Five areas to lift your game

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Looking for some motivation to help take your business to the next level? Here are five areas worthy of your attention to ensure you're positioning your business for realistic growth.

1. Customer service

Most businesses start and grow on the back of the founder’s great customer service. It’s driven by passion for the product or the service and the customers who decide to patronise the business.

I find many single person operations, such as mortgage brokers, worry about growing their business because they don’t think they can replicate their service in other people.

In absolute terms they could be right but similarly, the new staff could be better than them! Over the years, I have been astounded by business owners who treated me like dirt and some even knew I worked in the media!

They don’t know what they have missed out on as many of my business stories in print, on the radio and television have come from being wowed by a business with great customer service. 

Of course, it doesn’t happen by accident, and three things are essential for staff to be on par with the owner when it comes to customer service.

First, the owner has to be great at it to create a wonderful demonstration effect. 

Second, staff need to be trained with systems, scripts and processes to look after customers. 

Third, the boss has to create a happy business.

Put this together and even a one-time drongo staff member could learn to cut the mustard.

Here’s a question to consider. How are you training your staff on customer service?

2. Word of mouth

The best form of advertising is the cheapest of all and that is word of mouth advertising but it doesn’t come from doing nothing. In fact, it requires an investment of time and usually money!

Kevin Stirtz who wrote Blow Up Your Business doesn’t believe people when they say they get all of their business from word of mouth referrals.

“Sure, word of mouth is a desirable way to get new customers,” he once said. “But too many business owners forget that word of mouth doesn't just appear out of thin air.”

He says you have to create it via marketing tools to tell people who you are and what you do and by delivering a ‘wow’ experience for your customers so they tell others.

Also you need to ask people – customers and staff – if they are happy to talk to others about how good your business is.

And I know a guy who seven years ago when iPods were new would send them to business customers after doing a good job for them. That was a cost but he certainly had people raving about him!

What marketing ideas are you putting into practice? Do you have a marketing budget? Are you tracking a return on your marketing dollar? Do you ask people how they found out about your business?

3. Cash flow

I recently was asked by a young person who was keen to start her own business what she had to do to avoid failing? The advice was to not be negative and ask yourself, what do I do to succeed?

Marketing guru Peter Drucker said great businesses innovate to get a market advantage and then they market that innovation. But I throw in one more imperative – become a cash flow expert. Be sensational at collecting your money. You have to be professional and take lessons from accountants, bookkeepers and debt collecting experts. Do your homework and remember you can survive a number of years without profit but you will be lucky to last six months with a negative cash flow.

4. Last year vs this year

As is always the case in business, you can’t kick back and wait for great things to happen. 

Ask these questions:

What did you do well last year?

What was a challenge last year?

What changes can you make to your business to make it run more efficiently and effectively?

Are you taking too much time working in your business rather than on it?

What do you hope to have achieved in your business this year?

Use these questions as a springboard to success this year.  

5. Networking

One of the cheapest and most effective ways of marketing your business is to simply get out more! Networking is a great way to market your business, generate leads and grow your business – the cheap way. However, too many small business people approach it as an amateur and they wind up with mediocre results. 

I have learnt that you need to do a number of things to be an A-grade networker. Have a great script that says what you do and why people should want to do business with you. Take plenty of business cards and ask for others’ cards when you meet people. Show interest in others and ask about their business. 

Meet lots of people and practice interesting ways to greet people. Don’t worry if you get the cold shoulder – just move on. The next day email all of the people you met and tell them it was a pleasure to meet them and if ever you can be of service just simply contact you.

What networking you are doing? To what extent are you engaging in social networking like Facebook? Are you posting tweets about your business on Twitter? It’s wise to investigate these online networking activities but make sure you do the old fashioned stuff well.

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