(posted February 5, 2013 by Ray Carden
By now you know that when I offer tips about "growing" your business, it's because I want you to have solid, applicable information that will help ensure that your company's growth is steady, strong, and productive. It's probably no accident that a company is sometimes called a "plant". And it's no accident that Nature can be our teacher in terms of how to "grow" our business.
If we look at growing your business like growing a tree for instance, the process might look something like this:
* Seed: Idea
* Soil: Foundation
* Water: Investment
* Roots: System
* Trunk: Structure
* Branches: Sales Team
* Leaves: Customers
Interesting, isn't it that customers – the very thing we generally focus on first, are actually the result of everything that comes before? Maybe it's time to change your focus, for a moment, from customers to processes.
Returning to the plant analogy, if the seed is rotten to begin with, it won't root. If the soil is sandy and porous, it won't hold water, if the water is scarce, the plant can't grow, if the trunk is weak, the structure will collapse, if the branches break, leaves can't grow, and if there are no leaves – there are no customers.
With that in mind, let's turn now to business and look at warning signs that indicate that something or someone needs attention. Einstein stated that a problem cannot be fixed by the same process that created it, yet often business owners follow the same processes that got them in trouble in the first place, thinking that things will somehow change. Well, they won't, except perhaps for getting worse. So, here are some quick fixes to consider if your "plant" is wilting.
Let's assume you're past the "seed" phase of coming up with a great product or service to sell, that you've developed your business plan, created a strong vision statement to get everyone working toward the same goal, have streamlined a mission statement that you have posted in clear view of everyone (staff and customers!), and your culture statement adequately states your company's ethics and values. This, of course, implies that you have a place of business. If my assumptions are false, then you need to backtrack and strengthen those areas that are weak before moving forward.
Where most business owners fall short dates back to their roots, and I'm not talking family history here; I'm talking about the "systems" they have in place to make sure that their "plant" or company is healthy and growing.
A strongly rooted system will ensure that you:
* Get more out of your business in less time, with less effort
* Increase efficiency and save money
* Stop running your business and start growing it
Now, it will take more than one article for me to give you ALL the tools you need to develop strong roots for your business, but I can certainly give you some key elements to consider. Do you know, for instance, how to identify areas in your business that you need to systemize? Let's backtrack to that first "sprout" of root and make sure each system is in place.
Here are 4 key areas to systemize in your business, including their purposes and their functions:
1. People and Education–Goal: To have a happy, healthy functioning, productive, knowledgeable team.
A. Does your company have a functioning "Organizational" chart that clearly identifies who reports to whom?
B. Does your company have individual flowcharts for EACH INDIVIDUAL in the company, outlining their key duties?
C. Have you clearly outlined your role to your team and your vision for the company to get everyone working toward the same goal?
D. Do you have a system in place to track and measure employee performance through Key Performance Indicators?
E. Do you have a training program in place for your team?
2. Delivery and Distribution–Goal: To have an automated systemization in place to free resources for use in other more productive and profitable areas?
A. Is your delivery and distribution system paperless?
B. Is your delivery and distribution system consistent, familiar, and predictable?
C. Is your packaging designed for safe delivery?
D. Are your "fast-moving items" easy to access, and are you putting slower-moving items high up or low down on the shelf?
E. Have you developed a system for forecasting what to order?
F. Have you systemized and completed a purchasing and stock-receiving system?
3. Testing and Measuring–Goal: To monitor activity in all areas, modify systems that need adjustments, and analyze results.
A. Do you have systemized tracking set up for monthly and yearly budgets?
B. Do you track and measure conversion rates FOR EACH SALESPERSON?
C. Do you have systems in place for: tracking petty cash, recording profit margins, measuring the number and origin of all leads, measuring your average dollar sale, recording customer transactions, and a system for payroll and superannuation?
4. Systems and Technology–Goal: To keep up to date with ever-changing technological developments.
A. Do you regularly maintain all equipment?
B. Do you use computerized invoicing and credit monitoring?
C. Do you have a systems and training and induction program in place?
D. Do you update your programs, software, and spyware to keep your computers current?
E. Do you run a regular computer backup system?
Of course, there are other factors to add to each category, but this basic checklist will at least get you started.
This analogy, while simplistic in nature, will show that customers don't just "float" in and attach themselves to your business. They grow out of nurturing. And when customers see that a "plant" is strong, flexible, and can weather economic turmoil and other "storms", it makes them more confident about doing business with that company.
Growing one's company is something that has to happen every day. If you don't make sure that each part of the process is healthy and productive, your company will suffer. Sadly, some businesses will die.
Start growing your company today.
And remember that seeking help is not a sign of failure. It's a sign of growth.
I loved this analogy — they don't call a manufacturing facility a "plant" for no reason, do they? SJM
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