Most businesses want to grow, even just a bit, it is not only in the DNA, but some scale makes life in most areas easier. So how do small businesses go about it?
4 basic strategies.
1. Empower the team.
Make every front line person as well as the office realise that their input and customer service is essential. It can be done, and it works. Bunnings is king of the hardware space, delivering great outcomes for Coles, whereas Masters has been a disaster for Woolworths, yesterday claiming the scalp of the MD Grant O’Brien. I shop at Bunnings a lot, drives me nuts, but at least their people their have product knowledge useful to a casual renovator, share it with you and smile. My two attempts at Masters have been different, and there won’t be a third. Whilst these are both large businesses, it is no different for a small one. Make everyone aware of the 8 moments of truth, and committed to improving them on each interaction that occurs.
2. Critical processes need to be documented.
This is not just to pass the various audits haunting us, but so that employees and everyone else knows what is important and what to do. Documentation makes for robust repeatable processes. The challenge becomes one of continuous improvement, as once a process is documented, it sometimes takes on a persona as being “done”. Within continuous improvement lurks the obvious but often overlooked fact that to improve you first need a stable, measured processes as the starting point for improvement. Documentation provides that starting point.
3. Automate repetitive tasks.
If the same thing is done regularly, in the same way, automate it. Then you get accuracy, reliability and cost reductions, and who does not want those. Often there is a cost up front, but taken in the context of the potential savings and productivity improvements they are usually small. The most common automation target is customer service. It can be very successful at stripping out costs, but go too far and customers go somewhere else. A “learning” FAQ function makes great sense for many, and make sure you do not lose the opportunity for the personal touch.
4. Make everything searchable.
Documents, emails, social media posts, everything that gets done should be in a central repository searchable by anyone when it is needed. The waste of having documents in silos is enormous, unnecessary and just plain stupid in this day and age.
The technology is now such that it is possible for small businesses to be significant global players in a narrow and deep niche should that be their objective, but even for the local businesses without those grand aspirations, scaling operations is a key consideration in the quest to maximise that other most important resource, your time.