Mark Cadbury offers some sound business advice

Whether you are a new business, been in business a while or been established for years, it is always good to take a long hard look at what you are doing to ensure that you and your business are achieving full potential. In my experience there are always activities that a business will be doing that, if a little time is spent on first considering and then implementing change, will make a dramatic impact on the way it performs. Here are just a few:

1) Many business owners have an issue with time, often because they are doing too many jobs that they could easily delegate. Work out your own hourly rate and then look at some of the roles you are doing – if you could employ someone to do that job for less than you are paying yourself then why don’t you? You will gain far more as a business if you use this time to think, consider and plan the business – jobs only you can do. Why are you doing your own bookkeeping, cleaning, administration etc when someone else could do it far quicker, better and for less money than you pay yourself?

2) Very few of us would drive to Scotland without our car dashboard working. We don’t need to know what is happen to every part of the car, but we do need to know the important basics like speed, fuel, water temperature etc. Without this information we would feel very vulnerable. So why is it we often run our businesses without knowing how the key figures are doing? Too many business owners run their business on luck, relying on gut feel to tell them when the best time to make a decision is or how the business is actually performing. The key performance indicators (KPIs) that will make up your business dashboard vary from business to business but at the very least they would include key financial information and then could include forward orders, sales conversion rate, debtor days, stock levels etc. These figures need to be updated as often as the business demands but at least monthly. With the dashboard in hand the business owner will be

3) Avoid selling on price. All too often I meet business owners who complain about being unable to make a reasonable, let alone good, living from their business because they have to compete on price to make a sale. Even in today’s difficult trading conditions, price still only comes fourth on the list of factors that affect people’s buying choices behind service, value for money and function (i.e. will it do what I want it to). If you don’t have a unique selling proposition – something about your product or service that differentiates you from your competitors, then your potential customers will only be able to judge you on price and every sale will be like a Dutch auction – whether you win the sale or not you lose out because you are not making the margin you should or could.

4) When was the last time you or your team had any formal sales training? Some will tell you that salespeople are born– rubbish! Whilst there are people out there who can talk easily and have better than average persuasive ability, to be truly effective at sales you need to be taught. At the very least read a book on selling, but better still go on one of the many sales training seminars and workshops that are available and implement what you learn – not only will you feel more confident about what you do, but your conversion rate will go up and your business will make more money.

5) Take a close look at what happens in your business. I would like to bet that 80% of all the things you do you will do again tomorrow, next week or next month. The remaining 20% being exceptions that only happen the once. By systemising those jobs and processes that you repeat and placing them in an operations manual you will ensure that they are done consistently well every time, irrespective of whether members of your team leave, get sick or go on holiday. Systemisation does take time to achieve but will ensure that the business will never grind to a halt just because someone calls in sick.

6) Whatever the size of your business, your team is vital to its success and development. But it is not just about having the right people on the bus. You have to spend time putting them in the right seats to ensure that the business runs as efficiently as possible. Think about your current team members and re-assign them if necessary to make best use of their strengths. I have a client who did just this and in doing so turned a mediocre sales person into a great customer services manager who now ensures that their customer churn is incredibly low. When you look for a new team member to fill a specific position, write down the roles and responsibilities that the ideal candidate would have and then keep them in mind throughout the recruitment process. Look internally first and then look outside the business. Never ever recruit someone who is not completely right because they are the best of a bad bunch – go out and find more candidates until you get as close to perfect a match as you can. It may take a little longer to fill the position but is a lot less cost and trouble than recruiting someone who is wrong who then leaves and the whole process has to begin again.

These are just a few of the many things that you can do to maximise the potential of your business – but there are many many others. Whatever you chose to do, time spent working on your business rather than in it always pays off and will make you more successful.