Whether you are about to start a new business or are already running one, every now and then you need to take time to review where you are and where you are going. Perhaps the most crucial aspect is whether you are going in the right direction and how you can make sure you arrive at the point of success. Start with a checklist that should include the following areas...
Are you passionate about your business? If not, you’re probably in the wrong business and should think again. Unless you have that passion, you’ll be unlikely to weather the storms and come out smiling on the other side. With a passionate belief in what you are doing, you’ll find the perseverance and tenacity to continue, come what may.
Do you have one for where you want to be in five years time, and in ten years. This vision needs to sit in your mind while you mull over the different ways to get there. As opportunities arise, some aspects of it may change. All entrepreneurs need to be flexible so that they can take the right paths to success and turn aside from the ones that are not going anywhere. But the heart of your vision, for your future, reflects the uniqueness of you – and only you know what you really want.
Contacts are crucial for your business. If you’re worried about networking taking time from your day, join a business breakfast club and get it all over with early. These are springing up all over the place and members often make a point of doing business together.
It is equally vital that you don’t try to do everything yourself, for the business as well as your sanity. Many entrepreneurs have bitten the dust because they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, delegate or accept help. If you can’t afford a dedicated PA, and haven’t any family members who can help, check out the services of a virtual one. Assistants take the worry out of not being able to be in two places at once, not having the time to write follow up letters or emails, and so on. They can be worth their weight in gold.
Your Customer Relations
Do you keep records of what your customers purchase from you, be it products or services? Do you know how much they’ve spent with you, and how they’ve spent their money. Among the many benefits you’ll derive from this is that you can communicate with them personally, make them feel special to you. Which, of course, they are; if it weren’t for your customers or clients, you couldn’t continue in business. Communicating personally doesn’t mean you have to write a different letter for each person. You could, for example, have a standard letter with blanks to be filled, to thank them every time they’ve spent $1000, or whatever amount is appropriate for your business. Or you could send a personalised Christmas card or other celebration card if appropriate. If you can collect birth date details, a card on their special day could make them remember you when they next need to buy.
Do you have a procedure to make new customers feel welcome? This is not the time for impersonal surveys. What you need is a friendly smile and a helpful manner from you or your staff. Even on the telephone, or the internet, this can come across. You need a way to make them understand that you’ll do what you can to satisfy them and keep them happy. If anything fails to meet their expectations, you want to hear about it yourself, so that you can put it right.
Later, when they are established with you, is the time to go for a customer survey or to ask them to refer their own contacts. Then, if you don’t have a referrals reward scheme, a simple thank you is always appreciated. It can lead to more referrals, while a sense of being ignored means they’re unlikely to repeat their generosity.
Your Staff Relations
This is another crucial area, whether you have a paid workforce, rely on help from family and friends, or buy in temporary help now and then. Make people feel appreciated and you’ll have their loyalty. Involve them in decision-making, even in a small way, and they will set to with gusto to make those decisions work. If you work with enough people to form more than one team, encourage a little competitiveness. As long as the teams can be equally balanced, this can be an effective way to get maximum productivity.
If you have a suggestion box, don’t ignore anything posted in it. If it’s not feasible, make sure everyone knows why. If you hold regular brainstorming sessions, involve everyone from your second in command to the lowest office assistant. Some of the best ideas can come out of these, and you’ll get great satisfaction from seeing an office boy’s pride as the management team discusses his idea with him and turns it into a brilliant plan. As the boss, you will benefit too as his confidence soars.
Your Personal Check List
Every entrepreneur needs to take time regularly to review all these areas of their business and how they themselves are performing. But no checklist is right for everyone. You can probably think of other areas to add to your own list. So do make your own checklist and set an appointment with yourself to review it at regular intervals. Having a mentor with you will help if you’re not sure you can be totally honest with yourself, but just having your own thinking time is better than not doing it at all. Have your checklist to hand and take notes on action points as you go. Be sure to put your next self assessment in your diary before you finish.