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Is Your Business Ready to Take Off?

Is Your Business Ready to Take Off?

In the last four blog posts, we’ve taken a deep dive into the stages of small business growth. You can begin reading this series here. Small businesses have five main stages of growth. The first one, the existence stage, revolves around the creation or the birth of the business. The second stage focuses on survival. During this stage, little to no profits are made, the business focuses more on staying alive and not counting too many losses when it comes to its resources. The third stage involves profit for the first time and the decision to expand or maintain the status quo. But, the fourth stage, called the Take Off stage is all about developing the business even further.

What is the Take Off Stage?

Your business has grown considerably, has achieved a sustainable amount of financial resources and attracted key managerial talent. Your primary concerns at this stage are not only to accelerate growth, but also to learn how to generate enough revenue to support that growth.

Is your business ready to take off? There are certain factors that can determine the answer to this question, most of which are discussed below. However, the key factor is your ability to manage both the people side of growth as well as the financial aspect of it. In some cases, you may be replaced by your board as a seasoned expert takes over to grow the business further.

Staff

Your staff work with your customers every single day and are the perfect candidates for giving input to the growth of your business. Without their input, you may deploy the wrong strategy or launch a product or service that your customers don’t want. Depending on how many resources have been used, the consequences could send your business back a few stages. It’s not only important to employ the right staff, but listening to their feedback is a crucial factor for the development of the business.

Cash Flow

Business becomes more complex in the Take Off stage. While you have competent staff, your systems are beginning to become strained by your growth so you bring on a Chief Technology Officer or systems project manager to refine them.

Maintaining the cash flow is important. However, what is more, important is using the cash in a way that moves the business forward. You’ll need to have a higher debt to equity ratio, and your tolerance for that is what drives forward progress or stalls it.

As you make decisions, you’ll consult with experts and put the right strategies in place with a cash flow plan to support them.  Throwing all cash resources into one all in strategy could potentially harm the business more than help it grow, so you’ll manage your new product lines and services accordingly.

Continuous Improvement

Keeping a positive attitude is another important factor in helping the business grow. It’s important to remember that everybody makes mistakes and that managers don’t have a way of seeing the future to determine which strategies will work and which won’t. Accepting others’ mistakes is something every owner should do to help create a great working environment where everybody can thrive.

To help your business grow and develop from the third stage to the fourth one, you need to make sure that:

  • You have experienced staff that you trust and who can come up with great strategies for your business to grow based on what your customers want;
  • You know how to use the cash resources coming in and not using them on one single strategy that promises to boost your business further; and
  • You know and accept that everybody makes mistakes, but at the same time, you expect the very best from the staff.

The Take Off stage often involves more self-discovery. How much risk are you willing to take? Are you the right leader? Can you handle higher levels of debt? With confidence and continuous learning, you’ll be ready when your company is. I’m here to help. Contact me today.

Delegate and Let Go – Overcoming Micromanaging Tendencies

Your job as a small business owner is to set the vision and course for your business, while ensuring the day-to-day

 

operations continue as planned. A strategic plan that sets out your goals, objectives, and timelines is necessary in order for you to gauge where your business is and where it needs to go. The steps in-between let you know if you are making appropriate progress or if you need to pivot. When you’re micromanaging, you’re not focused on the things that move the needle in your business. In order to focus on the future, you must delegate and let go. 

Start Small

Letting go of the reins can seem a bit overwhelming at first. After all, your business is the baby that you’ve raised from birth. Now that it’s time to graduate to the next level, letting others take on portions of your responsibility is like sending your first born off to college. It may help to start small and delegate smaller tasks first if you’re not used to letting go. This will prevent your employees from being overwhelmed with a lot of new tasks and will help you loosen the reigns while still setting the course. As employees display the ability to do the task that you delegated, move on to the delegation of larger projects.

Ask, Don’t Tell

After you’ve trained your employees, try not to nag them about how they’re performing the task. If you find an error, ask questions to see if they can find the error on their own. Then coach them and come to a joint decision as to how this task will be completed to avoid errors in the future. What works for you may not work for someone else. Everyone has their unique way of doing things, and their way may work better for them. If employees are ethical, getting results and meeting deadlines, then let them be.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Let employees have creative freedom and empower them to make decisions. You may be surprised to discover that this can foster loyalty and pride in their work. They may feel more empowered to provide new solutions and efficient methods of performing their role, which may free them up for additional tasks.

Don’t forget that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Use errors as learning and coaching opportunities to help build a strong and healthy working relationship that is beneficial to everyone involved.

Perform an Exit Interview

Any time an employee says they are leaving the company, ask them why. This can provide insight into issues that you’re unaware of. Perhaps your wages don’t compare to the same positions in other companies. Maybe they believe that the job is too difficult and that processes need to be improved. Perhaps the culture or environment that they’re working in is causing anxiety. Listen to what they’re saying. Then, ask other employees for their feedback and input into the stated issues so that you can improve the work environment.

It may be necessary to offer further training on job roles or teach a class on working with others and accepting differences in culture, sexuality or race. If you need advice to correct issues consider hiring a coach, mentor, or consultant to help you through the process.

As your business grows, you can’t be everywhere doing everything. Your job is to set the vision and direction while ensuring the smooth operation of your business. Don’t become a micromanager. If you are one, consider implementing a few of these tips to create a better working environment and a better business outcome. I can help you streamline your business processes. Call me today.

The Many Hats of Small Business Success

If you think that you only have to do what you’re good at, think again. Small business owners don’t have the luxury of sticking with one title.many hats They wear many hats. In addition to the CEO, you may have the office manager, accountant, videographer, marketer, cook and janitor title. If you want to spend the next year working on your business instead of in it considering following this advice and wear the right hat at the right time.

  1. Identify the responsibilities of each hat that you’re wearing and set specific goals for that role. Then, track your progress towards the goal throughout the year and assess whether or not you’re headed in the right direction or need additional help.
  2. If you need additional help, consider hiring or outsourcing the role in its entirety. It may be tempting to outsource only one piece of the role, but doing so is likely to cause more problems than resolve them. Giving one person responsibility and accountability for the role empowers them to own all aspects of it, reduces confusion and miscommunication.
  3. Once you assign responsibility to someone on your team, move to a mentoring role instead of a micromanaging role. Empower them to do more by giving them freedom to make decisions within the guidelines that you set up.
  4. Create a culture of open and real communication so that employees or freelancers know they can come to you when they see something that may end up hurting your business and ultimately impacting their job. Over time, you’ll find yourself with a capable, highly functioning workforce and one less hat to wear.

Regardless of the fires that are burning today, make sure to always make time to put your CEO hat on so that you can focus on leading your company. Hours often get consumed by the operations of today and strategic planning gets the left overs or nothing at all. Reverse that mentality so that you can plan for the future and wear the hat of success.

If you’re looking to get more efficient in your business next year, I can help you implement systems and processes that maximize your time and your employees time. Contact me to get started today.

 

When to Hire Employees in Your Small Business

You’ve worked real hard to improve your business, run it efficiently and have finally reached your capacity. Growing your business requires more than your efforts and making a decision to hire employees is often the right route to go. Before you put an ad on Craigslist, you need to articulate the job role, crunch the numbers and have a plan in place.hire employees

Articulate the Job Role Before You Hire Employees

Assess your current situation before you make a decision to hire. What areas of your business can you hand off to another person?

Generally, the first role that business owners fill is administrative. It’s good practice to have someone that can act as a hub for requests, office tasks and communications. This role is more than answering the phones and scheduling. Someone in this position could be given the responsibility to do light accounting, simple marketing pieces, advertisements, payroll and coordination. Administrators and personal assistants are usually multi-talented and can free you up to work on your business.

Whether you employ an administrator or not, it’s critical that you have clear job descriptions to get the most out of your staff. Set the expectation that the role will grow over time. Communicate that you expect your employees to take ownership of issues and resolve them, even if it’s not specifically in their job description. When you see positive ownership spirit, reward it accordingly.

Crunching the Numbers

After you’ve identified the role, you’ll need to determine what the market will bear for the tasks and where you’ll find the money in your budget. You can find general salary estimates from sites like Salary.com and Bureau of Labor. Remember that you’ll need to consider the minimum wage, payroll tax, required benefits and worker’s compensation in your analysis.

After you have an idea of salary requirements, you’ll need to estimate return on investment. With all of the time you gain back, how many more clients will you bring into your business? How many more units can you sell? Try to estimate how much extra business would be generated by getting the help you need. Then, write down your goal and make sure to revisit it later down the line.

Employee Types

You don’t have to hire a full-time employee immediately. Especially, if you’re having a hard time finding the budget allocation. Consider hiring someone part-time and then migrating to full-time as you see the return on investment. Outsourcing, freelancing and temporary hires are great alternatives as well.

In either case, you’ll need to invest time in the hiring process and then train the employee to proficiency. You’ll also have additional paperwork and records to keep track of, so be sure you’re prepared.

Ultimately, you may need to ask yourself if there are other ways to gain efficiencies, like using software to automate certain tasks or simply getting more organized. If you choose to hire employees, make sure you hire the right person with the right skills, experience, and education for the right job.

Are you making plans to hire? I can help you plan and make the most out of your time and money if you contact me today.

Confront the Brutal Facts: Good to Great: A DLB Consulting Book Study

In our last post we emphasized the importance of getting the right people on the bus. The right people are internally motivated and your job is to make sure they don’t get de-motivated. In this post we’ll discuss the importance of building a culture that confronts the brutal facts and where open and real communication exist. Confront the Brutal Facts

There’s a difference between having the opportunity to be heard and having your say. Great companies know the difference. To create a culture where truth is heard and problems are solved, consider the four basic practices that good-to-great companies employ.

Lead with Questions

As a leader you must be humble enough to admit that you don’t have all the answers. You weren’t anointed with a crystal ball the moment you got promoted or started your own business. You should ask questions and actively listen to responses. This will help you gain a better understanding of the message and lead to better insight.

Engage in Dialogue and Debate

Become a great moderator. Create an atmosphere where issues can be debated with facts and point-of-views based on information that’s presented. Ensure that all sides engage in the debate and do so respectfully. Then, make a decision and implement the solution.

 Conduct Autopsies

John Maxwell, author of Sometimes You Win—Sometimes You Learn, points out that experience isn’t the best teacher. Instead evaluated experience is. Leaders learn from past mistakes. They take responsibility for the mistake and take the time to truly understand the root cause. In other words, they learn.

 Build Red Flag Mechanisms

The information age brought with it the ability to share and receive data. You have access to this data just like your competitors. However, having data doesn’t do you any good unless you recognize it and then take action. Create a mechanism that allows your employees to raise a red flag when they discover a risk area to evaluate and mitigate.  You can use a physical red flag if you want to or you can simply create a process that enables it.

Confront the Brutal Facts

Good-to-great companies that employ these techniques face adversity with strength instead of fear. They focus on confronting the brutal facts with open and real communication. In the end, they cultivate a culture that drives the success of the company and those who are in it.

Which of the four basic practices discussed today will you employ to drive the success of your company?

Management By Walking Around

In our last post we considered different techniques to overcome resistance to Ownership Thinking. Another way that you can ensure that Ownership Thinking is propagating in your culture is to roam around the office and talk to your employees. This technique is called Management by Walking Around (MBWA), and was made popular in the 80’s by Tom Peters.

MBWA is a very simple concept.  Simply put, you walk around the office and talk to employees. This personal interaction helps you build relationships with those who are close to the work, and keeps you engaged with what’s happening in the organization. Suggestions regarding this method of management include:

  • Wandering around the office at least daily
  • Asking questions (Ask about Ownership Thinking too)
  • Sharing good news
  • Watching and listening without judgment
  • Inviting ideas and opinions to improve the company
  • Being responsive to problems or concerns
  • Giving public recognition
  • Providing help on the spot
  • Reinforcing the organization’s values

In your conversations, ask about the Rapid Improvement Plan in the area. Be careful not to ask close-ended questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Ask open-ended questions such as:

  • What is the Rapid Improvement Plan?
  • What is your role in executing it?
  • How are we doing against the goal?
  • What’s our celebration plan?
  • What are the key indicators that your department is focused on?
  • How are we progressing?

Employees become more engaged with Ownership Thinking when they observe that leadership is committed to the success. In your conversations you may find that some employees need more education or communication. Be sure to follow up quickly so that the motivation for Ownership continues to grow.

Will you be walking around the office this week?