I’ve seen it time and time again, business owners, whether they own an accounting, engineering firm, marketing agency or IT company, are left feeling vulnerable due to the feast and famine of income streams.
When I meet with business owners they share with me their concerns about their struggle for consistent revenues; one month the financials look great, but next month, they are not on target and they begin to stress about making enough income to cover their expenses. Sometimes this cycle is endless and it can take a toll on the many business owners striving for income predictability and growth.
When a business experiences the feast or famine scenario, things like hiring staff for a project today in hopes that there is work for them tomorrow can result in more stress and pressure on the owner to bring in more business.
Owning a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but so often business owners are conflicted with decisions about hiring the right staff, committing to paying rent for the appropriate space, investing in office equipment and technology, not to mention marketing. Without consistent and predictable revenue it is hard to make long term plans that will allow owners of professional services businesses to accomplish their goals.
If you are interested in learning about a professional business that will put an end to this feast or famine scenario but still give you the freedom to own a business, check out this website or simply contact me to discuss your situation.
I work with many business owners who are very often so focused on customer acquisition that they forget about how important and cost-effective customer retention is. According to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
One strategic business approach that I often recommend is to go deeper with the clients you have rather than invest the time to attain new ones. I’ve outlined below several tips to help you improve your customer retention rate:
Are your customers leaving you? If you want to improve your customer retention rate, you need to be aware of how many customers are leaving (the churn rate) and determine what is causing them to leave. Ask yourself what as a company you are doing that is causing your customers to leave.
Customers don’t buy from companies; they buy from people. 60% of all customers stop dealing with a company because of what they perceive as indifference on the part of salespeople (Peppers and Rogers Group). Have your salespeople become complacent? Are you making an effort to make your customers feel valued or do you take them for granted? Are you rewarding your loyal customers for their business?
Listen to your customers. Talk to your customers – after all, they chose you. Invest the time to ask them how they feel about your products/services. Understand what they are looking for and what their plans are for the future. Personal relationships are powerful and inspire loyalty. The customer experience is key to your success.
It’s not all about price. Companies are often totally focused on being the lowest cost provider. While being competitively priced is very important, there will always be someone who can come in at a lower price. Price alone won’t keep your customers; delivering the best value will. Value is a combination of price, trust, customer service, delivery, relationships and support.
Has your company lived up to expectations? It’s one thing to win the business; it’s another thing to keep it. Make sure your brand has delivered on its promise and your product/service meet or exceed expectations. Take a look at creating a great customer experience. Managing customer expectations is an important part of customer retention. Set realistic expectations. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.
Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Communicating with your customers will keep you top of mind. Remember, there is always going to be someone lurking in the wings to swoop in and steal your business. Find out how often and by what channels your customers want to receive information. Always address your customers’ concerns immediately. If you make a mistake, own it and fix it. Your customers will appreciate your honesty and your efforts.
Do you prize deliverables over results? Every deliverable must be able to show a measurable result that will positively impact your customers’ business and help them achieve their goals and objectives.
Bonus Tip: Conduct an exit interview. There is no company in the world that retains 100% of their customers, no matter how good they are. If one of your customers is leaving, take it as an opportunity to improve. Conduct an exit interview to learn why they’re leaving. This information is extremely valuable and can help you to make changes in order to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Are your customers leaving you? Want more advice on customer retention, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
Every day, thousands of millennials are entering the workforce for the first time. Now, many small business owners are considering hiring these individuals and asking what they need to consider before they opt to hire them.
There is no denying that the millennial generation is much different than the generation of workers that has come before them. This means that as a small business owner, you’ll need to make some changes to your business culture in order to accommodate the very unique needs of this particular group.
I’ve outlined a few key items you might want to consider before hiring millennial workers to ensure success for both your company and your potential millennial hire.
Millennial workers, unlike any other generation before them, are keen on the idea of having office hours that suit their personal needs. How flexible are you willing to be with your office hours? When interviewing potential millennial candidates, ask about their work schedule expectations. If you run a business that can only accommodate the hours of 9am to 5pm, then you can expect a millennial may not find your opening suitable to them.
- Millennials want to be valued
Millennials need a great deal of validation from and communication with their supervisor/manager to let them know how they are doing, and to give them praise (preferably in a group setting) when they have done a good job. In the workplace, this may require more of your time and attention. They want to be noticed for their work and you will need to be available to give them ongoing feedback. Do you have the time to provide them with ongoing feedback and praise? If not, a millennial may not feel valued in your office.
- Company Culture
Millennial workers are expecting an inclusive and exciting company culture that promotes social relationships and fosters innovation. If you have other millennial staff, or see your company hosting social nights or team-building activities, a millennial might fit in well. Their need to work and collaborate with a team is key to their success. Is your office made up of employees aged 45+? If so, a millennial worker might feel like an outsider and have trouble fitting in.
There is no doubt this new generation of workers are the future of business, and they have so much to offer, but we need to learn how to accommodate their needs if we are to add them to our workforce.
Regardless of whether a business is seeking to satisfy a major increase in demand, or strengthen its competitive position, growth is a vital step in the development of any business. From hiring employees and increasing office space to increasing production, expanding services or extending product lines there is a lot to consider. Growing your business requires you to take a bit of a leap. Look for these signs before you look to grow your business:
1. You are being approached by potential clients
When you find that you are receiving request and inquires from customers and clients, this is usually a sign that you are in a position where growth is possible. Your brand has now gained just the right amount of exposure to for growth to take place.
2. Your team is strong and ready to grow
It is vital to know if your company has the right staff in place for growth to be possible. Valuable leaders are important however, having a strong team of employees who are experts at what they do and are committed to your business, is crucial in the growth phase.
3. You have the necessary funds for growth
Knowing your sales cycle and what income you can expect on a regular basis will ensure that you do not experience a shortage in cash flow during growth. It is important to know this as you will not be able to successfully grow if your sales do not match with your income. Measure this before you grow.
4. You are personally ready to grow
Are you ready for the commitment that comes with growing a business? If you are not prepared, business growth can have affect your personal well being as well as your family and daily life.Your business may be ready for growth but it can only be successful if you are ready for it. Experts say business owners should assume a 12 month adjustment period to achieve normal balance in the business after a growth spurt.
5. You have realistic expectations
Know what your business can handle. It may be difficult to not get carried away if you’ve mastered a particular market or excelled in a specific area. You may think you have everything you need to do exactly this all over again but be realistic in what you hope to achieve and what you can handle. Consider the economic benefits, your existing infrastructure and current resources to evaluate if you will be trying to take on too much at once.
6. You have met and continue to meet set goals
Stop making excuses for failed goals and instead find alternate ways to meet them. Doing this will encourage confidence throughout all levels of your business and help overall growth in the long run.
If your business is growing, you’re doing something right. It’s also important to understand that growth is a disruptive force. A period of substantial growth will influence every single aspect of your company, which is why you need to adopt a strategic mindset.
It is impossible for both the owner of a large corporation or a small business, to be everywhere at once. Keeping track of business functions including payroll, inventory, managing staff, business planning and analysis cannot be done by one person alone. According to recent industry stats, 70% of individuals in leadership roles are uncomfortable transferring their responsibility to a subordinate and less than 30% of companies today provide training to enhance the leader’s delegation techniques.
As you begin your business, taking on all of the tasks may be a reality however as you grow, you will have less time to spend on things that need your attention. Spreading yourself too thin and trying to have your efforts in every area of the business will not serve you well and you will be risking the true potential of the business.
At this point delegation, or distribution of responsibilities to employees, is needed. Delegating work allows you to offload responsibilities to employees and allows you to focus on larger business matters. Here are a few reasons why I believe delegation is important in any business:
1. Expands the capabilities of the company
Delegation creates a chance to progress and grow the company. Through delegating, you can develop new divisions or departments of the company. New divisions and department can create new positions allowing those that are qualified to move up and advance their career in your business. As this happens your business will grow in all directions.
2. Frees up the leader to address higher value activities
By delegating tasks to employees, you as the owner, are able to attend to critical business functions and address areas that matter the most. Some of these may involve future planning of the business, developing your business strategy and analyzing your performance. By putting delegation practices in place, the business as a whole will grow and efficiency within the organization will improve.
3. More responsibility for employees means overall business growth
Delegation helps not only the manager or owner of the company keep good business order but also helps employees to feel important and responsible for their own actions and responsibilities. Having employees responsible for their own tasks gives them a sense of purpose and drives them to perform at their best, as it is their name on the line. Giving them a sense of entitlement allows your business to flourish as this applies to all levels of staff. Delegating tasks to employees is a great way to motivate the team and keep them moving up in your business.
Retaining quality employees allows for successful business. Delegating and allowing employees to take on more responsibility allows them the opportunity to develop and grow in their career and it allows you as the owner to put your efforts where they matter most – growing your business.
Whether you’re considering selling your business, or are just interested in knowing how to put a value on your investment, the evaluation process can often prove difficult.
There are a number of factors you might want to consider when evaluating your business’ net worth.
Your team, assets, processes and recurring revenue are key factors in evaluating your business when reviewed with the net earnings and cash flow. These key factors help to reduce the buyer’s risk and significantly increase the multiple used in the transaction and the total company value. Ultimately, the business is worth whatever the buyer thinks it’s worth, but you can estimate your value by looking at several different factors including the ones I’ve shared with you below:
Consider your team
When evaluating the value of your business, it is important to include the key employees and management team. Buyers generally require a strong management team to continue to run the business and are concerned with your own knowledge of the business — relationships, processes and ideas. They’ll question what the impact will be on the company if the owner is no longer operating the business.
Look at current business processes already in place
A business process is a set of steps or tasks that you and your team use repeatedly to create a product or service, reach a specific goal, or provide value to a customer or supplier. When processes work well, they can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction. This is an ongoing process, but ensure you have a plan in place to document all of your processes. This allows a buyer to see how you process your offerings and allows them to see what is involved in the operations of your business and can show your business is independent from you.
Assess the recurring revenues
Recurring revenue is predictable revenue that can be expected to continue in the future. It makes a company more stable and certain, both operationally and financially. Having recurring revenue as a portion of your total revenues lowers the risk associated with a company’s operations, and can help your company withstand a hiccup in sales. Establishing recurring revenue isn’t only good for business – it ensures you’ll get the maximum value when it comes time to sell.
Evaluate hard & soft assets
A company’s assets are an important factor to consider when determining value. There are hard assets, such as equipment, furniture, and inventory, and there are soft assets, such as patents, trademarks and software. Consider if all of your business’ assets are for sale or if you plan to include accounts receivable and inventory. Hard assets have value, which can be calculated by estimating the resale value of your equipment, furniture, and inventory. The value placed on soft assets such as patents, trademarks and software, can be a greater proportion of the total value of your business than is the value of tangible assets.
Evaluating your business properly is not a simple undertaking since it concerns several factors, many of which are hard to quantify. It is recommended that business owners looking to sell their business consult with an expert in order to reach a realistic estimated price, but the factors noted above will have a significant impact on the price a buyer will be willing to pay.
Recognizing and assessing business opportunities is an integral part of being a business owner. Although opportunities can help grow and develop a business, taking advantage of the wrong opportunities can be detrimental. Many of the discussions I frequently have with my members revolve around assessing opportunities and determining if they should be acted upon.
The Importance of Qualifying an Opportunity
Considering all angles of a situation will allow you to see the full picture. Business owners can find themselves focusing only on the potential success of a venture and they often don’t take the time to qualify the opportunity. Use caution as there is a tendency to “jump” at an opportunity. Be sure to assess the details carefully in order to confidently weigh the possible benefits against the risks and costs that could arise later. You might want to consider having a trusted advisor or mentor review the opportunity to help you weigh pros and cons or shed light on aspects that you may have missed.
How do you define an opportunity within your business?
Outline expectations that define what an opportunity means for you. This may differ for every industry but it will help to recognize an opportunity when the time comes. Is an opportunity a sale, a discussion, an invitation to an event? What defines an opportunity for you?
How do you assess if you should take advantage of an opportunity?
Opportunities can open new doors and help create new connections. When considering opportunities, ask yourself if taking this opportunity will distract you from the main direction of your business. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages against your expectations and objectives for your business.
Conduct research about your market and your competitors, and where possible, engage current and potential clients who may be able to provide insight on a venture’s viability. Being informed can prepare you for making a decision on whether or not you should seize the opportunity.
How can you generate new opportunities for your business?
One of the many things I always remind my members is to keep your eyes on the horizon, what trends are taking shape, and where your industry is headed. Being a forward thinker will allow you to look for and seize opportunities even before they present themselves!
Identifying and taking advantage of opportunities is not an easy task. As opportunities may mean something different for every business owner, defining what an opportunity means to you and staying focused on your goals can make a world of a difference when opportunity knocks.
Do you feel every opportunity is a good opportunity? How do you assess the opportunity? I look forward to hearing your responses!