Having had the pleasure of working with some exceptional business owners in 2012, we have seen patterns that are transformational for businesses to be competitive even in highly competitive industries. Here are the 10 best practices for keeping business competitive in 2013.
1. Identify your bottom 10% of employees and fire them. Sounds harsh but you can't do great things with poor performers.
2. Identify your top 10% of employees, the folks that run your business, your top performers and the people who are critical to your business and implement a reward system to keep them engaged. They likely are responsible for the lions share of your revenue or your day to day operations. Love them.
3. Give your employees the technology tools they need to be successful. We see businesses bleed to death by a thousand cuts with manual processes, no reporting, limited visibility and slow systems. Tablets for sales, software for accounting, proper network speeds... if you have outgrown a software package, put it to pasture. Upgrading technology will not only make your staff be more efficient but will also make your company more valuable.
4. Document and display your key differentiators and value proposition and make sure everyone - staff, customers, vendors, advocates, everyone, see it everyday. Ensure everyone knows your mantra inside and out and that they are focused on the actions and choices that they make every day are supporting this vision. Don't assume that everyone knows your business or can articulate it.
5. Don't let your employees hide behind email. Relationships with clients, coworkers and vendors are not built on email. Pick up the phone, walk over, video skype them - anything where they can hear a voice. Email is a requirement for efficiency but we are seeing less and less personal interaction that is the stickiness of long standing successful relationships.
6. Have one on ones with your employees every week. Even if it's only for 15 minutes. Keep communication open, inspect what you expect, take their temperature. One on ones keep employees focused and helps them understand what is expected of them.
7. For the love of god don't hire friends, your friends kids or family. To date we have never seen this work out. You can't have a level playing field where employees feel there is a fair work environment when friends and family are involved. Don't under estimate how perceived unfairness can damage a culture or worse, they turn out to be below average contributors and you have to deal with that powder keg.
8. Include your ground level employees in product evaluation and new features that will help you sell more and improve the customer experience. Use master minds and white board sessions with your employees to find out what they see from the competition, what customers are saying to them, what product/service exists already that can be improved upon.
9. Make sure YOU as the business owner know the top 20% of the customers who generates 80% of your revenue. Schedule a lunch, invite them in for a facility tour, have a client event, break bread, dinner, breakfast - whatever it takes to get an hour of their time once a quarter. Be part of the team that retains and grows the your revenue and margin. This will also be your insurance plan if a key member of you staff leaves. Besides, business owners like to hang out with other business owners.
10. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. What's going to be different for your business in 2013? Laser focus on a new vertical? Change your comp plan to reward what you want your people to sell? Give every employee commission for enabling the sales cycle? Move the office around to enable collaboration? SEO? New products? Whatever it is, step outside of your comfort zone and mix it up. What do you have to lose?
On behalf of all of us at Indigo Oceans, we wish you every success for 2013.