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Pillars of Your Success

The following “pillars” are areas that have been defined as fundamental to the stability and growth of any small business. They provide a foundation and require constant vigilance and development. Along with each pillar we have suggested training topics we provide in an On Demand (online) format for easy access not only for small business owners, but their employees as well.

Leadership

Leaders have the unique ability to rally employees around a vision.  Employees will naturally want to follow a good leader.  Enhancing the leadership qualities of you and your team improves productivity, better engages the employees, and promotes better employee retention.

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Financial and Strategic Planning

First of all you should have a financial plan in the form of a yearly budget that you constantly refer to as the year progresses. Understanding the relationship between revenue, expenses, margins, and profits on a month to month basis is extremely important, but also remember that the number one reason small businesses go bankrupt is lack of cash, not lack of profits. You need to do good cash planning, and really understand the levers in your business that can affect your cash. Do you buy inventory? How much should you have on hand? Do you collect payments from clients? How long does it take them to pay you? Do you have loans you need to pay back? Do you depend on supplies that vary in price due to market conditions (fuel for instance)? There are a series of “levers” in your business that will affect your cash position. You NEED to understand those levers.

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Recruiting and Retaining Talent

We are always looking for quality talent in our business, so we make it a point to regularly track talent in our region and develop great programs and benefits for retaining talent. Take time to think about company culture, and what you want the culture to be, and make sure you bring culture into the hiring decisions. Linkedin is a tool we use regularly for tracking and recruiting talent.

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Data-based Culture

You don’t need sophisticated systems to track your data. Microsoft products such as Excel (or Access) can provide you everything you need to track data and use that data to make business decisions. Once you understand the key performance indicators (KPI’s) for your business, and understanding why they go up or down, can help you make decisions that will grow you business and keep you on track.

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Professional Development

It is easy to get complacent about professional development when things are going well.  But making an effort to help you and your employees grow professionally will help you succeed both in the short term and the long term.  Competition in the workplace and marketplace makes it more important that ever for companies and individuals to invest in their professional development.

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Your Customers

Every business should talk to its customers as often as possible. If you run a retail store, talk to them at least a few times a week (if not every day). Find out what they like—and what they don’t like. If you run an online business, ask a few survey questions after check out, or send a quick survey to your customers. Call them. People like to talk, and people like to be asked their opinion. In addition, know how to deal with issues they have and train your employees to deliver exceptional customer service, the easiest and inexpensive way to build your business. Knowing how to transform customers into loyal raving fans is a simple but important concept that many businesses neglect or don’t understand.

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Process improvement

There is a lot of information about processes, process improvement, and the more formal lean and continuous improvement (as developed by Toyota), but there are four main goals/objectives around all process improvement. These include improving quality, eliminating waste, reducing lead time/cycle time, and reducing total costs. Every process has a flow. These process improvement initiatives are not just for manufacturing, they can also be applied to more transactional processes used in HR, Sales, Finance and many others – it is about improving any process that has a beginning and an ending and all the steps in-between.

You don’t need a complete Lean Six Sigma project or program for every problem, but some of the tools and principles can be valuable. Unplanned delays, incorrect or missing information, poor quality materials, broken down machines – any single instance can be over looked, but repeat occurrences add up over time and end up wasting time and costing real money. Attacking these process problems and addressing their causes will not only save your company real money, it will lead to happier employees and more satisfied customers.

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Setting and Achieving Goals

Goals are not about setting lofty targets and hoping you get there. Setting goals and achieving them is about establishing a specific actions, tracking progress, and essentially setting a roadmap to constantly reference and follow. It is about prioritizing what you want to accomplish and implementing tools that help you track where you are and adjustments you have to make along the way.

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Sales and Marketing

Small businesses often tell us that they don’t understand marketing. Where should they spend money? Does it work? Should they advertise on TV, the radio, in print, or online? Do you know how to use your website and Google analytics (a free tool) to find out how people find your web site, and where they come from. Talk to customers and ask them how they heard about you. And when you do advertise, figure out how to track the advertisement. Do a special deal and track that. Offer only a certain service or product. Learn what works, and what doesn’t, and repeat your successful marketing promotions. Don’t spend money if you aren’t going to be able to measure the results.

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Communication

Effective communication skills are valuable in the workplace. Understanding the benefits of effective communication helps companies place a focus on developing a workforce that is able to communicate internally, with customers, with vendors and with business partners.

Good communication skills help to reduce the barriers erected because of language, generational, and cultural differences. Companies can avoid confusion and miscommunication by training employees all types of communication skills. Effective communication causes productivity to increase, errors to decrease and operations to run smoother.

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