Five tips to Grow a Sustainable Small Business in 2017 and Beyond

 

Far too many small businesses fail within the first five years – so how do you make sure yours is
one of the success stories?
Here are 5 important tips to help you grow a sustainable small business.

  1. – Cash is king
    The number one reason SMEs go to the wall is that they run out of cash. So if you want to go to
    the distance, it’s crucial that you monitor your cashflow.
    Turnover does not equal profit – and profit on paper is meaningless if you can’t pay your bills
    when they fall due.
    There are lots of strategies you can use to boost your working capital, including:
    · Organising short-term finance like an overdraft or business credit card to cover
    shortfalls
    · Controlling your stock levels to avoid tying up cash in excess inventor
    Shaun McGowan from business loans website Lend says “Business owners should consider
    using long-term finance instead of cash for asset purchases and always to negotiate with
    finance providers and creditors to match payments to your cashflow”.
  2. – Know your numbers
    To run a successful business, you must keep a close eye on your financial performance,
    including these key ratios:
    · Profitability – what percentage of each sale is profit, once you’ve covered variable costs
    like materials, transport and customer acquisition?
    · Breakeven point – how many sales do you need to make to cover your fixed costs?
    · Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) – this ratio (net profits/total assets) tells you how
    much return you are making on the money invested in your business. Compare this to
    how much you could make by investing that money elsewhere, to evaluate whether
    your business is profitable enough to compensate for your time and effort.
    Analyse your performance monthly, so you can spot problems early and take action to get back
    on track.
  3. – Value your people
    Your business is only as good as the people in your team.
    Fill any gaps in your skills with people who have those strengths – and who share your passion
    and vision. Treat them with respect, reward their efforts well, and harness their skills to make
    your business stronger.
  4. – Safeguard your reputation
    In today’s viral age, a bad review can spread like wildfire and permanently damage your
    credibility.
    The customer may not always be right – to be sustainable you need to pick your business
    relationships with care and work with profitable clients who pay on time – but the customer
    experience is vital.
    Build and maintain a loyal customer base by having strong core values, and acting with
    consistency and integrity at all times.
  5. – Grow with caution
    Not every opportunity will be worthwhile, so evaluate each new customer, sales channel or
    acquisition before you leap in.
    · Do you have the capacity to service a new customer without hiring more staff or
    investing in new infrastructure? If not, will the profits cover your additional fixed costs?
    · Will you still be able to provide the level of service upon which your reputation
    depends?
    · Does the opportunity fit with your long-term plans and strategic direction?

Cautious, steady growth is the key to long-term success and sustainability.

Toby Smith - Toby Smith is an Australian freelance writer from Sydney. He is passionate about all things business, educating his readers on how to effectively grow and lead successful businesses.
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Happy staff, yes they make a difference

Well after all who likes to be unhappy? You start the day with good intentions, you want to go home happy, you want to have a good time while doing what you do, you hope the stress levels will be low. Overall you want to be happy.

Then you find out there are things that cause you to not be happy, it can be lots of little things, things you figure you can’t control, the things you can control well you tend to shrug those off fairly quickly.

If it’s your business then you want to get a few things to happen right, you want, profitable outcomes, customer satisfaction, and things to run smoothly, ok so it’s a short list, but hopefully you get the idea.

So imagine if something happens to throw things out of alignment, what if you were the cause of that… What if you thought you were doing a good thing but, oh no, you slipped up. oops. That can be a bit embarrassing.

Most organisations agree that talent is their most important asset, but the results of a new survey show that most businesses are not in tune with employee perceptions around key talent imperatives, including engagement, training and career development.

Let’s get something straight, you may not know everything about how to keep people happy while creating profitable outcomes and no one expects you to be expert at analysing every detail of how the human side of your business operates. However it would be wise to at least learn some of the aspects of what keeps your staff effective in what they do.

Here’s a few points to consider;

  • Happy staff are more productive – They generally do more in the time allotted and or are more willing to come in early, stay late or do extra out of hours
  • Happy staff cause your customers to be happy – That’s a good thing right… Yes it is, sales happen more readily, more items can be picked up as add ons, and referrals can be more readily obtained
  • Happy people can – Do so much, like problem solve better, interact more effectively, lighten a stressful workload…

The thing is figuring out how to create and maintain happy staff so they can do these things. Of course there will be things out of your control but the things in your control need to be looked at and developed.

Thoughts…

  • PIP Communication – People love feedback, especially positive feedback, if there is negative feedback, make it a minor issue by giving positive feedback first, then finish off with more positives, leave the negative chunk to sit in the middle, P.I.P. Praise, Improve, Praise. It makes giving the improvement chunk so much easier to deliver
  • Take a long term view – Your team may be on a go slow today, but will probably be on a go fast phase on another day. Some will even sense the go slow and the reduced outcomes and readily do more at a later stage to compensate. Seeing a bunch of workers not putting in for a while might look unproductive, but the camaraderie they are sharing might be worth it for the positive vibe it can create for the rest of the day. Avoid looking like a grump, aim to see past the extra time chatting today and see the increased outcomes achieved later on.
  • Lead… – Most people like to be led, most will respect a good leader, setting objectives and goals and discussing way to achieve them can be a big part of that. Learn how to lead, discover better ways to get your message across, get consensus, get engagement, get people on your side, then and only then will you get people doing more, being more and exploring better ways to do what they do in their job
  • Love people – In business you sell to people, not robots, well not yet… Therefore if it’s a customer, people buy from people they like, if it’s staff, people still buy from people they like, so be a fantastic person to “sell” more of the right ways to do things, so they become positively engaged in making your business do more, be more, have more… Figure out ways to love, and share the love so your team says yes more often, then figure out if they love you back…

Put in some effort to knowing more about your people and how they tick… Then work with them to create more happiness and watch the team glow, it’s a good feeling!

Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve Gray.biz). You can get his Leadership E Book from http://theleadershipguy.com.au The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
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Congratulations, you win

As you relax into  your well earned early retirement you recall some of the challenging moments, as well as the good ones, but in the end you made it.

It took a while, long hours occasionally, staffing issues, just a few, and of course customers from hell! But you made it, well done… If you could go back and tell yourself starting out in business what to avoid and what to focus more on you would probably be better off, but you are happy with things so far.

You were able to get out early, thanks to good planning, you still have a fair amount of good health to enjoy your retirement time and the good sense to really check out the details when something sounds too good to be true!

You can feel the warm sun on your face as you relax doing what you love best. The people that helped you get to where you’re at have come and gone, a few still about. You are revelling in your good fortune and know that amongst all that goes on in this mysterious world, things turned out ok because you put in a top effort. You listened to all the advice that was given and made clear decisions based on solid facts, ok so you occasionally messed up, but you learnt.

Then there was the other things that can get in the way, your personal life, family and friends and finding time to fit all the things you wanted to do and indeed some of those things that you needed to do into a tight time frame. Sure you may have been exasperated at the time but in the end you got there.

 

Relax it’s all under control, you did what you did and still came out on top.

You know it wasn’t plain sailing, and that the road ahead had very changeable scenery, but you managed somehow and when the tough times faded by you learnt but didn’t hold on to the emotional baggage for too long, you knew that life was too short.

You wanted things to go smoothly, you wanted the plans to all be good, profitable, effective and easy to implement. But in the end you knew better, and that to reap the long term rewards rewards that there would be risks.

The late afternoon sun shining through the trees cast beautiful dappled light on all before you, it all feels right.

So what made all this possible? Was it good Marketing, good service from you and your staff or rock solid management and operational strategies? You know it was a mix of these, of course it was, all off these things made the difference to the end outcome. As well as this the people you chose and trained, followed by environment you created all fed the culture of excellence that so elegantly seemed to happen with ease, just like you wanted it to be.

The sun sinks that bit lower as you now head inside, ready to enjoy life’s next fascinating chapter as you continue to plan and enjoy the fruits of your labour, congratulations, it’s all been well worth it!

Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve Gray.biz). You can get his Leadership E Book from http://theleadershipguy.com.au The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
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Reluctant… yes you are, now what?

It’s all about resistance to change, you might have to, but you don’t want to.

I’m not sure I know why that is, it just is. My suggestion is to run whatever the idea is through a basic ‘filter’ and decide yes it’s a good thing for my business or not. If not move on, if yes, how can yo implement it?

Perhaps your reluctance to take on board the idea is based around the cost, or the time taken to implement it. Ask, can these be broken down into manageable chunks? Now move on the idea, if it’s of benefit to your customers and or the way you transact business in the background then get on with it.

Here are three areas of resistance you may have to overcome

  1. Cultural Change – This new idea won’t work here, we don’t do things that way
  2. Personal Change – What’s in it for me, maybe I will have less work hours, or some other negative outcome for me… Or if there’s a perceived positive outcome for me do I want that outcome
  3. Intellectual – I heard the idea, but I don’t understand it on some level
Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve Gray.biz). You can get his Leadership E Book from http://theleadershipguy.com.au The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
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They left, so what…

A current saying that is so true, “People leave because of the Manager, not because of the company”.

Basically you can have a good company, but a bad department in that company can account for most of your staff turnover. Chat to the Manager and you might find a range of excuses, justifications and reasons why. Ask some of the staff and you might find some other issues.

Managers can cause tensions, often through not knowing about ‘things’, which can build up to become a sore point for a team member. Sometimes it can build up to become a “Homer Simpson Moment” You may remember the scene where Homer says to his Daughter, “Lisa, everyone knows that you don’t protest at work, if you don’t like the job, you just go in and do it half assed”.

Managers can;

  • Annoy people with a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach, possibly not following systems and procedures and creating excuses as to why that happened and “oh it’s a one off…”
  • Talk about and possibly undermine a team member behind their back, causing others to think differently, or wrongly about that person
  • Be disorganised and blame others for the poor performance of the team or one person, planning seems to be ad hoc at best
  • Create more drama than required, by pushing deadlines, fumbling through chaos, over reacting to situations, and a host of other things only drama creators will probably understand fully…
  • Flaunt Health and Safety guidelines, procedures etc… Causing people to play one against the other when they don’t want to use personal protective equipment for their own safety.
  • They don’t look for problems, they wait for the problems to come to them… When they do they have multiplied in strength and become a major issue, rather than a thing that may have had a quick fix if caught early
  • Busyness becomes them… Yep they are tangled up in ordering, allegedly organising and dealing with things that keep them away from the real work. Good planning and organisation will mean they can have time to do lots of little things to make things run effectively, and time for the bigger things like supporting, discussing and exploring, in short coaching…
  • Train, empower and motivate, that’s probably the main task of most Managers, yet in failing divisions or departments, these three key things are done poorly, one thing done badly is bad enough, but all three can spell disaster

Do  your business a favour and find out how you can support your team leaders, managers and supervisors to be better at eliminating these issues. When you become the coach, you can then expect more staff to stay for the long term, supported and happy in the role they play.

Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve Gray.biz). You can get his Leadership E Book from http://theleadershipguy.com.au The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
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Buy that business!

You have seen a business you want to buy… all good, you like what they do, you have the skills to do it, you want to know more, you get the financials and have a chat to the current owner. “Profits are up 5%on last year… The staff are not interested in taking long service leave… No bad debts… With a new person in charge, who knows what’s possible!”

Reason for selling? “Time to retire…” it all sounds so good, until you dig deeper, here are some tips on things to look for when evaluating a business to purchase.

  • Renting – Is the current price per month about to go up but no one is saying anything. That 5% profit on the previous year might dwindle fast
  • Profit – It’s up from last year… but how much was it to begin with? If it was only 2% before hand then it’s not much of a rise, unless the profit amount in dollar terms is quite high, that might be different. BUT what if the profit expressed in dollars is low? Let’s say it’s $10,000 per anum on average over the last 5 years, that’s probably not much, unless the owner is paying themselves a huge amount for some reason and then the profit could be low.
  • Cash at hand – Oh look, there’s cash in the bank, well the current owner may take that with them… perhaps ignore it as some form of bonus, but deduct it off the price you intend to pay
  • Valuation of the business – Get an accountant to have a look at the figures and have them point out any glaring anomalies. A good profit on paper, might just equate to covering the amount the owners should pay themselves, but have not been paying themselves wages. Therefore what looks good now might be a big disappointment
  • Assets – Are they really worth what is stated in the figures? Will you want to update some of the assets… It starts to get trick folks. Stock at hand, what if most of the stock is out of date or they are items people don’t want to buy any more. You might end up throwing this stock out, then there would be replacement cost for useful items.
  • Systems – All the simple processes and procedures that get used to make things easier, how do they run their database? Are there quality processes and or assessment methods in place to measure the quality of what you get, sell etc.
  • Staff – Grumpy, underpaid, wanting to get a new owner who is cashed up so they can take long service leave, cashed up so they can sue for breaches of Workplace Health and Safety issues, cashed up so they can trip up and claim compensation, the list could go on. Then you find out they have been on the wrong pay scale and are wanting pay rises. So you know all that but you figure you can turn them around and create a new culture of happy committed staff, chances are hell will freeze over first! Changing a dud cultire is like trying to turn a cruiseliner around it takes a lot of effort to do it, then by time you do it the territory you ended up at now looks totally different…. That’s right you are now facing the worng way. 🙁
  • Customers – You find them leaving the business in their droves, it turns out they loved the way the previous owner did things, now they are off to find a new supplier. The truth be known, they probably just didn’t like the new pricing you introduced, after all you wanted to up the profit margin

As you can see it can be a minefield, make sure you do your due diligence, be thorough and ask LOTS of questions. Once the deal is done, the last thing you want is BIG surprises.

Steve Gray - Steve is a business educator - Trainer - Speaker (Steve Gray.biz). You can get his Leadership E Book from http://theleadershipguy.com.au The info provided in these articles is for educational purposes only and is intended as a starting point for you to build your business from, not as specific advice.
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Bullying in a Warehouse Environment and How to Deal With It

Bullies are, sadly, part of life. Some people derive a great deal of pleasure from making others feel bad. This can be done physically, emotionally and with social media. Unfortunately, many of these individuals don’t get such behaviour out of their systems during childhood. Some even carry it into the professional world, and few people are equipped to deal with them in a meaningful way. Warehouse businesses need to understand not only how to identify bullying behaviour, but also how to instruct employees to deal with these individuals. The process is simple, at least on paper, yet can have a huge impact on the way a business is run and the morale of its employees.

Identify What it Means to Be a Bully

There’s much more to bullying than the typical schoolyard insults that you might remember from your youth. To combat bullying, it’s necessary to first identify how it presents in the workplace. While bullying can be physical, it can also consist of shunning people, gossip, and berating others for their ideas. Simply put, bullying is any activity undertaken to put another person at a disadvantage. It doesn’t have to benefit the person doing the bullying, necessarily – what is important is that another person is put down, and that the workplace environment becomes hostile.

Accepting the Realities of the Warehouse

When dealing with bullying, it’s also important to realise that a warehouse is also largely different than a white collar environment. While many of the same motivations and personalities might be at play, bullying can have dangerous consequences in an environment that is fully of heavy equipment. Bullying doesn’t just slow down the work day and make people upset – it can lead to distractions, which can in turn lead to accidents. Bullying is an issue that’s even more dangerous in a warehouse environment, and thus must be handled with extra care.

Dealing with Bullies in the Warehouse

Dealing with a bully can be difficult, but there are options available to anyone who feels like they are being targeted. There can often be a stigma against going to management to deal with such issues in a warehouse, and it’s often recommended that bullying victims ‘stand up for themselves’. Unfortunately, this simple statement is not only often difficult in reality, but can also cause further problems. Instead, the best way to deal with bullying is to document the issues as they occur and then go to the management with definitive proof. While it’s good to be firm, it’s even better to provide proof that the bullying has occurred.

Dealing with bullying isn’t an easy task, nor is it one that is always as effective as one might hope. Identifying the behaviours, realising the problems they can cause, and coming up with plans to deal with troublemakers should be a primary concern for any warehouse business. Workplace bullying can be eliminated, but only with the cooperation of workers and management. Without a solid plan, bullying will continue to cause workers distress and cost businesses hard-earned money for years to come.

Guest Poster - Today's guest poster can be contacted via the details supplied in the post above, if any. We sometimes utilise a guest poster to write an independent article of value to the readers.
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