Fundamental business principles are pretty timeless. Many of the lessons on this list have been mentioned in blogs over the year. I like lists though, and here are some of the most frequently discussed in client meetings in 2017.
We would love to hear other lessons you have learned in your business this year!
Here are ours:
- Quality….Quality of service, quality of products, and quality of the customer experience is your very best marketing tool. Everyone says this, however, do you focus on it and have a strategy to ensure it? Without the quality, the word of mouth will work against you. However, here are a couple of ways you know you are getting strong referrals:
- You keep growing yet do not do any formal marketing or sales.
- People tell you they were referred.
- All of your clients know each other!!
- I have such a warm feeling when our clients meet in the halls or lobby and hug each other or greet each other. It really makes the place feel like a big family. And the best thing in the world….better than coffee or chocolate…is when someone tells me that multiple people referred them!
- Focus on lead measures. We read the book last year The Four Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey, etal. In 2017 I personally put these concepts in place as did several clients. It could be coincidence, but the results were incredible. One client more than doubled his business and this was growing from about $2 million to $5 million in revenues; a sizeable jump. We, Crossroads, were able to almost double our marketing revenue. How? I made it a point to mention our marketing services to every client we worked with- 100%. The main concept of the book is to determine what key activities you can control, that if you did it consistently, is predictive of achieving your goals (the lag measure). If this isn’t making sense, I highly recommend the book! However, I have always been a believer that if you focus on a few key things and make sure you really execute well, you usually have positive results.
- If you do what you love it never gets old. Since this is our 10th full year in business, I at least know it doesn’t get old after a decade! Seriously though, everyone I know who feels called to their career still loves it. If you don’t love what you are doing, then the financial results have a much bigger impact on your satisfaction with your business. God never promises us easy, but He tells us we will have peace and joy if we are in His will. I consider His calling for us His will.
- All business start-ups need at least a year of operating expenses as part of their start-up funding. This may seem random but this is an important business truth. It makes me so sad to see people invest their life savings to get a business to open and then not be able to hold on until it passes the monthly breakeven point. If you do a budget for your start-up, make sure it is a month by month budget, not an annual budget. It could be that you go much further negative in cash flow before it turns positive and catches up before the end of year 1.
- You can’t take it personally even if it is personal. What I mean is that most of us that own our own business are very personally invested. Emotionally and financially. If someone quits on you it is hard to not take it personally. If people take advantage of you it is hurtful. If people complain to you, it is hard to not wear it on your sleeve. If a client leaves you it must be that you were not providing enough value. All of these things are personal if you care deeply about your business, clients, and team. However, we must be able to put our personal feelings aside and use these experiences to improve our products and services, to become better leaders, and to stay generous. When we take things personally we become defensive and try to figure out an angle that places blame somewhere besides on us. This doesn’t do anyone any good.
- Success is relative. Crossroads is having its best year yet and we are very pleased with our clients, our team, and the financial results. Yet, I have clients who are doing much better financially than us and they are disappointed. I have clients who don’t do as well but are thrilled this year. I have found that the small business owners who focus on milestones outside of just revenues and profits in general tend to be more satisfied. Clients who have added new customers and just have a healthier diversification in their client base recognize this and it gives them peace. Clients who have a great team and minimal turnover tend to feel that their business is stable and prospering. Clients who improve their numbers even if they are not huge are pleased that they are moving in the right direction.
- Employees are not just overhead. I have been really having this on my mind lately and wrote a full post about it last week. In general, if we as business owners see how our teams help us to do better work, grow our business, and keep things running smoothly and efficiently, we will think of new positions as profit centers rather than as expenses.
- Proactive communication is better even if it is bad news. Face it… You know when you are going to be late and miss a deadline way before it is upon you. Why wait until the last minute and the person is anxiously awaiting your work product and then tell them you are going to be late? Tell them as soon as you know and they will more times than not graciously adjust their expectations. Go ahead and communicate as soon as you know that you are not accepting the invite… not going to make the meeting… do not like the service. It is easier on everyone if we just communicate.
- Raise or no raise your employees still need a performance review. If someone hasn’t performed and you feel they haven’t earned a raise it is even more important to do a review so they will improve their performance. Without a review, they will more likely think they are doing fine and you are cheap. Therefore, why should they work so hard?
- God does care about our business. Followers of Jesus follow Him in all aspects of life, everyday, and all day. Our business life is not separate. If we look to Christ for our guidance in our business, we will have a much straighter path. He wants us to look to Him and depend on Him for everything, including our business.
We hope this list provides food for thought and a great head start for your business in 2018.