You CAN Turn Your Business Around
Sales are dropping. Employee turnover is going up. Cash flow is sinking again. It is getting hard to get people to buy your services or products. You have tried many things – to lower prices, to offer extras, add incentives, advertise more, but nothing seems to work?
Or maybe the business is pretty stable, but you miss that excitement of growth and want to try a new direction, but not sure what needs to change?
Sounds familiar? No worries, in either case it is not over unless you choose to call it quits. You CAN take your business to a better place!
When you own a business, it can be very hard to clearly see how things really are, what is working or what is not. People are often stuck in viewing things from their perspective, from where they are, and often are not able to see the “other side”.
Imagine that you are standing in front of a huge tree. What do you see? You could probably tell the name of the tree, color of branches or leaves, etc. But how well can you describe and analyze it from a distance, how many details are you able to see, or how would you describe the other side of the tree from where you stand?
Can you clearly see and tell:
- What is behind or underneath the leaves or branches?
- Age of the tree?
- What is on the other side of the tree?
- Health of the tree?
- Whether there are any worms on the branches or under the leaves?
- Whether there are any birds or insects both in front and back of the tree?
- How many branches are on the other side of the tree?
- What is the color of the leaves on the other side of the tree?
You believe that you can spot a lot of details, but when you start thinking and looking closer, you would not be able to answer majority of these questions. You cannot clearly see all the details unless you come really close and analyze them, go around the tree and inspect every inch of it. And still, even when you analyze the tree, you will miss certain things because you will be looking and filtering information from your perspective.
What would happen if you had another person standing on the other side of the tree? That person could help you to “see” what is on the other side, right? This would give you another set of eyes and another perspective.
Things are not as simple as they seem to be at first, right?
Your business is no different than a tree. Oftentimes business owners miss things or are not able (most often refuse) to see them because it can be very hard to remove the “owner” hat, step aside, and try seeing things from a different angle.
Many business owners find themselves stuck and “blind” to what to do and how to grow and improve a business.
Here are 2 ways to improve & grow your business:
- Do it yourself with available resources.
- Hire a professional (business consultant, coach, or mentor)
No matter which way you choose, the most important thing is to become aware of where you are and where you want to go.
DO IT YOURSELF
Let’s take a look at how you as a business owner could turn around your business yourself. Since you own a business, my assumption is that you know how to run a business, manage staff, do marketing and advertising, etc. I would also assume that you have staff (permanent employees or contractors) in place and do not do all tasks by yourself.
If any of my assumptions are not correct, you need to gain knowledge and experience before you can run a business and be successful. Get a mentor in your field and ask for help. You cannot succeed without basic business knowledge. If you do not have the staff to help you in business, eventually you will get burned and overwhelmed, and one day you will have a break down and will shut the business down. Remember, you cannot do it all and most definitely you cannot grow business by yourself. Don’t take me wrong, I understand that everything costs money and time. From the moment you make a choice to own a business, you need to change the way you think. Look at a bigger picture, have a vision of what your business should look like in 5 or 10 years and work towards that. If you have financial constraints, start small and maybe hire someone on part time or as needed basis. Focus on immediate cash flow to help you pay for more help in your business.
The most important thing when creating the “bigger picture”(your vision) is to focus on positives, and not negatives. Many business owners miss the power of the mind and forget about this psychological push forward towards great results. By focusing on what can go wrong instead of good, you will create a barrier that will prevent you from moving forward. Here I am not talking about eliminating possibilities about never getting complaints from customers; your organization should have certain procedures in place that would address different situations. I am talking about the bigger picture, the vision of your company and focusing on good intentions vs. fearing for bad things. I am also talking about having an actual picture in your mind of how you want things to look like. When you want to rearrange your room, you first create a picture in your head how and where you would move the furniture and then move the furniture, and not the other way around. Your business is no different than a room.
So let’s break it down and see what you can do to take your business to the next level (develop, improve, and grow).
- “Switch” places with your customer. Step back and imagine that you are your customer. Eliminate all the assumptions that you may have about your products or services and try looking through the eyes of a customer. Be as honest as you possibly can to answer these questions. Analyze the answers and see which areas you may improve upon, maybe change or try new things.
- Do you like your product or service?
- Do you like/dislike the quality of a product or service? Why?
- Who needs your product or service?
- What are the positive & negative aspects of your product or service?
- Is the price worth the value of that product or service? Why?
- How your product/service is different from your competitions’?
- What can be improved?
- Are your products or services easy to find? Are they in the right places?
- Ask your staff and customers. Sometimes people, who work directly with customers or sell products or services, can give you a good insight about the situation. Talk to your people and customers, ask questions, and ask for their input. Make sure you make them feel safe no matter what they say or share; do not turn that information against them. People are much more willing to help and share information when they know they are safe and can participate in the decision making process.
- Observe the process. Before you jump into conclusions and assume what issues or positives might be, observe the work flow. If you sell products or services, observe employees’ behavior with customers, their attitude, verbal and body language, etc. Also, see how your staff interacts with each other; observe and determine if there are any issues there. If you have cameras in your office, review the recordings, especially on those days, when you are not present. Occasionally employees demonstrate different behaviors when the boss is not present than when she or he is. Watch for excellence too and do not by any means let great performance go unnoticed or acknowledged.
- Analyze Competitors. If your business is not doing well, see how your competitors are doing. Are they in down time too or are they selling a lot? Analyze their services / products. What are they doing the same or different? As a customer, what do you like or dislike about their processes and why? What could the competitors improve upon? By analyzing your competition, you may find new or better ways to run certain processes. Sometimes a very small adjustment may turn around a business.
- Evaluate Results. Gather and aggregate all the information. Look for things that stand out and common things across the company. Consider breaking the results into:
- Need Improvement
- Need to be eliminated.
- (You may add other criteria based on your needs.)
- Develop an Action Plan and Act. There is no point of gathering and analyzing information and not acting upon it. If you feel resistant or not open to changes, then do not waste your or others’ time. Otherwise, collect the information, determine the areas or issues that need to be tackled in, and develop a plan how address them. Be realistic and as detailed as possible. It would be an advantage to use a person with instructional design skills (if you have one on your team); this would enable you in developing a more accurate plan and action steps. When developing a plan:
- First, write down the bullet points what areas need to be addressed (at no particular order).
- Then determine the most critical areas or issues and prioritize them. Identify the top 3 things that you need to be working in the nearest future (3-6 months).
- For the top 3 things you have identified, develop actions/tasks on how the issues will be addressed. For example, you have identified that a product is not selling as well as you want. You may want to think about some action steps to figure out why this is happening and think of actions to determine:
- the quality of that product,
- how it is being advertised,
- employees’ opinion about the product (there might be a possibility that some employees prefer other products and therefore not offering that one as much to customers),
- customers’ opinion and knowledge about the product,
- reasons why you want to sell the product and the value it brings among other products.
Actions and steps may vary depending on a situation and needs. When you figure out what is happening and why, adjust the workflow and processes accordingly and move on to the next issue and area that needs to be addressed. Repeat the process with every step.
Of course, this is just a rough map to turn your business around, but this is a great start.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL, WHO WILL HELP YOU TO GET WHERE YOU WANT TO BE
A consultant would use a similar process when analyzing your business. He or she will look at the processes, people, services/ products, analyze what is working and what is not, and will work with you to come up with an appropriate path to success.
4 reasons to hire professionals to analyze & improve your business:
- Experience. Business consultants or coaches are doing this for a living. Usually they have analyzed businesses in the past and know what, how, when, where, etc, when it comes to developing and growing businesses.
- Knowledge. They have gained knowledge, skills, and abilities through training and experience. They know how to determine and eliminate the real cause, not the symptoms (problems or issues you are experiencing) and will show you opportunities that will help you grow.
- Tools & Resources. A consultant can provide you with a number of tools and resources to help you eliminate issues or to improve results.
- Results. Based on statistics, on average, businesses improve their sales, productivity, effectiveness by 25% with the help of a business consultant. Moreover, you will receive an objective and unbiased opinion from someone who is not involved in your day to day business.
Here are couple examples.
Could you think of reasons why you take your clothes to a dry cleaner? Most likely, you will use this service if you do not have time to do the cleaning yourself, if you do not know how or do not have tools and knowledge to do this task.
How about personal trainers? Oftentimes people hire them because they have an extensive knowledge of human anatomy, training techniques, or possible injuries and how to avoid them, etc. Another very big part is that a trainer will hold you accountable and provide you with a constant support so you can achieve the results you want.
There are several things you need to know when hiring help:
- Cost. Expenses are an inseparable part of business development and growth. If you want to grow, expand, and see results, you will need to invest either time or money or sometimes both; you will need to invest in marketing, hiring new staff, adding new processes, or acquiring new tools. If a consultant or a coach is good at what he/she does, you may need to pay a little more to hire that person. You may think that you could save money by hiring someone less expensive. True. But let me ask you this, what kind of quality would you be getting for less? Before you make any of decision, always know your numbers, how much you can allocate for the further development and growth and the value of that. Also, can you afford not to grow?
- Quality. Do not sacrifice the quality of work over the money spent. Though there are some exceptions, most of the time the best quality of products or services will not be the cheapest. Therefore, when hiring someone, take many things into consideration (e.g. knowledge, experience, past results, personality match, etc). Think this way, if you know you have a great product, service or maybe knowledge that can help many people or businesses, wouldn’t you want to have an adequate price to show the value? You should, if you are not doing this yet. Therefore, relate the value of your investment to the ROI you may be getting.
- Personality match. Let’s say you know someone who is very knowledgeable and experienced, and the cost is acceptable. You also need to make sure that you can actually work with that person as sometimes personalities clash and you cannot work together. Have you ever had a friend or a coworker that you just could not get along with? This happens in business too. So just be aware of that and if your and a consultant’s personalities do not match, then you simply find another business partner.
In conclusion, ultimately it is your decision which route to take in eliminating issues or improving and growing your business. No matter what your decision is, make sure that you as a business owner or manager can “step aside” and see your business from a different perspective. You need to remember to clearly know where you are and where you want to go.