A business owner (Alan) informed me in a recent analysis of his business that he had been in business 15 years. I asked how long it took to become profitable. His reply, ten years! ‘Surely you were making a profit long before the ten year mark Alan’ I added with interest? Oh sure he replied. We made healthy $$ profits after just a few years. But real profit did not begin until ten years. (By this stage he had my attention!)
After ten years of business Alan pointed out that he walked out of the factory and into his office. ‘I had spent every day working with the staff on the coal face, they all knew their place and what to do, the level of return on staffing investment was okay until the day I decided to walk out, then it took off!’
The story is an intriguing one as many small business people find they are busy working in their business and not on it, here the business took off because Alan decided to have a break form his usual routine. ‘I decided to walk out as I was getting bored with things, I sat in the office and took a long lunch, I soon realised that I was not needed so I took the afternoon off a bold move for me.
The next day I decided to sit in the office and take a look at what was happening at the other end of proceedings, the sales and reception team were answering the phone in three or four rings, but I asked myself, what if we do it in two or three? And before long I had set an unconscious benchmark that we now follow, the customers often comment on the level of service.’
What happened to make it work?
By taking the break, Alan had discovered by accident that productivity picked up and the work got done without him being there. His life became more balanced and his relationship with his wife blossomed. It worked because he managed by walking away, the team felt empowered and responsible, if a problem arose they took action to rectify the situation and got the task done.
In time Alan’s team developed automatic systems of operation that ensure that the work flows well and any challenges are quickly overcome. The team is handsomely rewarded for their efforts and absenteeism is minimal.
Alan has also developed systems within the marketing and management side of the business to maximise the overall potential of the business. ‘We were working hard and getting no where until I discovered some simple systems to keep the ball rolling and clear out the bottlenecks that showed up from time to time.’ We created some simple procedures around each aspect of the business so that we could train staff quickly and consistently and soon reaped the rewards of a motivated and self assured staff member in no time at all.
A major area of concern for most business people, Alan says he made the task easy, ‘We create a super wish list (job description) of what we would like and before long the recruitment agency has found what we wanted.
Alan’s success is based partially around marketing more effectively. ‘When I first spent more time in the office, I started to become excellent at asking all kinds of questions, every sales rep that was selling marketing options was run through the wringer to find the real impact that marketing option had. We soon became excellent at hitting our target market and planning our marketing with ease.’
Being good at the knitting
By trusting his staff Alan found they became more responsible for the operational side of the business. ‘I had my doubts, but now I know they can be trusted and offer a range of suggestions for improving things at all kinds of levels. We make sure we have the latest knowledge of production methods and upgrade accordingly. We know our limitations and work well within these limits.’
Developing sales skills
‘Marketing is all about selling and service’ Alan said. ‘We aim to get the clients needs figured out quickly and deliver the goods in a shorter time frame where possible, imagine the looks on their faces when a two week deadline for a production run is done in a week and a half.’
Knowing what the future holds
Alan is confident that the future is rosy but does not rest on his laurels. ‘Business can change overnight and we need to be on our toes all the time, constant research in to new ideas and methods as well as investing the profits wisely has been great advice that I recommend to anyone in business. This gives us security and peace of mind.’
Clarity of communication – the key
The main key he mentioned regularly was the clarity of communication that had been built up between the staff and the clients, which meant the team had a great way of developing the service levels of the business.
If you want success in business Alan’s story is a great one to model on.