SME seeks transformation

The 10 things that could transform your business and why now is the right time to consider them.

Ok so it’s that time of the year again. Time to stand back and do a bit of gentle reflection. What do you want to do differently this year to make your business more profitable and meaningful? Remember you only have the first few of weeks of the year to do anything insightful before the blur of “business as usual’ takes over again for another 12 months.

1. Are we there yet? Get some objectives.

Do you know where you are going? Does your business have a mission and is it written down anywhere and shared? It’s probably obvious to you but what about your team? Having a clear business mission and supporting goals can make a huge difference to the success of your business. And some element of recognition will help you reward those staff that really make a difference to your business.

2. Would I pay for that? Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Spend a morning looking through the eyes of one of your customers and see what the experience is like first hand. No, don’t hover like the angel of death behind your staff, but let them know what you are doing and spend some time on the phones or in reception. You will be amazed what you pick up. And if that’s too informal for you develop that customer feedback form that’s been sitting at the bottom of your in-tray.

3. I wonder what it’s like to work here? Go back to the floor.

The ultimate job swap. You as receptionist and a chance to understand the way things look from your employee’s perspective. It’s very different and just as illuminating as the customer view.

4. Am I really like that? Get some personal feedback

So how about your own personal development? Owner managers can be surprisingly unaware of the personal impact they have within their business. As uncomfortable as it may seem it’s always worth seeking feedback from your staff. Nothing too heavy; just invite them to let you know what you do well and not so well and what they would like to see you doing more of. A simple email request can trigger the feedback and look for common themes rather than responding to individual observations.

5. Facebook or twitter? Develop a social media strategy.

 Whether you like it or not this stuff isn’t going away and the more savvy organisations are starting to exploit the brand awareness potential of social media for its simplicity and cost effectiveness. Why would you want to ignore the commercial potential of something that is already changing the world around us?

6. Where did my life go? Consider what flexible working could mean for your business.

Seems crazy that you might want to introduce more choice for you and your employees around where, when and how work gets done? But a lot of evidence now points to flexible working as a significant tool in maximising employee attraction and retention. Combine offering different work patterns with a focus on the quality and quantity of output rather than time spent at the desk and you will see an increase in productivity, engagement and retention.

7. Are we legal? Check out your employment policies.

There are half a dozen or so critical areas where you need to be covered from an employment perspective. Do you have up to date contracts of employment in place and basic policies covering recruitment, equal opportunities, discipline and grievance, health and safety, data protection and information security?

8. Do we still keep those? Embrace technology.

Are you still clinging to paper records for everything? Including an appointments system where your receptionists fight over the one diary? there are cost effective "cloud services" available for most business systems offering secure back up for your critical data.

9. How green is my valley? Decide where you stand on Corporate Social responsibility.

Whether you commit to doing something serious or walk away it’s worth having a stated position, rather than a half-hearted approach. CSR embraces the total impact of your business on the world we live in but you can just start with an approach to environmental issues such as energy and recycling. Make it part of your brand and it can help with both client and employee retention.

10. What kind of leader am I? Develop a range of styles

Your influence as a manager or leader cannot be underestimated and the latest research throws up a number of qualities present in the best. Although authenticity and consistency feature strongly, it’s the ability to think flexibly and respond in a subtly different way to different circumstances that marks out the best from the rest. That feedback you got earlier in the year can help you more than you think.