Posted by: Tavis Patterson on April 20, 2016 at 2:54 pm
Do you own a small business and want to make it great? We’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses over the years, and there are always some signs that stick out immediately for certain businesses we work with that just have a great way about them. Usually when we walk into the door of a prospect we can tell if this truly is a “great” small business or one that isn’t quite cutting it. No business is perfect, but after years of watching these clients and meeting with them on a regular basis, we have a pretty good perception of what makes a great small business, and one that doesn’t – shall we say – “cut the mustard”.
So how do you build a great small business? Here are 5 things to mimic in some of the best small business clients we have:
- Very Sound Financial Department. We work with a ton of clients, and a predominant thing that our great ones have in common is a top notch person or team working with its financials. This includes the owner. If the owner can really quote stats from his P&L then you know he’s got a great handle on running his business. If you fall back on saying numbers “aren’t your thing,” then you probably are better off being an employee and not running a company. Great small business owners know their numbers, and they have trustworthy people in their accounting or bookkeeping departments. Quickbooks is by far the biggest financial package we support, but some clients use Great Plains or Sage and do a great job. They use their financial software to their advantage and make it work the way they need.
- Treat Vendors as Partners. It’s amazing to me how many times I walk into an office and am treated as if my time is not valuable. I own a company too, just like you do. I have appointments to keep and items to do. When a prospect calls me in and doesn’t value me as a person then I know they aren’t running a great business. Your vendors are partners and make businesses run better. Who are you going to service better? The guy who always constantly complains and never throws a compliment your way when you work after midnight for him or they guy who buys cookies and makes it a point to say you’re valued and we appreciate your time and effort. My technicians are human. Sure they make mistakes here and there, but man do they work hard. As do your accountant and lawyer, etc, etc. We see those that value the relationships they have and grow upon these as businesses that desire to grow and build a trusting relationship rather than one adversarial in nature.
- Use the Right Line of Business Application and Make the Most of It. When we walk into a company to do an assessment and they are running an application that was designed in a garage in 2000 we make sure to charge a heck of a lot more. Why? Because trying to get that thing to run is going to be a constant cause of frustration. Don’t get me wrong: we started in my basement so I’m all about the entrepreneur. But come on, you need to run your business on software that has great support and constant maintenance and updating. That’s why “Cloud” based line of business applications have become so popular (think Salesforce.com for instance). They get constant updating, and they just plain work with great support. Great small businesses who are thinking ahead invest in great software because software runs the world, not the hardware. Getting the most out of a line of business application is also a key consideration. Even something that seems as simple as a catering application, if it can save you one hour a week with one additional process, isn’t it worth it? Your business says yes and so do the best businesses we see.
- Great Culture. When we walk into clients we usually can tell if a small business client is having a good day or not a good day. And if on the 4th visit it’s been a bad day every time then we know that company doesn’t have a great culture. A great culture is all so evident the moment you walk into the door. From the first reception greeting all the way through the office. The decor of the office matters (are the 1970s calling??) to the demeanor of folks in the office. It truly makes a difference. I know we don’t have everything licked in this area, but boy do I continue to keep trying. I learn a little every time I walk into a client or a new prospect, either what to do or what NOT to do. As a business owner have you ever asked a person you know to just walk in unexpected and see what happens or get their feedback? It really can be instructive. Culture is obviously not something that can be changed overnight, but I see great business owners take one thing a quarter and really work on it and then move forward.
- Reliance on Technology. OK we’re a technology consulting house. We couldn’t get away from this, could we? But it really is the case. Our great clients that continue to grow and are fabulous to work with always invest in technology. They have a budget for it. When we show up they want to know what they can do with their technology to make it better. They want to be bigger, stronger, faster, smarter all with the use of technology. And many of them are doing it. You don’t see old equipment lying around and you don’t see people frustrated with outdated technology. Great businesses spend on their people and that includes spending on their employees’ technology.
There you have it. 5 things we’ve seen to create and build a great small business! What have you seen?