5 Steps to Getting Your Business Back on Track

tab-croissance-1080x675One of the biggest challenges I find many small business owners face is dealing with complacency. When a new business first starts out, owners are overcome with excitement with every forward step. But at one point or another, the excitement of the early days starts to slow down, and eventually your company may begin to experience a plateau.

A stagnant business is one that faces little to no new activity for an extended period of time. Complacency tends to come from sticking with the status quo and getting used to your business’s “comfort zone”. Many business owners adhere to the mindset of “if it was working for the first 5 years, why change it now?” The truth is, sometimes change is exactly what you need to revitalize your business and get it growing again.

If you’re facing complacency in your business, below are 5 steps for revitalizing your business to get it back on track for growth.

1) Find out what your customers want

A lack of understanding about what your customers truly want from your business can be detrimental to your small business. This is why engaging in market research is essential to drive your company’s growth. Have you had a conversation with your customers to find out what needs are being met, and what needs aren’t? By hiring a market research company or a marketing agency with a specialization in market research to conduct unbiased market research, you will be able to gain invaluable information about your customers as well as your competitors. Once you’ve done this research, you’ll have a much better idea about how you can fulfill your customers’ needs to the best of your ability.

2) Focus on increases in certain sectors and products

Your industry landscape changes at such a rapid pace, and as a small business owner, it’s important that you keep up-to-date with it. Look at projected growth sectors to get an understanding of which products or services are headed for long-term growth, and which ones are on the decline. Some may be obvious, but others may not be so apparent. This is why it’s crucial to take the time and do proper research. Once you have a better idea about the projected growth rate of certain sectors, consider shifting your business model to become more aligned with these industry changes.

3) Re-examine former revenue sources

While focusing on changes in the industry landscape is important, equally important is looking at what has traditionally brought you revenue. After the first few years of your business, you may have lost focus on areas that were once reliable sources of revenue for your company. Have you steered your attention towards niche areas as a result of increased demand, and lost sight of your more dependable revenue sources? If your business has stalled, one of the first things you should do is gauge whether or not you have neglected some of your core competencies at the expense of chasing something new.

4) Review your company’s operations

I’ve found that many small businesses do not focus enough time and energy on their internal operations. Often, owners struggle to let go of the “startup” mindset they once had. This is a shame, as a company’s internal operations can have a huge influence on the productivity of their business. As your business grows, it’s important you grow with it. In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of delegation. Are you delegating work where necessary? Have you considered outsourcing certain tasks to allow you to focus on growing your business?

5) Create a plan

The only way you will be able to properly execute the above steps is if you have a solid plan in place. It’s essential you know exactly what resources are required and how much time and energy is needed to accomplish what you want done. Understanding these two key areas will allow you to set realistic short-term and long-term goals for your business. Remember, making any large-scale changes to your company takes time, so patience is needed to see through your goals.

It is important to keep the momentum going in order for your business not to stall. Although complacency is a frustrating obstacle to face, it is quite common. By following these 5 steps on how to revitalize your business, you’ll be equipped with the confidence to move forward and make the necessary changes needed to get your business back on the track you want it to be.

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Silent Leadership

quiet.jpgWhen most people are asked the question, “what makes a great leader?” the responses are predictable, with a list of qualities that most often includes confidence, charisma, and energy. But there is a whole other type of leader that tends to be forgotten: the silent leader.

What exactly is quiet leadership? Simply put, it is the ability to inspire, motivate, and encourage through action instead of words. While a boisterous leader may have the right effect in some cases, they are certainly not the right fit for every company or team. Fortunately, anyone can adopt a quiet leadership style by practicing a few important behaviours that I’ve detailed below:

  1. Effective Listening
    • An ability to listen to others and actually hear what is said will ensure everyone feels respected and has ownership in the work of the company.
  2. Honesty
    • To be a successful quiet leader, your employees must trust you implicitly. Being truthful will ensure loyalty from your followers.
  3. Transparency
    • This goes hand in hand with honesty. While remaining quiet, you must still ensure you are open and approachable to your team.
  4. Modesty
    • Even as a leader, you do not put yourself above your team. You hold yourself to the same standards and accountability as your employees.

Keep in mind that although a quiet leader may be in the background a lot of the time, they still have an air confidence about them that people respond to. Leading by example and not just “talking the talk” can be the best way to motivate your staff. When you build the right relationships with your employees, you will find that you no longer have to be loud in order for them to listen.

Have you ever adopted a quiet leadership style within a team? Was it successful? Please share your experiences in the comments!


3 Reasons Why Delegation is Important in Your Business

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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.


Did 2015 Measure Up to Your Business Plans for the Year?

measureRemember back in January of this year, when your vision for your business was fresh and clear in your mind, when your business goals and objectives had a well-defined path to achievement? If you are like most business owners, your vision may have remained the same, but the execution and delivery to meet your goals and achievements was not exactly how you had planned. This is typical of most businesses, as our plans cannot possibly allow for unpredicted circumstances, whether positive or negative.

In preparing for the New Year, I encourage you to take the time to reflect on this past year and start preparing your plans for the New Year by considering the following questions:

  • Revisit the tracking of your business plan and any other planning documents including your action plan, and review last year’s goals. Did your business accomplish what you set out to do? Why or why not? Write a list of all the company’s major accomplishments for the year (or lack of them). These will be handy when you do your business planning for the current year.
  • What barriers prevented you from reaching your goals? How can you avoid them or prepare for them in 2016?
  • What is the key area you want to improve on in 2016? What steps do you need to take to accomplish this e.g. hire more staff, expand into new markets, increase marketing/branding, etc.?
  • Are there things you might have done differently e.g. hired too quickly, expanded too quickly, didn’t hire fast enough, etc.?
  • Have you started a business plan for 2016 that includes writing your goals and plans for next year?
  • Have you created a budget for the next year if you work on a calendar year fiscal basis?
  • Have you reviewed your vendors and providers recently? Do you need new ones or replacements for existing ones? Review your list and score them, see where you might need to add or even get rid of any that are not providing you with added value.
  • Have you reviewed and updated your marketing and advertising plans? Make sure you consult with your internal or external marketing professional to ensure you are strategically placing your marketing budget to align with your business goals.

We all know how important business planning is, so before you break for the holidays, take the time to reflect and plan for the New Year. You know the cliché: businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail.

Kick the New Year off with a clear plan with attainable goals and remember to take time off over the holidays and enjoy time with your family and friends. Thank you for following my blog over the past year. Happy Holidays.


Five Tips to Making This Year More Profitable

speaker-2Have customers stopped caring or is there little for them to care about?  How can your business continue to thrive in this increasingly confused marketplace?

As business owners, we all ask ourselves these questions, so to kick off the new 2015 business year, we invited a business speaker, Curt Skene, to present to over 100 business owners across Ontario and try to provide some concrete answers to these key questions.

The actual presentation was called Insights for Attracting and Sustaining Profitable Business, and I’d like to share with you my learnings and top five tips on how to make 2015 your best year ever:

  1. Know Everything About Your Customer: Sometimes we don’t ask our customers questions, and sometimes we don’t ask them the right questions. We all know customers are 100% of our business, so make sure you understand them better by asking them thoughtful questions about their business and then turning that into an opportunity to align yourself with their business.
  2. Provide a Solution Not a Service: Think about what problem your business solves for your customer. If you are an RMT, are you trying to reduce stress or relax muscles…or both? What exactly is the solution you offer and start thinking in those terms when describing your business. It needs to be a value-based solution.
  3. Create a WOW in Your Business: Do you know what creates a WOW for your customer? If you don’t, find out by asking them. Your customers chose you when there are so many other companies bidding for their attention. Why? Find out and then leverage it in your marketing strategy.
  4. Have a Hero: It may seem trite, but these days more than ever, we all need to have a hero, a mentor, someone alive or not, to whom we can align our own thoughts and values. A good example was Mayor Rudy Giuliani who when faced with the atrocities of September 11th, recalled his hero Sir Winston Churchill for guidance and strength to help him manage this crisis.
  5. Leverage Your Network Better: We all know hundreds of people and thanks to social media networks, we all know far more than we think we know. Take the time to tap in to your networks, family, friends and social media, to see who you know and how you can “connect”.

While growing your business is important, it will never grow if we don’t take the time to focus on who you are and who your customers are. Sometimes this means conducting market research, but the more you know, the more you can grow!

How well do you think you know your customers? When was that last time you surveyed your customers (and not with a printed or electronic survey)? Do you think of your business as helping your customers? If not, then why not? Let me know in the comment section below.


What’s The Difference Between Managing & Coaching?

coach-pwpIn the world of business, I’ve noticed that the term “managing” and “coaching” are often mistakenly interchanged, especially in more informal settings between two parties in the workplace. So what is the difference between these two roles, and are we channeling our managing skills when we should be coaching and vice-versa?

When we think of the word coach, we might initially picture a sports coach- energetic, passionate and shouting encouragement from the sidelines. How does this differ from our perception of a manager? Perhaps we associate a manager with a work setting, and an exchange of instructions or expectations between a senior individual and his or her direct report.

While the roles often become blended in the workplace, what are some of the key differences between a manager and a coach?

  • Coaching requires relationship development: In order to be an effective coach, a relationship of trust, respect and interest in the others’ success is required between two individuals.
  • Managing is directive, coaching is teaching: A coach provides tools and skills to assist the individual achieve the outcome. A coach will allow the individual to make decisions, cultivate their creativity and learn by doing. A manager provides instructions and monitors performance.
  • Managing is often task-oriented and individuals perform their tasks to meet specific project outcomes; Coaching is long-term and involves supporting already high-functioning people to achieve both the goals of the project and improve their individual skills

There is nothing inherently better or worse than being more of a manager or a coach, however, you will find that different situations call upon you to apply qualities that are specific to one role or the other and being aware of when it is best to coach or to manage is a skill on its own.

When to manage:

  • A crisis or high-stress situation: Managing would be best employed in a situation where a specific outcome needs to be realized and employees or colleagues may require direction instruction and follow-up.
  • Individual who is learning a new role and still developing skills: More hands-on management is required for new employees in order for them to understand the workplace culture and a manager’s expectations for performance.

When to coach:

  • High functioning work team: High functioning individuals already know the expectations of their roles and are competent performers. They require support and vision from their coach and they are motivated to perform their best because they have the trust of their coach.
  • When mistakes can lead to constructive learning: When the situation allows you to take risks, a coach will allow their employees to employ trial-and-error tactics and potentially make mistakes to discover the best way to accomplish something. This ultimately leads to greater learning, understanding and ownership over a project.
  • *Most of the time: As a coach, you are encouraging initiative, learning and the development of a personal style, which not only helps you achieve the goals of your company, but fosters motivation and productivity in the workplace.

Can you identify times when you have been a coach or a manager? What other situations require a more managerial approach? I look forward to your thoughts below.


What Kind of Networker Are You?

are-you-a-great-networkerMy last blog focused on the importance of business networking as a tool that can be used to build your business’ brand and expand your professional contacts. Finding your fit and incorporating networking into your business plan and regular schedule can greatly increase the benefits of taking part in different networking functions and platforms.

Your next step is to uncover what kind of personality you adopt when in a networking situation. Do you make the first move? Are you a card collector? Find out what your networking style is from the descriptions below.

The Observer: You often hang back in networking situations and soak up what is going on around you. You prefer one-on-one conversations, so you often engage in conversations with individuals who are seated at your table. Your professional network is small, but you are close with each individual contact. Try to find networking situations where one-on-one conversation is encouraged and focus on making solid connections with those you speak too. It’s about quality over quantity, after all. Make sure that you commit to following up with connections made.

The Reactor: You are open to making as many connections as possible, but you prefer to be approached rather than make the first move yourself. You prefer to look for some kind of connection or association with someone rather than completely cold contact. You also like to follow-up with someone about specific questions or information rather than a general or vague follow-up. Because of these tendencies, don’t worry about bothering potential contacts, because your subtle approach and specific questions do not come on too strong.

The Socializer: As a socializer, you are looking to make a friend in any situation. You are good with faces and names but not as strategic in understanding how you can create mutually beneficial business connections. Because of your social, friendly, nature, adopting more systematic follow-up after networking events will complement your strengths and make networking worth your while.

Initiator: You are an active networker, but take a balanced approach to forming professional connections with people. You seek diverse networking opportunities that fit your style and include others in conversation. You are an excellent relationship builder in that you seek to understand others’ perspective and unique selling point and contribute useful information to conversations. As an initiator, you understand the difference between selling and helping and seek to make long-term relationships with others.

Director: A director is strategic and methodical about networking. You are very present in a variety of networking circles and your name pops up a lot in different settings. Make sure that your networking efforts are focused and you approach networking as a means to relationship build versus solely trying to expand your network. When you make people feel valued, they are more willing to engage with you and your message!

Every networking personality has unique strengths – which category do you fall under? Which personality do you prefer interacting with? I look forward to your thoughts below.