Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Goal setting tips for your small business

With a new year now on the horizon, it's timely to reflect on some tips to help your goal setting for 2012 be as effective as possible.

You know that setting goals provides you with a reassuring sense of direction - which is essential during times of uncertainty. With clear goals and priorities you become less vulnerable to impulsive decisions or changing winds. You steer your course through stormy weather with much greater composure and purpose.
  1. Review the major achievements, disappointments and lessons for your small business in 2011 - this may influence how you approach 2012. As Churchill said "Those who fail to learn from history are forever doomed to repeat it's failures"
  2. Ensure you have established your long term goals and your broader business strategy before defining your 2012 goals
  3. Write down and record your goals - this is a display of more commitment
  4. Be mindful of the so-called SMART goal setting principles. S for setting some Stretch goals for the business (ie. they pose some challenge for you); M for Measurable, in other words they will have some mile-stomes attached to them which allow you to track your on-going progress; A for Achievable - you see them as within reach and "do-able"; R for Resources - you either currently possess or can obtain the resources necessary to achieve the goal; T for time-frame - you set a deadline to have competed the goal by (so that it's less likely to drag on ...... a deadline helps create a sense of some urgency for goal completion)
  5.  Ensure a sense of balance and set goals right across your business - not just focused purely on sales and revenue targets. For example, think about whether you might set goals in areas such as ... Upgrading technology or business systems . Staff training to improve skills in the team, Broadening your mix of customers (if you have too many eggs in one basket), Improving your network of contacts, Considering sponsorships to lift your business profile in your local community, Enrolling in a business management course to polish your own skills, Reductions in staff sick leave or absenteeism, Improve relationships with existing suppliers - or source new ones .......
  6. Be willing to re-assess your goals if circumstances change too drastically from when they were first set. Flexibility is just as important a business quality as determination. If your store were the victim of floods for example, then your goal of enrolling in that business course may have to be delayed in the light of the more pressing priority of focusing upon store refurbishment and recovery.
But when all is said and done with goal setting, what will ultimately count is the discipline you have with your follow-through.  Perhaps you can recall times in the past when you've been full of enthusiasm and energy, establishing New Year Resolutions for yourself, vowing to change bad habits or to commence a new diet, or to start jogging in the mornings....... And yet within the space of a few weeks you find yourself back to "same old, same old" and those resolutions are a distant memory.

A great article with some good advice on following-through with goals can be found at Performance Development Australia And if you are considering any type of self-improvement goal for yourself, have a look at Personal Development for more resources and ideas

Friday, December 23, 2011

Recruitment Tips for Small Business

When you run a small business, recruiting new staff can be a real hassle.

Whether you're recruiting because someone has resigned, or because the business is expanding, you know it's going to take precious time. And therefore, all the more reason to make sure you get it right. Here's seven recruitment tips that might take some of the pain from the process ......
  1. Recruitment agency. It's tempting to go through a recruitment agency, particularly if there is a local one and you've worked with them before. The advantage is they can save you a lot of time in advertising, going through heaps of applications, and of course in interviewing. They will send you perhaps three different people who you can select from. The disadvantage can be the cost - generally it is negotiable, and between ten and twenty percent of the annual salary of the position. Often, there can be a way of structuring the payment to give you some protection that the person will work out. For example, you might pay the agency half of the fee on appointment of the person to the position, and the remaining half of the payment might be due on successful completion by the employee of the probationary period (ie. after three months)
  2. Tap the networks of existing staff. Sometimes, you may find that your current employees may know of friends or family (?) who have the right experience and are looking for a job. People with a good work ethic will often associate with others who share the same values
  3. Let your customers and suppliers know you have a vacancy. You obviously can save on advertising if you're able to  source applicants yourself
  4. Involve your other staff in the hiring  process. As already mentioned, they may know someone who might be appropriate, but also involve them in the actual interviews. After all, the new employee needs to fit in well with your existing team. There's not a lot of places to hide in a small business, if people don't get along. And if your current staff participate in the selection decision, they'll have more ownership in ensuring the appointment of the new employee works out.
  5. Don't hire someone because you like them. Yes, this is important of course - but also ensure they have the right skills, attitude and experience that is needed for the job. Avoid any impulsive decisions - make sure you do thorough background and referee checks. You might want to do a credit check - and also see if they have a Facebook page, and what that might reveal about them
  6. Telephone screening interview. Sometimes, there will be applications that you read and it's quite easy to decide that the person is worth interviewing, and other times there are applications you read where it's evident the person does not meet your requirements. However, there will be occasions when reading the application leaves you uncertain, and so you should consider conducting a short phone screening interview. This can help save both you and the applicant time, by clearing up some grey areas on their application - and help you make a more confident decision about whether the applicant should be invited to an in-person interview
  7. If in doubt, it's safer not to hire. Keep looking ..... If the problem is that you aren't getting enough applicants to choose from, well either change where you are fishing, or change the bait. In other words, you should perhaps consider whether you need to change the ad you're using so as to better promote the position or your business profile. Or change where you are advertising the vacancy
I hope these recruitment tips help. You will also find some great recruitment and interviewing tips at How To Conduct The Job Interview - in particular good advice on how to prepare . Also, Interview Questions To Ask gives great examples of questions to assess an applicants customer service and organisational skills

Here's a short video clip that explains the potential use of telephone screening to help with recruitment

Friday, December 16, 2011

Problem Solving Tips for Small Business

Things don't always go smoothly in small business, do they?  

For example, perhaps there‘s been an unexpected drop in weekly sales, or over-spending on the monthly budgeted expenses, or you're running late in completing an important job for a customer . Or maybe you/ve heard one of your major accounts is talking with a competitor

Problem solving skills are a crucial capability for the small business owner - and yet problem solving is something that you may do instinctively, rather than using any particular method or structured approach. If you think there are times when you could do this better, then here are some problem solving tips to consider ....
  1. Step back and carefully assess the situation. How big a problem is it really? What priority is it, given other issues you might be facing - do you need to address it now?
  2. Before acting, investigate the situation. Make sure you have all the facts and information about the issue, so that you have a complete picture, rather than just a few pieces of the jigsaw. This way, you're much less likely to jump to the wrong conclusion - and you're more likely to have identified the caise of the problem.
  3. Take time to consider all of your options. The first solution that comes to mind is not necessarily the best one. Be willing to seek advice or counsel from others whom you respect, they may have faced similar problems
  4. If you've thought everything through, gathered all the information, weighed up all your options - when you do eventually decide what to do, act with confidence. This is not the time to second-guess or doubt yourself. Sometimes, the solution might not have been perfect - but as long as it moves things forward, then that's an improvement.You can always make some adjustments to your actions along the way.
    For more useful advice, visit  Problem Solving Tips

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Small Business Trap

Are you working on your business, or in your business? This was the provocative question that Michael Gerber posed in his classic best-selling book, The E-Myth.

He explained that many people were motivated to start up a small business because they were fed up working for someone else and believed that being good at their craft, they would make more money and have more independence working for themselves.

This is what Gerber termed the Myth of the Entrepreneur ....... because the reality was often very different. Many small business owners would find themselves working long hours - in the pursuit of profits that too often proved elusive.

In the more recent edition of the book, The E-Myth Revisited, Gerber explains that the small business owner must be capable of performing three different roles - the Technician, the Entrepreneur and the Manager.

Usually the owner is naturally a technician, but if he or she is going to grow the business, they need to become an entrepreneur and listen to their customers, assess their competition and recognise where the opportunity gaps in the market may be. In the role of manager, they need to establish efficient systems, procedures and processes that will enable the business to become less reliant upon the owner. This is what working on the business means, but to do so requires working less in the business.

Learning to let go of the technical work, gradually training others to be able to do this work and supporting them with adequate documented procedures - this is one of the keys to growing your business successfully. By systemising your business with documented procedures, Gerber says you help to ensure consistency in the delivery of your service or product. You also establish a framework that potentially lends your small business to a franchising structure - and an expansion of your revenue stream

You might also like to have a look at Common Small Business Pitfalls

Small Business Tips - Managing your cash flow

Managing your cash flow

How to get control of your cash flow

If you're running a small business, then you know how imperative it is to effectively manage cash-flow,, the lifeblood of any healthy enterprise. Cash flow difficulties are identified as one of the most common sources of stress and anxiety among small business owners.

It may be timely to review nine essential disciplines around good cash-flow management ....
  1. Understand and plan for your natural business cycles, where there are predictable seasonal ebbs and flows to your business finances. Like a squirrel, have the discipline to store away some of that cash-flow to draw upon during quieter times.
  2. Offer as many ways as possible for your customer to pay, making it easy for them to do so quickly (cash on delivery, EFT, various credit cards accepted, cheque with ID)
  3. Late payments from your customers have a flow-on effect to your ability to pay your bills. So, either offer an incentive to your customers to pay before the due time (eg 5% discount), or ensure that you politely follow-up at the first instance of an overdue payment (be careful to avoid any heavy-handed approach with this - although with regular late payers you might need to consider charging late payment penalty fees being charged)
  4. Offer a discount for cash up-front payment, or at least request a significant deposit when you are receiving payment on a later delivery
  5. Try and build a relationship with your bank. Explain your business cycles and talk about setting up a special overdraft facility that can ease your cash flow stresses and carry you through the tough times
  6. If your customers do not pay at point of sale, ensure that you send your invoice out on the day of purchase, rather than at the end of the month for example. Also ensure you do a credit check before taking on a new customer making a substantial purchase
  7. Seek to take advantage of economies of scale when you purchase. There may be opportunities to purchase some goods in greater volume by forming a purchasing alliance with a business association, or with similar although not competing businesses in your local area. For example, if you needed to purchase new office furniture, .maybe there are some small businesses around you who can join with you to benefit from discounts through greater buying power.
  8. And let's not forget the simple and essential rule for small business, avoid spending more than you earn. Yes, there will be times you need to invest in significant equipment or technology upgrades, but make sure such an outlay is carefully evaluated against the cost-saving efficiencies that it will produce, or weighed up against a realistic financial assessment of new revenue streams that the purchase will generate for your business. In the latter case, although you need to generally have an optimistic outlook as an entrepreneur, you are usually better served by adopting a conservative approach with your revenue forward projections. If need be, ask your accountant
  9. The only way you increase your profit margin us to increase the volume of your sales, reduce the cost of your sales or increase your prices - whilst obviously keeping a close eye on your competition.
And a fantastic article titled the E-Myth - Why Businesses Fail is fascinating reading to help understand the complete skill set needed by anyone starting up in business. Research into the reasons for small business failure have revealed that quite often the business is initially founded by a person with strong technical skills (a printer, a builder, a mechanic, a baker, a lawyer..) who is highly skilled in their craft, but often do not possess or do not develop the additional skills required to run a business.

The technician must learn to become an entrepreneur (customer and market focused) as well as a manager (process and procedure focused) if they are going to succeed in building a business that can run independently of them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Small Business - The Chistmas break-up party

There was an interesting article recently in a Small Business blog that offered some useful reminders on holding the annual Christmas Party. The article noted that the Christmas function is a perfect way to show your staff how much you have appreciated their efforts throughout the year.

Thinking about what your staff might actually appreciate in return is important, if the function is going to serve the purpose of helping to strengthen morale and team spirit. The Christmas function for your business should be an event that is personalised, relaxed and enjoyable. Here are some tips on how to plan a great work event: for your small business ....

1. Try not to be a scrooge

We’ve all got at least one horror work Christmas party story, where there was nowhere near enough to eat, nibble or drink. Yes, it's been a tough year for those of us in small business, however try and be as generous as you can afford - or maybe consider choosing something else instead of a Christmas break-up function..

2. Make it personal

Memorable gifts for your employees do not need to cost a fortune; it’s the thought behind it that counts. You must plan well ahead so as to allow extra time to purchase personalized gifts - it might be a subscription to their favourite magazine, or a family movie pass, or tickets to a concert. Reflect on what your staff like to talk about during the year. Make sure they haven’t already gotten it for themselves before holiday time, and if not then you might buy it for their holiday gift.

3. Be responsible with the drinks

Make sure any alcohol at your event is served responsibly. Choose a safe venue with access to public transport, perhaps provide cab vouchers or encourage nominated ‘non-drinking’ drivers. Ensure that serving staff at the function are briefed on limiting or denying alcohol to intoxicated staff and make sure that you yourself set the right example with the consumption of alcohol. Many of us have heard stories of the intoxicated boss who turned into a ridiculous buffoon after a few too many Christmas drinks.

4. Plan for both your staff and your budget

Consider what your staff would enjoy - however,obviously you must plan within your budget and what your business can afford.  From experience, staff tend to be more interested in a family friendly, open and relaxed affair than a more exclusive event.

With the above suggestions in mind, I think you'll find a well-organised Christmas function that helps to reward staff for their efforts and loyalty during the year is a sound business  investment for retaining a motivated workforce for next year. All the very best to you for Christmas - and thanks for visiting our blog.

By the way, if you're after some more ideas that might help in running your business, perhaps visit Business Management

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Motivating Your Staff - A little appreciation goes a long way

If you own or manage a small business, and have staff working for you - then this could be an important reminder of a powerful management principle.

You want your staff to be good ambassadors for your business, right? .... Every time they interact with one of your customers, you want your staff to be positive, bright and friendly, so that your customers will gladly return

Well, here's the thing about staff motivation to remember as a manager.

Your staff will do more of what you want, if you recognise and reward it in some way. And that doesn't have to mean a financial reward, but simple and sincere appreciation can go a long way.

Of course, people want to feel they are being paid fairly - but very often a common reason that staff leave a business is because they work for a poor manager, and they feel that their contributions are not being appreciated. So, have a look at the following short video clip, and think about whether you provide enough recognition to your people for good work ....

And by the way, if you're after some more leadership tips that can help to create team morale and a good working environment, have a look at Leadership Qualities

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Steve Jobs - Advice for the small business entrepreneur

Steve Jobs became a giant in the world of business, respected for his technical innovation and also his commercial acumen.

In this short video clip he offers some timely advice for the small business entrepreneur - basically saying that that you need to make sure that you are doing what you love, because otherwise you will not be be able to persevere when things get tough

If you're after some other quick tips, you might have a look at Small Business Tips