After a long winter, it’s nice to finally turn the calendar page and look forward to spring.
Many of us like to make a fresh start and “get our house in order.” Have you ever thought of taking the same approach with your business? Here are several ways you can accomplish an operational “spring cleaning.”
1) “Organize” Your Financials – Make sure your books are in order. How’s your cash flow? Use charts and graphs to analyze your results for greater insight. If you don’t have a long range forecast, create one. Include as many variables as you can and run various scenario analyses. (Get spreadsheet help if you need it.) Once you run the numbers, you may find you’re missing opportunities and/or worrying unnecessarily.
2) Ask Stakeholders What To Save Vs. “Throw Away” – What are your employees, customers, and partners saying about you and your products and services? Create feedback loops, if you haven’t already. There’s no need to over-think it – consider simple conversations or focus groups to get the ball rolling. Free survey tools can help you gather larger samples of feedback. What can you stop doing or “throw away?” What clues can you gather to increase efficiency?
3) “Unclutter” Your Marketing Approach – Why would someone want to do business with you? Make sure you and your staff understand this. Is it your high quality, low prices, great service, ease of doing business, or some combination of factors? Know your competition. Make sure your marketing strategies convey the key messages of your unique story to your target audience. How and when do the messages get delivered? Measure the results and the return on your marketing investment dollars as part of your regular “spring cleaning” process.
4) “Clean Up” Your Credit Strategy – Develop a more personal relationship with a banker. Ask about credit repair (if needed) and the lesser known lending options. Get creative. Examine alternative lending sources on your own, such as personal contacts, vendor financing, or even crowdfunding. Stay current on federal, state, or local grant programs, because they’re constantly evolving. In some cases, it makes sense to borrow against personal assets, such as a 401k. Don’t overlook or underestimate the impact of financing strategies on your operation.
5) Ask For Help – This can be hard for many of us. Can you delegate some of your tasks to a subordinate? Can they do more or be promoted with the right training and coaching? What about utilizing interns or volunteers? Resist the urge to “clean house” with all staff, but don’t hesitate to redirect or remove under-performing employees. If the expertise isn’t in-house, explore your contractor and consulting options.
6) Streamline Workflows – This is related to several of the above tips. Are there opportunities to go paperless? Where are you getting bogged down? Often, a negative “domino effect” of one problem leads to several other issues. Follow the trail back to the original root cause. Quantify the true costs in time, money, and stakeholder ill-will. You may find an easy fix – like training an employee or investing in a little technology – has huge payback results.
7) Develop New Habits – On paper, this is the easiest thing to do. In practice, it may be the hardest. Examine your own personal time management habits. Are you a morning person or a “night owl?” Do you typically have a mix of quiet time vs. interruptions? Consider rearranging your schedule to make the most of these situations each day. Resist the status quo, avoid excuses, and commit to taking action.
These “spring cleaning” tips can make a big difference in your operation. You may like the results so much, that you’ll want to “tidy up” on a more regular basis.