Working with small business clients we often see struggles between the owner and their employees. The owner is great at what they do, but managing others they often lack the training and skill-sets required. Managing others in conducting your business can be challenging if you let it. As a small business owner with employees you can improve the effectiveness of you as a manager and ensuring employees are productive, efficient and effective. Management/supervision can be summed up in three primary activities; 1. Set Clear Expectations; 2. Reinforce Expectations; 3. Be consistent.
Setting clear expectations for what you expect from employees is the foundation for ensuring they understand and are able to complete tasks and duties as you want them to be completed. Never assume that employees fully understand your expectations without an explanation and better, a demonstration. For example; an administrative assistant is asked to create a spreadsheet of recent sales. Be clear in giving directions by starting with, "This is what I want it to look like" - showing an example or sketching it out on a piece of paper. "This is where the information comes from to complete the spreadsheet." When possible, demonstrate how to complete a line or two of the spreadsheet then have them complete one while you watch and coach them through the process. Always remembers that a majority of your employees will want to complete the work as you want it be completed, just make sure they fully understand what is expected.
Reinforce expectations with employees that appear to deviate from the process, or fail to meet your expectations. Do this quickly, don't wait for them to completely fail before you become engaged with them. Use a coaching approach to help motivate the employee. This not only helps them do better, but you save time, money as you won't have to correct work that is not what you expected. Not taking quick actions to correct improper work allows employees to develop bad habits that will be more difficult for them to correct the longer they fail to perform their duties adequately. For example; one of business owners noticed that his receptionist would answer the phone with a nice and polite, "Hello" instead of providing the business name and asking, "How may I help you?". He approached her with a coaching mindset, "You are so polite in answering the phone. That's great. Remember when answering the phone to say "Hello" just like you are doing but remember to say our business name then ask how you can help them. He made sure to listen out for the next few calls to ensure she understood.
Be consistent in setting your expectations and reinforcing them. Inconsistency is the common mistake managers make when working with employees. Being inconsistent in setting and reinforcing expectations sends mixed signals to employees, making it difficult for them to ensure they are working appropriately. In our training we warn managers and supervisors that being consistent with all employees, all of the time, not only reinforces expectations, it creates a happier work environment. What better job to have than to clearly know what is required to be successful.
Setting clear expectations, reinforcing them and being consistent will help you avoid disciplinary actions which are never fun for the owner/manager or the employee. Also, this will ensure that your business maintains a great presence with your customers.
There are many companies that advertise they will increase the visits to your website. Chances are you have received emails from "individuals' that have found issues with your website and they promise to increase the number visits to your website if you hire them. From our experience, the Pro's are they will increase visits to your website, the Con's are many of the visits are not real people, or not people interested in your business. In other words, increased website visits do not translate to sales.
It is important to understand some basic, key methods that web search engines employ for their users.
Geography - Probably the most important is relevancy of any web search you conduct as related to your specific location. Maybe you search for car repair. Chances are the search results will be for car mechanics near you at the time you conduct your search. Of course this is of great benefit for the user as they don't have to search through car mechanics that in California when they are in Georgia on the side of the road.
User information - Search engines also utilize information that is known about the user. This information includes geography, previous searches, and the type of sites you have visited in the past - which pages you opened the most based on a search. For example; yesterday you searched for "flower pots". Today you enter a search term, "10" pot". Chances are the results you receive from a search engine will be focused on flower pots instead of cooking pots, or crock pots.
Algorithms - Using various algorithms, based on the user, search engines scour the Internet for websites with the most relevant content to what they project will be what the user is looking for. This is a great advantage for the user as search results are focused on the user.
Getting additional traffic to your website is specific to the user conducting the search and the search engines interpretation of what the user is looking for. So if you sell flower pots, and you include keywords, site content specific to flower pots, you won't get web site visits for individuals looking for cooking pots. Employing a company to assist you in developing your website content so that users can find content specific to them is a great idea, but beware of companies that offer to increase your web site visits only.
Focus on your content, the text you use, and include location information if serving a specific area to help increase your web site visits by people that will be interested in what you have to offer rather than multiple website visits by individuals, or programs, that have no interest in your products. The goal is to have your website displayed in search results for users that have an interest in your products and services. A task that search engine providers are already working on.
If you are considering starting a small business the type of web page you should consider for your business can be a simple decision. Consider that your small business must have a web page. Why? Can you find your phone book right now? If you are going to try and find a business, more than likely, (over 85%), you are going to your smartphone, tablet or computer to find a business.
Here are some basic web page styles you should consider creating for your business:
All websites MUST!!!!!! No matter which website style you choose, you should include the following in your website creation:
Create a website for your small business that suits your business type. Change it up as your business needs change. Give thought and then care-and-feeding once your website is started to increase your chances to increase sales.
It doesn’t matter what type of small business you have, there are office tasks you have to complete to operate successfully. In this article we are going to discuss some key operations that you need to have in place to make your business run effectively, efficiently, and, most importantly, economically. We call this the three “E’s” to successful small businesses.
Method for tracking your business expenses and income. Maybe you are starting with only a few customers and keeping handwritten or developing your own spreadsheet seems sufficient. In time, as business grows, and your memory fades, you need to have a method to easily track your finances. Plan for business growth at the start with a method, or program that will meet future growth needs. Accurate financial records are needed for the dreaded tax season and to ensure you are being profitable. Several programs are available that are free and those you pay for, that will help you track your expenses.
Again, no matter the business you need the appropriate technology to operate your business. Technology includes devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, or technology specific to your business offerings. The list goes on and on and greatly expands depending on the business you have. It is critical that you budget for a technology refresh throughout the life of your business. As technology advances occur rapidly, you need to refresh your technology on a regular recurring basis, often every 3-4 years. Refreshing your technology improves efficiency. Reduced time waiting on slow computers, or having to develop work-around's where technology outpaces your existing devices.
Internet Presence & Management
In this category we include email, web pages, and even social media if you are so inclined. Having a business web page and social media presence increases your reach to customers. Those that do business with you on a regular basis, and potential new customers often look online for contact information, to learn more about your business. Forget the idea that having a web page will increase your business overnight. From our experience, word-of-mouth advertising, then being easily found on the web is what builds your business. Chances are you will need business email to send invoices, communicate with customers, and to receive information about your business.
In any small business you will have suppliers that provide services and products to keep your business going. Develop relationships, shop around for suppliers that can provide you with discounts. If you are a consultant that travels, consider using the same motels to get preferred status as well as business travel discounts, and ease of tracking travel expenses. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts in the beginning or if you have been a long time customer. Reducing your supply costs increases your profit margin.
Hard copy and electronic files need to be handled in a consistent manner to increase your efficiency, reducing time to locate what you need when you need it. Take time to develop a logical filing system, one that is not overly complicated. Include email filing as well. (See article on Email Organization) Include working methods that improve your effectiveness in accomplishing office tasks. Schedule time each day or a few times a week to focus on the filing and work systems to keep your business operating smoothly.
All of these ideas, or considerations, will help you operate your business effectively, and efficiently, which equals working more economically, saving you time and money. Set a reminder on your calendar every six months, maybe with a link to this article, to review each area presented and see where you can improve.
Outsourcing functions to operate your small business makes sense in some cases. As a small business owner, it is often difficult to let go of specific tasks, the thought of paying someone else to do something you feel you can do. Here are a few ideas to consider when trying to determine if outsourcing makes sense:
Outsourcing can make a lot of business sense to improve your business in several areas. Outsourcing will help you grow your business, increase customer satisfaction and provide you with time to focus on aspects of the business that are important to you.
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