Taking Your Business to the Next Level
Last week we introduced the idea of graduating your business to the next level. We encouraged you to review your company vision, engage in proactive change, and embrace new ideas. This week our topic is taking your business to the next level through people. What people? Those who come to your business to purchase products and services - Your Customers. Those who support the products and services in business - Your Employees. And, those directly involved in the decision making, planning, and strategy of a business - you the owner and your leadership team.
When a business has been doing business for more than a few years, it's possible the customer demographics may have changed. For example, in the 1960s or prior, there weren't as many lawn care businesses as there are today. Lawn care services were usually for the very wealthy, or for the elderly couple next door, or perhaps when you went on vacation and hired the neighborhood kid. However, today there is a need and desire for a broader range of lawn care services, from a wider variety of customers. Customers who are too busy, households with working couples, customers who would rather spend their time elsewhere, customers who travel for extended periods of time, customers who don't know how to maintain a lawn, and those customers with two homes. The list is lengthy and the idea of hiring a service for lawn care is more broadly embraced.
Neighborhoods are constantly changing. When aging couples move to retirement homes, young couples replace them in the neighborhood. Customers change over the years and businesses not only need to keep changing with the needs of their existing aging customer base, but also decide if they need to attract new generations of customers. We suggest researching customer demographics, needs, and desires on a regular basis. Be clear on what you want to know, and then provide a simple survey to your current customers, or select a specific age group of your customers that you want to learn more about. Survey monkey is a quick and easy way to electronically collect information about your customers. A more informal way to receive information from customers is to ask! When they enter your business or when talking to them on the phone, ask a few questions (don't forget to capture their responses!) Here are a few sample questions to ask in a survey:
- What drew you to our business?
- How would you describe us to a friend?
- How would you describe your generation?
- What would you do if you couldn't use this product/service?
- What are 3 of your day-to-day challenges?
- What did we miss with this product/service?
Many businesses are fortunate enough to have long-term employees. These employees do a very good job, are dependable, and have the knowledge to perform the position they are in. Long-term employees are a part of your culture, know the business, understand the processes, and are often involved in training anyone new. For some businesses with high turn-over this may seem like a luxury. However, it may also be a hindrance. Along with the loyalty and hard work, you may also have stalled processes, limited innovation, exhausted ideas, and complacency.
For these businesses, it may be time to send your team back to school to learn new ways to approach projects or processes in your business. Investing in your employees can be a smart, low investment, high return on investment method of keeping your business moving to the next level. Consider offering tuition reimbursement for a certification, having a few team members attend a community sponsored class, or even facilitate a book study on innovation. Don't be afraid to ask your employees what they would like to learn more about, or what they feel your business needs in the way of innovation; then collaborate with them on how that can happen.
After a hard look at yourself, make a list of where you personally would like to, or need to grow. Also, consider if your point of view - the way you think, needs to graduate. If so, talk to people you admire and ask them to suggest a book, or video they feel would benefit you. Books are an excellent way to expand your thinking and embrace new ideas. Don't restrain yourself to a narrow range of topics. Consider your industry, community, products and services, leadership, or sales.
If your self-check reveals that you've been closed-minded for too long - we encourage you to open the doors in your head and bring more ideas and information into your business. Doing so will benefit you, your business, and your team.