As the dawn of 2021 is underway, thousands of small businesses have shuttered their store fronts and thousands of others are operating on leaner team census than normal. Owners and C-suites are putting more energy into either stabilizing financials the best they can or are investing time and money in attempt to strategically pivot the operation model to excel in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Surviving organizations, whether the mode of stabilizing or growing they are in, must work to fully utilize best practices stemming from the basic four elements of business. Financial, Operational, Customer Service, and Staff Development. These are the areas I speak to when it comes to working with teams. I'll summarize the elements below and give suggestions for each, that you may use to stimulate planning inside your organization. There is an underlying tone in all the elements when I practice them. That tone is formulating SMART Goals for each element.
1. Financial Element- It's one of the wisest items businesses can operate with, the budget. If you don't establish a fiscal budget, I would strongly suggest you do immediately. A good starting point in planning a budget for the an upcoming fiscal year is to amass as much information that you can from previous year's sales, labor costs, utilities, advertising, and any debt retirement. It's not a detailed "first budget", but it provides a map toward each respected outcome.
Let's use the scenario that you do have a budget for your current fiscal year. Do you have stated SMART goals for your financials? SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based) goals give your staff clear expectations. Listing further details under each financial goal, as initiatives to reach, helps your leadership manage even more precisely as those initiatives will roll-up into the applicable goal. A revenue goal of achieving 5% growth over fiscal 2019 year end may have initiatives that speak to increasing certain marketing efforts or building out additional industry networks.
2. Operational Element- Every business leader wants a smooth functioning operation. Depending on what industry your business operates in, added procedures for the pandemic is an unprecedented burden that many know all too well if they are to maintain stabilization. If your business wasn't running smoothly before the pandemic, then it's very critical to shore up as many shortcomings you can this fiscal year. There's two areas that can immediately impact performance. They are department procedures and staff retention.
Far too many operations function in a world of "unwritten rules" or have staff that just know how to do things great. What happens if you lose that staff member that just "gets it" when it comes to processes? To sit down with your leadership and begin the project of documenting the way things should be done will reward your business for years to come. To compile operation manuals in departments like maintenance, HR, accounting, and administration, arms your leaders with consistent best practices to manage against. And, by writing the manuals, can easily review and adjust for refining efficiency and value of outcomes.
Most everyone has staff that they want to retain as long as possible. By focusing on retention, you may tackle turnover ratio, cross training, and on-boarding effectiveness. Just those set the stage to develop your SMART goals from. One simple tool to better understand your business's retention value is to survey your staff with questions related to morale, job fulfillment, perception of their supervisor's appreciation, internal culture, and their satisfaction perception. Design the questions so that they're answered by a weighted system. Those numbers, averaged out, from the survey answers, become powerful benchmarks you're going to want to impact by year end. Successfully addressing just these two areas, retention and procedures, your business will be elevated to levels you've only hoped for.
3. Customer Service- One of my favorite categories. Not because it's so simple, it's because it's the most overused term, but also often misused term. When I think of customer service, as a business element, I think of both internal and external customer services.
From an internal viewpoint, how is our communication levels across departments, from top down to front line, and how do we encourage the upward communications? Can there be improvement in response times to address issues with our internal customers? And in reviewing the external service, do we communicate, and fulfill, the business mission and vision statements? Can we improve our response times to address requests and needs? Even suggesting to poll customers every six months, on customer service issues, helps to not only establish the base rating of service, it fuels the SMART goals to impact scores in a positive manner moving forward. True customer service efforts should develop naturally from the internal culture cultivated to address, enhance and protect the way we treat each other and the customers.
4. Staff Development- Being that this is the 4th element, it naturally can be considered as tying together the ways to impact the before mentioned three other elements. A popular business quote speaks nicely to this fourth key business element. "What if I spend money to train employees and they leave? What if you don't spend money to train employees and they stay?"
As business leadership, it's wise to develop staff to help them be resilient, resourceful and stay on the edge of constant improvement. Market dynamics change often, as such with the pandemic, and to help staff remain resilient and nimble to changing dynamics could be a key differential between stagnating and progressing. Additionally, investing isn't always financial. Investing time in developing staff, like lunch and learns, team collaboration, "what ifs" challenge scenarios, and finding online training that can be freely shared are efforts of investing time into staff. Our SMART goals in this area are quite simple to script. To detail with initiatives is where you will need to take some time to visualize processes.
If you take time to think of goals in each element above, your business will respond positively and will set the stage for even more growth as you expand the vision of business possibilities with time.