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As a company grows, the processes that worked in the beginning may not be as effective. If you want your workers to be as productive as possible and to take advantage of seasonal sales, now is the time to look at the processes within your company and figure out what needs fixing.
About 45 percent of people start a small business because they want to pursue a passion, but it’s easy to get so caught up in fulfilling your life’s purpose (or making a quick buck) that you lose sight of sound business practices. Taking a look at your processes allows you to focus on the fundamentals of running a business and takes emotion out of the equation.
Here are eight key processes you should look at before the end of the year:
1. Analyze Customer Service
Bad customer service experiences result in more than $62 billion lost each year. Before the holiday rush hits, take the time to analyze your customer service processes. Are all employees trained in your philosophies? Are your return and exchange policies fair to the consumer?
Someone who has a negative experience with your company tells more people than someone who has a positive experience. If you want word-of-mouth about your company to be positive, you must take the time to ensure your customer service is stellar.
2. Brainstorm with Employees
Choose one area you’d like to improve and host a brainstorming session with employees. Perhaps you’re concerned about scheduling, for example. Last year, you didn’t have enough cashiers for peak times. This year, you’d like to avoid that issue. Your employees are the ones in the trenches. They may have ideas for scheduling you hadn’t thought of. Listen to all the ideas and try the ones that make the most sense. Start testing now before peak season hits so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
3. Set Up a CRM System
A customer relationship management (CRM) system puts all the data on your customers in one central place. Instead of offering the same thing to every customer, you can customize offers to match past buying habits. There are many benefits to using a CRM, such as storing data on clients, tracking invoices, and improving customer service. A CRM system puts you a step ahead of the competition.
4. Fine-Tune Your Hiring Processes
Top candidates stay on the market a mere 10 days. If you want to attract the brightest and best candidates possible, you must move quickly and offer something no one else does. If you are a smaller company, you’re competing with bigger firms that can pay more and have better benefits.
Think about what you have to offer that other companies don’t. Are you flexible enough for a student trying to finish up a master’s degree? Perhaps your business has a family feel, and you offer gatherings and personal support. Once you figure out what you have to offer, you should refine the language of your job listings and adjust your hiring process to help you land those top candidates quickly.
5. Retain Your Best Employees
Every month in the United States between 2 and 3 million Americans quit their jobs. One big reason people leave is lack of a pay raise. About 35 percent of employees stated they’d seek out a new position if they didn’t receive a raise within a year. It isn’t always about money, though, because 44 percent said they’d take a job paying 20 percent less.
The lack of raises may tie into an overall feeling of being underappreciated, especially for employees who are of high value. Smaller businesses may only be able to afford a small raise, but adding some form of appreciation into the package may improve employee satisfaction and retention. Take the time to sit down and talk with every employee and find out what you can do to make them happier with your company. Let them know you care.
6. Redo Your Budget
The top reason for businesses failing is cash flow problems. An estimated 82 percent of failed businesses close because there’s not enough cash coming in and too much going out. Get a handle on your finances and redo your budget before the end of the year so that you can start next year with a fresh perspective.
Look at everything: how much it costs, how effective it is for you, and whether there’s a better option out there. That $100 a month you spend on Facebook marketing may or may not do your business any favors. Track the results and decide whether to keep it or not. Is there any way to reduce the cost of utilities? It all adds up.
On the other hand, if you have more flexible spending, look at the best ways to invest those funds. Should you stock up on merchandise while it’s on sale? Should you put more money into advertising channels?
7. Consider Your Legal Structure
Are you using the best legal structure for your business? There are some tax advantages to forming an S-corp, but there is also a lot of paperwork that might be overwhelming to a smaller company. Talk to a good accountant about tax breaks and talk to an attorney about the best way to protect your assets.
8. Make Processes Efficient
Bring in a third party to study how efficient your day-to-day processes are. An expert can review your customer checkout process and paperwork filing and reveal opportunities for improving efficiency. Someone with an outside perspective may be able to spot little things that waste time or create disorganization that you otherwise would have missed.
Look at Everything
Throughout the year, take the time to look at every process in your business. Start with the larger issues, such as employee retention, cash flow, and customer service. Then, work your way down to the smaller things that will take your business to the next level.