Sharing thoughts, ideas and tips from my own experiences managing at a small business.

Monthly Archives: December 2012

After a second opinion on anything related to running your business?  You can’t go past networking; it’s interactive, fun and best of all free!

Recently I’ve been on somewhat of a spree reading up about what other bloggers feel a small business must do to be successful.  Without fail, getting a second opinion or someone to ‘bounce’ ideas and thoughts off is on the list.  But surprisingly all suggest a business consultant as the best option to fill this void if you don’t already have a confidant.  This seems somewhat bizarre with the vast majority of businesses needing to be very particular about how money is spent.

While networking often seems like a chore when your days are already packed with meetings and a ‘to do’ list a mile long, if you make the effort it can also be extremely rewarding.  Be selective about the events you go along to you won’t waste your precious time and it is highly likely you’ll be able to find that second opinion free of charge.  Chances are they will probably be looking for exactly the same thing!

 


Source: Mesocary.com

Source: Mesocary.com

Since my earliest days in the workforce, gossip in the workplace has never been dealt with all that well by companies I have worked for.  It always gets treated like the Elephant in the Room, everyone knows it exists but it just gets accepted as the norm and inevitable.

Left unchecked, gossip in the workplace can have a seriously damaging effect on both staff morale and efficiency.  This isn’t ‘who had lunch with who’ type gossip we’re talking about.  This is gossip about workplace related issues that are far easier to complain to the wrong person about, than sit down and resolve with the appropriate people.

In a small business, negative gossip about the company or people can be damaging to staff morale and can spiral out of control very quickly.  Lower staff numbers mean less people need to talk to one another to pass around a story or opinion.  On the upside, it also means the situation is quicker and simpler to deal with than in larger organisations, and the solution starts with you!

A decision to deal with workplace gossip head-on must from the leader(s) in the form of honest, open communication and confrontation of issues when they arise.  Work with your direct reports on creating a culture where it is OK to call out people when they are gossiping and encourage them to deal with the issue rather than just talking about it.

To do this you can’t ‘be a chicken’.  You need to be able to have the difficult (but extremely important) conversations and open up a path of clear communication between yourself and your team.  Although it is sometimes a difficult step to take, the outcome is incredibly rewarding and it will also help establish you a reputation as an honest and trusted leader.



You are a sales rep and you get a call on Christmas Eve from a customer with a problem. Do you…
A) Find out the problem and make the calls to get it sorted.
B) Find out the problem and let them know that you’ll get it sorted as soon as you are back in the office.
C) Tell them you’re done for the year and fob them off to someone else to deal with.
Hopefully A, possibly B but for pity’s sake not C!

Unfortunately C reared its ugly head in our office today when a customer called looking for help after being told ‘sorry but I’ve finished for the year but give Jill a call’. Or to be commonly translated to ‘I’m on holiday and quite frankly don’t give a crap about your problems’.

For small businesses it is vitally important to connect with your customers, build relationships and give them the love they deserve. Unless you have a unique product it is unlikely you’ll be able to compete with the big boys on price so quality, customer service and relationships are the key to your growth and reputation.

When that phone call or email comes through at the wrong time, grin and bear it and just think of that old saying ‘the customer is always right’. Show your customers that you really do give a crap!


The festive season has rolled around yet again and often it can fly by too fast without being fully appreciated. I personally love Christmas, it provides a couple of days where family is first and business is second (something that unfortunately, seldom happens when you are running a small business). If you need to work on Christmas Day, your business has serious problems!

As with any break away from work, the lead up is generally hectic trying to get everything in order for the period when you aren’t in the office. Simple courtesies pass by the wayside without thought or consideration. But before you leave the office to head away for the holidays, it is invaluable to put some time aside to let your staff know how much you appreciate the hard work they put in throughout the year.

For me this year, ‘thank you’ was a simple (but personalised) gift for my staff and a couple of private minutes with each of them individually to tell them how much I appreciate the work they put in during 2012. Needless to say there were hugs and handshakes flowing and a positive outlook for 2013!

 


If you manage a small business, prioritizing your work tasks is absolutely essential.  Any manager in a small business has a never-ending and ever evolving ‘to-do’ list.  Identifying the most important jobs to get done can sometimes be as challenging as actually executing them. A simple business practice used by the late Steve Jobs can be easily modified to structure a regular review of your ‘to-do’ list. 

Jobs would ask his top people to submit a list of 10 things they needed to get done.  Once their list was completed he would tell them they could only do 3 of the tasks.  By doing so Jobs ensured his employees wouldn’t get lost in an endless list of work to get done, but focus on the 3 tasks that were absolutely necessary to get ticked off.

This simple practice provides a fantastic tool to evaluate your current work requirement situation regularly.  It may be a weekly or daily ritual (regularity will vary based on the complexity of the tasks you are working on) but put aside 5 minutes to review your ‘to-do’ list, highlight your 3 key tasks to complete and make these your focus until there is a tick beside each.  Repeat!  You’ll be surprised how a simple structure around getting things done can increase efficiency dramatically.  It’s also incredibly rewarding to find yourself completing work far more promptly.


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So often I find myself working on big projects while getting frustratingly interrupted when ‘little things’ create big problems.

We manufacture food products so I am always vigilant about making sure our packaging stock levels are maintained. But recently a ‘little thing’ slipped through the cracks and almost caused big problems!

All our products include scoops for customers to measure out servings. These are sourced locally with a short lead time, so reordering is painless. But over the past couple of months, our production volumes have ramped up to the point that flexibility has gone out the window. Even a short stock out situation can severely impact productivity and cash flow. Recently this was highlighted when we wasted a significant amount of resources due to a reorder trigger level not being reviewed to take current demand into consideration. Such a ‘little thing’ cost us a lot!

A simple hiccup has led me to look across our business as a whole and put procedures around the ‘little things’ to make sure there is no chance of them becoming a big problem.


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The 80/20/20 Principle was introduced to me earlier this year by the fantastic CEO of Triodent, a small dental supplies manufacturer from New Zealand. An exuberant character, he spoke about how the 80/20/20 Principle is the key in allowing his company to be continuously innovative and compete against major market players.

The principle is simple, a new product idea is formed and it is made a marketable reality as quickly as possible. Well to 80% of its finished form anyway. But for 20% of the total development cost and in 20% of the time it will take to have the product in its final form. Sound confusing? It really isn’t…

You see the main advantage us SME’s have compared to our behemoth counterparts is the ability to move quickly. While the multi-nationals of this world have new product development procedures to follow, we can dream up a new product and have it in the market in a fraction of the time. Sure it may not be in its finalised, refined form but what is the point in committing time and resources to an innovative new product when you’re not sure if your market is even interested in it?

So give the 80/20/20 Principle a go in your business. Make the new idea a reality, throw it off the cliff and see how it flies. Get feedback, refine it based on the response you get and maximise your resources to get the best bang for your buck!