One of the most critical assets of any business at any stage is people. These people are your employees. Sometimes when growth is no longer your objective, it is easy to forget about this critical asset. But, the most important skill you need to possess as a business owner is the ability to make people want to follow your lead. Without this skill, your business will be a form of managed chaos. You can source lots of information from the web. Here are several websites devoted to human resources issues:
Classified in the field of Human Resources are hundreds of labor laws that employers must follow. Litigation in EEO or sexual harassment is not how you want to spend your company's profits. This is only a beginning list of web sites discussing labor law.
Some business people will go their entire career and never have litigation surrounding their business. Other industries have a bullseye on them waiting for the next legal action. Today you have to stay abreast of employment law, product liability, state and federal laws and local ordinances that can be an obstacle to your business. Remember these sites are for information only and are not intended to be a substitute for good legal advice from a qualified attorney.
Watch the Cash
Good businesses fail daily because the management team is not focused on managing the cash flow of the business. As a business owner you must know the accounting system and all the "catch phrases" surrounding your industry. Receiving collection calls is not time to discover your bookkeeper has taken your money. Pay CLOSE attention here. Develop and understand your accounting system and review it at least once a month.
Cash Flow Analysis
Cash is KING in business. If you have it, you make the rules. If you don't have it, then you are at the mercy of others. When developing business records, the cash flow statement is more important than an Income and Expense Statement. Learn more about cash flow at http://www.allbusiness.com
Listed below are organizations and agencies that may be of assistance during this economic downturn.
U.S. Chamber Resources
TVA Business Resources
Tennessee Valley Authority supports small, disadvantaged, minority, and woman-owned firms and targeted commercial-sector businesses through strategic partnerships, outreach activities, networks, electronic tools, and business assistance. The goal of these initiatives is to ensure the growth and success of the Valley's business. Below are several small business documents that may prove helpful to you. Click here for more information.
Tennessee Small Business Development Center
The Small Business Development Center is a nonprofit organization that helps new entrepreneurs with advice regarding starting a business, business planning and modeling to funding. This is a free service for as long as you stay in business. They teach classes on startup, business planning, IRS taxation, and one-on-one counseling sessions by appointment. Take full advantage of the services offered by the TSBDC. To make an appointment with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center contact Claire Carter.
Other Internet Biz Tips
The internet gives us a huge data base of information right at our fingertips. Listed below are sites that are devoted to business and some contain articles to help you in your business.
Small Business Administration: http://www.sba.gov/
Business Resources: http://www.inc.com/
Small Business Help: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/servicecenter/
Business Discussion Boards and Forums: http://www.allbusiness.com/
Small Business Resources: http://www.uschamber.com/
IRS site for small businesses: www.irs.gov
IRS site for small businesses: www.irs.gov
Small business owners and entrepreneurs info: Smallbusiness.answers.com/taxes
Growing a Business
Growing your business is like starting your business in that it requires just as much research. Practical measures to achieve growth are as simple as doing more business with existing customers. The Small Business Development Center has broken down growing your business into four viable options. This explains each option and helps you decide which approach best fits your business. The four options are:
- Ride a wave of increasing demand.
- Persuade the customer to place more of his business with you.
- Add additional products or service that complements your offering.
- Increase demand.
This list is not comprehensive and you may need to follow a different approach to achieve the same outcome.
What’s in it for you?
Growing a business through your customer network is probably the simplest approach. Sometime this approach is so obvious that it is often overlooked. There are many advantages in choosing to grow your business through your existing client base. It is low risk as it requires little business investment on your part and builds on your business strength and expertise. It can produce quick returns on your investment. Existing clientele already trust the way you do business and you will have the least resistance in price sensitive markets. This can be more profitable in the long term.
Where Do I Begin?
When we speak of existing customers, we not only mean the customer you are currently doing business with but also customers just like them. Think in terms of processing sales with the personnel you have in place. For example, you advertise in a local newspaper once a month and of the new leads generated you close an average of 30%. You may choose to advertise more frequently to generate more leads and close more sales. Some people may not have bought from you before but the sale can be processed with the same resources you have in place.
Remember, to pursue growth requires research, research, research. The American Marketing Association has a great set of tools to assist you as you do this research: http://www.marketingpower.com. Closely study your existing client base and determine what has made them your customers. Explore that client base. Your best referrals will come from this list. As you exhaust this growth and your goals increase, you may need to explore other areas for growth. It pays to know your key customers and how profitable these existing customers are. Take a good look at the 80-20 rule (80% of your revenues will be generated by 20% of your customers). The investment in time will pay handsomely in the future. In this research phase you may find that groups of customers fall into categories that need to be handled differently. Try to arrange these customers into groups based on product, profit, and time required to service. You may also find that some customers do not generate the profit you expected because of the problems they bring. You need to have the understanding to let these customers go somewhere else or raise the price to reflect the level of service required.
What should I do NOW?
The most important time spent is in developing a “key” customer list. These are the clients on whom you will focus most of your effort. Remember: take a look at the “BIG” picture. Make sure you have a complete understanding of these “key” customers.
- Who buys your product or service?
- Who makes the decision to buy? Often several people influence the buying decision, but rarely does a business explore more than a couple of choices.
- Why do they buy your product or service? The buying decision also brings a service level commitment into the relationship so quality make a difference
- Why do they buy from you? Common sense tells us that your business delivers well in relation to other suppliers on the things a customer value most. Research should remind you that “price” is only a small factor in the buying decision. Don’t get caught in "lower price means more sales." This strategy usually places a heavy demand on your staff and generates less profit for you to accommodate the sales increase therefore; you may lose more than you gain.
Decide which option for growth best fits your business.
- Can we ride a wave of increasing demand?
- Should we persuade them to give us more business?
- Should you add a product that your customer needs to complement your current offering?
- Can you increase demand through advertising or other methods?
Set good goals and begin to work with your customers. The best advice in business is to constantly remind yourself and your staff: “People do business with people, not companies, products or brands.” They do business with you for a reason. Find out that reason and explore the endless possibilities.
Another great resource is the Sales and Marketing Network (http://www.info-now.com/). Here you will find a how-to and reference center for executives and managers in sales, marketing, and human resources who need comprehensive planning information.