Author: Damien O’Brien. Damien is founder and managing partner of SME Matters, a training and consultancy practice that specialises in developing the knowledge and skills of SME Owner Managers and giving them the tools to transform their business in terms of bottom line growth and business and personal satisfaction.
Future proofing your business and preparing for growth – Is there a way to do both of these simultaneously? I think there is. On a recent Transform your Business course, a participant was just back to work after being off due to a serious back injury. She was out of the office for a total of 6 weeks and in her words “could not lift a pen”. While this was a tough time for her, she took a lot of solace in the fact that her business operated without her (15 staff, decent turnover).
How did the business run without her?
A little over a year ago she realised that she had no processes or systems in her company, her staff relied on her totally for practically every decision and she was at the heart of every piece of action that happened. This probably sounds familiar to a lot of business owners – so what did she do to ensure her business operated without her for this amount of time and what could you do to achieve the same while preparing for growth?
Here are a few steps to guide you on this road:
- Align Roles and Responsibilities Within Your Company
- List all of the key tasks in each of your most important business areas, i.e. Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, Legal, HR etc. (just list the key tasks, not them all)
- Align these key tasks with your staff members, i.e. who does each key task?
- Meet with each staff member and go through the list of key tasks that they are responsible for.
- Handshake on these tasks with the employee, agree on any key tasks that they need to take on or remove (reassigning some key tasks to others in your business)
- Set targets with timelines for completion of these key tasks
- Conduct regular reviews to ensure people are performing in the areas they have responsibility for.
The above steps ensured the business operated without the MD present. But this just keeps the show on the road, what about growth? You are most likely the rain maker for your business, where are you spending your time? Why not repeat the above exercise with you in mind.
2. List your own key tasks as Owner Manager
3. Review key tasks from step 1 that have no owner. These are likely to be tasks that you pick and add to your workload (removing valuable time from the important stuff).
4. Decide if the tasks that you have responsibility for are the right ones for you…do they make you feel excited about them, do you have a passion for doing them. If not, then you need to get someone else to do them within your company or by outsourcing them. You should try and focus at least 50% of your time on the tasks that add the most value to the business based on your skill set (that’s at least 2.5 days per week!). The remainder of the time can be spent on financial oversight, operations, admin and people management.
Now, what should we do with the 50% of your time dedicated to high value tasks that you enjoy doing? Do they align with your role as MD or Owner Manager: here are some priorities tasks that should be included in your MD role to prepare for business growth:
- Developing a plan for your business that includes:
- Setting financial targets in each of the main revenue generating areas that you have,
- Identify 1 or 2 products to sell mroe of (to concentrate on)
- Identify 1 or 2 markets (or verticles) to focus on, i.e. Food, Hospitality, Retail, Medical, Education etc.
- Pick 3 or 4 marketing activities that promote your products regularly (i.e. website including SEO/PPC, product specific email campaigns to clean data lists, newsletters promoting what you do and who you have done it for, tradeshows, direct advertising in the mediums your customers read of listen to, Social Media….
- Develop content to promote your expertise in the vertical you have chosen. Push this content via social media and traditional media. If you can’t do this, then outsource it…
- Set sales targets for yourself and your staff and regularly review.
- Ensure your taks deliver on one or more of the above (Sell more / Market more)
- Develop a dashboard of your targets and review monthly:
- Sales Conversion
- Market Share (external sources required)
- Marketing ROI
- Contibution per staff member (including you!)
- If you can’t get this data readily, then invest in a good IT system that will give you this Business Intelligence
- Manage your cash flow, redirecting any spare cash (if it exists) into marketing or systems (as above)
- Know what your spare capacity is and drive sales to use this capacity (additional sales goes straight to the bottom line as you already have operational costs in placE)
- Communicate with your staff monthly on what’s going on in the business, where you are having success and areas that need attention.
Outside of these tasks, set the right tone for your business either through example (results) or behaviour (your way of working) and finally, bring a bit of fun to your organisation, treat your staff often, reaffirm good results or good behaviour every time you see them, celebrate success together with them.
All of the above will make business more sustainable and growth more likely! And hopefully more enjoyable for you and your staff.