The 9 Hour Small Business Tune-Up
This section deals with human relationships in your business. It concentrates on win/win situations, applying teamwork, common goals, and the effect of good communication.
As much as you think you know your business, a fresh set of eyes can always see things you can’t. To see how this works, just get two people to watch a movie together and then ask them about it.
Each one will give you a different description of what they felt, saw, and experienced. Although the two versions will be similar, they won’t be identical. Everyone processes things differently and will have different views, experiences, and ideas. As business owners and marketers, we can benefit from these different points of view.
An advisory board is an essential part of the team. You should have different people helping you with issues such as financing, new projects, expansion, human resources, legal issues, and so on. Your board should consist of people you can trust.
It may take a while to find the right combination of people, but it will be worth it in the end. Board members don’t have to be employees. You can create a board that only convenes when needed, or you may need to have them available on a full-time basis. Do whatever is most effective for your business.
Some Tips for Your Board:
1. Your board can consist of a large number of people. You don’t have to meet with them all at the same time.
2. Keep in mind that your board is advisory. Listen to their advice but remember that the final decision must be yours. You are in charge, and responsible for all outcomes.
3. If a matter is complex, you can always get a second and third opinion.
4. Board members should be asked only to focus on their particular areas of expertise. If one of your advisors specializes in financing, don’t ask him for advice on a creative idea. He may throw you off course.
Exercise 1: Planning an Advisory Board:
1. List the departments in your business that would benefit from an advisory board.
2. For each identified department, list those people who you would like to have on a board.
3. Briefly describe how your business would benefit from the expertise of the people you listed above.
Once you have completed this exercise, plan to contact the people in your list to determine if they would be interested. If they are, discuss their terms. Be prepared to search for replacements for those who don’t wish to participate. For each business issue that comes up, contact the people on your list and ask for their advice on a per inquiry basis.
Relationships are important in business. Many business owners take this for granted and quite frankly, your customers, suppliers, and employees mostly care about one thing: themselves. They are self-focused and want to know, “What’s in it for me?” With this in mind, always strive for an outcome that is good for everyone, but focus on emphasizing the other person’s benefit.
If you concentrate specifically on your desires, you lose customers, suppliers, and employees. But if you simply think of them first instead of yourself, you end up losing! You can’t run a business without control and profitability. Always think of solutions that are win,win!
Your business relationships are divided into three categories: customers, employees, and suppliers.
Exercise 2: Improving Customer Relations:
Customers are the lifeblood of your business. If you have no customers, you have no business. It is easier to make a sale to an existing client than it is to make a sale to a new customer. You already have a relationship with the existing client and that client already knows and trusts you.
List ways in which you can improve customer relations.
Some examples to help you get started:
- Provide a comfortable atmosphere for your customer.
- Complete your transactions more quickly.
- Give 60 days of interest-free credit.
- Handle customer complaints yourself. (Customers can help you by pointing out flaws in your business that you may not have noticed.)
- Provide customer service training for your staff.
- Create a “Customer Appreciation Sale” and focus on benefiting the customer during this event.
- Hire more people to help your customers in the store.
- Have regular staff meetings to discuss customer concerns and feedback.
- Have brainstorming sessions to explore ways to improve your business.
After you have completed this exercise, you should have several ideas about how to improve your customer relations. If you want even better results, ask your customers how you can improve.
A dialogue with your customer might sound like this:
“Hi Jack, It’s Acey calling from A Touch of Business.com. I am touching base with some of our members. I just need five minutes of your time. Is this a good time to talk?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“First of all, I wanted to say thanks for your business. We’re glad to have you as a member. We’re constantly striving to enhance our business so that we can better serve our members.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“I would like your opinion on how we can improve the business so that it will benefit you even more. Is there any product or service you can think of that you would like us to provide? Is there anything that we have done that you are upset or unhappy about?
List ways you can improve customer relations in the space below:
Exercise 3: Improving Supplier Relations:
Remember, you are your supplier’s customer. Your supplier wants your business and must be able to make a profit in order to keep supplying you. There are many ways in which you can improve supplier relations.
Getting rock-bottom prices from a supplier without allowing him to profit and without increasing your quantity of supplies purchased would result in the supplier having to stop doing business with you, or cutting costs somewhere else to your detriment.
On the other hand, if you get the best deal possible while allowing the supplier to still make a profit, you will end up with a better relationship in the long run. Think of some win/win business practices, and everyone will benefit.
List ways to improve supplier relations.
Some examples to help you get started:
- Meet with your supplier to discuss ways to improve your business relationship.
- Make more prompt payments to the supplier.
- Make C.O.D. payments in exchange for better prices.
- Purchase more products in exchange for exclusivity.
- Allow suppliers to promote their products through your business.
- Exercise 4: Improving Employee Relations.
Your employees are an important part of your business. They know a lot more about your business than outsiders do. You have trained them and they are essential if you want your business to run smoothly.
One of the main problems with owner/employee relationships is that employees feel unappreciated. Showing a little appreciation goes a long way with employees. Search for ways to make employees want to be more productive rather than pushing them.
For example, let them know when they do a good job. “Thanks, John, for the way you handled that customer. We didn’t have the item in stock, but you found a way to get it to him within two days. Putting forth that extra effort helps us keep our customers. Good Job!”
Another important practice is helping employees understand the importance of their jobs. They might think that the way they do their jobs doesn’t affect the business.
Walking them through the complete business process will help them to understand how much their jobs impact the entire company, and will, therefore, make them want to be more efficient.
For example, if you have an employee whose job is to test a product that you manufacture, you might try explaining to him how his job keeps people from getting hurt, and can even save lives. His job makes the product usable for thousands of people.
If you were this employee, wouldn’t this information give you pride in your work, and cause you to be more careful as you’re doing it instead of just filling your quota or putting in your eight hours?
List ways you can improve employee relations.
Some examples to help you get started:
- Have meetings to hear my employees’ concerns regarding both the business and their working conditions.
- Make sure working conditions are good for the employees before any complaints are lodged.
- Educate employees about the importance of their jobs.
- Create a team environment and explain that although management must act as a director it is still part of the team.
- Create feedback forms that employees can fill out if they have any complaints.
- Announce that your office door is always open for employees who wish to discuss any concerns.
Make a list now of ways you can improve employee relations: