus On Growth

The new year is rapidly approaching. Are you ready to focus on growth and recovery instead of survival?

Last year many small, local businesses made changes in response to the pandemic. For some, it was a means of survival. For others, it was an opportunity to meet the changing needs in their community. Regardless of why the pandemic has had an impact on your employees and customers. So, it will also affect your business now and in the future.

The Impact of Evolving Trends

New trends, including remote work, social distancing, greater use of technology, and shorter supply chains, evolved as a result of the pandemic. But it also created a lot of self-examination and reflection for the people that live and work in your community.

What mattered in 2020 may no longer be important.  Stay on top of evolving trends but talk to employees, customers, and local business owners. This will help you build a better roadmap for 2022. One with a focus on growth and recovery – not just survival.

Not All Pivots Result in Good Business Performance

Some businesses found unexpected opportunities during the pandemic. They took advantage of existing capabilities and built a different model or products to serve their customers.  But not every pivot will provide long-term profitability or enhance your business value.

With the lessons you learned, a better understanding of needs and trends, and a focus on the future, identify the changes you need to make. Some of your earlier initiatives will require tweaking. Others may be doing well but would benefit from a combination of systems and technology. Some may need to be eliminated completely. The key is to look at your entire business with a fresh set of eyes and a new, positive attitude.

Is Your Business Flexible?

I think it is fair to say that the past year has taught us that business (and opportunities) can change without warning. But the businesses that were able to pivot quickly got a head start on others who couldn’t.

Smaller businesses are known for being nimble so they can change direction quickly.  And the small businesses I see that do it better than others have a few things in common. They…

  • Embrace technology and are willing to invest in it. This was a huge advantage when the pandemic hit.
  • Appreciate innovation and realize that their employees often have great ideas to improve the business. So, they ask and actively listen to them.
  • Take care of their team because happy employees create raving customers.
  • Value the contributions of others and gladly give them credit. They are never too busy to say thank you or recognize their accomplishments.

As you look toward 2022, get your team engaged in planning and goal setting. Take advantage of their diverse skills and knowledge. Decide together how you will measure success. Then track and share results. Their involvement in all areas of the business makes pivoting (for any reason) a whole lot easier.

Plan with a focus on growth

Time to get out of survival mode and refocus your efforts on growth and recovery. So, take the time to start setting your goals and building your plan. Planning is easier than you think. And it will provide you with the focus and clarity you need to achieve more of what you want – in business and in life.

Related:  7 Do’s and Don’ts to Make Planning Easy and Effective

About Joan Nowak.  As a business improvement expert, business coach, and consultant, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Need help? My Ultimate Action Planning Guide helps you create a roadmap for success. But if you prefer to work with me virtually – and build your plan together – then check out my Action Plan 2022 Program.

Productivity-MakeThingsBetter

15 Barriers to Personal Productivity

When it comes to personal productivity, most of us can be better. We can eliminate some bad habits — and carve out more time to spend with family and friends or maybe just doing things we enjoy. The first step to getting more done starts with changing some behaviors.  What are you doing or not doing today that prevents you from being productive at work or at home?

Common Roadblocks You Can Overcome

You can’t remember what you have to do.  If you don’t have a method to easily and effectively capture tasks that need attention, things get overlooked. If you don’t write it down, you simply forget. There are various apps available to capture tasks — and most of them can sync with all your devices: computer, tablet, and phone. Choose one and your to-do list will always be close at hand!

Tasks on your list don’t make it to your calendar.  You haven’t set specific time aside in which to do the tasks that need to be done.  Lists provide a reminder of what you need to do – but they won’t get done until you actually schedule them on your calendar. Most of the apps for tasks and to-do lists work with your calendar.

You set aside the wrong time.  Are you working against your energy?  Some of us are morning people, others night people.  Align your tasks with your energy levels. Try to schedule important tasks when energy levels are high.

You miscalculate how long tasks take.  We often think tasks take less time than they actually do. It’s a common issue. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and add some buffer time for the unexpected.

You’re the wrong person for the job. Do you operate under the premise that you need to do it all?  Do you think asking for help is a sign of weakness?  Or maybe just looking for a way to save some money? Your time is valuable, so put it to work on the things that really matter!  Learn to delegate or outsource low-value tasks or projects that fall outside your scope of expertise.

The task is overly complex.  It’s human nature to avoid tasks that are too complex or cumbersome.  They often take a lot more time. Finding big blocks of time in your day to work on them makes it easy to understand why we put them on the back burner! The best solution is to chunk complex tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces  – then attack them over a period of time.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. — Vincent Van Gogh

Your space is unorganized.  If the physical environment in which you work is disorganized and cluttered, it will steal a huge amount of time and energy from your day.  If you spend a lot of time looking for stuff to get started or work on a project, then it’s time to organize your workspace.

You have unclear goals and priorities.  Without clear goals, you have no basis for making decisions on how you spend your time or prioritizing the many choices you face on a daily basis.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. — Jimmy Dean

You have an unrealistic workload.  Sometimes life does overload you. Usually (or hopefully) these are temporary.  Recognize it and delegate or eliminate the non-essentials during these times.

You are in transition.  Life changes sometimes make it difficult to determine how to invest your time.  The best way to overcome this is to re-identify your goals and create a roadmap for the change.

Your work environment is full of interruptions.  Being easily accessible or readily available has its drawbacks.  Recognize this and plan for it.  Create a block of time each day that is interruption-free and under your control – even if you must leave your office to get it.

You need to be a helper.  Assisting others personally or professionally can make your life rich and rewarding.  But only when it’s kept in balance.  Too much can make you resentful and overwhelmed.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our own need to be appreciated and feel valuable that we don’t let other people help us.  You empower people when you allow them to contribute, so let others help you too!

You love creating.  You keep starting projects but have a hard time finishing them.  But half-finished projects don’t deliver results and the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting things done.  This actually zaps energy and hurts productivity. Get some results-oriented people involved with your projects — employees, colleagues, or a business coach can help.  Spend some time with people who love getting things done. 

You have a need for perfection.  Not all tasks are created equal.  Do you feel compelled to do everything at the same level of excellence?  If you set the same high standards for every task, you will not finish anything.  Adjust your standards based on the specific tasks.  Some are worth your extra effort, some are not.  Remember, sometimes good is good enough!

You have a fear of losing creativity.  Some people fear that imposing structure or routines in their lives will squelch their creativity.  As a result, their lives are chaotic and often stressful.  You need to learn to trust that you can put structure in your schedule and still be creative.  You don’t have to plan every minute and hour, but you can map out a general rhythm to your day.

The first step to making some changes comes from recognizing the need to do so.  Don’t try to fix them all at one time.  Focus on one then move to the next.

Tired of Hitting Roadblocks?

Would another set of eyes and accountability from an expert help you to get more done? If the answer is a resounding YES, let’s talk. Click here to schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation today.

About Joan Nowak.  As a business improvement expert, business coach, and consultant, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

business mistakes

7 Small Business Weaknesses You Should Avoid

Every business has its strengths, those things that they consistently do well to get people talking, attract new business, and keep customers coming back. Always a good thing. Unfortunately, strengths can sometimes cover up business weaknesses or flaws so they don’t get the attention they need.

For clarification, business weaknesses are areas where improvements need to be made because your current situation leaves you vulnerable to economic pressures, market forces, or aggressive competitors. In short, these are the things that hurt long-term, sustainable profitability.

Here’s an interesting way to look at business weaknesses. IF you were going to sell your business, what things would make it less attractive to a potential buyer? Note, the things that would make it attractive are typically strengths!

7 Small Business Weaknesses

#1 – No documented systems and procedures. As a result, critical activities including marketing, sales, hiring, service delivery, billing, and customer care are not easily repeatable by others. And, they are often inconsistent, inefficient, and ineffective. Taking the time to put down how tasks are handled saves time and money and makes training easier. It also ensures customers’ expectations are consistently met so they keep coming back. Need help with this one? Check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide for Small Businesses.

#2 – Business is too dependent on the owner or one key person. Some of this is due to a lack of documented workflows and procedures. But it is also due to a lack of delegation. A lot of small business owners are reluctant to delegate tasks to others because it requires time to train them or they simply don’t believe others can do it just as well. With documented procedures, training and delegation are a lot easier. And you may just find that others do it just as well – if not better! The more you delegate or outsource to others, the more time you have to work on more important tasks like growth and profit improvement.

Related: How to Delegate Effectively

#3 – Too many eggs in one basket. If your business is too dependent on one or two ‘big’ customers, your business is far more vulnerable. It’s easy to become content or complacent when you land a big account. But mergers, acquisitions, new competition, or even one bad experience can cause the customer to leave and result in a major revenue loss that you can’t quickly overcome. While you want to keep your big (and small) customers happy, you need to make getting new customers a priority too! Invest the time and resources to grow your customer base. You’ll improve your revenue and profit while reducing your long-term risk.

#4 – No proven methods for revenue growth. If you need customers quickly, what would you do? Whether you need a lot or a few, every business should have 3-4 proven ways to get new business. Things that consistently work. Things that you can depend on to deliver results. Trying new strategies is necessary to take advantage of changes in the market and new technology. But don’t eliminate what works. Simply add new stuff to your mix and be consistent! Only eliminate a tactic when it no longer produces the results you want or need to make it pay off.  

#5 – Lack of differentiation. All products or services become commodity-like over time. Even prescription drugs become generic eventually! So what are you doing to make your company or services stand out for people to take notice? Why should they choose YOU? Differentiation for small businesses can take an assortment of forms relating to convenience or quality, including people, service levels, hours, systems, location, product variety, results, etc. What do you do so well that you can guarantee it or create buzz around it? You only need ONE! With differentiation, you no longer compete on price alone and your marketing is a lot more compelling … so it works!

#6 – Wrong people supporting your business. You can’t do it all. Your success as a business owner will depend on others — employees, subcontractors, and vendors (suppliers). So choosing the right ones and developing them is a key to sustainable growth and profit. Don’t settle or depend on just one. Invest the time and resources to select the best and build those relationships so everyone benefits.

#7 – Lack of cash. Do you focus on sales at the expense of profit and cash flow? It’s a common issue. Getting more customers or growing revenue does not guarantee more profit, personal income, or adequate cash to sustain your business. Focus on the bottom line. Grow profitable sales and stop selling what you can’t make money on. Establish a pricing strategy that supports profit, not just sales. Manage your expenses, especially labor, to sales levels. Bill promptly and extend credit wisely. Get a letter of credit before you actually need it and use it sensibly.

Any opportunities for improvement? If so, pick one and start focusing your efforts there. Little improvements can produce big results – more time, more money, and more control. So make the commitment and take action.

About Joan Nowak. As a business improvement expert, business coach, and consultant, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.  

Related: Why Work with a Business Coach?

How to Build Profit

How to Build Profit As You Rebound

For many businesses, the journey to rebound and build profit is underway. Will you focus on sales and hope you can get back to where you were? Or will you apply your resources to building a better business in 2021? One that is profitable and sustainable. And admired and respected. A business that can quickly adapt – even in a pandemic.

The secret to such a business? Build a strong foundation and leverage all areas of your business – marketing, sales, operations, people, systems and finances. This whole business approach, which I call the “hybrid way”, is a proven recipe for growth and sustainable profit in any small business.

Here are 7 business improvement opportunities to help you build profit as you rebuild your business

Planning

If you want to take a different path, you need a roadmap. In this case, some clear goals with specific actions you need to take to achieve them. A simple action plan will provide clarity and focus.  And with all the changes over the past year, this is a good starting point for rebuilding.

As you put together your goals and tasks, think beyond revenue. While sales growth is important, here are some additional things to consider:  product or service mix, customer retention, productivity, efficiency, hiring or outsourcing, system development, distribution channels, and power partners.

Products/Services

For my clients and other businesses, the ability to quickly modify services or change how they were delivered had a big impact on their business in 2020. A few client examples include:

  • A medical practice Introduced telemedicine visits and drive-thru flu vaccines
  • When out-of-state travel required quarantining, a volleyball academy introduced local leagues and clinics to temporarily replace national and regional teams.

And I’m sure many of you enjoyed the outdoor dining or take-out options from your favorite local restaurants. Or maybe curbside pickup from your favorite retail store or boutique?

And the best part is that these new services don’t need to go away. Businesses continue to offer them, along with their traditional (pre-pandemic) services. It’s a win-win for the business and its customers.

So why do you need a pandemic to give your products and services a facelift? You don’t. Technology, competition, and customer needs will continue to change over time. Make sure your products and service keep up!

Promotion

Sales don’t just happen. It requires an investment of your time and money. Most of all, it requires consistency. Something you do frequently – not simply when sales decline or you have time.

So, what are you doing to attract new customers and to keep existing ones coming back and referring others? To build profit, not just sales, you need to invest in both. As the past year taught us, a loyal customer base is priceless. For many small businesses, these were the customers who kept them afloat. So make sure your plans include activities to generate new customers and retain your existing, loyal customers.

Systems & Processes

Streamlining and standardizing procedures makes daily operations easier, efficient, and more effective, whether you are there or not. It also made it a lot easier for businesses to quickly pivot and go in new directions.

During the past year, we saw many businesses add new services, modify delivery options, change payment methods – and even change how their people worked. They all require system changes within the business. When a company values both systems and people, making changes is easier and more profitable.

Why wait for a pandemic to address the systems issues in your business? Make it more of a priority. Start with a few. Focus on those that save you time, increase sales, or fix problems that consistently erode profit.

People & Teams

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 also important.

The past year has been difficult for employers and employees. Uncertainty has a way of doing that. Work-life balance and working from home have changed expectations. The future will look different than the past. But with it comes opportunity. As the leader, you have the ability to rebuild your team and the culture of your business. Take advantage of it and long-term you will come out ahead.

Professional Development

As you learn and grow, so will your business. Make a commitment to learning and building new skills and knowledge. Did you know that if you read (or listen to audiobooks) for 15 minutes a day, you will read about 12 books each year? What a learning opportunity!

Want to be a better leader or improve your productivity? Maybe you want to improve your technology, sales, or marketing skills? Need any ideas to improve cash flow or build profit? Read a book, listen to a podcast, take an online class. There are plenty of resources available today. It simply requires a commitment to invest in YOU.

Financial Mastery

Sales are important, but cash flow is king and profit is your reward for excellence in entrepreneurship! 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’s success. Beyond sales, here are a few others to consider: average sale per customer or transaction, the number of leads, sales conversion rates, 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 team, vendors, and customers.

Remember, little improvements in ALL these areas will put more profit on the bottom line and in your wallet. So, build your goals and plans with them in mind.

Need a different perspective?

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support, and accountability from an expert help you get on the right path and quickly rebound? Let’s explore the possibilities with a brief, complimentary consultation.  Click here to schedule your free exploratory session.

About Joan Nowak. As a business improvement expert, business coach, and consultant, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Time to Improve

Is It Time To Improve Your Business?

Building a business is hard work. But sustaining growth and profitability require more than just effort. They take innovation, commitment and the right focus. So if you are frustrated with where your business is today and ready to improve your business, here are five suggestions to help you get started.

#1 – Have an Open Mind

Ideas and opinions come from a variety of sources.  Some ideas are obvious opportunities. Others come from fleeting remarks by friends, colleagues, employees or even total strangers.

Today, more than ever, people dismiss ideas because they don’t like the source or messenger. Sad because good ideas can come from anywhere — if we open our minds to the possibilities.  With an open mind and a willingness to try new things, ideas will flow and improvements will follow.

#2 – Invest In Your People

If you want to improve your business — start with your most valuable asset. Your team. It’s hard to be a great company without great people.

When you have a great team, innovation and creativity seem to flow. There is no need to force them to work together. Collaboration is something that happens because they value each others opinions. When you create an environment where people are engaged and productive, good things happen.  It pays dividends. 

Investing in your team make sense. The work place is changing so now is a good time to look at your culture, your hiring, your benefits, your training and most of all — your expectations. You can’t change things overnight, but over time you can. Just make it a priority.

#3 – Be a Profit Builder

Keep your focus on the bottom line. You can’t stay in business if you don’t make a profit.  If you want to take care of your customers and your employees, profit is not an option — it’s a requirement.

There are a lot of ways to improve profit in your business. Cutting costs in an obvious one. But while keeping costs down is important, put adequate resources into other areas too. Here’s a few you may wish to consider: 

  • Focus on growing sales of higher margin products and services. Products, like customers are not created equal. The growth of low-margin products can actually reduce your overall profit.
  • Gain efficiency and save time with systems and technology. It’s especially important for service businesses that are labor dependent. 
  • Eliminate re-works that come from poor quality.  Get it right the first time.
  • Evaluate your pricing to reflect value, not just cost. This can help you optimize the gross profit margins, a key profit driver.
  • Improve your marketing ROI with better targeting, compelling messages, diverse tactics and a follow-up system that converts more leads.
#4 – Balance Operations and Business Development

As a business grows, the day-to-day running and serving customers can become overwhelming. When this occurs, marketing and sales activities often go on the back burner,  Building a pipeline of new business opportunities while increasing sales to existing customers takes time.  It is not a stop-start activity.  Plan and make business development activities something that is done daily, weekly and monthly.  Whether you delegate or outsource these tasks, do it consistently. It will pay off on the bottom line. 

#5 – Think Lifetime Value

As a business owner, you must establish a long-term view of customer value before you can appreciate how important it is to develop a relationship with customers and ensure everything is done to keep them as long as possible.  What are your customers worth over their lifetime?

Here’s an example to demonstrate this point.  You own a lawn-care company.  The customer pays you $50 each time you mow their lawn.  While the first transaction is only $50, they spend that each week from May – September, so annually they spend about $1,000. If they stay with you for four years, they will spend about $4,000.  So is this a $50 customer or a $4,000 customer?  The way you view them will dictate how you invest in current and future customers.

About Joan Nowak.  As a business improvement expert, business coach, and consultant, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Get Started. Stay On Track

Are you ready to take a leap forward? To get started and stay on track? My focus and accountability program offers an affordable way to get the help you need.  Click here to learn more.

Whole-Business-Approach 1500x1000

Are You Ready to Rebuild Your Business?

The past year has taught business owners a lot about leadership, innovation, flexibility and teamwork. We came to understand that business as usual can change in an instant, so we need to be able to adapt quickly. We found that technology is a great tool that can open doors if we open our minds to all the possibilities. And, we learned that with the right people, we have what we need to innovate and win despite the obstacles we face.

While some of our local favorite businesses did not survive, there is a lot of resilience within the small business community. Some businesses thrived in the chaos and uncertainty that was 2020. Others struggled but made it through and are now applying the lessons learned to rebuild their business better in 2021.

A Whole Business Approach to Profit Building

Whether you need to get customers back, fix a supply chain, hire more people or build back sustainable profit, take a whole-business approach. as you rebuild your business.

Think of your business as a machine with a lot of connected pieces. It works best when all the pieces perform well together. If one or more of the parts are broken, the business no longer works efficiently and effectively. Profit erodes.

My whole-business approach works for my clients. You can use it too and build sustainable profit in your own business. Here are the core elements:

  • Planning & Goal Setting. Aligning your vision and setting clear goals with action steps and deadlines for greater focus and results.
  • Products & Services. Packaging, positioning and pricing your products and services to attract and retain profitable customers – today and in the future.
  • Revenue Mastery. Business development, marketing, sales and customer service strategies that attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back and referring others.
  • Systems Mastery. Streamlining and standardizing procedures, to make daily operations easier, efficient and more effective – whether you are there or not.
  • People Mastery. Hiring and developing employees, contractors, vendors and alliances who are committed to your customers and the success of your business.
  • Personal Development. Commitment to learning and building skills and knowledge to help you achieve your true potential.
  • Financial Mastery. Creating synergy and profit mastery, to sustain growth and cash flow, so your business continues to serve you, your people, customers and other stakeholders.

Apply This Approach To Rebuild Business

There are a lot of ways you and your team can improve each of these areas in your business. My free eBook, Building Profit Through Leverage, provides additional information and practical ways my business clients build sustainable profit using my whole-business approach. Download now.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

The proven methods outlined in my free eBook can help you create a strong foundation and build profitability. Take it one step at a time and focus on small improvements in all areas of your business. Get started now. Click here to download my free eBook.

Could a Business Coach Help You Rebound Faster?

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support and accountability from an expert help you take your business in a new and better direction? Let’s explore the possibilities with a brief, complimentary consultation.  It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

Click here to schedule your free session.

profit builder

How to Turn 1% Into Double Digit Profit Growth

Profit growth or improving the bottom line is a priority for business owners — especially now as they look to bounce back from the Pandemic. But too often they look for the magical silver bullet.  The one big innovation or idea that will turn a business around and make people notice.

Innovation is important in all areas of your business, but often small improvements over time can make a big difference on the bottom line. In fact, a mere 1% improvement in revenue or sales, cost of goods sold and expenses can produce double-digit profit growth!

The Power of 1%

Here’s a simple example to demonstrate the Power of 1-1-1

Revenue:  With a 1% increase, revenue goes from $500,000 to $505,000

COGS:  With a 1% reduction, cost of goods sold goes from $300,000 to $297,000

Expenses:  With a 1% reduction, expenses go from $160,000 to $158,400

The result, Net Profit goes from $ 40,000 to $49,600.  An increase of $9,600 or 24%!

Check it out with YOUR numbers to see for yourself.

So now ask yourself “Do I have what it takes to achieve a 1% improvement in these three areas”? Absolutely! Can you do more? Probably. The key is to start – so set a goal. By focusing your efforts in these areas, you too can make progress 1% at a time.

Of course, a goal without actions won’t do much to get you there. So here are some things to consider as you plan your profit growth initiatives:

Revenue / Sales: There are hundreds of ways to grow sales. While generating more leads is an obvious one, here are a few that are often overlooked. You can improve revenue by improving your sales conversion rates, get customers to spend more or buy more often or expand your products or services. Need some ideas, check out 155+ Profit Building Ideas

Cost of Sales or Goods Sold: Based on experience with hundreds of small business owners, this area offers a lot of opportunity for profit improvement. The costs included in the cost of sales or goods sold will vary based on your type of business. These are variable – and link directly to sales levels. Examples of costs include inventory, incoming freight, direct labor (associated with service delivery or production), raw materials, service related suppliers and sub-contractors.

So how can you improve this area? Consider some of the following: improve labor efficiency by eliminating waste, renegotiate prices with key suppliers and vendors, outsource or utilize sub-contractors, improve scheduling, plan purchases to get volume pricing, and eliminate rejects or reworks.

Expenses / Overhead: These are relatively fixed and include everything from wages and benefits to marketing and rent. In today’s economy, many have focused on trimming the fat – but the key is to do so without impacting your ability to grow and deliver on your promise to customers.

Here’s a few things to consider: re-evaluate staffing levels to align with sales and service requirements, re-evaluate benefits, develop compensation model that includes pay-for-performance elements (not just guaranteed wages), evaluate outsource options or leasing, re-quote service contracts and insurance, renegotiate rent or relocate where appropriate, track marketing to improve ROI, and establish a budget – and live with it.

Small improvements in all areas have a compounding effect on your bottom line. They build on each other. All it takes is a clear focus, some simple proven strategies and a commitment to do it. 

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary 30-minute session.  It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.  Book appointment now.

Got questions? Call Joan Nowak at (856) 533-2344 or email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

systems.teams.technology

Business Systems | Build Profit As You Grow

Business systems make life easier, drive profitability, and leverage your business. Many small businesses learned the importance of operating systems when a pandemic caused changes in the way they had to operate. The old way of doing things didn’t work. With safety as a priority, everything from sales and hiring to customer service, daily operations, and billing were impacted to some degree.  These businesses also learned that it’s easier to modify your current systems instead of building everything from scratch.

Business Systems Make Pivoting Easier

The businesses with quality systems and technology to support them, found ‘pivoting’ was a lot easier. 

Whether back-to-work plans included simple modifications, a whole new business model, or something of a hybrid approach, we are reminded that updating and documenting systems is important.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Hiring people is on the rise. Training and helping them to succeed without documented systems is far more difficult.
  • Getting customers back (or getting new ones) is a priority.  Consistent methods to implement your strategies are important for results.
  • Defining your customer experience is easy. Delivering on your promise time and again is more difficult without systems and technology to support your efforts. 

Business Systems | How to Get It Done

Whether you simply need to update what you have or build them from scratch, here is some good news. You can do it while you continue to grow your business. Here’s the best way to approach it.

Set the right goal.  Yes, I’m also a big advocate of setting goals! Avoid setting a goal to complete a how-to manual. It is just plain boring and overwhelming.  Instead, set a goal to build systems into your business – as you are building it.  You will eventually end up with a practical, how-to manual, but you’ll build profit and efficiency along the way to keep you motivated.

Take it one procedure at a time.  For every system you document and implement, you will see improvements in efficiency, productivity, and profit.  So you don’t need to reach the end of the project (a how-to-manual) to see results:  more sales, customers, profit, control, and freedom.

Start with the most critical.  Business systems, like customers, are not created equal.  Focus first on the ones that impact YOUR sales, delivery, profit, and time. 

When evaluating the systems in your business, you need to consider two factors. First, consistency. Is the procedure performed the same way by all involved?  Second, effectiveness. Does it deliver the outcome or results you want? 

For example. You have a sales system that is documented so everyone does it the same way.  But if your process doesn’t help you achieve a better outcome – more sales or a higher conversion rate – then it’s consistent but not effective.  In your business, you want both!

Make Your Systems Effective

Keep it simple.  Procedures must be understood by those who implement them if they are to deliver consistent results.  Include scripts, checklists, and samples where appropriate to help people perform the task at hand. And always take advantage of technology that is out there for you. 

Include limits of authority.  Procedures will explain what to do and how to do it.  But some tasks such as preparing a customer quote, closing a sale, paying vendors, or resolving a customer complaint may require you to spell out how much authority others have to complete these tasks.  Limits of authority empower others (with limits) so tasks get done without you while also reducing potential risks (aka bad decisions). 

Here’s a common example.  If quotes are needed to close a sale and timely response plays into getting the business, you don’t want approvals to become a bottleneck.  With guidelines, only proposals that fall outside the parameters you set need to be held for your approval. Therefore, your quote process may include language such as “All quotes or proposals over $5,000 OR under 35% gross profit margin require owner approval”

If you really want less stress, more profit, greater freedom, and the ability to effectively pivot in the future, then make systems more of a priority.  Take it one at a time and build as you grow.  It’s not hard, you simply need to kill the excuses.

Get Serious About Systems

If you are serious about leveraging your business with systems but struggle with where to start and how to do it, then check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide. Designed specifically for small business owners, my step-by-step guide with templates and examples makes it easy to do it yourself.

About Joan Nowak.  As a business improvement expert, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operations, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

prioritize-business-goals

4 Ways To Prioritize Your Business Goals

When it comes to planning, most business owners are not short on ideas for growing sales and profit. They set goals and identify what they need to do to get there. But as you set goals and create your action plan, you need to prioritize business goals and activities. 

You only have so many resources – people, time, and money. You still have a business to run and customers to serve. Be realistic about what you and your team can accomplish each month and quarter. Set priorities.  What’s first, then second, and so forth. Here are a few things to consider as you prioritize business goals and tasks.

4 Ways To Set The Priorities in Your Plan
Top Challenge.

What is the #1 challenge you face today in your business?  Is it getting new customers, getting more from the ones you already have, making more profit from your current sales, delivering consistent service to customers, having the right people, or getting more from them?  Choose at least one or two that address your biggest challenge and work on them first.

Complexity.

How much work and other resources are required to complete the tasks or projects you identified in your plan. The more complex, the fewer you can reasonably handle in a short period of time.

With large, complex projects break down the tasks and spread them out over a few months.  This allows you to make progress without getting overwhelmed, putting them off, or ignoring other areas in your business.  For example, a new website or how-to manual will take more than a month. A marketing campaign or customer feedback survey can be done within 30 days.

Natural Prerequisites.

Sometimes there are things you must do first because they are tied to the success of something you want or need to do in the future.  Here are a few examples.

  • If you plan to use social media, email, or other online strategies but don’t have a website (or your current one needs updating), then the website should be done first to get the most bang from your other efforts.
  • If you get a lot of leads but struggle with converting them to paying customers, you might want to focus on ways to improve your sales conversion rates before you invest in new lead generation or marketing.
Time versus Money.

In a perfect world, we seek balance.  But if money is tight, then focus initially on things that are low or no cost to help you build more revenue, profit, and cash flow.  Then invest in strategies that require additional financial resources.

One caution as you set the priorities in your plan.  Don’t prioritize based on what you like or what is easy.  Putting off what is important for what is easy is just another form of procrastination.  Focus on what will get you results – more sales, profit, control, or freedom.

It’s Never Too Late to Plan

Planning Resources - Act NowNeed help creating your road map for success? You can do it yourself by using my Ultimate Action Planning Guide.

Prefer to work on it with me? Then check out my Action Planning Program just for small business owners. Click here to learn more. 

About Joan Nowak.  As a business improvement expert, business coach, and consultant, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business approach empowers clients and drives improvements in key areas including revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

team stepping up

Does Your Team Step Up or Sit Out?

It’s been a crazy year. One filled with a lot of changes. And for those who own a business, it is taking leadership, innovation, creativity, and a lot of teamwork to keep it together (or maybe afloat). During difficult times, we learn a lot about ourselves – and the people we have in place to support our business.

Some of you saw your team step up. They brought new meaning to the word collaboration. Looked for better ways to serve customers. Came up with new product and service ideas. Developed systems to help operate efficiently and safely. In short, they embraced change, worked together, and made a difference. You know you have the right team so the future looks good on that front.

Others weren’t so lucky. Some business owners realized they didn’t have a team. They had a group of individuals who were content to sit on the sidelines. No commitment to the business, customers, or each other.

The good news is that you can change the storyline at any time.  Make hiring a priority – and have a system in place to help you do it right. Bring in quality people to support the business. Then create a culture that promotes collaboration and teamwork.

Related: Hiring | 7 do’s and don’t to make your efforts pay off

Team Building Secret

So, what is the secret to building a great team? It’s not about paying them a lot of money, but always paying them what they are worth.  It’s not about giving them weeks and weeks of paid time off. But getting paid to enjoy time away is always appreciated. You may be surprised to learn that some of the best ways to build a strong team cost you very little.

#1 – Get Them Engaged.

Vince Lombardi had the right idea. “Individual commitment to a group effort is what makes a teamwork, a company work, a society work, and a civilization work.” Individual commitment comes from participation and understanding.  The more involved your team is, the more committed they are to its success.  And since some of the best ideas for business growth and improvement come from employees, it’s time to get them engaged.  Then everyone wins!

#2 – Show Appreciation.

As human beings, we want recognition and need to feel appreciated. It’s natural. So what do you do to make your team feel appreciated? Again, it’s not about money.  Yes, token gifts or group lunches are nice; but simple things like thank you for a job well done, recognizing them in front of peers and customers, and soliciting their suggestions goes a long way.  All it takes is a little forethought and some of your time!

#3 – Volunteer Together.

With so many needs in local communities, this is an opportunity to work together outside the traditional work environment. These projects help you get to know co-workers as people. It’s a great way to build personal relationships. Find a volunteer project the team can get behind – and do it together. Have fun while you help others.

#4 – Give Them Authority

When you give people the opportunity and authority to be their best, you will get the best out of them. Provide your team with the guidance they need. Then give them the authority to make decisions and solve problems. It’s the best way to demonstrate trust.

Get Your Team Off the Sidelines

When your people are committed and in the game, you set yourself up for success. So, make sure you hire the right people, invest in their development, and create a collaborative culture. When you do, you and your business will be in a better place. One where you will survive whatever the world throws at you – even a pandemic!

Need help? Let’s discuss. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation.  Book an Appointment

About Joan Nowak

I’ve been helping business owners turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. My whole-business, common-sense approach empowers my clients and drives improvements in critical areas, including revenue, operations, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability.